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Local PPC Search Engines

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The major PPC search engines jumped quickly onto the local search market and added this feature to their programs in 2004.

The two largest, Google and Yahoo, added this component early in 2004, but have made major changes since then.

Due to the strength of the local search market potential, partnerships made, acquisitions by other companies, and other factors, some other leading PPC search engine have changed dramatically in their approach to PPC advertising.

In addition, a couple of smaller PPC, search engines begun in 2005 to integrate facets of local search into their offerings.

Let’s see what the current local search options for pay-per-click advertisers are.

Google AdWords
The Google PPC local search product, Local AdWords, initially, identified the user’s location by scanning the user’s IP address.

It then fed them PPC results for the location determined to be closest to the browser’s IP address.

Unfortunately, if the user’s IP address was not his or her usual location (for example, if you were using a computer in another city but were looking for a product/service in your home area), the PPC ad results reflected your current location, unless you specified geographical limitations in the initial search (for example, “car dealers in Manhattan”).

The acquisition by Google of BellSouth (RealPages.com) in October of 2004 and its later purchase of SmartPages.com meant that these became the first Internet yellow pages groups allowed to sell ads through Google AdWords.

This allowed the Adwords program local search to use online white/yellow pages as well as IP addresses to serve up more accurate local results.

Google moved quickly in and offered a beta version of local search, called Google Local, which brings local search to the organic rankings area.

The search bar in Google Local’s beta version has two parts-one for the product/service, and the other for the location.

In response to actions by Yahoo, Google Local moved out of the Google Labs development area and onto the homepage search site in February 2005, although it still carries the “beta” tag.

The results may or may not be accurate, or at least not as accurate as a PPC ad. They also warned that their SafeSearch feature was not totally functional with the beta version. In many cases, better results are returned if you use the city name, rather than a zip code.

With Google Local, unless you use the PPC option of the Local AdWords program, you are still not guaranteed that your location will come tip as it should.

For example, if you conduct a Google Local search for shoes in a city that you don’t know the zip code for, you may get results for any city in North America with that name (and we all know there is more than one city with the same name within the North American region).

However, this is mitigated largely by the ability to specify a search area from your current location, such as the number of miles radius of an area you want to search.

When Google Local was still in development, results based on searches in Canada were very unreliable.

Some of the changes instituted, such as the integration of mapping capability into the product, have increased the accuracy of results for Canada significantly, although results are still somewhat less reliable than searches with United States locations specified.

The key to overall improvement in Google Local for all of North America appears to be the integration of Google Mars into the product.

A map of the area you have targeted (5 mile radius, for example) comes up along with the local listings, each with a letter assigned to them that matches a small balloon on the map, indicating their location on a street grid.

You can dynamically change the radius of location to expand or constrict your search for local businesses. A few PPC ads appear along the top of the results Page that are also locally related.

The listing for an individual local business itself includes the name, phone number, and address of the business, the distance from your location, and a short description that appears to be drawn directly from the web page if the location has a website (the URL is also listed).

Next to the distance parameter is a “Directions” link, which takes you to a page that zooms in to show directions. It also provides text on the side.

If you are interested in participating in Google Local, it is on through the AdWords program.

Setting up the parameters is a process and you can run different campaigns set to different location (e.g. one ad targeted to the city as a whole and another targeted to within a certain distance from your location).

Keep in mind that the smaller make your search radius in your ad, the less traffic you are likely to receive, is your ad will only show up if someone specifies a location within your set region.

Yaboo Search Marketing
Yahoo Local Match works the same way their regular PPC products do, but the advertiser also specifies the area they want the advertisement to cover, with an offered range of ½ mile to 100 miles away from their place of business.

When a potential customer types in a search that includes a geographic area, such as a city or state, the PPC listings for that area will appear with PPC ads first, followed by the results section, initially sorted by “Top Results.”

The user can then click on any of the columns in order to re-rank the listings by price, rating, name, or distance from their current location (as Yahoo has determined it).

They can also click to get a map or a phone connection, rather than clicking on the company name.

When a user clicks on your PPC ad, they are taken to an interim page called the Locator page, which has a map to your business, customized information about your business, a link to get driving directions (a small map is shown by default), and the URL of your website.

Users can also write a review of your business on this page or look at the other linked listings displayed.

There is also an area where you can locate various services near the business, such as public transportation, ATM machines, and hotels.

This interim page allows the advertiser to provide a lot of information to potential clients without them even having to visit their website.

More importantly, perhaps, it allows advertisers who do not have websites to participate in Local Match, because a URL is not a requirement to participate in the program.

All of the relevant information can be included on this page and, in fact, because the main results page includes a link to contact the business via a text message sent to a phone, businesses without a website call also take advantage of the service.

Alternatively, the user can click on the map icon at the top-right of the results and bring up a mail of the area with the results numbered on it.

However, the resulting map is not very attractive and defaults to a more regionalized area than Google default.

While undertaking the same local search on Yahoo, the “map the results” click yielded a mail of the general New York area with the results all piled on top of each other.

The user needed to zoom in or adjust the view in order to see the results in any usable fashion.

There are some easy ways to do this, with a setting for street, city, or state that adjusts the view automatically to, a clearer visual.

Another interesting feature is that if you hover over the listings alongside file map, a small popup appears identifying the business, its address, and phone number.

Alternatively, if you click on a number in the map itself, a popup appears telling you which business it is and offering you the option to go to the locator page, get driving directions, or to send a text message to a phone for the business.

Yahoo Search Marketing offers a self- serve approach to setting up this localized search ad, with no service fee if you wish to do it yourself.

Otherwise, you can obtain expert advice on the various local options and how to best craft your Locator page, etc., for a fee of $99.

The signup process is fairly intuitive and similar to Google. However, at this time, Yahoo only offers local listings in the United States.

Interchange
Interchange has undergone numerous changes, both through the last half of 2004 and into 2005, as it continues to acquire or partner with other properties and Internet yellow pages companies, in addition to its earlier acquisition of the PPC, search engine, ePilot.

As a result, it now offers a local search and advertising platform called Local DirectTM, which combines Interchange’s proven paid-search platform with the world’s most accessible local business database, and the company’s proprietary Keyword DNATM technology, to create a comprehensive local-search solution.

Although not nearly as robust as the Google and Yahoo offerings, it is a big step forward to add local search to a smaller search property.

The user types a search word and location into the search box and the relevant business near the location appear in a results page.

An interesting feature of Local Direct is the ability to enter your address via “Set My Address,” so that the search engine will remember your physical address (associated with your IP address) for all future local searches, helping provide a better search result for potential buyers.

The options available from a Local Direct Search include a link to a telephone contact, the ability to access a map, access any coupons the business offers, and a link to the website.

The complete Local Direct service portfolio is available to Internet yellow pages and printed yellow pages (IYP/YP) partners, as well as other portals and websites seeking a local paid-search solution.

Interchange’s local-search technology effectively bridges the gap between keyword search and category-based directory search, and enables directory publishers and website owners to enter the growing online local-search market, with the strength of the company’s expansive networks (Search Distribution Network/ Advertiser Network) and advanced technology at their disposal.

Find What
FindWhat began offering a local search option on their website, using SuperPages.com as the delivery vehicle.

On their homepage, the search bar has one place for the search term and another for the city or state.

A local search brings up a typical list of four relevant websites. Once you click
on one, you are taken to SuperPages, where a page with information very similar to that found on Yahoo is presented.

SuperPages.com itself introduced a form of local search on its website, but has also transformed itself into much more than a yellow pages site-it has also added the veneer of a shopping site.

To take advantage of local search if you are an advertiser on FindWhat, you need to set up a PPC account on SuperPages using category pricing (minimum click price of 20 cents), even though the base technology is from FindWhat.

The limit of four listings presented when one uses the local search bar (versus their general search bar, which returns many more results) needs to be more comprehensive in order to get advertisers interested in signing up for this feature.

The results are attractive, but until more advertisers are provided with adequate information on how to integrate local search into their ad campaigns, the FindWhat offering is not as competitive as it could be, given the number of patterns the search engine has.

Kanoodle
Kanoodle has just launched a local search option, called LocalTarget listings. It has teamed up with WebSearch.com, in addition to its usual partners, and results are presented on a WebSearch page that has been customized to include paid listings from Kanoodle.

Kanoodle has tied the program to their ContextTarget product, in effect creating, as they put it, “a group of topics centered on individual communities.” Content-related ads are definitely more targeted, but usually provide fewer conversions.

The effectiveness of a local ad on Kanoodle has yet to be seen. One disturbing feature is that unless your IP address indicates you are within file location you are searching for, you will probably receive a notice stating, “We’re sorry … the advertiser you clicked on has requested not to receive any visits from users outside of their market area.”

Keywords: local search market, Local PPC Search Engines, PPC search engine, local search, pay-per-click advertisers, Local AdWords, Adwords, Local Match, Locator page, localized search ad, Local Direct Search, advertiser,

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