To better understand what UEG is, it’s important to understand what a vertical search engine is and does. UEG is not a general or “horizontal” search engine but a “vertical” search engine because its focus is on a single topic: used equipment. Millions of internet users use vertical search engines every day, for example, Indeed.com (jobs), Kayak.com (flights), Hotels.com (hotels), CarGurus.com (cars) and many more.
As any industry insider knows, the used truck and equipment industry is highly fragmented, with sellers posting items for sale on thousands of online marketplace, auction, and dealer websites. That created many hurdles for Balog and the UEG team, but after two years of product development, the usedequipmentguide.com website went live, indexing content from just over 300 websites. Today, the website indexes over 2.5 million listings and empowers buyers to search over 3,500 websites with a single search.
Balog admitted he was not the first one to think of the idea. “We’re not doing anything new,” he said. “The only thing that is new or different is our business model. Our mission is to create liquidity in the marketplace, and we can only do that by being as inclusive as possible. Previous attempts to launch a search engine have failed because they were based on displacing incumbents and taking someone else’s bite out of a fixed pie. Our strategy is to partner with incumbents to help make their existing products work even better, which creates liquidity and expands the pie for everyone.”
The company secured millions in investment earlier this year from big industry names, including HOLT CAT, Doggett Equipment Services and Rush Enterprises. To get buy-in from some of the best-known names in the industry and to move the entire industry forward, one needs to have more than an industry-changing shower idea, but also be the right person with the right team behind them. Balog is also the founder of dieseljobs.com, the largest niche job board for the heavy truck and equipment industry. He has a master’s in entrepreneurship and, with a background in recruiting, successfully recruited the co-founder of Autotrader.com to join the company as COO. “Our team is awesome,” Balog continued. “We couldn’t ask for a better group of investors behind us, and with my recruiting background, we’ve assembled a strong sales, marketing and engineering team. Everyone has drunk the Kool-Aid and is committed to our mission of creating liquidity in the marketplace.”
The most impressive part of UEG is not the data, but how they use that data in their search engine. “Our search capabilities are far more robust than any other industry site I’ve ever seen,” said Balog. “When a user types D6 into our search box, they experience a feature we call ‘magic search.’ Even though they’ve only given us two characters, we already know that they’re looking for a Caterpillar D6, and we suggest the entire Caterpillar D6 model family – it’s very powerful.”
With the fragmentation of the industry, one of the largest hurdles Balog faced was getting searchable data from over 3,500 sites. “A user wants to find what they are searching for easily without having to think about all the possible mistakes a listing could have, and we have seen every permutation one can imagine. A Ford F-150 might be put in as ‘F-150,’ ‘F 150,’ or ‘F150’ – our data quality team normalizes this data so that every F-150 is actually called an F-150 and not an F150 or otherwise. It’s not a CAT, but a Caterpillar, and after adding 100 years of acquisitions and name changes, one can start to appreciate what a gargantuan task this really is.” Used Equipment Guide utilizes a dedicated data quality team that converts the vast amount of unstructured data found on the web into structured data that users can use to easily find items for sale.
Balog and his team created a search experience where the buyers’ interests come first. “Users can find what they are looking for with two keystrokes and a click. Whereas on other industry sites, they’re required to search through long lists on multiple pages. In their defense, these sites are set up to serve sellers’ best interests and not buyers’. That’s why our buyer-centric model is completely different than any other website of which we’re aware.”
Having an understanding of what buyers are looking for is very powerful. “We’ve had dealers show interest in our dataset to help them understand what buyers are interested in so that they can shift their internal acquisition and divestment strategies,” Balog said. “Dealers want to know who is looking for what, when and where in order to make data-driven decisions in an increasingly competitive marketplace. We have one of the largest datasets in the world and, more importantly, it’s highly structured and accessible.”
UsedEquipmentGuide.com doesn’t actually host any listings. Instead, it indexes and links to the original content source. This is particularly important for maintaining the original lead attribution, which is vital for sites that charge a fee for sellers to list their items for sale. “We are committed to being as inclusive as possible and working with everyone, which means not competing. We do not host or sell listings, nor will we ever, as we clearly state on our website. We are a for-profit business, though, which is why we sell data-driven products such as highly targeted branding opportunities, with additional products in the pipeline. Nearly every product on our road map is something that has either never been done before or is currently not sold by any other company today – that’s the power of structured data.”
However, the company has its detractors. “We have received some pushback from big names in our industry,” said Balog. “We are very careful to ensure we are not infringing on copyrights or trademarks, which is why we only display material facts on our website. Users must click through to the source site to view images and full item descriptions, which also maintains existing lead attribution models – we aren’t taking any credit for leads or trying to steal anyone’s clients. We are bound by over two decades of search engine legal precedent, pioneered by Google, that requires us to maintain search neutrality. We can’t alter search results based on financial relationships, which means our investors’ listings are indexed and displayed the same as those of sellers who don’t even know we exist.”
Used Equipment Guide allows dealers to create a profile and claim their listings for free, but they do offer digital-savvy dealers and marketers targeted branding and advertising opportunities. “We have created an ad system similar to Google or Bing Ads where sellers can target their ads toward users based on search criteria and keywords. With traditional media in the equipment industry, advertisers pay for a location on a website or for a magazine’s distribution, but the majority of the readers or visitors are not their target market. With UEG, advertisers only pay when people see their ad based on very specific targeting criteria, so it’s not only about who sees the ads, but also who doesn’t see them,” said Balog.
Looking for equipment on the go? UEG has released a mobile app that gives buyers the opportunity to find the equipment they want, where they want. “Many buyers are on the go, and we have a native mobile app to help buyers find equipment from the job site. The mobile app is just one of the exciting products on our road map,” said Balog.