FAST Debuts Local Search Tool

Enterprise search provider Fast Search & Transfer (FAST) on Thursday launched FAST AdVisor, a local search tool targeting Internet yellow pages providers, classifieds directories, and business-to-business directories.

“We’re providing local yellow pages providers the ability to defend their turf,” said David Isaacson, director of product marketing for FAST.

AdVisor is designed to help companies take advantage of existing databases of local businesses to provide online directories and local search tools. This includes not only yellow pages providers, but classifieds providers like Knight Ridder and CareerBuilder, or business-to-business directories like Thomas Industrial Networks, publisher of the Thomas Register.

While search giants like Google and Yahoo have launched their own local search services, the yellow pages providers have an edge in this largely untapped market, Isaacson said.

“The local providers are dealing from a position of strength. They already have access to the advertisers, they already have the ‘feet on the street’. They have the brand recognition, and the marketing muscle,” he said.

Other providers are targeting the yellow pages providers with their search technology, including paid-search service provider Interchange, which last week debuted enhancements to its Local Direct geographically targeted search platform. PremierGuide, which last week announced the addition of a social search element to its offering, is another competitor.

According to the latest Jupiter Research Paid Search Forecast, local search marketing will generate $502 million in 2004, or 19 percent of the total search marketing spend.

AdVisor allows companies with an existing database of advertisers to expose that content to the Web, and add to that content from third-party directories or advertisers’ own Web sites. It also provides users with advanced navigation, linguistics, and multi-level sorting capabilities.

AdVisor uses FAST’s technology to provide relevant results based on parameters like the authority, freshness, and quality of a document. The directory provider has the ability to adjust the weight of those parameters to ensure relevant results. In addition, the product provides organizations with a flexible relevancy framework that allows the company to adjust the rank of an advertiser’s listing based on a variety of parameters, such as the amount of money an advertiser spends or the length of time an advertiser has been a client.

“You have to make sure the end users find relevant results, or they’ll just go away. There are too many places online to do search for a user to waste time with a site that doesn’t work for them,” Isaacson said.

FAST has been building off its enterprise search core for the past 18 months, since it sold its Web search properties to Overture, and then bought from Overture the enterprise search customers it had acquired earlier from Alta Vista. Overture has since been acquired by Yahoo

On top of the FAST Enterprise Search Platform (ESP), unveiled in January 2004, the company has created what it calls Search Derivative Applications, or SDAs. Earlier this year, it launched FAST Marketrac, a market intelligence product that uses the FAST ESP platform to find and analyze content from around the Web.

Future SDAs will address the fraud detection and publishing markets, which will be aided by this week’s acquisition of NextPage’s Publishing Applications business unit. The NextPage applications include a server-based publishing suite, a multimedia CD/DVD authoring tool, and a knowledge management application. FAST acquired NextPage for $6 million in cash and potential performance-based payments up to $9 million over four years.

FAST already has a strong customer base in the publishing sector, but the integration of NextPage’s technology with FAST’s ESP technology will expand its offerings to publishers and accelerate the development of the SDA for publishing, Isaacson said.

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