Optimizing the search: websites unearth buried treasure in the product data field.

Author:Bloom, Nick
Position:Metalworking webified

Google, Yahoo, Dogpile, and Ask Jeeves are among the most frequently used general Web search engines that help people find information on just about anything. But when you are looking for technical data, "general search engines" really don't cut it as well as they could.

In order to do their job, search engines have first "indexed" a copy of the Web in a way similar to what you'd find in the back of a textbook. Most pages on the Internet are identified, cataloged, and indexed according to content. So, for example, if you're looking for articles, history, companies, or people associated with the savings and loan crisis in the late 1980s, just type the phrase into a search engine form and you'll be presented with thousands of links to Web pages matching your phrase.


Then, browse a sentence or two from each of the top 10 page matches presented in your search results list to decide which one to visit first. Search engines are getting better at helping you find the information you're looking for based on complicated algorithms that display the most popular websites correlated to the key phrases you enter.

This methodology works well when looking for information on many things that can be uniquely defined using concise terminology.

The general search engine strategy often falls apart, however, when you're looking for exact, technical data that can't be defined by a catalog or part number. For example, if you want to find manufacturers and distributors of 1/4" acrylic extruded tubing or a 24mm, right-hand, 75-tooth, helical rack gear, you're more likely to find it the old fashioned way--on the phone with your local industrial supply house ... until now.

For engineers

GlobalSpec.com, "The Engineering Search Engine," is helping engineers optimize their use of the millions of pages of industrial and technically related information now published on the Internet.

Ideally, GlobalSpec would index and organize catalog information from every industrial supplier in a normalized format that uses uniform terminology to describe each product. It would then couple those pages to a custom search form, which might differentiate one unique part among thousands of similar components.

GlobalSpec currently has aggregated contact information on industrial suppliers from over 30 industrial segments--from building and construction to fluid power and from material handling to mechanical components--and has categorized each company by the products...

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