06:08 PM

Service Targets Web Ads To Specific Geographic Areas

Affinity Internet launches a marketing service that gets the ads of small businesses on local search engines provided by Google, Yahoo and others.

Affinity Internet on Tuesday launched a marketing service that gets the ads of small businesses on local search engines provided by Google Inc., Yahoo Inc. and others.

ValueTraffic Local guarantees sponsored links will appear on local search networks offered by Google and Overture, the marketing unit of Yahoo. In addition, the service, which costs $100 a month, also guarantees a minimum of 10,000 unique viewers a month and includes some consultation on how to write an ad that is more likely to attract visitors.

Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based Affinity argues that only a very small percentage of small businesses actually buy sponsored links on local search engines, primarily because they don't know how and assume it's too expensive.

Indeed, a search for plumber or hairdresser, particular in towns or small cities, brings up few, if any, sponsored links by local businesses on Google or Yahoo.

"It's an advertising opportunity that local businesses have failed to adopt," John Enright, vice president of marketing for Affinity, said. "(But) it can generate real results for small businesses on a regular basis."

Besides managing the bidding on keywords and getting placement, Affinity also provides weekly reports on the number of times the ad appeared on a results page of a search query and how often someone clicked on the link. Based on performance metrics, Affinity will work with the small business to help it improve results.

"Sometimes the best keyword is not the obvious one," Enright said.

For example, the keyword haircut, instead of hairstylist, may be more successful in getting people actually looking to have their haircut, Enright said. In addition, having a keyword in the text body of a sponsored link means it will come up bold faced on most search engines, if someone searches on that word, helping the ad stand out on the results page.

Search advertising is the fasting growing segment of the online advertising market. Sales of sponsored links and other forms of search advertising are expected to increase at a 12 percent compound annual growth rate, generating more revenue than display ads by 2010, according to JupiterResearch.

Sales of online advertising in general are expected to more than double over the next five years to $18.9 billion.

Local search, however, is still relatively new on the major search engines and has lots of room for growth among small advertisers, Enright said. For the advertiser, a local search engine provides a more effective way to reach potential customers among the online population than the traditional Yellow Pages.

Fully 74 percent of U.S. adults are online at home, in the office, at school, the library or other location, according to market researcher Harris Interactive.

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