Do you understand the differences between Yahoo's local products?
Last time, I provided an overview of Yahoo's local search advertising options, post-Panama. I covered the long-awaited geotargeting option now available in Sponsored Search, the three flavors of Yahoo Local Listings, and the no-longer-promoted Local Sponsored Search product.
How to decide? Which ad product is best for your online marketing needs?
Sponsored Search Recommendations
I recommend geotargeted Sponsored Search campaigns for Internet-savvy local businesses, regional firms, Web-based businesses, and national chains, franchises, and dealerships. Really, any business -- local or not -- wanting to present different messages or offers to searchers in various locations can benefit from Yahoo's geotargeted Sponsored Search.
Here's the caveat: This approach involves full-blown PPC (define) advertising and is only recommended for those prepared to set up accounts, establish campaigns, determine distribution and targeting options, research keywords, organize campaigns, write multiple ads, handle bids, and actively manage all these parameters on an ongoing basis.
Bottom line, this isn't a set-it-and-forget-it advertising solution. If you don't have the knowledge, skills, or resources required to tackle the care and feeding of a PPC account, implement a simpler product or hire an agency. Payment models vary, but in general expect to pay an agency about 15 percent of click charges to manage your campaign. Set-up charges and monthly minimums may also apply, which can often prove too costly for smaller firms, particularly if online isn't your primary marketing method.
Local Listing Recommendations
In contrast, Yahoo Local Listings are designed primarily for small, local, and brick-and-mortar businesses serving customers in a specific region.
I recommend Local Listings for marketers who desire a simplified approach and appreciate the flat monthly fee. This solution eliminates the need to manage campaigns, keywords, bids, and budgets. Furthermore, the contact information and map associated with a Local Listing makes it particularly well suited for marketers wanting to make their phones ring or drive customers into their physical stores.
Sign up for at least the Enhanced version. I also suggest you contact Yahoo and inquire about the monthly rate for a Featured Listing for your specific region and category. It may be the best advertising dollar you ever spend! Don't delay. Once the six available ad spots for your category/location are sold, you're out of luck (until Yahoo offers more local ad inventory).
The Combo Approach
Many businesses should consider testing both geotargeted Sponsored Search ads and Featured Local Listings. This may be the best way to ensure you reach people who search at Yahoo and people who search at Yahoo Local. Also, a Featured Listing will compensate for inherent IP-targeting limitations Bottom line: test, measure results, and develop an ad program based on ROI (define).
Migrate From Local Sponsored Search
Finally, if you're still using Yahoo's Local Sponsored Search product, which is no longer offered to new advertisers, migrate to either a geotargeted PPC account or a Featured Local Listing (choosing which is best for you based on the comparison above). These products will likely provide more visibility and better support moving forward.
Lack of Small Business Awareness
Local Listings are a unique and valuable product. The flat fee and simplified approach are significant differentiators and could go a long way toward establishing Yahoo as the clear leader in local search.
So why don't more small businesses know about this highly effective option? Certainly, there's been some promotion, such as Yahoo's recent First Month Free incentive. But most local businesses still don't have a clue about their search advertising options.
Engaging the Local Market
Just how should search engines promote their local ad products to the 22 million small businesses in America? Many believe it will require much more simplified products and a significant "feet on the street" effort, such as the formidable sales forces employed by newspaper and yellow pages firms.
I was talking about this lack of promotion recently with Grant Crowell of Grantastic Designs. He has another idea. Grant suggested Yahoo sponsor local search seminars in various cities across America and enlist the help of local business organizations and local search marketing experts to spread the word and bring credibility to these events. Crowell has conducted similar sessions in various cities with success, but apparently Yahoo didn't take him up on the idea (with a notable exception). The challenge is that each search network wants to focus this type of event on their products only. To be truly effective, however, the session would need to provide tips and advice on all types of local search marketing methods.
Will local search advertising ever be as well understood as newspaper or yellow page ads? It's just a matter of time. Won't it be nice when the next local business owner you meet at a cocktail party wants to discuss Yahoo Local Listings?
Search engines certainly haven't cracked the small business marketing code yet. Stay tuned.
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Patricia Hursh is president and founder of SmartSearch Marketing, a Boulder, CO, based SEM agency established in 1999. The company specializes in interactive solutions designed to generate leads, acquire customers, and build brands online.
A true pioneer of digital marketing, Patricia has been using technology to improve marketing and communications for over 13 years. She's worked with a variety of companies, including Qwest, Microsoft, and Time Warner Cable. As a recognized search marketing expert, Patricia regularly serves as a subject matter expert for industry publications and is a frequent speaker at such conferences as Search Engine Strategies, ad:tech, and DMA.
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