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Overture Launches Local Match Listings Program

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The longer version of this story for Search Engine Watch members examines issues about how locator pages are required for all local listings, how local and regular listings are mixed so that advertisers are only ultimately represented by one listing, how the local program may cause a rise in prices for some locally-targeted terms, how pure local listings are ranked and the physical location requirement impact on resellers and others. Click here to learn more about becoming a member

Overture launched a new Local Match program today to allow its advertisers in the United States to more easily target listings toward those with a local interest.

Overture's local program differs in two key ways from the local advertising program competitor Google launched last October. Local ads at Overture are targeted to geographic terms, rather than searcher location. Local ads also are sold through a separate listing program at Overture, rather than being an alteration to its main paid listings system.

Targeting By Keyword Automatically

With Google's AdWords regional targeting program, ads can be targeted to appear only in front of those who are searching from a particular location. For example, a dental office in San Francisco might want its ad for the word "dentists" to appear only in front of searchers who live in San Francisco. Google's program allows this, at least in the many cases when Google can accurately detect a searcher's location.

In contrast, Overture's program relies on search terms, rather than searcher location, to do targeting. That dental practice in San Francisco can have its ads show up in response to terms that are geographically related to its physical location, such as "san francisco dentists" or "daly city dentists."

Targeting ads by using geographic terms like this isn't new. Both Overture and Google have long allowed it. However, the new Overture program is designed to greatly ease the process. Instead of brainstorming every possible geographic modifier to use, an advertiser at Overture merely need enter their physical location and a geographic radius they wish to cover ranging from 0.5 to 100 miles. Then behind the scenes, Overture will automatically add relevant geographical locations.

For instance, that San Francisco dental practice using Overture's regular listing program might think to bid on terms such as "san francisco dentists" and "daly city dentists" but overlook other geographically relevant terms like "sunset district dentists" or "brisbane dentists." The Overture program is meant to solve this. Through it, the practice would bid on the term "dentists," set a geographic radius, and any relevant geographic terms would be automatically pulled from a mapping database and added to the word dentist to help the ad show up for a wide range of phrases.

Separate Program From Regular Listings

Overture's regular paid listing program is Precision Match, where advertisers bid against each other for top placement in sponsored results that Overture distributes (see chart) to parent company Yahoo or partners such as MSN.

Local Match operates separately from Precision Match. This means that potentially, some Overture partners may choose to show only local listings. However, those I've looked so far appear to be choosing to intermingle local match listings within the regular listings that they carry.

To date, partners taking local ads have been named as Yahoo, Yahoo-owned AltaVista and AllTheWeb, InfoSpace (which operates many popular meta search engines such as Dogpile) and Citysearch. Overture also told me a few other partners such as ESPN.com and 411web are also carrying them now and that MSN is to add them in the coming weeks.

You'll know an ad is locally targeted after you click on it. Regular Overture ads lead directly to an advertiser's web site. Overture's local ads instead lead to an intermediary "locator" page. This page can show a map, business name, physical location, hours of operation and a link to the advertiser's own web site, if they have one, along with other information. An example of one is below:

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The locator pages are designed in part to help small advertisers without web sites take part in Overture's advertising program. In contrast, its regular listings assume advertisers have their own web sites.

Want to discuss this article or share experiences and thoughts about the new Overture program? Visit this thread at the Search Engine Watch Forums: Overture Launches Local Ads.

The longer version of this story for Search Engine Watch members examines issues about how locator pages are required for all local listings, how local and regular listings are mixed so that advertisers are only ultimately represented by one listing, how the local program may cause a rise in prices for some locally-targeted terms, how pure local listings are ranked and the physical location requirement impact on resellers and others. Click here to learn more about becoming a member

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