Yahoo has been an early and dominant player in local search. Much like MSN’s and Google’s local initiatives, Yahoo Local combines local information, maps, and sponsored opportunities into a single local search offering. It’s beginning to integrate results across the various verticals and the primary SERPs (define). A search for “lawn care in Kansas City,” for example, provides local results for businesses in Kansas City on the SERP. Clicking one of the results, and you’ll land on local listings for the result.
My last column covered MSN’s perspective on targeting local audiences with its current and emerging services. This week, I had a chance to solicit the same perspective from Yahoo with a focus on how marketers should approach local with Yahoo
I was lucky enough to have a conversation with Warren Kay, director of emerging products at Yahoo Search Marketing. He managed to shed some light on what’s admittedly a confusing offering, one that’s still evolving.
Q and A With Yahoo
PS: From a marketer’s perspective, what opportunities are currently available to target a local audience on Yahoo?
WK: Yahoo offers several ways for marketers to target consumers searching for products or services in their business area. For advertisers seeking to advertise on a pay-per-click basis, we offer Local Sponsored Search, a radius-based option that allows businesses to target areas as granular as half a mile and as broad as 100 miles. Through our robust Local Sponsored Search keyword marketplace, marketers are able to target their listings geographically to locations, points of interest, and even colloquial areas.
In addition, Yahoo offers several fixed-priced local advertising options that enable marketers to choose different levels of exposure to fit their marketing objectives. Enhanced Listings provide businesses the opportunity to pay a small monthly fee to add additional content to their free listing. For businesses interested in increased exposure, we offer a Featured Listing product, which provides guaranteed positioning.
Yahoo is consistently the largest media destination within local markets, and for advertisers that want brand exposure on Yahoo we offer spot marketing capabilities. These graphical ads can, and typically do, include some level of behavioral and demographic targeting with geotargeting layered on top.
PS: What might a local campaign look like on Yahoo?
WK: For a regional/large local advertiser, a typical campaign includes 40-50 percent budget allocation toward a search campaign that includes a mix of head terms (e.g., “auto”) and geomodified terms (“Dallas Auto”). The remaining 50-60 percent of the budget is allocated to a regionally targeted graphical ad campaign that may also be targeted to a specific demographic (e.g., males, 18-34, searching for autos in Dallas in the last 30 days)
For any given local campaign, the allocation of spend is entirely based on the marketer’s objectives. If the marketer has a stronger branding goal, we might recommend they shift a higher percentage of spend to graphical ads but support those brand campaigns with complementary local search ads.
PS: What are the biggest challenges?
WK: Online marketing can seem daunting, complex, and time-consuming to small businesses — especially to those that have only limited to no experience doing business online. To help make it easy for small businesses to get online and market online, Yahoo offers a complete set of simple solutions, including Web hosting, e-commerce support, and search marketing.
In addition, while businesses become increasingly engaged in national search marketing campaigns, many do not yet realize the value of search as an effective spot-marketing medium. Yahoo works closely with many of its national advertisers to help them use search to meet their local marketing objectives.
PS: What opportunities are on the horizon for 2006?
WK: As enhanced targeting capabilities emerge and users increasingly search from mobile devices, advertisers will have even more opportunities to reach local consumers. We view Local as a growing and important opportunity for Yahoo and will continue on our proven path of testing and innovating new technologies and solutions for our Local advertiser and publisher customers.
PS: What integration has taken place and what is yet to come in terms of local search and the various Yahoo verticals?
WK: We’ve already integrated our Search listings into a number of Yahoo verticals — including Yahoo Autos, Yahoo Shopping, and Yahoo Local — and often display local listings in response to search queries on those sites. Moving forward, we will continue to incorporate local search listings into other Yahoo verticals and leverage our proprietary technologies to refine our local targeting capabilities.
PS: What can you tell us about pay per call on Yahoo and in Yahoo Local?
WK: As a leading provider of search and online advertising, we are continuously evaluating and testing a number of advertising capabilities and tools, including pay per call.
PS: Are there opportunities at this point for local advertisers on mobile platforms?
WK: Yahoo views mobile as a very promising opportunity for all advertisers, regardless of their size, geographic footprint, or campaign objectives. Our recent announcement of our Yahoo Go consumer offering is one example of how Yahoo is driving innovation in this developing category.
PS: How does Yahoo Local differentiate itself from the other emerging local products from competitors such as MSN and Google?
WK: Yahoo Local has the largest market share of any local online property. Additionally, we can provide a wide variety of advertising options and merchant solutions to support all types of marketers.
Thanks, Warren. Local businesses may find they’re already listed through one of Yahoo’s many regional partners, such as BellSouth, Dex, and AT&T. If not, there’s a simple way to list your business via InfoUSA or BellSouth.
Local targeting of Sponsored Search listings has been limited to geomodified terms up till now, unlike Google’s more developed targeting capabilities, for example. If rumors hold true, we can reasonably expect to see this improve later this year as pressure increases from competitors.
Yahoo Mobile has been available for some time now, and local listings are part of the overall feature set. Look for more elaborate offerings for mobile users in the future as Yahoo Go gains momentum. There are also recent rumors of pay-per-call tests on Yahoo with Ingenio. The goal of these tests is likely demonstrating the offline revenue contribution that’s so frequently ignored when calculating local campaign ROI (define).
Though clearly a great deal of opportunities exists, tailoring a campaign to your business is no simple task, and optimizing the campaigns to a granular level still requires some heavy data work. The real benefits will be felt as local extends its reach across all Yahoo vertical properties. According to Kay, “It feels like we’re finally starting to connect the dots.” Expect Yahoo to continue to build out local features and targeting to cater to its massive audience.
Meet Phil at Search Engine Strategies in New York City, February 27-March 2.
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