Localized search is one of the hottest new topics in search engine marketing and online advertising this year. Top search engines like Google and Yahoo! are focusing on improving their local search features and advertising outlets like AdWords, Verizon SuperPages and CitySearch are promoting new ways of reaching the searcher next door.

According to a study released by The Kelsey Group and Bizrate.com this past spring, approximately 25% of all online buyers are searching for products and businesses near their home or office. "We had calculated the number of local commercial searches at about 10% of all searches being conducted," said Greg Sterling, director of The Kelsey Group's Digital Directories: Interactive Local Media Continuous Advisory Service in a press release that featured the study. "This survey data suggests the number could be more than twice that figure."

The idea behind Local Match is to allow businesses to bid on keyword phrases and to display their ads only to searchers within a certain geographical radius of the business's physical location. With Local Match, advertisers will be able to target searchers as near as half a mile and as far as 100 miles away from their business. Determining the physical location of searchers will be up to Overture's partner sites. Some sites will require users to enter zip codes or addresses before delivering local search results while others may choose to rely on IP addresses.

What about local businesses that don't have the time or money to invest in setting up their own Web site? Overture has a solution for them as well. "Overture has built upon its core sponsored search product to deliver a highly relevant and precise local offering to businesses of all sizes, whether they have a Web site or not," said Geoff Stevens, General Manager, Local for Overture. Local Match will offer advertisers a custom business page that key details like street address, phone number, hours of operation, payment options, maps and even driving directions.

Overture is not alone in trying to attract this pool of advertisers to their service. Switchboard, an online yellow pages size that was acquired by InfoSpace earlier this year has pointed out the obvious potential of the localized marketing dollar. Mark Canon, Switchboard Vice President of Business Development explained to eMarketer earlier this year that while there are around 30 million businesses in the United States, only about 10% of them advertising in yellow pages and newspapers today. While the 10% that are already advertising represent an obvious target, the 90% that haven't already dedicated their marketing dollars somewhere represent and even more tempting list of buyers.

Despite the competition, Overture is confident that their new product launch will broaden their base of advertisers. "The launch of Local Match marks yet another addition to our growing suite of integrated sponsored search offerings. As the product evolves, we are confident that both advertisers and consumers will realize the significant value of the highly targeted marketing and incredibly relevant search experience enabled by Local Match" said Canon in a company press release.

The program launched this morning and will run across partner sites that include Yahoo!, MSN, 411Web, MyCity.com and a variety of other content and portal sites.
June 28, 2004

Jennifer Laycock is the Editor of Search Engine Guide, the Social Media Faculty Chair for MarketMotive and offers small business social media strategy & consulting. Jennifer enjoys the challenge of finding unique and creative ways to connect with consumers without spending a fortune in marketing dollars. Though she now prefers to work with small businesses, Jennifer’s clients have included companies like Verizon, American Greetings and Highlights for Children.

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