Directory Focus: Mastering the Search Trifecta

SEO and SEA talk, but IYPs do the walking

Search is one of the industry's most discussed subjects these days, and for good reason. It's impossible to deny its power and growth potential. But for all that search does to build brands in the online marketplace, consumers still overwhelmingly choose to shop and spend locally: in stores, offline.

According to comScore Networks, only 6 percent of consumer retail spending last year happened online. So how does search fit into the picture? If search-engine optimization (SEO) brings users relevant search results that educate them about brands, and search-engine advertising (SEA) influences and informs shoppers about retailers and service providers, then what actually brings customers into stores to buy?

Internet Yellow Pages, or IYPS, don't seem an obvious part of the search process. But IYPS can seal the deal. They serve as highly visible, cost-efficient, relevant, and targeted online fixtures in the final phase of the buying cycle  the purchase. They also boast another key feature: prime placement in search engine results.

To understand the synergy between SEO, SEA, and IYPS, think about how search engines work. They build their businesses and their consumer credibility by offering relevant search results. Relevance also happens to be profitable. Advertisers pay more to show up on the first page of search results through keyword auction platforms, where highly defined, better-performing keywords typically come at a premium cost. In return, consumers get more targeted and relevant results. It's a symbiotic relationship.

Now add a geo-targeted modifier on a search term  something most likely to happen toward the end of the purchase cycle, when a consumer is ready to buy. Take, for instance, "Cars in Dallas." This may increase bid rates, a benefit to the search engine. Advertisers see higher conversion rates, and users get local results. It's a win-win for everyone, especially the local IYP advertiser, whose company, phone number, street, and sometimes Web address feature prominently on the first page of the search, displayed alongside optimized results and bid-winning advertisers. IYP listings get prime placement.

Not only that, but the search engine reinforces its credibility by providing this specialized local data, having enhanced the user's experience by providing the ultimate in relevant information. After all, if you're looking to buy something, what information could be more relevant than a location close to home where you can get that product in your hands?

Thanks to recent alliances and partnerships, IYPs feed local business information into geo-targeted search results, making them a common fixture among those top search results. SmartPages.com, YellowPages.com, and RealPages.com came together to form the YellowPages Network, aligning themselves with Yahoo Yellow Pages and Yahoo Local. MSN Yellow Pages uses information from SuperPages.

The latest partnership allows Google spiders to search an advertiser's business profile in SuperPages for natural rankings. It also allows advertiser's business profiles to be ranked on AOL and Ask, powered by Google. These dramatic changes make it possible for IYP results to appear where they should: front and center among the search engine results of a geo-targeted online search.

Considering the costs of investing in Yellow Pages and IYPs, placements garner phenomenal ROI  prime placement on the first search results page  and the same tracking and dead-on measurability that defines directional marketing. According to the Kelsey Group, IYP usage increased 20 percent in 2005 alone. Search optimization efforts and search-engine advertising continue to grow at a dizzying pace. The time to take advantage of the synergies between SEO, SEA, and IYPs  solidifying search marketing's role in pointing consumers to your client's door  is now. 

Kathleen DeCaire-Aden is CEO and Danny Huynh is interactive director, SMG Directory Marketing, a unit of Starcom MediaVest Group. (Kathleen.DeCaire-Aden@smgdm.com and Danny.Huynh@smgdm.com)

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