Targeting Local Audiences with Search, Part Five: MIVA

So far in this series, we’ve looked at the local search opportunities for MSN, Yahoo, Google, and Today, we’ll round off the series with MIVA (formerly

With a majority share of users, the search triumvirate of Google, Yahoo, and MSN unquestionably dominate. Every move the Big Three make causes a flurry of press releases, blog postings, and chatter among marketers. Unknown to most of the world, however, are other long-standing players in the space, all vying for their piece of the pie. Among the many second-tier search engines, MIVA has survived several different incarnations.

In 2004, FindWhat began an aggressive merger and acquisition strategy that included eSpotting, Miva, B&B Advertising, MVCool, and Comet Systems. It found strength in numbers, expanding its offerings’ reach and diversity. In mid 2005, the company rebranded as MIVA, shortly after weathering the very rocky eSpotting acquisition. Espotting gave MIVA a strong foothold in the European paid search market.

Throughout its existence, MIVA has never truly established itself as a destination or a portal for online searchers. Instead, it perpetuates itself through search results distribution across a network of partners and through product offering innovation. MIVA was an early adopter of pay-per-call advertising through its partnership with Ingenio, for example.

Today, MIVA is primarily a PPC (define) advertising network with distribution across thousands of sites. Search marketers can turn to MIVA for incremental traffic to support their overall campaign mix globally. It won’t be the cornerstone of your overall search spend by any stretch of the imagination, but it can bring in additional conversions and help you gain exposure in places you were previously unable to reach.

To get the scoop for local search marketers, I caught up with Chrysi Philalithes, recently promoted to VP of global marketing and communications for MIVA and one of eSpotting’s founding members.

Regional Ad Targeting

According to Philalithes, MIVA approaches local advertising in two ways. First is through regional ad targeting. This is accomplished by using geographically oriented keywords to target locally for both PPC and pay-per-call ads. “Best practices in targeting locally include ensuring that all the relevant geographic variations are included in an advertiser’s keyword selection, including in the title or description the area serviced and highlighting any key USPs [e.g., free shipping in Manhattan”,” said Philalithes.

Given the increasing pressure among the major search engines to provide features for specific ad delivery to geographic and demographic targets, MIVA will hopefully soon follow suit and enable marketers to target by using more than keyword modifiers.

“Pay-per-call ads allow advertisers to select geographic targets [e.g., national, state, city, and Zip Code within a 5km radius”,” Philalithes said. “When pay-per-call ads are searched for from partner sites, there is a two-box query for searches to include information: one for keyword and one for geography.”

If you perform a search at, you can see these two boxes. Curiously, when I tried my search I noticed MSN was hard at work driving traffic to its local listings product at

The pay-per-call offering provides quite a bit of flexibility and control. Advertisers can choose the time of day they wish their ads to appear. They can also direct calls to a different number with relative ease, and calls are free to consumers.

The Pay-Per-Text Feature

The second approach to local advertising is through the new TXT//AD. Only available in the U.K., this pay-per-text feature comes from a partnership with U.K. company 118118, the largest directory inquiry service in the U.K. (the equivalent of the U.S.’s 411 using (SMS text messaging). The agreement allows advertisers to target the space below the text messages, and advertisers can buy their own ad group. For example, an airline could select a targeted keyword group specifically for airline inquiries. Advertisers can also set up a distinct message for searches that result in the advertiser’s number.

Compared with pay-per-call services, this approach is less intrusive and gives users the information they need as they head out the door into the “local” world we all live in. It’s a seemingly simple trick, but I’m a fan of convenience and anything that keeps control firmly in my hands. I’m curious to see if and how MIVA will translate its service into a domestic U.S. offering.

In terms of offerings not yet on the market, Philalithes said they’re constantly testing and evaluating. MIVA has recently partnered with Intellext to provide a new desktop search extension of its distribution network. Intellext created a desktop search tool called Watson to search the Web, the user’s email, and a range of files from various applications on the local hard drive. This distribution is anticipated to be available in Q2 2006.

It’s also worth noting MIVA even offers e-commerce solutions for small businesses.

MIVA distinguishes itself from the major engines by being an ad network rather than a destination. To that end, it builds options for advertisers through a range of partnerships to expand that network. Though the volume may be limited domestically, its global reach and unique distribution make MIVA an additional traffic source worth considering for anyone trying to reach local audiences.

Next, we’ll shift gears to look at how companies are addressing the specific needs of vertical markets in local search. We’ll begin in with services seeking to bridge online retail shopping with brick-and-mortar counterparts. Who’s doing it? How are they doing it? Can they track their successes? Where are the opportunities now?

As always, please keep the feedback coming. And if you know of a company I should include or a topic you’d like to see covered, let me know.

Join us for Search Engine Strategies in Toronto, April 25-26, 2006.

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