Citysearch Plans Reputation Management Product

Citysearch wants to be in the consulting business. For years, the IAC-owned firm has been among the array of online ad sellers pitching their wares to small businesses. Not only are local business owners overwhelmed by all the complicated options available, they’re increasingly worried about being stung by bad reviews or misinformation about their companies scattered across the Web.

Citysearch aims to score and retain more small business customers by helping them make sense of it all, and simplifying product offerings. One way it plans to do that is through a reputation management system the company plans to launch.

Another is by eventually combining offerings that are currently branded separately. For instance, the firm might offer ads and an SEO product enabled through a partnership with OrangeSoda as a more integrated package in the future. According to Neil Salvage, Citysearch’s EVP of advertising, the ultimate goal is to reduce the number or offerings and sell them on a flat-fee basis rather than a performance-basis.

“I want to get it to where it’s one flat rate, and this is what [the advertiser] should expect” in terms of ROI, said Salvage during a meeting with ClickZ News in late April. Though the company will continue offering the performance-based CityGrid package, Salvage said a flat-fee offering for leads through phone calls, menu views, and Web links is available now.

“I feel like our reps are going to be much more consultative,” he continued. The company has 200 direct salespeople, according to Salvage, who started with Citysearch in 2006. “We’ll position ourselves more like an agency.”

That service-oriented shift will be evident in a reputation management system the company expects to launch. Such an offering could appeal to small business managers who are increasingly threatened by what people say about them online, but have few resources to deal with negative comments or reviews. Recent lawsuits against local reviews site Yelp only brought the significance of the issue more to the fore.

Citysearch currently allows advertisers to update their company profiles displayed across the Web through the platform associated with its CityGrid listings distribution system. They can also respond to reviews posted about their businesses using the platform.

“In the next quarter, we will be expanding our capabilities to offer merchants even more robust reputation management capabilities such as reviewing reviews from across CityGrid, sentiment analysis and more,” explained Salvage.

Competitor Marchex already offers a reputation management service that monitors over 8,000 sources including Twitter, local blogs – and Citysearch – and then notifies customers when someone’s posted about their businesses.

Follow Kate Kaye on Twitter at @LowbrowKate.

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