Perhaps the best conversion model for today's merchants can be attributed to the convergence of the local and video search space. This is largely due to the evolution of rich media advertising in online directories showcasing local merchant listings. Numerous reports, including one from The Kelsey Group, have shown that integrating the fast-growing segments of online video and local search can spur significantly higher leads and sales.
Ironically enough, a group with deep roots in the offline world – Internet Yellow Pages (IYPs) – is at the forefront of integrating video into the advertising platform.
All of the major IYPs, and even some of the second-tier programs, are now testing video ads for local business clients. Idearc's Superpages appears to be the most aggressive with its marketing strategy and timeline. According to VP of Internet Marketing Robyn Rose, Superpages is scheduled for a national release of a local video product next month, which has been tested in limited markets since June.
Superpages has already come out with the most defined pricing model for both pre-produced and newly made video content. YellowPages.com is now selling and shooting video, and CMO Matt Crowley has professed a high demand for the product, which he says is selling at rates well exceeding expectations. Alfred Chow, senior manager for the largest independent IYP, Yellow Book, explained to me that Yellow Book is also in the marketing and testing phases of a video ad product for local business clients. Both YellowPages.com and Yellow Book project nationwide availability around the end of the year.
According to a report by Kelsey Group Senior Analyst Michael Boland, the local video opportunity is the greatest for IYPs. That's not just in terms of higher customer lead rates, but also on merchant spend for production as well as promotion. As Kelsey Group Program Director Peter Krasilovsky told ClickZ News reporter Kate Kaye, "A very small percentage of [local advertisers” are capable of putting video on the Web themselves. Yellow pages companies are in the perfect position to provide video technology and findability... and it's a great upsell for them."
In comparison to the mainstream search engines, the IYPs have a considerably more developed sales force to utilize this upsell. In fact, the major search engines – Google and Yahoo! – aren't even pursuing the commercial video search space on their own local business directory listings, instead adopting a "wait and see" attitude to determine whether the IYPs are truly successful before jumping in themselves.
Search Marketers Left Out of the Loop
Greg Sterling, founding principal of Sterling Marketing Intelligence, recently commented, "Most of the IYPs, perhaps with the exception of Superpages, have not done an aggressive enough job at marketing themselves to the search community, which is much more familiar and comfortable with the traditional search engines."
What's being overlooked in all of this local video opportunity, not just by the IYPs, but by practically all of the online local directories? The search optimization component.
I would add that a good part of this situation is due to a couple of major search problems: The IYPs haven't included an SEO plan with their video content, and it's very uncertain whether the video content will even be accessible via the IYPs' own site search.
The IYPs' sales forces already try to sell customers on the fact that their listings show up in the mainstream organic search engines. So, why not offer the same for their own video product as well? The IYPs are all about increasing network reach, so offering video accessible to the search engines would seem to make perfect sense with their promotional strategy. The IYPs can achieve a larger reach in the free space and still set up a technology model to capture video ad impressions on sites outside of their own networks via a video RSS feed.
An IYP video search optimization program, in turn, could also allow for search marketers to have better access to their client's video via the IYP's backend interface, allowing for keyword tagging and descriptions that, when combined with an RSS feed, would allow for more fully optimized content on a platform already fully indexed by the mainstream search engines. That translates into a win all around – for the advertiser (merchant and/or search marketer), the IYP sales team, and of course, the end user and potential client/customer.
Video SEO: Sales Plan for IYPs
There are several ways IYPs could integrate an SEO strategy into their clients' video content:
- Video RSS feed(s). Feeds are regularly spidered by the major search engines and video-specific search engines. Establishing video RSS feeds ensures updated content in the search engines, and provides an additional means of finding the customer's directory listing (one for the profile, one for the video), allowing for embedded keyword tagging to improve search engine findability. To be really expansive and specialized, they could create a video RSS feed for each directory category.
- Video directory map. A video archive added to the site, and included as part of the site search function, would make it much easier to determine which businesses carry video, rather than make it a scavenger hunt. (The best online local directory I could find with this is Citysearch's own city-specific video directory, although I had no luck when attempting to do a keyword search with the word "video" included in the query.)
- Video widget. The IYPs could include a video ad unit for both salespeople and clients, allowing for tagging of video content, which again, could automatically be sent into a video RSS feed.
There's no disputing that having to train an IYP's sales team on understanding and selling search marketing is a learning curve that will take time. But, the IYPs are in the best position to integrate organic video optimization into their sales push. The Yellow Pages, one of the most traditional of all channels, can better pursue local video marketing by including SEO into the mix, empowering the client and search marketers to make the videos on their site more accessible to the mainstream search engines. IYPs can then provide faster content deployment to their clients, include search marketers' expertise, and increase the quantity and quality of their business listings online; it's a win-win situation for everyone.