Yahoo! Courts Small Business Advertisers With Contest

Yahoo today launched an online contest designed to raise awareness of its name change and court small business advertisers. The prize? Ten million ad impressions across its network, which will go to an innovative small business.

Contestants in the “Think Big” contest will submit their business plans to Yahoo Search Marketing, formerly Overture Services, which has enlisted Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group, to hand-pick a winner.

The winning business owner will receive a personal Yahoo Search Marketing account team to help create advertising campaigns to run across Yahoo’s network, including sponsored search, contextual ads, local listings, and graphical ads.

According to The Kelsey Group, nearly half of 25 million small businesses in the U.S. have a Web presence. Yahoo hopes to garner the advertising business of those companies that are online.

Yahoo has also launched initiatives to appeal to those businesses not yet online. Earlier this month, the company reached out to them with an offer of a free Web site for every U.S. small business with a physical location.

Small businesses are key to the local search plans of Yahoo, Google, and others, but players face a challenge in convincing local businesses to opt in to the programs. They have stiff competition from Yellow Pages providers, who generally have large, on-the-ground sales forces and existing relationships with local merchants.

Yahoo Search Marketing will accept contest entries until May 20 at thinkbig.yahoo.com. Yahoo will announce the Think Big contest winner and provide details about the award event in June.

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