The eMarketer newsletter today features a bunch of local spending estimates and conflicting data from various firms (Kelsey, Piper Jaffray, Jupiter). But here’s the part that caught my eye:
A JupiterResearch analyst told Ahorre.com that “[l]ocal marketers are not yet completely convinced about local search.”
The article notes how “in part, this is because local advertisers are used to yellow pages advertising, which requires little work on their part.”
Yellow pages ads have a strange place in local online marketing. Advertisers resist taking out ads, so Internet searchers get incomplete results. This begs a question: If local advertisers have no search ads, will they be found?
I tried but was unable to find the article that was the source for these quotes. So this may be entirely out of context but there are some misstatements and/or misperceptions in the discussion immediately above:
1. Local advertisers/SMBs are not unconvinced about local search (which begs the question of how it’s being defined). They know the search engine brands better than they know most other forms of online advertising. They know them in large part because they’re consumer-users too. SMB owners, as consumers, conduct local searches as much as anybody else. Thus there’s little mystery that people use the Internet and search engines to find local information. The recent TMP Directional Marketing survey found that 60% of consumers now use the Internet as their primary information source for local businesses lookups.
So the issue is not about whether people know the Internet is a source of local information, it’s about SMBs gaining effective access to the medium…
2. Most SMBs aren’t going to take the time to self-provision ads and learn the ins-and-outs of SEM. They’re generally confused by their options and don’t perceive they have the time (in some cases the budget) to do this. This brings up the part about the yellow pages and DIFM (do it for me). Whether it’s yellow pages, newspapers, webhosting firms, verticals or stand-alone local SEMs, DIFM is the model that will penetrate the mass of the SMB market. Over time up to 10% of SMBs may self provision online ads, as they get easier to buy, etc.
3. The last sentence of the paragraph above is a bit cryptic to me. But searchers aren’t getting incomplete results. What I’ve generically called “the yellow pages database” is widely available from multiple sources (IYPs, search engines, local search pure plays [e.g., Local.com, Citysearch]). This data exists separate and apart from advertising. The database is not 100% fresh or complete but it’s fairly comprehensive. User-generated content initiatives (e.g., My Maps) are helping round that out. There are also other initiatives to flesh out local data.
Users may not find profile level listings on the first page of search results when they conduct a given category search (chances are they will however), but the IYPs, verticals and local search pure plays are there to grab the traffic and direct users to their local listings.
Accordingly, unless I’m looking for a very new, specific business, in all but the rarest of cases (in the US at least), the local content is there to be found whether at the top level of search results or a level down on IYP sites, etc. — and it has little to do with paid advertising per se.