Long before we Googled anyone or anything, our fingers did all the walking--through personal and business directories. Even now, it is hard to find a marketing environment so rich in self-targeted consumers on the edge of a purchase decision. Research from Knowledge NetworksStatistical Research Inc. shows that 86 percent of people searching business listings eventually make or are likely to make a purchase. And yet, the traditional directory genre has had a tough go of it online, against the technology and sheer weight of the major search engines.
While MSN, Google, and Yahoo lurch towards incorporating some kind of behavioral targeting into the search process itself, directories like WhitePages.com may try to beat engines to the BT wave. In April, WhitePages.com claimed to be the first directory to offer marketers a BT layer, using Revenue Science technology. WhitePages.com has both personal and business listings that attract over 15 million unique visitors a month and serves as a white label solution for MSN, YellowPages.com and the home sites of several telecos. According to Susie Kang, WhitePages.com’s senior vice president, directories create a unique BT formula, because they bring together search, highly motivated buyers, geo-targeting, and a content pool that is by definition already parsed into detailed, well-defined segments.
BI: What additional products or offerings are now available to ad clients involving behavioral targeting at WhitePages.com?
Susie Kang: WhitePages.com’s In-Market Targeting gives our advertisers the ability to serve high-impact display ads to our users based on recent search behavior on our site. The unique value of our offering compared to a standard publisher is that we’re reaching people who have purchase intent and not just subject interest. These are people who are ready to buy. In fact, according to comScore, consumers who use local search spend four to 22 percent more per buyer than local search engine users in the automotive, home and garden, health and beauty and general services categories.
BI: Specifically what behaviors and interactivity with the site are being tracked for targeting purposes?
Kang: Primarily we are tracking whether a user has searched for a local business within a given category, and how recently they performed the search.
BI: What sorts of segmentation is possible on a site like WhitePages.com that might not be possible at other content sites? Is there unique segmentation here because of the nature of the searches and the content?
Kang: When compared to a traditional publisher’s behavioral targeting offering, our solution is unique because we can quickly and easily create highly customized segments for each advertiser by mixing and matching approximately 300 different business listing categories. For example, one of the segments we just created for a client targeted people who recently searched within entertainment, sports, sports arenas, moving services, bars and restaurants or home entertainment systems. Additionally, our high reach lets us layer in geo-targeting and other IP based targeting features (e.g. Fortune rank, SIC code or company domain name) without zeroing out the inventory in the process.
BI: What advertising sectors seem most interested in incorporating BT?
Kang: Our experience so far has been that all advertiser categories are interested, since there really isn’t a category that doesn’t have representation in our business listings. There are some categories that are larger and in higher demand than others, such as automotive, travel, financial services, entertainment, moving and home improvement.
BI: Were you responding to specific requests from clients to add these features?
Kang: Yes, we were. Our clients have been clamoring to target the specific search behavior of our users, both in real time and as part of their behavioral targeting strategy. We’ve offered various forms of real-time local business search targeting over the years, but our behavioral targeting offering is a much more comprehensive solution for national advertisers, especially those trying to reach multiple local markets.
BI: Many publishers deploy BT systems in order to better monetize low-cost inventory. Are there specific areas of WhitePages.com inventory that this will help?
Kang: Not really. WhitePages.com provides information that serves very specific user needs which are attractive to advertisers. For example, a user may be planning a wedding, mailing holiday gifts or looking for a local auto dealer. By combining that stated need with a user’s intent to purchase, we are able to add another layer of targeting. This allows advertisers to reach people who used our site to find an address and phone number for a product or service in a particular business category.
BI: As a publisher, how do you resolve to your satisfaction questions of privacy and disclosure that behavioral tracking raise?
Kang: With our technology setup, there is no way for us to link our users’ personal information with their on-site behaviors, so we feel confident that our anonymous tracking and ad targeting is not an invasion of privacy, but rather a way to make our site and its features that much more relevant and useful to them.