Yahoo subsidiary Overture is expected to release its answer to Google's local targeting for paid search ads today, a product called Local Match.
Local Match is aimed at capturing part of the $2.5 billion the Kelsey Group predicts local paid search will generate in domestically by 2008. Overture's competitors for those dollars include Google and Internet yellow pages players like Verizon.
The long-awaited product allows advertisers to target by radius -- from as little as a half mile to as much as 100 miles. A dry cleaner could use the half-mile designator, for example, while a car dealership might pick a much larger radius -- with the assumption people would be willing to travel farther for a good deal on a car. Google's product allows targeting by city, region or radius, but the smallest possible radius is 20 miles.
"The consumer's point of view on what is appropriately local can change at any given time, for any given need, for any given product," said Geoff Stevens, general manager of Local for Overture.
Previously, local advertisers on Overture would buy keywords that incorporated a geographic designation, such as "New York City dentist" or "San Francisco plumber." That method could be cumbersome for advertisers while failing to take advantage of so-called inherently local searches, such as a search for "dry cleaner."
"Our research shows that slightly more than 25 percent of commercial searches performed by online buyers today are local, and we expect that figure to grow over time as local search capabilities continue to improve," said Greg Sterling, program director for the Kelsey Group.
Overture has chosen to create and host a Web page with business information for each Local Match advertiser. The move is aimed at attracting businesses that either don't have a Web site, or don't do most of their business online. The Overture-hosted page contains information like the business name, address, phone numbers, payment options, hours of operation and a map. The page will be carry the branding and look-and-feel of the publisher partner where the search originated.
As with other Overture products, advertisers are charged per click when users head to their page, and ads are still ranked by bid price. Other players in the space, including FindWhat and Ingenio, are working on models that would charge business by the phone call, rather than the click.
Publishers carrying Local Match ads will have the option of several techniques for determining what ads to display. When users don't explicitly indicate a location by typing in a city or region, sites can use the site visitor's IP address, Zip code from registration data, or designated market area (DMA). The user interface can also be set up to ask users to specify the area about which they want information if a search appears to be local in nature.
"This is not a product that is a one-targeting parameter. They [publisher partners] are the ones that should make the determination. If they're using IP, it can be a terrific targeting parameter in some cases," said Stevens. "Typically, we will also want to work with partner to allow the users to modify or change location," if it had been determined automatically.
At launch, locally-targeted Overture ads will appear on Yahoo, MSN, ESPN.com, MyCity.com and certain sites within the InfoSpace network. In the Yahoo network, they will appear on search and yellow pages areas, but they could eventually be rolled out onto other Yahoo properties, such as the SmartView local maps product.
"We will hopefully, over the course of the next weeks and months, be working with Yahoo to roll them out across the network," said Gaude Paez, communications manager for Overture.
Local Match is only available in the United States at launch. In contrast, Google's local targeting is available for advertisers in the U.S., Canada, the U.K, Germany, France, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands.
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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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