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Local Online Media Planning Options, Part 1

  |  October 20, 2009   |  Comments

Opportunities for geo-targeted media plans including search, local directories, review sites, and regional media sites.

More and more, we see advertisers ask for geo-targeted online ad campaigns. These advertisers range from local- or regional-only companies, national companies seeking to make a play in a particular region, or franchise companies looking to support franchisees all across the country. Luckily, we as online media planners have far more options than ever before to execute creative geo-targeted online media plans. Keeping up with the latest offerings in local can be overwhelming. In fact, there are so many options, this will be a multi-part column.

Considerations for Local Online Media Planning

Building a robust local media plan can be more challenging to source, can take more time, and requires considerable strategic thinking. When developing a geo-targeted media plan, consider these several important factors:

  • Is the client's interest in geo-targeting based upon a product/service/offer that is only available within the targeted region or does the client merely want to focus impressions and traffic from regions where majority of customers and traffic are already coming from?

  • Has the audience geo-target been validated in any way or is the client operating on a hunch; or do they consider this campaign a proof of concept test?

  • How long do you have to deliver the campaign? (Since geo-targeting narrows the reach, the shorter the campaign duration, the more likely you'll have to plan to buy more diverse placements in order to reach the goal in time.)

  • Of the placements you're considering, how are they delivering their geo-targeted impressions (e.g., are they a regionally-focused site or directory? Do they have a registered user database with geo-local information? Do they use geographical targeting technology like IP or DNS look-up? Can they provide this look-up in reverse?)

As we review the options for a geo-targeted plan, be aware that some considerations might not be strictly "media" and there are some areas where opportunities overlap. Let's start first with the low-hanging fruit.


  • Pay-per-click geo-targeting: The major search engines (Google, Yahoo, Bing) offer geo-targeting on their PPC (define) campaigns.
    • The major search engines also have a no-cost local offering to submit your site for entry into their local directory. This opportunity should not be overlooked.

    • Google has a new option called "Location Extensions, which dynamically attaches a business address to paid ads for additional visibility.
  • Google local ads: a new form of locally-targeted AdWords currently only available in San Diego and San Francisco (see below example).

    click to enlarge

  • Mobile search engine ads: the major search engines now all also enable mobile versions of their PPC ads. (More on the larger category of geo-targeting through mobile later.)

Internet Yellow Pages and Local Directories

  • Internet yellow pages (IYP): YellowPages.com, SuperPages, YellowBook, and DexKnows naturally lend themselves to locally-targeted advertising.

  • Directory portals: portal sites like Local.com, Citysearch, AOL's Digital City (which links to CityGuide, Going, When.com, AOL YellowPages), and Insider Pages offer geo-targeted content and corresponding advertising options for most major cities.

  • In addition these well-known portals, local directory sites exist for almost every city, county or region. Google's Directory provides a great place to start.

Location Review Sites

Some of these review sites are for residents and some are for travelers (or both!).

  • The local side of search such as Yahoo Local or Google Maps and other aggregated information review sites like Yelp allow consumers to review local businesses. All have some kind of advertising option.

  • Dining and entertainment: sites like Zagat and DailyCandy provide expert reviews for most major cities.

  • Travel, tourism, hospitality: well-established consumer review site TripAdvisor and travel booking sites with consumer reviews like Orbitz, Travelocity, and Expedia all offer advertising based on destination.

Regional Media Sites

These days all regionally-focused newspaper, magazine, radio, and television media outlets also offer advertising on their Web sites. Finding these sites may not be easy, but here are a few directories to help:

  • Godengo for regional magazines.

  • Centro facilitates online ad sales for 9,600 regional media outlets.

  • Mediaspan Online Services represents 1,500+ regional media outlets.

  • Newslink: If you want to go direct for your buy, this is a directory of regional media around the world.

In part two of this column, we'll be covering other locally-targeted media options including mobile. If you plan local ad buys, be sure not to miss it!

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Hollis Thomases

A highly driven subject matter expert with a thirst for knowledge, an unbridled sense of curiosity, and a passion to deliver unbiased, simplified information and advice so businesses can make better decisions about how to spend their dollars and resources, multiple award-winning entrepreneur Hollis Thomases (@hollisthomases) is a sole practitioner and digital ad/marketing "gatekeeper." Her 16 years working in, analyzing, and writing about the digital industry make Hollis uniquely qualified to navigate the fast-changing digital landscape. Her client experience includes such verticals as Travel/Tourism/Destination Marketing, Retail & Consumer Brands, Health & Wellness, Hi-Tech, and Higher Education. In 1998, Hollis Thomases founded her first company, Web Ad.vantage, a provider of strategic digital marketing and advertising service solutions for such companies as Nokia USA, Nature Made Vitamins, Johns Hopkins University, ENDO Pharmaceuticals, and Visit Baltimore. Hollis has been an regular expert columnist with Inc.com, and ClickZ and authored the book Twitter Marketing: An Hour a Day, published by John Wiley & Sons. Hollis also frequently speaks at industry conferences and association events.

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