Letting Your Fingers Do the Walking Online

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With all the hype around search and contextual targeting, I am amazed at how little discussion there is about local level search. Google has made some noise about moving in this direction and investors are giving them a massive multiple on their stock based on the future of local targeting. But I think local targeting is actually here in the old-tech, but many media buyers are unaware or just not making use of it.

In the old days, like say 5 years ago, people depended on the yellow pages to find local businesses that met their needs. This is probably one of the first contextual search platforms on a national and local level. You pick up the 10-pound yellow pages directory, throw it on the kitchen counter and start letting your fingers do the walking.

I recently had a problem at home with an appliance and looked up appliance repair companies. I found many options that met my needs. I gave them a call; they showed up the same day and immediately fixed my appliance. There was a very contextual and relevant result with effective conversion, but unfortunately, it cannot easily be measured and the creative can’t dynamically adjust to audience needs. However, online yellow pages searching can be measured very well and provides a more targeted opportunity to reach your customers and get results.

My first reaction to online yellow pages was that it’s primarily for local level businesses that need to target down to the zip code level but this is not entirely true. Sure Joe’s plumbing is a strong fit, but so are many other types of advertisers. There are a lot of opportunities to leverage the behavioral aspect of this type of search and relate associative interests to that user.

For instance, while I am doing a search for an appliance repair company, it makes sense to me that a national appliance warranty company or an appliance sales company would advertise there. Of course, this is only associative level advertising, there is also psychographic and demographic-level assumptions that can be made, too. You may be able to assume that the searches for appliance repair are being done mainly by homeowners and the financial decision maker of that household. This would be the right person to advertise home equity loans or national lawn care to.

Google level search can be very messy and unpredictable because people are searching for everything and anything regardless of whether it’s commercially interesting or not. It’s very hard to narrow down the true intent or relevance of the user unless you extensively refine your keyword statements. Unfortunately this also means that you minimize the quantity of searches available to buy.

Online yellow page ads are very clear and almost always fraught with commercial intent. I think there’s a tremendous amount of opportunity to harness these searches and co-relate them to broader campaigns. Compazine over the counter

3 COMMENTS

  1. It seems to me that Mr. Regular’s common sense observation about the potential utility of local electronic yellow pages is a good one: the question is what kind of a search model does one use, as Mr. Regular puts it, to “target down to the zip code level…[and make use of the related]… opportunities to leverage the behavioral aspect of this type of search and relate associative interests to that user”.

    Mr. Regular apparently does not like the “messy and unpredictable” nature of Google-like searches. Fair enough! Google and the others of its ilk are indeed messy, cluttered and, most tellingly, contrived.

    Perhaps, then, the real utility of local searching is that the paper-based method of presenting advertised information with simple and linear taxonomies, does indeed seem to orgnize information in a form that people can do something about — i.e., “actionable” information, when and where people need it.

    So:- what is the problem of transforming this
    simple and utilitarian model of serializing
    information in an electronic form that people can clearly and inexpensively access when they need it – without drowning them in useless trivia that has nothing whatever to do with what they actually want at the moment?

    The answer, put simply, is that the problem seems to be a function of those in whose interests the problem arises.

    For one thing, may I respectfully suggest that using technology to leverage the behavioral aspects of yellow page-type search, so as to inundate audiences with unwanted information predicated on irrelevant assumptions about the searcher’s so-called “associative interests”, when all that person wants to achieve at the moment is a simple and useful unit of information, is exactly the wrong way to use technology.

    Why not first consider the local audience’s wants and needs in terms of electronic yellow pages – instead of advertisers’ wants and needs? For the audience, meaning individual persons who have a simple problem, the method is rather easily defined – as Mr. Regular has observed. Thumb through the local yellow page directory. Find a page with the related keyword. And choose a local advertiser!

    With mobile technology, for example, a simple key-word adjacent a simple zip code or postal code(the latter which Mr. Regular correctly identifies as a key “local” variable), is as easy as sending a blank e-memo from the e-mail client in any Web-enabled cell phone to the appropriate key word and postal code of any merchant with the products or services that a person requires.

    Let’s take, for example, the word “pizza”, which apparently is a favorite word in the annual yellow page compilations of the 300 words most often looked for in yellow pages.

    A simple e-mail address sent to the appropriate DNS (domain name) keyword with the related zip code adjacent the keyword is all that is required to find a pizza parlor
    in any city of any size in North America.

    One can, of course, do this with Google, Yahoo and the others. But, why bother? Simply type the word word “pizza” in a related advertising “pod”, as in http://www.10010.pizzapod.com, then send a blank email to that address and, Presto!, an autoresponder sends back the basic information (and small display ads) about pizza parlors in Manahattan.

    Chose any product or service and any zip code you like: say, in Searchlight, Nevada. Type in http://89046.pizzapod.com, send a blank e-mail to that Web address, and there you have it. Want to find a pizza in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan? Do the same thing with a Canadian postal code.

    If there is a pizza parlor in Searchlight, Nevada, basic information about pizzas in Searchlight will come back in a flash. Ditto for Moose Jaw.

    So, what is the big technological problem that prevents this? Precisely nothing! The network to do that, whch is to say replicate an electronic version of those terribly useful yellow pages, has been around for a decade and anyone can use it. Maybe a few ad agencies ought to try it!

    Derick Harris
    Cyber ID
    Volcano, Hawaii

  2. Derick,

    Thank you for your comments. In many respects we’re still in the infancy of search, behavioral and contextual associations. The unfortunate thing is when products such as these are more revenue focused as opposed to consumer focused, which ultimately will achieve more revenue.

    Bob

  3. Derick,

    Thank you for your comments. In many respects we’re still in the infancy of search, behavioral and contextual associations. The unfortunate thing is when products such as these are more revenue focused as opposed to consumer focused, which ultimately will achieve more revenue.

    Bob

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