Three firms join to migrate small- and medium-sized businesses from the yellow pages to the search engines.
Directories publisher Dex Media has put together an alliance with two Web marketing players in an effort to get its over 400,000 yellow pages advertisers to extend their buys online. The partnership, if successful, could help grow local search advertising.
Dex Media, which publishes Qwest Communications' directories and operates dexonline.com, joined Web host Interland and media broker SME Global Solutions (SGS) to create the offering, dubbed Dex Web Clicks. Available in several package options, Dex Web Clicks includes search engine marketing, Web site design and hosting.
The combination is designed for small- and medium-sized businesses that may want to try online marketing but lack the personnel or expertise to do it themselves. The search engine marketing offering guarantees customers a number of clicks for a fixed price. Pricing starts at $100 per month.
"What they [small businesses] are really looking for is someone to take all of the pain away," said Paul Basile, product manager for the Web Clicks product. "Not just the Web site part of it, but also the keyword buying part of it."
Small- and medium-sized businesses are expected to be the advertisers who power local search offerings like Google Local, Yahoo Local and a host of others. Yet operating a sales effort and building Web sites for local merchants continue to be challenges.
"Dex and SME Global Solutions have essentially taken the variable pricing and product complexity out of search for small business. And while some local businesses are undaunted by the time and learning curve involved in self-provisioning a paid-search campaign, large numbers would be unlikely to adopt search in the absence of this kind of hand-holding," said Greg Sterling, program director of the Kelsey Group's Digital Directories: Interactive Local Media program.
BellSouth and Marchex' TrafficLeader announced a similar partnership in May.
The Dex Media agreement calls for the yellow pages publisher's sales force to market the offering to its advertisers. Interland will provide Web site design and hosting, along with tools that let business owners update and manage their sites. SGS will broker the media buys, working in conjunction with Dex Media.
"They [SGS] are really going after the local keywords -- Seattle florists, those kinds of things," said Basile.
The Dex Web Clicks offering will initially roll out in the Seattle metropolitan area.
"One potential issue is limited local business ad budgets," said the Kelsey Group's Sterling. "Our data show that on average SMEs have less than $6,000 per year to spend on marketing. So the question becomes where to put your scarce ad dollars across all media -- online and off."
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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