With all the hoopla surrounding Yahoo's Panama release and its move to better compete with Google, local search advertising seems to have been lost in the shuffle.
Do you understand the difference between these Yahoo products?
If not, you aren't alone. Let's take a closer look at the various search advertising offerings from Yahoo in the post-Panama world.
Local Sponsored Search
This previous-generation product is no longer offered to new advertisers, but Local Sponsored Search accounts are still held by, and active for, many advertisers.
Local Sponsored Search was designed primarily for small and medium-sized brick-and-mortar businesses. These localized campaigns are completely separate from Yahoo's Sponsored Search accounts. Ad serving isn't based on a searcher's IP address but on location-specific words entered by that searcher (or Yahoo's knowledge of the searcher's location based on registration information). This information is combined with a specified distance from the business address advertisers provide when setting up an account. Advertisers also provide information to populate a Yahoo-hosted Business Locator Page. The idea is this page can serve as a mini Web site for a business without an online presence.
Not surprisingly, the product has several shortfalls. First, most advertisers want searchers to click directly from an ad to their site, so the Locator Page is viewed as an undesirable extra step. Second, without IP-targeting the volume of clicks delivered is often meager and insignificant. Last, ad targeting options are limited and based solely on distance from the business address, making it impossible to select an entire town, designated market area (DMA), region, or state.
The targeting options launched with Panama are more flexible than I expected; advertisers can target searchers by state, city, or Zip Code. I especially like the visual targeting map that is displayed within the Yahoo campaign interface.
Sponsored Search ads are primarily displayed in Yahoo SERPs (define), but geotargeted sponsored search ads can also be inserted within Yahoo Local results -- if the targeting selected by the advertiser matches the location entered by the searcher and if there's open Local Listings ad inventory (as described below).
This ad option is designed specifically for the small-business owner or local marketer and is much simpler than a traditional PPC (define) campaign. No keywords. No bids. No campaign management required. Instead, a flat monthly fee is charged based on location and category.
Local Listings are primarily displayed on Yahoo Local pages, but, as with most search sites, Yahoo now often inserts local results at the top of its main results pages. These Yahoo Shortcuts are significant because local business ads are now being displayed in this highly coveted prime real estate at the very top of the Yahoo results page.
Today, Local Listings come in three flavors: Basic, Enhanced, and Featured.
Local Basic Listing
With this free listing, basic business data is provided to Yahoo by infoUSA, but businesses can proactively submit the following at no charge: address, phone number/fax number, site URL, e-mail address, business category, store hours, accepted payment methods, and products/services offered.
Local Enhanced Listing
With an Enhanced Listing, advertisers are able to add a logo and tagline plus up to 10 photos for $9.95 per month. The big advantage is advertisers can write their own business description. Of course, it should be optimized to include the most important local keywords and keyword phrases. Marketers can choose up to five business categories, but listings only show within a single region based on the business address. These listings appear in the center of the Yahoo Local results pages ranked based on relevance and proximity.
Local Featured Listing
These are the most coveted ad positions on Yahoo Local. There are six ads for each category/location -- three at the top of the page and three at the bottom, identified as "Sponsored Results." Featured Listings are sold on a first-come, first-serve basis. Advertisers are charged a flat fee per month, varying by category and location. Prices range from $15 to $300 per month and are determined based on supply and demand. Highly competitive categories in densely populated regions are more expensive than less competitive ads in less populated areas. If the six spots aren't completely filled by Featured Local Listing advertisers, they're backfilled with geotargeted Sponsored Search ads. An optional benefit (currently in beta) is a free five-page Web site.
That's the lay of the land regarding local search advertising at Yahoo, post-Panama.
Next: specific recommendations on how to best evaluate and choose between these options and how Yahoo might better market these products to local marketers.
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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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