One obstacle is that the vast majority of consumer attention is focused on the top five links in any given "sponsored results" section--and smaller advertisers often get pushed out of those results, said Bill Wise, CEO of Did-it.com. "There's a food chain, and national advertisers can beat the regional guys, and they can beat the local guys," he said.
Another hurdle is that search engines sometimes take down keywords if they're not used often enough--and small niche marketers are the ones most likely to want to purchase those less popular keywords.
Neg Norton, president of the Internet Yellow Pages Association, suggested at least some difficulties could be alleviated if Yellow Pages publishers leveraged their relationships with local businesses to sell them search ads, and also with search engines to increase the reach of local advertising.
Also on the panel were Ross Weinstein, the senior business manager for Ingenio and Susie Kang, the senior vice president of the Whitepages.com network. David Berkowitz, director of marketing at Unicast, moderated.