Those of us in this business of interactive marketing would agree that the Web has truly revolutionized marketing as a whole. Many of us would take that assertion a step farther, and agree that paid search has revolutionized marketing on the Web.
Paid search provides more precise targeting of marketers’ messages based on users’ self-selection -- in their search queries. This idiom, coupled with pay-for-performance pricing, detailed reporting, and return on investment (ROI) calculation on the fly is at the base of the rise of the still-growing search marketplace.
Search shares some of these characteristics with another form of marketing -- yellow pages, the original search. This is one reason why many industry observers feel that it is Internet yellow pages (IYPs) that represent the most compelling and accessible advancement in the development of targeted marketing online. The fact is that, slowly and steadily, IYPs have been growing pretty strongly, too, as an increasing number of users shelve their clumsy print book in favor of the speed, convenience and timely information found at IYP sites like Switchboard and InfoSpace.com.
The Kelsey Group expects more than four billion local business references will be made at IYP sites in 2004. This represents a growth rate, in terms of consumer usage of IYPs from Q3 2003 to Q3 2004, of 16 percent. This rate of expansion is expected to continue growing in the years to come as broadband penetration increases and usage of the print book declines.
Internet yellow pages are increasingly able to focus the benefits of search to marketers through more precise targeting at the local level and a more qualified audience of ready-to-buy consumers who arrive on IYPs specifically to purchase products and services. According to the Yellow Pages Integrated Media Association (YPIMA), 62 percent of IYP users contact a business after using the product and 68 percent of IYP users make or intend to make a purchase -- just like they always have when they open their local Yellow Pages.
Greg Sterling of the Kelsey Group says, "While IYP sites have less traffic than search engines, IYP users are typically 'ready to buy' and thus considerably farther along in the buying cycle than users of general Web search."
This precision -- one of the reasons IYPs are cost-effective for marketers -- is supported by current research. According to The Kelsey Group, the cost per contact generated by a print Yellow Pages reference is just over $1. Recent data gathered by Piper Jaffray puts the same figure for a paid search listing at 43 cents. But, the cost-per-lead for IYP listings, again according to Kelsey, is estimated at 14 cents.
IYP advertising by smaller-to-medium sized enterprises (SMEs) has increased significantly. It was 15 percent in June 2003. In June 2004 that number was 24 percent.
IYPs’ cost efficiency, combined with pay-for-performance pricing is likely to broaden, bringing still more advertisers who want to leverage these efficiencies. So, look for a still-increasing number of smaller merchants and local franchises of national chains to enter the IYP market in waves over the next few years.
More ads mean better results, which will bring more users, creating a virtuous circle between advertising content and usage that should continue to feed the growth of IYPs.
The reasons for the growth of IYPs are fairly simple and again, they marry what has always worked for Yellow pages. IYPs provide the most effective search experience -- and the best results -- to users seeking local businesses, while also providing extremely cost-effective marketing solutions to national and local buyers. IYPs provide the most effective local search solution for local merchants and the best results to users seeking local businesses. Better still, through enhanced data that can be targeted far more precisely to a user’s query than any targeting currently available on a search engine, IYPs are adding additional value to both users and marketers.
IYP use has consistently increased during the past year with more users conducting local searches via IYP network partners such as America Online, Knight-Ridder Digital and Gannett News outlets, in addition to Yahoo!, Google, Ask Jeeves, Dogpile and other search engines. In addition, the number of advertiser partners continues to rise, and is expected to grow more as more SMEs realize this potential and IYPs provide more products tailored to their needs.
For the increasing number of users conducting local searches on IYPs, the structured data of an IYP search usually takes less time to provide the correct result than would any other medium. At the same time, to a local advertiser who is paying for clicks, IYPs make the most sense because only users who have sought listings within a given region will click on the advertiser’s listing -- there are no mistaken clicks, or wasted dollars.
Dan Russell is the vice president of sales and business development for InfoSpace Inc., where he plays an integral role in strategic planning, product development and formulating partner alliances. Russell has more than 13 years of experience in sales management and business development, and prior to joining InfoSpace he held various management positions at RealNetworks. InfoSpace search and directory is a leading provider of Web search and online directory products.