Search giant Google will offer its advertisers the chance to more tightly target the geographical areas where their ads will be seen. It's also expected to announce Thursday the upcoming addition of ads to its Google Local site.
Both innovations are aimed at attracting more local ad dollars to the search space. The Kelsey Group expects that local paid search will amount to $2.5 billion in the United States by 2008, and there appears to be plenty of room for growth. The researchers' recent survey of 460 advertisers found only 11 percent currently using pay-per-click advertising.
"The opportunity is to more granularly target local advertising, which benefits both national and local advertisers," said Sukhinder Singh, general manager of local and third party partnerships at Google.
The new features mean that when advertisers from the U.S., Canada, the U.K, Germany, France, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands create ads on Google's AdWords program, they'll have the option of targeting by region or city. Only regional targeting was previously available, and that was only in the U.S.
The new features also let advertisers around the world create "customized targeting." In this case, an advertiser indicates where his business is located -- either with an address or with latitude and longitude information -- and can then specify a radius in miles. The feature is likely to be most helpful to advertisers outside the seven countries with city or regional targeting, because the minimum radius is 20 miles, or 35 kilometers -- in most cases, probably equal to or greater than a city.
"Clearly our hope and our belief is that quality regional targeting by advertisers enhances the user experience," said Singh. "We'll have more focused ads and richer content."
Google infers the searcher's location by looking at the user's IP address, and also by looking at the user's search terms. If someone types in "sushi 10016," the technology surmises the person wants raw fish joints in that ZIP code -- whether or not the person is using a computer in that location. Previously, Google used only IP address data to deliver regionally targeted ads.
It's an incremental improvement in targeting, noted Niki Scevak, an analyst with Jupiter Rto be minimalesearch, which shares a parent company with this site. "It's still very good news for advertisers. Anything that gives them control over how their ad dollars are targeted is a good thing."
The more focused targeting will help advertisers who only want to reach users in a specific area, but it also opens up the possibility of more local ad creative and landing pages. A national restaurant chain might promote and link to local specials or discounts, using a different creative and link URL for each city or region.
The new targeting features are tailor-made for Google's recently launched Local site, still in beta, which allows users to search for businesses within a certain city, ZIP code, or in proximity to a certain address. Though the company didn't specify exactly when ads would begin to appear on Google Local, it said "soon" searchers would see three listings across the top of the search results pages.
Google's main competitor, Yahoo's Overture, is also working on a local search targeting product. It hasn't given an expected release date.
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Pamela Parker is a former managing editor of ClickZ News, Features, and Experts. She's been covering interactive advertising and marketing since the boom days of 1999, chronicling the dot-com crash and the subsequent rise of the medium. Before working at ClickZ, Parker was associate editor at @NY, a pioneering Web site and e-mail newsletter covering New York new media start-ups. Parker received a master's degree in journalism, with a concentration in new media, from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.
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