SuperPages Adds Distribution

SuperPages advertisers will now appear on the site beside’s natural search results. Here’s the release. has, pound for pound, more advertising on any single page than anyone else that I’ve come across in the local space. On this search results page (for “painters, san francisco“), for example, there were 10 sponsored links, as well as four display ads. Ads were from Yahoo!, ServiceMagic and several others.

The site also sells ad placements directly through LocalLaunch’s RegisterLocal product.

Since almost its inception, has aggressively been buying traffic and spending money like crazy in the process. However, the site said that it had recently achieved a “positive return on ad spend.” We’ll see if that’s sustainable.

It points to a larger dilemma on the Internet: buying traffic vs. brand building. When I speak to lots of startups they discuss various online marketing strategies, including Google/Yahoo! traffic buying, as ways to build awareness among consumers of their products and services.

But what about brand?

My operating assumption is that if you build a strong brand, traffic acquisition costs will be less because of direct navigation. In the end, according to my theory, buying traffic becomes more costly than building brand.

Yet one could argue that eBay and Amazon, which both have strong brands, contradict that because they both buy very heavily on Google to drive traffic. Indeed, one could argue that the centrality of search in current consumer Web navigation has made buying on Google and Yahoo a “necessary evil” into the foreseeable future. (Of course, there’s SEO but ultimately you’re also paying someone for that as well.)

Regardless, if you don’t have a strong enough brand it all becomes about arbitrage – buying traffic at a lower price than you’re selling it for. For some that’s sustainable but for most, probably not.

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