More Local Confusion

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 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.,, 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.

2 Responses to “More Local Confusion”

  1. joe Says:

    All the research, opinions and prognostications, be they from analysts, researchers, investment advisors/bankers et al are seemingly so self-serving it really brings in to question their validity and credibility. Not only are the raw data different–wildly so in some cases–but so too is the interpretation. Like the bond rating agencies proclaiming bundled sub-prime mortgages to be investment grade, more and more it seems as if the statistics and analysis in this space are meant less to inform than they are to advance an agenda. In this sense it’s no different than it always has been and is actually great, allowing an opportunity to cherry pick the numbers that best suit the purpose.

  2. earlpearl Says:

    I think you nailed it Greg. Being a business operator and part time SEM for some others…..these people understand search engines and the web….they use it. Taking them to the next step is where there is a hurdle….and DIFM is a logical application.

    IYP’s aren’t strong in every category as are verticals. Real assistance comes from where you can evaluate the cost benefits for the businesses and guide them into a proper mixture.

    For a strong presence for a local business, link building is harder and trickier than it was a few years ago. So evaluating where and how to optimize the site, where to spend on PPC, how to evaluate all the alternative opportunities on the web (craigslist, myspace, flikr, etc) where do you get the most bang for your advertising buck between IYP, verticals, etc. all come into play. That gives them real value.

    It is a changing landscape. So servicing these businesses requires staying on top of many aspects of the internet.

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