More NewsMarchex Morphs 100,000 Generic Sites Into a Local Search Network

Marchex Morphs 100,000 Generic Sites Into a Local Search Network

A year in the works, the move creates perhaps the largest online local search and media network.

Like Reverend Sun Myung Moon presiding over a mass wedding, Marchex has finally married its vast collection of generic, vertical and regional domains with business listings and reviews from Open List, the local search firm it acquired over a year ago.

With the move, in the works for a year, the company has removed the ad links that blanketed 100,000 or so of its 200,000 direct navigation domains and replaced them with local business listings, reviews, and search functions intended to raise relevance and consumer loyalty on the sites. Visitors to Web properties such as SanDiegoRentersInsurance.com, SeattleVeterinarian.com and Podiatrist.com, as well as Zip code domains covering 96 percent of postal areas in the U.S., will now encounter local search interfaces structured around business categories related to the domain in question.

“Our portfolio of sites up until very recently was, in essence, all ads,” said Matthew Berk, lead search architect at Marchex and a founder of Open List. With the new changes, he said, “It’s walking someone thru the decision process, so you can help them ask the questions they didn’t necessarily know to ask up front. The Open List experience has always been about refinement.”

Marchex has endowed its multitude of sites with query refinement options that let users narrow their searches with only a few clicks. Someone viewing business listings at NewYorkBeautySalons.com, for instance, can view listings by neighborhood, by services (hair tinting or pedicures), by price range, by hours of operation, or by any combination of those, Berk said.

Marchex claims 31 million unique IP addresses across its 200,000 domains. Ads on the relaunched properties are a combination of Yahoo and Marchex ads. The latter are sourced primarily through the firm’s relationship with AT&T.

In the run up to its 100,000 Web site launch, Marchex expanded Open List’s previously travel-centric listings — which included only the three categories hotels, restaurants and attractions — to include virtually all industry segments, ranging from plumbers to tax lawyers to apartment rentals. Open List branding appears on all the sites in question, though OpenList.com has yet to be enhanced with the company’s expanded vertical data. Berk said that site would be updated in the coming months to include vertical search across all the segments Marchex now covers.

All in all, Marchex’s domains offer 15 million business, product and service listings across about 20,000 categories that are largely a mirror of Yellow Pages listings. The consumer reviews Marchex has made available were culled from the sites themselves and other sources around the Web, including Citysearch.

Marchex has described its interest in generic domains primarily in terms of the direct navigation traffic they bring to the firm, but the company also expects the mass launch will make the sites more visible to search engines. Marchex is conducting internal research on the demographics and online behavior of people who visit Web sites by typing terms directly into a Web browser’s address field, but declined to share what it’s learned other than to say the practice of direct navigation has not declined since it began buying up domains.

Marchex recently began offering training to local Yellow Pages sales organizations in using the Marchex system to offer regional businesses leads online. The firm’s outreach to and local marketing tool offerings for small business have resulted in the company being among the largest single customers of Google’s and Yahoo’s search platforms, executives say.

The company partnered last month with Fox’s Latin American Channels division to develop Spanish-language content for over 100 generic domains.

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