As far as trends go, I think we can all agree that behavioral targeting is the current online marketing darling. But I'll go out on a limb and predict that localized targeting will be the next big thing in 2005.
Consider all the local search attention focused on Yahoo, Google's recent deal with BellSouth, and last week's big news about SBC and BellSouth buying online directory publisher YellowPages.com. You begin to get a sense local will get a lot more attention in the near future.
But other attractive alternatives have delivered localized search for several years. The alternative isn't some overlooked niche site, special desktop app, or undiscovered technology. Hate to sound anti-climatic, but I'm talking about plain, old Yellow Pages sites. If you haven't closely examined this category as a fundamental part of your overall online ad mix, you're missing out on an important component for targeting prime customers.
Not Your Father's Internet Yellow Pages
If you're thinking, "Gee, why invest in an online ad model born out of a giant yellow pages book?" it's time you took another look. Most Internet Yellow Pages (IYP) publishers have effectively leveraged their vast databases of listings and local business connections, along with an in-market national sales staff (we're talking thousands of people), to provide marketers with a powerful national footprint that can customize ad content down to the street level and drive traffic into the storefront.
Local's Nice, But I Have a National Brand to Push
As we're coming out of election season, take a cue from former U.S. House Speaker Tip O'Neill, who reminded us, "All politics is local." Nothing really matters in marketing until the sale is made in your fair city or town. Though you may have brand impact goals, you've also got to drive that interest into some type of storefront. Most consumers who use these types of sites are already in a considered purchase mindset. That means they're a highly qualified lead before they even hit the site.
Can you say, "shooting fish in a barrel"?
What Makes IYPs Work for You?
Let's examine the category leader, SuperPages. With over 18 million business listings, site users have a huge resource for quickly finding products and services. The site includes "business profiles" for over 7 million companies. This allows a business to outline specific product or service information in greater detail. That's great, because all this data is searchable by the user. Need a plumber in your area code for a backflow problem? Just enter the details to find the right service expert in your locale.
Another aspect of the site is how information is organized. Bear in mind the concept of using keywords and keyword phrases for search campaigns. We all spend a great deal of time sorting out and testing millions of combinations to find the set that generates revenue for our clients. With a site like SuperPages, the search structure is preorganized into over 15,000 categories customers are familiar with. They've been tested over years of publishing. You can buy categories proven to have a high degree of search relevancy.
According to Darrin Rayner, VP of e-commerce sales and marketing at SuperPages, some of the most effective categories for conversion are travel (especially hotels), entertainment, dining, service industries, anything automotive, home and professional services, and DIY/contractors.
Here's what's impressive from a lead-management perspective: Of users who conduct a search for a particular business, 80 percent will contact that business and 50 percent of that group will conduct a transaction. I don't know of another online category with those kinds of conversion rates.
Another way to look at IYP effectiveness is to review the Media Metrix Buying Power Index (BPI) that shows the relative purchase behavior of site visitors. The SuperPages network delivers visitors who tend to spend 113 percent more than average Internet users.
Jumping back to the targeting aspect, I like the ability to deliver ad content down to the county, metro, and city level and to customize special offers on a regional or local basis. Imagine the Texas Ford Dealers group delivering special sales incentives to customers who map against their dealer footprint, which is different from what's available in Oklahoma.
Getting the Most for Your Ad Dollar
Finally, I encourage you to examine your current CPC (define) and conversion versus what you're paying for pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns on the major search engines. With so many best-performing words and phrases garnering sky-high rates, you just may find great value with category purchases. Let me know if you've seen similar results.
As you prepare for 2005 and wonder how you can maximize your budget, let your fingers do the clicking (sorry, couldn't resist). Check out the local impact of IYP sites.
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