Search Innovation Spotlight

This month's column focuses on the local search category.  This is a segment of search enjoying strong growth, and there is lots going on. 

Borrell has come out with an estimate that local paid search will total $1.8 billion by next year and that, by 2010, geo-targeted e-mail and paid local search will together represent 50 percent of online local advertising.  They predict the overall local online market will be nearly $10 billion by then.  They also expect a 32 percent increase in geo-targeted advertising online, growing to $7.7 billion by next year.  The firm identifies real estate and cars as the local ad category leaders, making up a third of all locally targeted online advertising dollars.

This month we'll focus on:

Microsoft, which, as part of its launch of Windows Live Search, has unveiled a new local search function that lets users see cities from a 45-degree "bird's eye view" of a particular map location.  The mapping feature currently covers 30 percent of the U.S. and 100 cities worldwide.  Derrick Connell, MSN's search business general manager, says that local searches account for 15 to 20 percent of online queries.

LocalLaunch, an SEO/SEM firm focused on local search, which has been acquired by RH Donnelly, the third largest U.S. yellow pages publisher.  This follows the purchase of Inceptor by SuperPages and ClickForward by Yellow Book, leaving YellowPages.com/ATT as the only major US yellow pages publisher who has not bought an SEM company.

Yelp, which started out in the San Francisco Bay Area and is now rolling out nationally. It has more than 100,000 user-generated reviews and more than a million unique visitors per month.  In the last few months Yelp has established a presence in New York, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and Seattle.  The site combines "MySpace"-like profiles and community with local business and entertainment content.

Angie's List, which has launched a national PR and advertising campaign. Angie's List has a Consumer Reports type format and a "consumer pays" business model.  It began in the Southeast about ten years ago and competes with Kudzu, Citysearch, Yelp, Judy's Book, InsiderPages, Yahoo Local, and Zipingo.

Yokel, which competes with NearbyNow, ShopLocal, Become, CNET and Froogle in the local shopping sector.  The site has recently expanded to the San Francisco Bay Area, offering an expanded number of retailers and "Best of the Bay" winners.  In the local shopping category, sites are offering various combinations of local info and shopping and inventory data to make it easy for users to find products at nearby stores.

Backfence, which differs from other local sites in that it offers not just community, but also local news.  It has formally launched with initial service for cities in Maryland and Virginia as well as for Silicon Valley.

DexOnline, owned by RH Donnelly, which claims to have generated the most local online searches, at least in its 14-state region.  The company says that it generated almost twice as many searches as the next closest competitor--in order, Yahoo, Superpages, Google Local, and Yellowpages.com. Later this year, DexOnline will launch new features such as dragable maps and map-based search, comparison-shopping pages, user-generated itineraries for multi-stop shopping, and personal contact lists to help consumers build personalized online yellow pages.

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