WhitePages.com Expands People Search

Expanding further from its phone directory roots, WhitePages.com has added third-party results from Web search, public records, and professional profiles, and a fledgling e-mail search product.

The Web search data will come from Microsoft’s Live Search index, with queries formulated by WhitePages.com to return the most relevant people-based or location-based results. Public records data, including criminal record and background checks, will come from a U.S. Search data feed. Professional profiles for people and companies will come from ZoomInfo. Additional providers in related fields will likely be added later this year.

“Anyone who has ever tried using a conventional search engine to locate a specific person knows that people search presents some unique challenges,” said Matt Booth, SVP and program director, Interactive Local Media, at The Kelsey Group. “By integrating third-party content into its proprietary search results for power Web search, WhitePages.com is in a position to provide an enhanced, highly relevant, people search user experience.”

The company has also begun indexing e-mail addresses from third-party opt-in lists for a premium service that lets users get in touch via e-mail for a fee, without knowing the destination address. Max Bardon, president and CEO of WhitePages.com, said the addresses on the list were scrubbed for accuracy, and all names on the list were contacted and given the choice to opt out of being listed in the directory.

“WhitePages.com has always been the trusted online source for searching, locating and contacting people,” Bardon said. “Our mission is to extend the value we provide to the millions of consumers we serve on a monthly basis, and the addition of e-mail addresses and on-target Web content into our search results is the first of many steps we will take in the support of it.”

The “blind relay” system keeps addresses private, requiring users to pay WhitePages.com for the service and sending a message via WhitePages.com. The sender will not know the destination address unless that person responds to the sent message.

Since targeting contextual ads to people search results would not prove very effective, WhitePages.com uses other methods to monetize its audience, Bardon said. First off, there is a set of advertisers that are endemic to the directory space, such as paid search services that will help find people that are not found via standard directory searches. Another group of advertisers have a branding relationship to directories, such as telephone, cable, wireless and search providers.

WhitePages also has advertisers looking to target its audience based on demographics, such as insurance providers, credit card companies, and hotels.

Finally, WhitePages.com also offers behavioral targeting through Revenue Science and “geo-destination” targeting, which takes into account the location of the searcher and the area of the person being searched for.

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