When looking for a new business software like an Inventory or Warehouse Management System, your online search will likely lead you to one of those sites aimed at connecting businesses with lists of “the best” B2B SaaS options.
You know the sites. You’ve probably been to one. And maybe one has helped guide you to purchasing a software.
These sites seem to be popping up everywhere and are dominating search engine results. They bill themselves as business software resources that connect businesses with the software solutions they need.
While they can be very helpful, it’s important to remember that the softwares listed on these sites aren’t there based on their merits alone.
No, they are there because they are paying to be there.
A Brief History Of Search Engines
In a nutshell, search engines are a concierge service. You ask for a recommendation, and in return you receive what the search engine deems the best options. This is what you see on the search results page. The top spots on the top page are the most valuable.
The person searching is most likely to click on the top results. This means that a search engine marketer’s main task is to get their site listed at the top. Traditionally this is done in one of two ways.
The two types of search results are paid and organic. A simple way to think of it is that an “organic” search result means “not paid for.” And a paid listing of course, is paid for (and is easily identified as such).
It used to be the B2B SaaS websites listed in the search engine’s organic results stood on their value alone. Otherwise they paid to be there via the easily identifiable search ads. In both cases there was a certain level of transparency.
How B2B SaaS Companies Market On Search Engines
Search marketers spend their days doing everything they can to prove to Google that their B2B SaaS site is worthy of the coveted number one recommendation. Or, they pay lots of money to get their ad in the top position. Most businesses do both.
We like to think that Google’s organic search results are a true meritocracy where only the best get rewarded with the top position. But that is simply not the case. At least not anymore.
Some may even debate whether or not that has ever been true. Especially now that paid listing sites disguised as true organic results are ranking well.
Google is very secretive about how their search algorithms work, and always has been. So we will likely never know exactly why these sites are dominating the organic search results when they are clearly pay-to-play, a traditional gray area for Google.
How Search Engines Rank Websites
In the search engine’s eyes, a website’s value is based on the many signals that say how trustworthy it is. It’s also based on how many people have had positive experiences going to those sites.
This is vital to the value of the search engine because, like a concierge who recommends a bad restaurant, a search engine that sends you to a bad site will suffer. And there are billions of dollars at stake.
Another way to think about it is that the search engine is the middleman between you, the software buyer, and the software company.
How B2B SaaS Listing Sites Work
Nowadays, listing sites are becoming another layer of middleman between you, the search engine and the software company. Software companies pay these sites to be listed higher on the page.
You search for an inventory management software, and see several sites ranking the ‘best’ inventory management software at the top of the results page. You click on one and you see a list of softwares, some of which you’ve heard of, as well as new options for you to explore.
Yes! This is exactly what you are looking for!
If you look closely, you will see they are sorted by ‘sponsored’ listings. This means that whoever is occupying the top spot has paid the most to be there. And the more clicks they receive, the more they pay.
Luckily, you are usually able to re-sort based on ratings or by alphabetical listing and see more options than just who is paying the most. But make no mistake, they want you to click on the listings of the companies paying the most to be there. That’s how they make their money.
But with these sites, that doesn’t always mean that you are always getting the best option when you click the top result. You’re getting who paid the most to be there.
What To Watch Out For
People are more tech-savvy these days. Many are conditioned to avoid the paid ads on Google. They tend to click on the first few organic results because of the perception that it’s truly the best result.
You may say, “Well if a software company has the money to be there, they must be doing something right.”
Sure, there is plenty of truth to that. But keep in mind that to be in that spot they have to consistently spend more and more. And they have to pay for that somehow. Usually in the form of passing the marketing cost along to you, the buyer.
How These Sites Rank Well Organically
These sites claim they use an algorithm based on many factors like reviews, features, etc. While mostly true, keep in mind that the most important part of their algorithm is almost always how much someone is willing to pay for the top spot.
Fortunately though, many of them are honest about it if you know how to find the very small disclaimer that is legally required.
User reviews are another important piece of the algorithm that ranks ‘the best’ software. But the little secret is that most of those reviews that live on the listing sites are often solicited via an incentivized program.
The reviews themselves are real, but they were written in exchange for a Starbucks gift card. Keep that in mind.
Ultimately, they provide the relevant information that people search for, and that is why they rank so well.
What B2B Saas Listing Sites Do Well
No, this post is not intended to completely dissuade you from using these sites at all. There are many ways these sites are beneficial. You just need to have all the facts.
These sites actually get many things right.
One of the best aspects of these sites is that many let you compare features, pricing, read reviews, and gather recommendations of the best options for you to pursue.
Some of these sites will even offer a live person to help you qualify the best options. You tell them what you need, and they provide you with 3 – 5 software options to demo that would be good for you.
But remember, those companies are paying to be included in the recommendation.
Why Users Like Using These Sites
Finding the right software, with the right features for your specific needs, and at your price point is not an easy task. Getting the specific information you need to make your decision can be difficult. Especially if you are not ready to speak to a sales representative (and receive their non-stop emails, follow-up calls etc.).
In the past it was individual companies websites that dominated the search results, but the market has started to demand something different. Many users now prefer a B2B resource that provides independent analysis of their options.
Since these sites serve as a quasi-independent party between the software and the buyer, there is a certain level of honesty and transparency. They can be a great resource.
So, who do you trust?
It’s time to get back to basics. If you already use eCommerce softwares like ChannelAdvisor, BigCommerce, Zentail etc., ask them who they recommend for inventory management. See which IMS or WMS software they integrate with.
Ask your colleagues in Facebook groups or on sites like Reddit and Quora, where they are vigilant against sponsored interference.
In conclusion, we recommend using these sites to help guide you on your journey to the software that is right for you, but don’t solely rely on them to make your decision for you.
At the end of the day, those sites continue to dominate the search results because, paid or not, users typically have good experiences using them. You can have a good experience too, if you know what to look for.