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Internet Yellow Pages, City Guides, and Comparison Shopping Search Engines

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Until very recently, paid advertising on Internet yellow page and/or city guide types of websites was not considered by most small-to-medium-sized businesses to be the best of choices.

This was, perhaps, because of the cost versus estimated number of visitors, or because online advertisers did not think many users accessed citywide types of directories, or that they just used the review sections of online comparison shopping sites.

However, with a strong move toward producing much larger, more robust entities, Internet yellow pages (or IYPs) have become much larger players in the online advertising market.

There are many aspects to this that Involve local search. Yellow page directories have realized that many businesses will pay for an ad in a yellow page directory online, in addition to (or even instead of) the print version, because research shows all increasing trend of not just users, but buyers, using the online version of the yellow pages to find a local company to buy from.

Another part of the puzzle is that many businesses are instituting policies where they no longer supply each of their employees with a print version of the yellow pages, for various reasons.

Instead, they encourage online access of the information, keeping just a few print copies around in central areas.

Yellow pages companies have become aware of this trend. They also realize that although the employee is using online yellow pages while at work, they may be “shopping” for an item that intends to pick up on the way home.

Many other scenarios are leading to increased usage of online yellow/white pages as well, including online local-related guides to products/services (such as city directories, community directories, local business web rings, shopping comparison sites, etc.), that a consumer may not have otherwise consulted.

Internet yellow page companies, as they began to partner with online search engines whose databases ensure that up-to-date listings are quickly integrated into searches, soon realized that they themselves could sell the equivalent of PPC ads inside their online yellow page sites, in addition to online traditional advertising.

The next logical step was for search engines and yellow page companies to either further their integration, or continue to compete against each other for the ad budgets of business owners.

Each side had already developed parts to the puzzle, but neither had the full process developed.

Each side realizes the other’s strengths-proven online customer reach and existing PPC programs in place on the search engines (for example, the name recognition of Google and its listing as the most popular search engine), and the yellow page companies’ proven print reach and the increasing use of their online sites by potential customers.

Right now, the situation appears to be leaning toward further consolidation and partnering between the search engines and Internet yellow page and directory-style paid listings.

Some of the larger web directories, regional directories, and smaller search engines that are involved in such partnerships include PremierGuide, On-line USA, MyePages, StepUp.com (all now partnered with ePilot’s parent company Interchange), and LookSmart’s LookListings, among others.

These entities may, or may not, have offered PPC advertising in the past.

IYPs that have included a PPC-type model into their own websites include CitySearch, Switchboard, and SuperPages, among others.

Shopping comparison sites arc also early adopters of this hybrid, including BizRate (Shopzilla), NexTag, and Shopping.com.

Wrapping up
The partnerships that are continuing to form between PPC search engines and online phone directories are proving very interesting in their impact on PPC As a whole.

The large online phone directories, such as SuperPages (currently working with FindWhat), YellowPages.com (working with ePilot, among others), and Verizon are pursuing local PPC strongly.

They are contacting not just with the PPC search engines, but with online shopping sites and other directory-style sites.

Localized search does open up a whole new set of challenges for PPC search engines themselves, because they now have to consider much more seriously pursuing smaller businesses and selling them on this approach.

For both PPC search engines and local businesses, it is key to remember that the point of a PPC ad is to make it unique enough that you will not get a lot of clicks that do not convert to sales.

So far, only Google and Yahoo offer a robust enough experience to suitably impress visitors with the advantages of using local search.

One of the key factors to keep in mind is that local search, because of its connection to Internet yellow page properties, allows businesses without websites to participate and profit from the pay-per-click marketplace.

Because local search providers do not require that an advertiser have a website in order to compete for placement on local searches, a whole new avenue of advertising has opened up for businesses that want to benefit from online searches.

It allows them to compete on a more level playing field with local competitors who have websites, and it allows them to reach the large percentage of online consumers who search the Internet for product information or to narrow their choices before purchasing locally.

It is also time for those interested in PPC options to reassess their current needs. It is probably too soon to definitively say whether small-to-medium-sized businesses achieve better ROIs with some of the new paid variations available than they do with traditional PPC.

With the ongoing battle between Google and Yahoo to be the top local search provider heating up, advertisers who want to place a local ad may benefit from both increased value and decreased cost, at this moment in time.

Keywords: online advertising market, online advertisers, yellow pages, Internet yellow page, white pages, web directories, regional directories, city directories, community directories, local business web rings, shopping comparison sites, directory style paid listings, PPC ad.

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