Switchboard Launches Self-Service Ad Program

CBS Switchboard.com Thursday unveiled its automated, self-service yellow page advertising program, in conjunction with an announcement of a deal with Bigstep.com, a firm that offers ways for small businesses customers to build Web sites.

The flagship site of Switchboard Inc., CBS Switchboard.com offers yellow and white pages, email and Web site directories and other reference information, and nets about 60 million monthly page views, according to the Westboro, Mass.-based firm. Advertisers can purchase ads that appear when users search the yellow page listings for specific business categories.

CBS Switchboard.com’s self-service display ad generation system, which is similar to ones used by search engine Google, allows advertisers to create, upload, and specify search terms for those ads.

According to terms of the Bigstep.com deal, Bigstep will integrate CBS Switchboard.com’s self-service system into its own services for small businesses looking to set up Web presences.

Merchants using Bigstep.com’s site building services will have the option of advertising in the CBS Switchboard.com yellow pages. Through a self-service interface offered on the Bigstep.com Web site, Bigstep.com’s clients can place a display advertisement in up to five categories to represent their small business in the Switchboard.com yellow pages.

“After building a Web site, the next step for any small business owner is to drive consumers to it,” said Bigstep.com chief executive officer Lucy Reid. “As one of the most heavily visited directories on the Web, Switchboard and its qualified consumers will be of great value to Bigstep.com members.”

Bigstep.com has about 200,000 members, and the offerings also will be highlighted in Bigstep.com’s resource areas, newsletters and marketing.

“Switchboard’s self-service interface provides us with a new platform for partnering with small business services companies like Bigstep.com, who gives us access to another large base of merchants,” said Switchboard chief executive officer Doug Greenlaw. “This partnership helps us get closer to our goal of giving all small merchants in the U.S. the opportunity to market their products and services to millions of loyal Switchboard users who come to the site every day seeking local business information.”

In addition to Google, which has made self-service advertising something of a low-cost alternative to its primary, position-based advertising offerings, the self-service advertising setup is turning up as the main proposition of specialty Web ad firms like AdFlight. That company allows advertisers to run self-service banner ad campaigns across a network of sites. Silicon Alley-based startup digitalroot also allows advertisers to automate the online advertising process, from banner ad creation to media buys.

These do-it-yourself ad sales and optimization services appeal to smaller advertisers, who can’t afford sizable sales staffs or creative budgets.

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