W3 Data, parent of online directory assistance search portal WhitePages.com, has acquired 411.com, a Berkeley, Calif.-based provider of similar services.
While search has become a key marketing tool for companies with nationwide reach, search players are increasingly positioning themselves to help users find information close to home. Local search is believed to be one of the next growth areas in search engine marketing, with the Kelsey Group expecting local paid search advertising in the U.S. to reach $2.5 billion by 2008.
Seeing that opportunity, W3 Data acquired online directory assistance search portal 411.com for an undisclosed amount.
The deal is somewhat similar to InfoSpace’s acquisition of Switchboard.com. That deal was calculated to broaden InfoSpace’s reach, making it the leading U.S. online directory provider, with about 23 percent of total online yellow pages searches, according to comScore Media Metrix.
Similarly, this deal boosts the reach of W3 Data’s WhitePages.com network of directory assistance search sites. That network includes proprietary Web properties such as WhitePages.com, Whitepages.ca and Phonenumber.com, as well as the Find Person sections of more than 1,300 sites. In May, the WhitePages.com network had 6.5 million unique visitors, and it is consistently ranked among the Top 10 directory resource Web sites, according to comScore Media Metrix.
In May, 411.com had 392,000 unique visitors, according to comScore. The acquisition is part of W3’s overall strategy of expansion via organic growth, acquisitions and partnerships, according to Susie Kang, SVP consumer services for W3 Data.
“The acquisition of 411.com is timely for W3 because the three-digit code has high brand recognition which will drive more traffic from new online directory users,” said Dan Miller, senior analyst with the Zelos Group.
According to Miller, recent developments in the industry show that Internet search providers recognize “there’s a value in using the search engines for getting in touch with local resources.” He cited Google’s launch of its own search product, Google Local, in March. The launch followed on the heels of Yahoo’s introduction of its own search product, SmartView on Yahoo Maps. Both Google and Yahoo’s Overture have launched local targeting for advertisers, as well.
“With the acquisition of 411.com we are now able to reach about 5.2 percent of the at-work audience, which ranks us the number 68 site to reach the at-work user, according to comScore,” Kang claimed. “What it really means for our marketing clients is what they can do now with one buy is buy the great user base we have access to instead of having to go to multiple publishers and do additional work.”