Local.com Announces New Local Search Patent

I don't know how it came to be that I find reading local search patents interesting. This patent issued to Local .com contains some interesting passages and pretty fantastic claims;

"Relational Database Management Systems (RDBMS) have been used in web sites that provide some local search capabilities. Such conventional web sites organize information according to location and store it into a relational database. Online yellow pages, such as Superpages for instance (www.superpages.com), store local business information in a relational database and utilize SQL language for searching. The database contains business name, address, and telephone data. The web page content of a business is not searchable since it is not stored in the relational database. Thus conventional services such as online yellow pages are not a true local search engine."

Small business isn't served well by the major search engines, paticularly the way Google Pagegank measures the value of a website.

"Other conventional systems provide a ranking of search results in relation to the user supplied search words. Ranking web pages is an important part of conventional search engine operation. As an example, a typical user tends to provide one or two keywords to a conventional search engine. As a specific example, the keyword "java" by Google returns 65,800,000 web page hits. The same keyword "Java" by Yahoo returns 53,900,000 records. There are so many hits with conventional web sites that a user is unable to realistically visit the web pages of every one of such hit. Using conventional search engine technology, any web document containing "java" will be included in the hits. The first hit of Google is http://java.sun.com. The first hit in Yahoo is http://www.sun.com. Both Google and Yahoo provide results that indicate java is a programming language from Sun Microsystems. However, the word java has many other meanings. People that are not familiar with java programming language would be surprised at the search results. The reason why do Google and Yahoo rank the java programming language first instead of a coffee shop is because of the ranking algorithm used by these web search engines. As an example, a ranking system called PageRank is considered the foundation of Google. U.S. Pat. No. 6,285,999 entitled "Method for node ranking in a linked database" described a page rank system used by Google. The entire content of U.S. Pat. No. 6,285,999 is hereby incorporated by reference in its entirety. The PageRank system calculates recursively the rank score of web page by looking at its linked web pages--that is, those pages that link to (i.e., that contain a hyperlink that reference the URL of) the page being ranked. A higher ranked web page has a higher weight in the ranking equation. Because of the way in which the PageRank algorithm operates, some companies hire so called search engine marketing experts to build web pages linked with each other to boost the score by increasing the number of remote web pages that reference a particular companies web site.

For a small business's web site that has only a few sites linked to it, or for businesses that do not have the money to boost PageRank by search engine marketing experts, search engines that use page ranking provide results that contain the small business site referenced deep into the search results, often resulting in consumers missing those small business sites. Since the small business web site's PageRank is low, even if it can be searched by a traditional search engine, the results indicating the small business web site will be hundreds of pages away in the search results. Embodiments of the invention significantly overcome this problem using a unique ranking system that incorporates geographic location as well to rank a page based on other pages of other sites that are local to the page being ranked.

Another system disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 6,282,540 entitled "Method and system for providing a web-sharable personal database", the entire contents of which is hereby incorporated by reference herein, details a system for providing a web-sharable personal database with proximity searching capability. The system described in this patent is not a local geographic based search engine. Instead, it focuses on create a personal database and stored address information in database. Furthermore, it did not address the challenge of mixing the power of conventional search engine with geographical awareness."

I confess I don't know how this makes Local.com any more important than it was yesterday. What is clear is Local.com feels the heat from the Geomas lawsuit.
For the record I like Local.com. I use it and I root for it, I even own some stock. I like the David v. Goliath stories in life, cheering the underdog.


Google Pay Per Action Will Change The Game

Google Pay Per Action (CPA) being expanded according to Google;

"Google announced today the worldwide expansion of its pay-per-action advertising beta. Pay-per-action is a new pricing model that allows advertisers to pay only when a pre-defined action is completed on their site, such as when a user makes a purchase, signs up for a newsletter, or completes any other clearly defined action. Since the initial launch of the pay-per-action advertising beta in March 2007, many advertisers who have used the new pricing model are pleased with the opportunity to have more ways to promote their products and services online."

Click fraud concerns will all but disappear for merchants adopting the CPC model. (CPC defined)

A key question for adopters is how much are you willing to pay for a fairly qualified lead, one that has at the least given you their phone number or email?


Mark Cuban's Message To Newspapers Unheaded

I'm pointing to an 8 month old Blog Maverick post by Mark Cuban where Mark talks about the power of local search advertising with Google. His message to the newspaper people is one I have pondered more than once since I formed this business. I'm amazed Cuban formed such visionary conclusions considering he is not in the local search business.

"Which leads us to Newspapers/Local Media companies. Whether you are a standalone newspaper, or a local media conglomerate with Paper, TV and more, the one thing you have without question is a salesforce. A salesforce that goes out into the business community and sells them on the benefits of advertising on your properties. The job of each salesrep, when done well, is to create a return to the customer that exceeds their investment. Of course its not always easy to define that return, but the salesrep hopefully has a close enough connection to the customer that they can evolve the strategy to fit their needs.

The "touch" methods of selling for local media, as opposed to the "self service purchase" of Google Adwords and its competition have been viewed by some in the Web2.0 world as a disadvantage. I think it creates an amazing opportunity to pull one from the Google Playbook.

"There are couple certainties in the advertising world today.
1. Google isn't going to send a salesrep to visit, or have an inside salesrep call on the local 5 store pizza, dress, toy, laser surgery, dentist, whatever chain of stores. You are.

2. Some percentage of those small to large localized businesses you call on will have a website and of those, the vast majority of them will have no idea how to properly use web services like AdWords or AdSense to either generate foot or phone traffic (the 2 Fs of brick and mortar) for their businesses or make some money from advertising.

3. Local traffic is worth more per click through than national traffic is.

Which creates a phenomenal opportunity for your company. Just as Google arbitraged its selling ability between its ability to monetize traffic and AOL and Myspace, why not use your sales force to arbitrage the ability of your salesforce to sell locally and all the Google Adsense/Yahoo/MSN networks to sell locally ?

You are already selling display and classified ads for the paper, or commercials for your TV station, why not expand that effort to include Search Engine Marketing? Why not hook up with a local SEM expert and make that a service that you offer to your customers ? There is very little chance the local Pizza chain or Body Repair shop knows how to use SEM correctly and those that try more often than not waste a ton of money trying to figure it out. Why not offer it up as a service, even if they don't buy ads for your newspaper or TV station ? In otherwords, you put yourself in the position to become the dominant force for local advertising in your markets, NO MATTER WHAT PLATFORM those ads appear on.

Why not buy a media planner that specializes in your market ? Or put together the resources to compete with them ? Selling locally is a core competency. Optimizing advertising in a comprehensive campaign is a skillset that all local businesses need and many don't know how to find."

My experience with my local newspaper has been cold, actually they view me as the enemy. I'm not of course. McClatchy, Fresno Bee, call me I have some great ideas!


All Major Search Engines Use Geo Locators

We know this but the local merchant doesn't. Local search guru Greg Sterling summarizing his recent Search Marketing Now webcast includes this question and answer from the webcast.

Q: If I search for a "dentist" with out any geo qualifiers, it is my understanding that the search engines now use the IP of the router to deliver results (businesses) within that region. True?

"Yes, all the major search engines are using IP targeting to serve ads when they can sufficiently identify the computer's location and they "infer" the user is conducting a local search. It's a fairly safe bet that queries such as "dentist," "lawyer," "plumber" or "sushi" are local because they are typically "fulfilled" locally. Google, for example, will serve a mix of local and non-local ads in such situations. And on Yahoo's Panama platform, local ads, with local content, will potentially get a higher quality score than more “generic” national ads."

The webcast was informational and well worth an hour spent. Honestly Greg could have filled 2 hours easily I feel. So much happening in this space.

I highlighted this particular question because I when I present this issue to prospective customers they are generally surprised and often express doubt.


New Facebook Feature; Facebook Polls

"Facebook Polls lets you pose questions to other users and rapidly delivers results."

"Facebook Polls are an easy way to get quick answers to your questions. Facebook Polls allows you to ask detailed questions, target them to specific user segments and receive real-time responses. You can target Facebook users based on gender, age, school, location, or profile keyword." Facebook Polls FAQs

I'm imagining how small business can design polls for both local brand development. Target the local college network with polls/questions like.

How Do You Prefer Your Pizza?
  • 1. Loaded Combination
  • 2. Thin or Thick Crust
  • 3. Large for Under $10.00
  • 4. 30 minute delivery
  • 5. Call 555-5555
We are beginning to see what Facebook means by sponsored listings.


New Google Page Layout Results In More Local Searches

Google Maps (Local) up 20% since Google implemented "Google Universal Search."


FaceBook To Yahoo!, Rumors Round 2

Mashable is first out of the gate with talk of the second round of rumors that Yahoo! is talking to Facebook.com about a buyout. Rumor has it he turned down 1 billion from Yahoo! earlier in the spring but if Yahoo! ponies up 2 bil. will Zuckerberg give in?

Would Rupert Murdoch sell MySpace for 2 billion today? Not a chance. As Facebook builds out their "Marketplace" by adding contextual sponsored ads and giving national and local advertisers access to individual profiles and networks earnings will soar quickly.

Their approach to delivering ads has been measured. So far there are no user revolts or e-riots caused by the system wide display ads supplied by Microsoft and there won't be when the sponsored ads show up.
My guess is once members see how relevant the local targeted ads are the ads will be viewed as more a service than advertisement. Facebook won't make the mistake MySpace made allowing Google to broadly deliver AdWords. I have never been served a relevant contextual ad on a MySpace page amazing as it seems. Facebook will be all about relevancy and if they deliver the right ads to the right demo their earnings metric will shake convention.

This subject is important to me because I have clients who will want get in front of our local University network base. If my pizza client could buy into select FB networks or profiles their spend goes up as do my revenues!

Zuckerberg will eventually be forced to feed his angels, surely some are pressing for a quick turnaround on their investment now. At some point the SEC will require financial disclosure, (the reason Google's IPO was forced) but that is some time away.

Mark would be smart to wait for the cards he has on the table to play out. If his earnings double from the rumored $150 mil. to $300 mil. and they IPO'ed and netted a GOOG like market cap. it would be near $12,000,000,000. If earnings triple?
Yahoo! knows this.

Mark Zuckerberg is redefining social networking before our eyes and his vision is only now being realized. I'm rooting for him to hold out as long as possible.


Local Online Advertising Growing At 31% Clip

Borrell Associates published data on the growth of local online advertising.

" Local online advertising, approaching $7.5 billion, is growing 31.5%, but traditional media companies are struggling to keep up with Web sales. Some have seen growth slip below 20% as they scramble to maintain share. We gathered revenue data from over 2,800 local online media properties for this report." Purchase full report.

More coverage at The Kelsey Group Blog

(Image: Borrell Associates)


Next To Email Local Search Most Popular

Piper Jaffray & Co. 2006 Online Media Survey


IYP Sales People Hitting the Streets

YellowPages.com joins Citysearch in beefing up local sales reps so reports The Kelsey Blog.

"TKG estimates the sales offices will have between 20 and 25 field sales reps and between 8 and 10 telesales reps. With field sales earnings averaging $70,000 and telesales reps average earnings around $55,000"

They are coming buy to support these salaries local merchants can expect some some hard sells coming there way.

This will make independent search marketing services like mine more attractive to local merchants. Those reps are not agnostic, Citysearch reps will be pushing the IAC product and the YellowPages.com people will be pushing their single site. An "independent" like me can offer the full range of local search options placing clients where they are best suited.

Multiple directory submissions, judicious use local targeted PPC, site development and consulting is my business. I can afford to charge less for my full suite of services for less than the YellowPages.com guy or gal will charge for most top category placements.
I was approached already by a very slick YellowPages telerep. Though he was preaching to the choir (and knew it) he was undeterred and convincing.
His persuasive manner was impressive as he quoted user stats and neat demo information. Only $400. per month for a top three spot for my category. Ouch! Didn't he know people go to Google? We had an interesting conversation.

Same tactics as the print now employed online. Local business will embrace the independent alternative!