Tag Archives: Local Search

Goby: Go Mobile (and Go Social,) Event Marketers

Local consumers are looking beyond pure search when they are looking for family fun. That’s the unmet need that Boston-based Goby.com is trying to meet in its 350 category, events and family fun search site. The site is now reaching 500,000 unique visitors a month — double the number from our prior writeup of the company in March 2010.

CEO Mark Watkins tells us that the 10-person startup, which has raised $7.5 Million from Flybridge Capital Partners and Kepha Partners, including $2.5 million in October, has evolved from its roots as a local search engine. “We’ve been making it more of a social experience, and have started focusing more on mobile,” he says.

The key is to move beyond a pure search experience, which on the Web, is pretty much owned by Google. “Google is such a good aggregator of intent,” he says. Mobile audiences are much smaller, and (user) intention is really much more fragmented. User needs aren’t as easily met by a one-stop mobile search site.

At the same time, people have deeper relationships with mobile, Watkins says. Mobile apps that integrate with Facebook and allow users to share information with each other are likely to be more successful with audiences. Not that it is “either-or.” There is also a real connection between web usage and mobile usage, Watkins says. People might make a list on the Web for use later on mobile.

For these reasons, the mobile apps are more likely to attract regional chains as advertisers, as well as national marketers, such as the movie studios. Disney, for instance, has been running a mobile ad campaign with Goby for its release of Tron – the company’s first direct sell. “They’re very interested in mobile, even though it has a smaller audience than the Web.”

Kenshoo Local Bring ‘Enterprise’ Capabilities to Local Search

Large companies with lots of local touchpoints, such as retailers and restaurant chains, often have trouble adequately representing the local end. That’s the goal of Kenshoo Local, a recently launched division from Kenshoo, the worldwide enterprise online “demand generation” firm with 120 people and offices in nine countries (and which has just received a new round of funding from Sequoia Capital). Roughly half of Kenshoo’s business is in the U.S., a third is in Europe and the rest is in Asia.

GM Sivan Metzger says Kenshoo Local’s technology was explicitly designed to boost local conversion rates and maneuver the intricacies of geo-targeting and vertical specialties, while maintaining operational efficiencies. For instance, clients may stumble when they assign geo-codes in a large metro area, or when they are attempting to convert international currencies.

Metzger emphasizes that the company’s sole focus is on technology, not fulfillment, which is left to clients, which may include online directories, agencies, publishers, vertical powerhouses such as Findlaw.com, and small business providers. Each handles large volumes of local or SMB campaigns.

Agencies, in particular, need help handling their second tier accounts such as local car dealers, says Metzger. The dealers may not be able to receive the same personalized attention in a large agency as Top 20 clients. Yet by focusing on scalable delivery, Kenshoo Local helps agencies, such as Havas, deliver “enterprise level” services.

Looking forward, Metzger says the company has been working with retail clients on inventory issues, and is now capable of pushing specific SKUs for retail clients to the top of search rankings – a capability that veers into specialized retail capabilities offered by companies such as Krillion.com and Milo.com.

Local Matters Unveils Search and Social Platform for IYPs

Here’s a question: How long would directory publishers sit back and let new companies such as RedBeacon, AlikeList and others disrupt the leads economy for SMBs with search and socially driven features such as Twitter and Facebook? Or Google, with Place Pages? That’s a question that Local Matters and other Yellow Pages vendors have obviously asked themselves.

Now Local Matters has come out with “Destination Search,” a new social platform that seeks to level the search and social playing field for its U.S. and international clients, which so far includes Dex B2B in the U.S; Truvo, European Directories and Pagini Aurii in Europe; and Yellow Pages Group in New Zealand.

Playing off a feature set originally developed for real estate multiple listings services, Local Matters’ platform includes state of the art social and search features. It also seeks to leverage existing strengths, such as business profile information.

Key features of the white label solution include enhanced profile listings; search optimization; integration (and easy sharing) with Facebook and Twitter; blog enablement; ratings and reviews ported from Yelp and other sources; and the addition of social media feeds on assorted online advertising.

Kris Skavish, Vice President of Products and Marketing, told us that Local Matters started planning Destination Search last September, with the specific intent of focusing on building rich local context. “A problem with online directories has been search relevancy,” she noted.

Another challenge has been to reconcile Yellow Pages headings with most searched categories, which are typically microheadings. “’Plumbers’ is too broad. You need to get to the correct root,” said Skavish, noting that Local Matters has also created custom microheadings for categories such as hotels and attorneys.

For instance, “romantic hotels” might be sought out in user generated content but not generally included as a category. Users can also rate pictures included in romantic hotels. Publishers can also insert content at the top of the page, or refine results. They can also create brand oriented categories, such as “Toyota.”

While Destination Search leveraged Local Matters’ work with real estate Multiple Listing Services, important differences revealed themselves, added Skavish. “With the MLS, you prove your value with a lead ” she notes. “It isn’t a ranking model. And in real estate, the default view is maps. But with Yellow Pages, it is an ad model. You want users to make an action.”

Local Matters CEO Mat Stover is speaking at Marketplaces 2010 March 22-24 in San Diego.

WebVisible: SMBs Spent Average of $1,658 on Search in Q3; Google’s Share Drops a Little

Small businesses that buy search spent $1,658 on average in Q3 2009, a figure that was up 91 percent from 3Q 2008, according to a new report issued by WebVisible, a company that manages online marketing campaigns for SMBs.

Thirty-three percent of the SMB search market is made up of advertisers spending between $1,000 and $1,999. Fifteen percent is made up of advertising spending between $2,000 and $2,999. Twelve percent is made up of advertising spending above $3,000 on the high end, and 19 percent spend between $100-$999 on the lower end.

The report, “State of Small Businesses Online Advertising, Search Edition, Q3,” noted that search spending is widely spread out among SMB categories, with the Top 20 categories making up just 20 percent of total search spending. Leading spenders were Attorneys, Dentists, Air Conditioning Services, Physicians & Surgeons, Insurance, Roofing, and Plumbing Contractors. Of these only the top four categories had spending share over two percent.

While Google dominates spending with over 60 percent of the market, that domination has lessened by five percentage points as lower priced competitors picked up the slack, according to the report. It also says that Google’s cost per click (CPC) jumped 14 percent from last year, and its CPC is now 30 percent above Yahoo and Microsoft’s Bing. The report notes that Yahoo has over 26 percent share, and that Bing has 10.5 percent.

Web.com, MerchantCircle to Market Each Other’s SMB Services

Web.com and MerchantCircle are teaming up to leverage Web.com’s appeal as a provider of “premium” SMB services, and MerchantCircle’s appeal as an introductory-level provider of SMB services that is more oriented towards building traffic and selling advertising.

Web.com is a publicly-owned SMB marketing giant that includes premium Website development and search engine marketing via its Leads.com division. It has 267,000 active accounts. MerchantCircle is a free directory service that upsells a variety of SMB online services to SMBs after they register for its directory.

Partially owned by IAC, MerchantCircle has over 900,000 SMBs registered for its directory, and reports that it has converted “high single digits” to paying accounts with search services and other advertising. Although positioned as a social network, MerchantCircle also reports 20 million unique visitors per month, which would make it the fifth largest Internet Yellow Pages.

The deal between the companies has multiple components. Web.com will receive leads from MerchantCircle’s large base of SMB registrants for its premium services, which include search engine marketing, premium web site building, ecommerce and analytics. At the same time, MerchantCircle’s various free and premium tools are being provided to Web.com customers as a way to boost their presence throughout the Web. The tools include a “verified by Merchant Circle” page for reputation management, blog and newsletter software, and coupons.

Initially, 100,000 Web.com accounts will be offered the Merchant Circle services; the remaining 167,000 accounts are indirect accounts via affiliate relationships, and may be added later. Presumably, both companies will receive bounties for any business they hand over, although arrangements aren’t being publicly discussed. Brown only says that “money will flow in both directions.”

The deal obviously limits the horizons for both companies as they shrink their focus to existing strengths – both companies had previously been providing the full range of SMB services. But that isn’t being described as a negative. “The way we look at it, the market is so big that this partnership is one of the ways to create more value for our customers,” says Web.com Chairman and CEO David Brown (who is assuming full leadership of the company as President Jeff Stibel prepares to step down at the end of September).

Brown says that the deal positions both companies to take advantage of the decline of print Yellow Pages and get a jump on providing enhanced services and related advertising to SMBs. “As (print YP) shrinks, we are seeking a mass adoption of services and the adoption of value added products,” he notes. “Once SMBs see the Internet work, they’re willing to pay for it.

Brown adds that pay per click, search engine optimization, email and a variety of ecommerce have been growing “at a much faster clip than traditional Website products” during the past three quarters. In fact, they now accounts for 30 percent of Web.com revenue.

MerchantCircle VP of Marketing Darren Waddell tells us that the deal is a perfect fit for the company’s current positioning. Increasingly, MerchantCircle is focusing on providing simple and efficient “self serve” products for SMBs and targeting the great volume of SMBs that still aren’t marketing on the Web.

Last week, for instance, MerchantCircle announced a deal with Demand Media to provide a category-based article and video package to SMBs for $9.99 per month that would form the basis of an instant website. As an example, a lumberyard could provide a variety of articles about pressure treated lumber. Demand Media has developed a rich body of information on every conceivable subject, says Waddell.

Monetizing the directory via Google AdSense is also a major consideration for MerchantCircle, given its heavy traffic. The company has built out 15 million SMB pages, but just 900,000 have been claimed, notes Waddell. “A lot of traffic goes to pages that haven’t been claimed.”

“We’ve chosen to focus more on what we’ve been doing,” Waddell adds. “When a merchant really wants a consultative approach to building out their Web presence, that’s where we end.”

MojoPages Lands $5 Million; Pushes Local Affiliation Strategy

MojoPages, a 12 person local search/directory player based in the San Diego beach town of Solana Beach , has landed $5 Million in Series A funding from Austin Ventures. Mojo has settled on $5 million as the amount it needs to get to breakeven on a cash flow basis, says CEO Jon Carder, who founded the company in 2007 after he got “ripped off” by some movers and wanted to build a local ratings and review site.

Carder notes that Austin Ventures was introduced to the company by longtime industry vets Jeff Stibel of Web.com and Dan Finnigan of Jobvite, who previously lead local efforts with Yahoo, Knight Ridder and Pacific Bell. Both had been Mojo angels. Altogether, Carder says that angels have put in about $1 million in the company, while he has put in about $500,000.

The company itself has been in the middle of transition. Shortly after launching, Carder says it began to move away from its initial focus on being a destination site. It had become quickly apparent that destination sites require lots of community interaction and there are already major entrenched players in the space, such as Yelp and Citysearch.

Today, the company includes a bevy of content sources, including reviews from CitySearch and Insider Pages. But it is primarily a traffic aggregator “generating tons of traffic,” says Carder. While community development efforts will continue to be supported, a small company has to focus on one thing or the other, he says. And fast, relevant and linked search wins out.

Part of the strategy going forward is to power local search for local media companies, basically charging a CPM rate of around $8. Already, the company has deals with a number of TV and radio outlets, including Salem Broadcasting, Tritan Digital, Belo Corp. and KSMB in San Diego. It also has advanced field trials with “the largest” newspaper, TV and radio players, says Carder. The signup efforts have been marked by aggressive sponsorship of San Diego-area industry events for newspapers, TV and radio stations, Yellow Pages and geo-domain sites.

Efforts with the site should heat up further in September when a new version of the site is released. At that time, prior efforts at community, including large urban parties sponsored by advertisers, will be de-emphasized in favor of the new focus on search. They were fun, but barely break-even, say Carder.

Today’s MojoPages news has coincided with several recent announcements from Local.com, which is probably Mojo’s most direct competitor in vying for local search contracts via its white label division, formerly known as PremierGuide.com (Other competitors include Localeze and business directory products from Travidia and HarvestInfo. Several other companies have either folded up or been acquired).

Local.com recently signed two major Belo newspapers: The Dallas Morning News and The Riverside Press-Enterprise. It has also secured a window of $10 million in new credit, secured by assets, that could be used for acquisitions.

Yahoo to White Label AdReady’s SMB Banner Effort

AdReady’s template banner ads and media campaigns for SMBs will soon be available via Yahoo. The deal represents a major win for AdReady, which is already re-sold on a white-label basis by The New York Times, The Boston Globe, Univision and MSNBC and runs 10,000+ ads a month.

SMBs who wouldn’t ordinarily take the initiative to hire creative can use AdReady’s products to launch a Web campaign, with AdReady acting as the agency. They can choose among 800 free templates for banners and have them customized for a media campaign, complete with analytics. Top categories include travel, auto, retail stores, entertainment, politics, health and finance (especially foreclosures and debt consolidations). The company adds and detracts various templates based on their effectiveness.

AdReady’s chief advantage is cost savings. Typically, minimums range from $5k to $25k for the premium service, although advertisers can start as low as $300 per month with self-service. That’s a significant advantage in an environment where the previous minimum display campaign on NYTimes.com ran $10,000 per month.

Yahoo’s use of AdReady sets it up for a theoretical conflict with its newspaper consortium partners. Hearst, one of the major players in the consortium, complained to Forbes that it is seeing Yahoo! telemarketers target some of its largest advertisers, including car dealers and furniture stores.

The perceived conflict may be overstated since newspapers (who are also free to work with AdReady, obviously) don’t generally provide the creative for their advertisers. Yahoo says the effort is largely aimed at upgrading its search advertisers.