The folks at The Web's Too Big feel that - you guessed it - the web has gotten way too big, making it very difficult to quickly find quality content. So they're doing their best to shrink it, for a very specific domain, to a manageable level to make finding things easier; in other words, they're building their own proprietary Vertical Search Engine.
Searching for PR firms in the UK
The first vertical tackled by this search engine is a search for UK PR agencies and PR information. The user enters a search term which is used to search for information on the sites of these agencies. For example, I typed in "fast food" and got an impressive list of results from a variety of search firms: Levick Strategic Communications, Black and White Communications, Edelman, Layzell PR and so on. (Caveat: Not being involved with the PR world, I personally have no idea if this set of results is relevant and useful - any PR folks out there care to comment?)
Mike Bygrave, one of the co-founders of thewebstoobig, explains it as follows:
The Web's Too Big:PR is a two-part B2B service, comprising a vertical search engine and a lead enquiry system, which provides interested parties with a simple way of searching for and engaging with UK PR agencies.
The search engine is primarily intended as a place where users looking to hire a PR agency can do some research and find a suitable agency. Google indexes something like 8 billion pages; some of the new vertical searches index 'only' several million pages. At The Web's Too Big we're trying to take a completely different approach, by selecting a narrow vertical and indexing only sites that fall firmly within that vertical. It's impossible to know exactly how many PR agencies (with websites) there are in the UK at any given time, however we're absolutely confident that we currently index well over 90% of them. Our site users know that everything they see on our site will be very closely related to PR - they're not going to be bombarded by random advertisements (particularly from keyword scammers).
The lead generation part of the site was really just a natural progression from the search engine; it allows users to bypass the research element if they want to - they can simply enter their PR requirements into our enquiry form, and then send it off to up to nine pre-selected PR agencies. This saves the user a lot of time and hassle, and it provides the PR agencies with 'hot' leads.
Unique service: PR enquiry
One unique offering from thewebstoobig is their "send enquiry" service that allows you to contact a list of PR agencies directly. You supply some key information about your needs (such as industry, location, timeframe, budget), and your request is matched up with a list of PR agencies; from the agencies' point of view, it works as a lead-generation service, thus providing value to both users and agencies.
It was the "send enquiry" service that got me interested in looking at
this site in detail; this type of service is a perfect illustration of
the power of vertical focus.
As I've said before (here and here ), creating specialized, unique services for a particular domain is where VSEs can excel. By focusing relentlessly and with depth on the needs of specific users segments within that domain, VSEs can create unique, defensible value propositions and differentiate themselves, in the minds of users, from the larger mainstream search engines like Yahoo and Google. At the same time, by attracting very specific sets of web site visitors with well-defined characteristics, they can offer, in effect, highly-qualified prospects for marketers.
This seems like a winning situation for all constituencies - users, because they can quickly and easily cut through the clutter; the business, because it can focus on the given domain; and marketers or advertisers, since they can target specific demographics and user types. Only time will tell if specialized search engines like thewebstoobig can divert a significant portion of their target audience away from Yahoo! and Google, or whether the mainstream engines will somehow co-opt this type of functionality into their own offerings. More on that in a future post ...