Search engines fraught with opportunity—and risk—for smaller publishers

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Scottsdale, Ariz.—Despite the enormous presence of the leading online search engines—Google, Yahoo! and MSN (GYM)—there is a “search void” that b-to-b publishers can close by ramping up their vertical search engines, according to a top b-to-b marketing analyst.

“Verticals are too narrowly focused for ‘GYM,’ ” said Chuck Richard, VP and lead analyst at Outsell Inc., a market research firm. “Google is too busy trying to provide maps for Mars” to target b-to-b advertisers.

Richard, who spoke at a smaller publishers’ seminar on the opening day of American Business Media’s 2006 Spring Meeting, said Outsell research shows that total online ad spending will grow 19% this year. Roughly 16% of online spending will be devoted to search engine marketing and 12% to trade Web sites—“which is where your sites will be attractive,” Richard told the smaller publishers.

The spending trends present opportunity and risk for business publishers. Building vertical search sites requires additional content that needs to be integrated into daily work flow applications. Still, “advertisers will pay a premium to b-to-b [publishers] that can position search in a way that Google cannot,” Richard said.

John Bethune, VP-editorial director of Canon Communications, said Canon offers three price points for its Medical Device vertical Web site: $4,700 for a basic site with enhanced content; $9,300 for a basic Web site plus rotating banner ad; and $12,000 for a basic Web site plus an e-mail newsletter produced by Canon. Bethune said most clients are opting for either the first or second choice.

—Matthew Schwartz

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