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Industrial Search Engines and Directories

Promoting industrial products has never been one of the more exciting activities in the marketing or advertising world. Characterized by technical journals, trade magazines, industry trade shows, and listings in directories like the Thomas Register of American Manufacturers, industrial promotion is rarely an expertise of many advertising agencies. Since most industrial marketers also have very limited budgets and are typically more interested in generating leads than building brand name recognition, it necessarily follows that industrial promotion is different than many other forms of promotion.

For many of our clients, this meant that industry trade magazines and the Thomas Register were historically the major beneficiaries of their advertising budgets. In fact, for years, a number of our clients poured tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars each year into these magazines and directories.

Of course, search engines changed all of this. In what has to be one of the biggest fundamental changes in the history of industrial advertising, search engines started to phase out print directories as the most common resource for engineers, purchasing managers, and other industrial buyers looking to find suppliers. Recent studies by the Thomas Register and their newest leading competitor GlobalSpec confirm this.

So how does an industrial marketing professional take advantage of these dramatic changes within the market? For the most part, the principles of search engine marketing that apply to most websites also apply to industrial websites. Industrial marketers just have to be careful about how they interpret what they read in regards to online marketing as the vast majority of reports and studies in the search marketing industry are related to the B2C ecommerce segment of the market.

1. Organic Optimization
Typically, optimizing your web site to rank in the organic (free) listings in the major search engines like Google, Yahoo, and MSN will offer your company the greatest ROI on its advertising dollar. Of course, competition for "first page listings" is increasing every day and the time, knowledge and costs required to earn them has become more challenging.

Essentially, optimizing your site requires good keyword rich content, a site structure that can be spidered by the search engines, and links from other respected sites, especially sites dealing with similar topics to yours. In many ways, a search engine friendly site is simply a well organized site with lots of good content that other sites want to link to.
2. Pay Per Click (PPC) Advertising
After organic optimization, another area that can have a great ROI for industrial marketers is PPC advertising. There is a reason that Google has been one of the best performing companies in the world over the past few years... their advertising model works. For nearly all of our industrial clients, PPC advertising returns a lower cost per lead than any other form of promotion employed aside from organic optimization.

The key to utilizing PPC effectively is to generate a very detailed list of keywords to buy. For example, if you make plastic rods, make sure you also buy phrases like polyethylene rods, LDPE Rods, PVC Rods, polypropylene rods, and any other descriptive phrases that apply. Similarly, if you make packaging equipment, remember that people may also search for packaging machine(s), machinery, and specific equipment names like "form, fill, & seal machines."

Some advertisers have been hesitant to use PPC because of concerns over click fraud. However, there are simple ways to protect your campaign against this activity. Plus, the availability of powerful analytics programs that can quickly identify issues further help minimize click fraud and ensure that your ROI is maximized.

The three main PPC advertising programs are Google AdWords, Yahoo Search, and MSN adCenter. You may wish to experiment with other programs, but these three routinely drive the largest amount of qualified traffic to the sites we manage.
3. Online Advertising and Public Relations
Advertising and PR on the web can serve some unique purposes for industrial marketers. First, while search engine marketing provides an excellent ROI, it is really designed to target people actively engaged in a search for your products or services. If you want to get your message out to a much broader audience, advertising on authority and media sites, sponsoring forums and blogs, and sending press releases out to relevant publications and websites can also be very effective.

Unfortunately, today the opportunities can be overwhelming. There are dozens of online industrial directories, industry specific web portals, online trade magazines, and countless forums and blogs. In fact, there are so many now that figuring out where to advertise can be very complex. This is especially true when one tries to measure the success of this activity while considering lead generation, brand development, and even how the ad or press release has affected its site's link popularity (a major factor in its ability to earn high organic rankings).

In the remainder of this article, I will review the major industrial search engines and directories to provide some of my personal experiences and opinions on how you can integrate them into your campaign. Admittedly, this review will not cover every directory as many new ones have evolved in the last two years and we simply don't have experience with them all.

Prior to advertising in any of these directories, I always recommend building or modifying your own website to make sure that it is optimized, search engine friendly and effectively converts visitors into leads or sales. As stated above, I would also recommend bidding on a targeted list of keyword phrases in Google AdWords, Yahoo Search, and MSN adCenter as these PPC programs typically generate more leads/sales at a much lower cost than advertising for our clients. Finally, make sure you put some web analytics in place to track all of your activity so you can see where you are getting your best ROI. Google Analytics is free and meets the needs of the vast majority of industrial marketers with whom we work.

Armed with a site that performs and plenty of data from your keyword research and PPC advertising programs, you can now turn your attention to advertising. Buying listings in these directories can generate qualified leads, provide contact names and numbers, increase brand recognition, and even benefit your organic optimization efforts.

Listed below are some of the major industrial search engines and directories that we have analyzed, tested, and/or currently use. It is important to note that our review comes from our perspective as SEO Consultants.

Industrial directories and search engines create a difficult situation for industrial marketers who want to run their own search engine marketing campaigns. On the one hand, we can buy listings in these directories to generate more exposure, more leads, and more incoming links to our client's site. On the other hand, some of the money we pay these publishers to be included in their directories and search engines goes to fund their own SEO and PPC efforts. Considering that for many search phrases, our clients' main competition in Google, Yahoo, and MSN for first page positioning is these directories, the problem is obvious. If a company is running its own SEO and PPC campaigns, then these directories exist as both competitors and potential partners.

With that being said, I offer my opinions as to how these directories can be used to help your campaign.
ThomasNet® and GlobalSpec

By most accounts, ThomasNet and GlobalSpec (see below) are the market leaders. ThomasNet evolved from the Thomas Register, the publisher of the famous green books, while GlobalSpec was founded in 1996 and used "unique parametric search technology" and large financial backing to fight for the top spot among industrial search engine/directories.
ThomasNet® (http://www.thomasnet.com/)

Prior to the Internet, the Thomas Register's green books were the most widely used directories and arguably offered the most comprehensive directory of industrial manufacturers. ThomasNet, their vertical search engine, benefits from this brand recognition and remains one of the most popular of the online industrial directories. For the most part, the directory is broken up into thousands of categories and advertisers buy ranking points to see who gets listed in the top spots. I find it very well organized, comprehensive, and easy to use. They had a rocky transition from print to web, but I believe that they have firmly taken their spot as the leading industrial search engine/directory at this time. The key to having success with ThomasNet is in working with your sales rep to find areas where you can get the most value for your ad dollar.

Ranking points cost $240 and there is an additional charge of $95 to have your listing link to your website. Volume discounts are available for large advertisers and they have a number of link packages as well as an internet only package for $475 that gets your site into 20 categories and their search engine.

* As the largest industrial directory, we have seen it drive as much as 10% of our client's online leads...a distant 4th place after Google, Yahoo, and MSN, but respectable nonetheless.
* Their free press release program provides an excellent source of additional exposure, traffic, and inbound links.
* The site enjoys excellent organic rankings in the 3 major search engines.
* Well-respected directory with listings that are typically very relevant.
* Listings and links from ThomasNet Industrial NewsRoom can pass link popularity to one's site potentially helping it in the organic listings on Google, Yahoo, and MSN.


* The cost for top listings is often extremely high in relation to other opportunities on the web.
* Categories are very diluted and one must often purchase ranking points and links in each making it difficult for those with smaller budgets.
* Not very flexible as ranking points can only be moved quarterly.
* Reporting is getting better but it's still relatively limited and you have to rely on your sales rep for much of it.

GlobalSpec (http://www.globalspec.com/)

This directory/search engine is generally considered to be the most sophisticated industrial sourcing site available on the web and with more than 3.3 million registered users (Source: GlobalSpec website), ThomasNet's main competition. It is built on the theory that engineers would rather type in the specifications they need and then get a list of potential suppliers rather than have to call around to each potential supplier or look through catalogs. As such, GlobalSpec offers advertisers the opportunity to include one's product line (up to 1000 products) in its parametric search program so that engineers can find the product right for their application. The site also features an industrial search engine with a PPC program as well as the ability for advertisers to list product announcements, technical articles, and distributors.

Listings in the GlobalSpec directory are free and their search engine will index most industrial sites without the need for submission. The cost to load your product database into their directory and take advantage of all of the lead generation benefits of the parametric search runs about $15,000 per year. Service companies like molders can get by with packages closer to $8,000. One can also take advantage of "Preferred Listings" that include most of what you get with the main package except the parametric search for about $5,300. PPC programs are also available at lower costs, but when I investigated it, the program seemed to serve up ads for all types of irrelevant searches that inflated the traffic and reduced the ROI.

* If you are promoting items that engineers can actually specify themselves (valves, flowmeters, etc...) then it may be a perfect fit.
* Excellent reporting and data capture of people that not only visited your site, but who visited categories in which you are listed. They can provide full contact information which one can use to prospect.
* Respected site with good organic rankings and strong brand awareness.


* For products, services, or equipment that are difficult for an engineer to specify, the parametric search may not be very helpful.
* Costs are some of the highest in the industry.
* When they have sold their programs to us, they have defined a visitor as anyone who does a search in a category in which our client is listed. Full contact leads actually refer to anyone who visits your site. To me, this drastically stretches the definition of the word "lead" as most of our clients only consider a lead someone who calls, fills out an inquiry form, or the like.
* Directory listings are ranked alphabetically...a very bad formula if your company name does not start with an A, B, or C.
* Listings do not seem to help a site's link popularity.

Directories that Evolved from Print

Aside from the Thomas Register, the other major industrial directories prior to the Internet were Kelly's and MacRae's. Both have now increased their presence on the web to the point that they may warrant serious consideration from US industrial advertisers.
Kellysearch (http://www.kellysearch.com/)

"Kelly's was established in the United Kingdom over two hundred years ago in 1799 and has been published ever since." For all intents and purposes, it is the largest Industrial Directory in the UK and since going online; they have made quite an inroad in the US. We first noticed leads from Kelly's showing up in the stats of some of our clients who operate internationally, but now we are seeing the US version of Kellysearch provide a fair amount of quality traffic. This increase in traffic is helped by the fact that Kellysearch is backed by the Reed Elsevier Business Publishing Group -one of the largest publishers in the industrial market. Due to this relationship, KellySearch powers the online buying guides of 22 different industrial online magazines like Design News and Purchasing.com and may have more in the future.

Kellysearch has a number of packages to choose from depending on how many categories your company requires.

The base package is $3,456 per year and includes 50 category priority listings, 1 product heading banner, and an enhanced company profile page.

* $5,184.00 = 100 priority listings / 2 banners / Enhanced Company Profile
* $6,912.00 = 250 priority listings / 3 banners / Enhanced Company Profile
* $8,640.00 = 500 priority listings / 4 banners / Enhanced Company Profile
* $12,960.00 = 750 priority listings / 6 banners / Enhanced Company Profile
* $17,280.00 = 1000 priority listings / 8 banners / Enhanced Company Profile


* Costs are relatively low in comparison to ThomasNet and GlobalSpec.
* Priority listings are rotated on a weekly to bi-weekly basis so all advertisers will get the top positions at some time.
* Offer banner advertising for increased brand building.
* Very strong internationally.
* Listings seem to help your site's link popularity.


* Still fighting for brand recognition among US engineers.
* Presence in search engines has room for improvement.

MacRAE'S™ BLUE BOOK (http://www.macraesbluebook.com/)

First published in 1893, MacRae's Blue Book is America's original industrial directory and now affiliated with YELLOWPAGES.COM. Despite this, none of our clients have ever advertised with them and the listings that they display seem much less comprehensive than the directories listed above. Pricing starts at $2,495, but they also integrate Google Content ads into their pages so you may find it more cost effective to advertise through Google than direct.
Sites that Evolved with Internet

As the Internet evolved, a number of new industrial sites came into existence. These directories, search engines, buying guides, search engine aggregators, and other information sites listed below can all be evaluated as part of an SEM campaign.
Industrial Quick Search™ (http://www.industrialquicksearch.com/)

This "search engine aggregator" was started by a former sales executive of the Thomas Register. The directory is actually made up of approximately 178 vertical sites like www.extrudedplastics.com or www.laser-cutting-services.com. Each site lists about 6 to 16 companies on the first page and numerous more on a second page. Listings typically run from $2200.00 to $4800.00 for a page one listing and $199.00 to $500.00 for a second page listing. They also have a "Request for Quote" feature so users can easily send a request to numerous advertisers with one form.

The literature on their site states, "we get close to 100% of our users from search engines." As search engine marketing consultants, we typically design our own SEO and PPC programs to target traffic from the search engines so it's not a site that we utilize often. However, if you are not going to run your own SEM campaign or are looking for ways to maximize your exposure in the search engines, IQS may be worth considering.
Zycon (http://www.zycon.com/)

This industrial directory was started by a group of manufacturers in the Detroit area to provide an easier-to-use and more cost effective advertising vehicle for industrial manufacturers. Their system tracks visitors, click thrus, and RFQs and is very straightforward and easy to use.

Costs for priority listings in 3 categories and any subcategories within these was a flat fee of about $1,800 when we researched this recently. The directory has a limited presence in the search engines for the programs that we manage, but if you are trying to dominate a category, it may be worth considering if their pages rank well. We don't have any direct experience with this directory.
AlltheIndustrials.com (http://www.alltheindustrials.com/)

A relatively new player in the market, AlltheIndustrials.com sells ad space on a pay per click basis although for every listing I reviewed, the directory was simply posting Yahoo Search PPC ads. This is a trend that I expect industrial marketers will see a lot of in the future... specialty directories that simply utilize content ads from Yahoo Search and/or Google AdWords to generate revenue. Other examples include SourceTool and Industry2Industry. If you want to be in this directory, it seems that you can simply open a Yahoo Search Marketing account.
Engineers Edge (http://www.engineersedge.com/)

This site is more of an information portal for engineers than an industrial directory, but it does include a directory that sells listings for $150 from pages with decent link popularity or $350 for a directory listing and a link from a relevant article. It is a respectable site that can provide some link popularity and traffic to a site and we have used it regularly for our clients.
Industrial Directory (http://www.industrialdirectory.com/)

This directory is a compilation of small niche directories that are optimized for the search engines with very specific keyword rich domain names. In fact, the owner of the Industrial Directory says that the majority of their traffic comes from people who actually search by typing the domain names in the browser bar.

In my opinion, the site is very weak in terms of design and functionality, but at $35 per listing, the link popularity boost alone is worth the cost for most of our clients. The fact that many of these directories rank well in Yahoo and MSN for relevant searches makes them even better. You can check out a list of their directories at www.industrialdirectory.com, but be sure to request a quote because they have many directories that are not published yet. Some of the directories that have been built out can be viewed at www.expansionbolts.com and www.clustergears.com.
MotionNET.com (http://www.motionnet.com/)

While this directory does not cover the number of categories that many of the larger industrial directories do, it does have a nice presence in the search engines and can be very cost effective at $25 a listing.
MFG.com (http://www.mfg.com/)

This site and others like it sell leads. Sellers pay a fee (typically about $400.00-$500.00 a month) to get access to buyers that are requesting quotes for custom made components. This particular site claimed at one time to have over 33,000 buyers posting over 1100 RFQ's per month. They use a rating system for buyers and provide information contact information for personal follow up.
Specialty Directories

Depending on one's industry, there are probably specific directories or trade magazine buyer's guides that will generate leads in a cost effective manner. Analyzing the back links of competitive sites and seeing what sites rank well for your desired search phrases can identify many of these opportunities. Some examples include:

* www.plasticsnews.com
Plastics industry magazine with major supplier directory.
* www.devicelink.com
Medical device manufacturers' directory.
* www.4specs.com
Provides a great ROI for companies selling industrial building products of any kind.
Source: KarachiCorner-Admin
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