Local Search and Yellow Pages: Not Just for Mom-and-Pops

Most online portals have a Yellow Pages or “local” tab that allows searchers to access local listings. Results are compiled from databases typically served by a major data vendor. These vendors have the same role as the major search engines’ algorithmic back ends. Their mission is to have complete, up-to-date data on businesses, classified by category, subcategory, and geography. Providers that power local search results are as follows:

Portal Data
Yahoo Local infoUSA
MSN Yellow Pages
(uses Verizon SuperPages)
Google Local Source not
(uses Switchboard.com)
(uses SMARTpages)
(uses Verizon SuperPages)
(uses InfoSpace)
InfoSpace, Dogpile,
MetaCrawler, WebCrawler
(use Verizon SuperPages)
*Data providers supply algorithmic results.

Acxiom and infoUSA get their data from the local regional phone companies (RBOCs). Generally, they allow you to correct an incorrectly entered listing. However, making changes in the databases that power the unpaid portions of the Internet Yellow Pages (IYP) can be a real challenge. No human contact is possible, and there’s no way to check the status of a correction or addition.

If your information is missing or incorrect, refer to the links at the bottom of most online Yellow Pages for instructions on how to get a listing updated.

Google recently rolled out local search functionality, but it hasn’t provided any information as to where the data originate within the algorithmic databases. The email address provided to request corrections, updates, or additions is local-listings[at”google.com. Google runs AdWords sponsorship opportunities within the local.google.com segment of the site.

The portals generally use whichever auction pay-per-click (PPC) keyword results would show up in the main tab within their local results. That means there aren’t really any changes necessary for existing PPC campaigns as far as the portals that use their own paid listings are concerned. Yet there are local search opportunities apart from the main search portals. IYPs and some local content players sometimes sell PPC-like listings.

Verizon SuperPages.com is the largest destination IYP. It has the most syndication deals with the portals, and it recently started offering auction-style PPC.

SuperPages has had some major changes in the last year: better category organization; launch of its own bid-for-position PPC search system (built on top of a customized FindWhat platform); and new ways of buying inventory on a national, state, metro, or city level. SuperPages’ PPC system centers around categories, similar to those in the traditional print Yellow Pages. All bidding is done at the category and subcategory level, which narrows the biddable-keyword field from what you’d expect in a portal environment. By selecting categories and subcategories, the possible-listings universe is reduced. Some categories are broad, others are quite narrow.

For example, a hierarchy breakdown might be:

  • Food and Dining

  • Restaurants
  • Pizza
  • Appetizers

This category focus can change the user experience, as well as the process of planning and executing a campaign. Even if users type in a search that’s an exact match for a category, the next screen they see at the SuperPages site is one where they must select from matching categories. Though this may seem like a poor user experience, it actually may be positive. It can help searchers narrow the field to the most targeted, appropriate level.

There are other pure-play online IYPs, including Switchboard, SMARTpages, and YellowPages.com.

If local advertising is important to you and you need more inventory, consider more IYP advertising. Some IYPs have a CPC (define) performance-based pricing system, although they don’t have auctions. Others charge monthly per category or have sell inventory on a CPM (define) basis.

Generally, strong regional print Yellow Pages providers have online components. Look at your local print Yellow Pages to see which area IYPs you should consider.

Local search goes beyond IYPs, of course. For example, Citysearch is a local vertical portal serving almost the same function as the IYPs, but it offers significantly more content than just advertiser listings and a database. CitySearch has reviews, ratings, and neighborhood-specific information.

Other local portals are forming. Some center around a city from a visitor’s perspective, such as Concierge.com. Others focus on the local population. MenuPages, for example, is all about Manhattan restaurant menus.

Opportunities to seize locally targeted traffic are increasing. Why not tap into IYPs? If your initial campaigns look healthy, expand into other localized advertising. Even national marketers can benefit from searchers looking for local solutions.

Want more search information? ClickZ SEM Archives contain all our search columns, organized by topic.

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