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Times on Local Search

By - February 16, 2004

This Times piece explores the Yellow Pages market of small businesses (plumbers, etc) who don’t have websites but increasingly feel the pressure to have an online advertising presence. Why? Because the customers are increasingly using search instead of the Yellow Pages (the Times based that conclusion on research from the Kelsey Group and Bizrate.) The article provides an overview of the current state of Overture and Google’s local search solutions.


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One thought on “Times on Local Search

  1. Interactive Yellow Pages (IYP) and other specialized directories have an edge over the general search engines for finding and selecting a service provider, whether local or not, due to the structure and content of their databases, as I point out in my recent Weblog on http://www.shore.com (see below). In addition, online versions of print directories usually have the advantage of already having an established advertising relationship with the companies that are listed in the directories. I think it would be beneficial for Google, Yahoo! and others to point users to the IYP and other directories for specialized searches, rather than trying to duplicate the functionality found in online directories. That way, Google, Yahoo! or whoever can remain the starting-point for searches of all kinds, but doesn’t get overly complicated by trying to introduce every feature found on sites that compile specialized directories of products, people, or events. Here’s an extract from my blog:

    Still, “local” search is just one type of specialized search, and the fact that local directories can be limited by geography isn’t their only advantage over the general search engines. Yellow pages and other directories are fielded databases that can help users home in on the product or service they’re seeking via multiple search criteria. The same structural features of a fielded database allow for very effective placement of contextual ads or related content. One search technology company, iPhrase, has focused on facilitating searching of database content, and has been working with ecommerce merchants to add contextual content to guide consumers to related products, catalogs, reference material or services. See, for example, the Sephora or Neiman Marcus web sites, both powered by iPhrase.

    For specialized searches, whether it be for a specific size and model of an item of apparel, or for a local auto repair shop that services a particular model of car, specialized store catalogs or local directories have the edge over generalized search engines. The issue to be worked out is how the specialized database-structured directories interact with the mega-search engines like Google. With billions of dollars worth of advertising at stake, the solution may not be as easy as it seems.