Marchex Relaunches Local Ad Platform

Leigh McMillan of MarchexLocal online advertising company Marchex today will relaunch its local ad platform with the integration of its online and call-based ad services.

"We fundamentally believe that phone calls are the currency that local businesses operate under," said Leigh McMillan, SVP of marketing and communications at Marchex.

Marchex Connect 2.0 represents the proverbial fruit from the company's acquisition of call-based ad unit VoiceStar last year for $28 million. That deal also added more than 100 local advertiser aggregators including Comcast, The Cobalt Group, R.H. Donnelley/Dex, and YellowBook USA to Marchex's roster of partners.

It also enhanced Marchex's ability to directly monetize its proprietary network of Web sites, reducing dependence on third parties and increasing the revenue yield from its sites.

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Marchex Connect supports some 65,000 local advertisers, and serves national advertisers trying to target locally, along with large businesses, such as Yellow Pages and media companies trying to sell local ads under their own brand-name.

Connect 2.0 also boasts the addition of Business Profile Pages--fully trackable branded Web pages, which give advertisers an immediate local online presence.

"That's the centerpiece of our new platform," McMillan said. "We're providing fully optimized and fully trackable landing pages for local offices, which can give a lot of return on investment data to big national advertisers."

Still, analysts and industry data both support the notion that call-based advertising and online marketing will continue to dovetail in the future.

"The Internet is primarily a consumer research and marketing platform that drives offline transactions," said Greg Sterling, principal analyst at Sterling Market Intelligence. "However, tracking that offline sales impact has been very challenging."

In a recent report on online local advertising, Piper Jaffray forecast the demand for call-based advertising will accompany the growth of click-based ads. That's because less than 60% of the nation's 15 million small and medium-sized businesses have Web sites or engage in online marketing.

But nearly all connect with customers over the phone every day. The Kelsey Group estimates the pay-per-call market will reach $4 billion by 2009.

Brands that blend a national presence and local availability like Roto-Rooter and AT&T represent the ideal clients for Marchex's new services, according to McMillan.

"We're just now launching, and we're talking to all of them about our new services," she said.

Also expanding into the mobile arena, Marchex recently began providing call-tracking services to mobile ad networks AdMob and 4INFO. The tracking services are also provided through VoiceStar.

For pay-per-call campaigns running on the mobile networks, Marchex is reporting which ads generate calls, as well as tracking location, time of day, and duration of calls.

In addition to call tracking and analytics, Marchex is powering pay-per-call advertising on AdMob, allowing the network to bill advertisers for calls it delivers. AdMob serves 2.5 billion banner and text ads per month across 4,200 mobile sites, including those run by TVGuide, CBS and Maxim.

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