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Search engines now more important for B2B

According to the latest research from Enquiro Search Solutions, in today's competitive B2B segment, search engines are the first research tool that people use, and is one of the top influencers on purchasing decisions.

In its B2B Survey for 2007, Enquiro updated its B2B study done in 2004 and examined how people research B2B buying decisions online.

Enquiro's study revealed that search engines topped the list of research sources throughout the purchase cycle, from awareness, through research, negotiation and purchase phases.

But the study also found that many buyers move toward vertical search engines as they get closer to making a spedific buying decision.

In the search awareness phase, a little over 65 percent of users said they would start their research with a "general purpose" search engine such as Google or Yahoo.

However, that number dropped to almost 52 percent in the research phase, a little over 42 percent in the negotiation phase and over 42 percent in the purchase phase.

This B2B study reveals that in the researching phase, a purchaser is five times more likely to turn to a generic search engine for information than a B2B search engine.

As purchasers enter the later research phase and start compiling information to begin the actual negotiation, many rely on B2B vertical search engines, such as, KnowledgeStorm, or Thomasnet, to help gather the detailed information they require.

Overall, B2B search engines were the first choice of over 22 percent of respondents in the negotiation phase, and about 17.9 percent of respondents in the purchase phase.

The two factors that remain the most influential to buyers are a vendor's Web site and a word-of-mouth recommendation by a colleague. Right behind those two factors come search engines and distributors' Web sites.

When you consider that another 27 percent of buyers will find a vendor's site via a search engine, and that a recommendation from a colleague or other offline influence will generally lead a buyer to a search engine, the importance of cultivating a strong presence in relevant search results becomes even more clear to B2B vendors.

And when buyers in the study were talking about using a general search engine, they usually meant Google.

By a large proportion, a surprisingly high 77.1 percent of respondents preferred Google, compared to 14 percent who selected Yahoo, about 7 percent who chose Microsoft, and less than about 2 percent who preferred another search engine.