Shopping.com Connects With Switchboard for More Local Searches

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E-commerce search engine Shopping.com struck a deal yesterday to include links to its comparison site on online directory Switchboard, with an eye to capturing more local searches for products.


Under the agreement, Switchboard searches yield links to Shopping.com's comparison e-commerce engine. For example, a search for "video games" returns a box in the middle of the results page of local listings with text links to compare prices for various game systems and accessories. The links take users to a co-branded Shopping.com e-commerce site, which includes product pricing, specifications and reviews.


Shopping.com will pay Switchboard each time visitors click to the co-branded comparison-shopping site. The deal is similar to co-branded sites Shopping.com has set up with broadband providers like Comcast and portals like iWon and Excite.


"In the next 12 to 18 months, there will be more of a commerce component to local search," said Nirav Tolia, Shopping.com's chief operating officer. "The first step is for local search to become more prevalent. As that happens, it's a natural extension for us."


Switchboard ranks among the top online directory sites, drawing about 5 million visitors monthly. Online yellow pages publishers and major search engines see great growth in 2004 for local search. The Kelsey Group estimates the market for online local search could be worth as much as $2.5 billion in 2008.


Shopping.com is coming off a successful holiday season. The company reports that it drew 76 million shoppers during the season, up 82 percent from last year's holidays.


Prominence on Switchboard will help drive further traffic to Shopping.com, which is battling for preeminence in the emerging e-commerce search space. Shopping.com hopes to attract a larger audience to its comparison site, which competes with fellow comparison sites like Bizrate.com and NexTag as well as more intimidating newcomers like Yahoo Shopping and Google's Froogle.


For now, Shopping.com has established itself as a leading presence in the market, attracting 21.3 million visitors in December, according to comScore Media Metrix, trailing Yahoo Shopping's 25 million visitors. Shopping.com's audience compares favorably to NexTag and Bizrate.com, which have much smaller audiences.


"We've succeeded in breaking free of the small pack, and we're more competitive with somewhere like a Yahoo," Tolia said, noting that Shopping.com's audience is growing at a faster rate than Yahoo's.


Yahoo infused its shopping section with comparison search in a September relaunch. Despite the portal's considerable advantages in size and resources, Tolia said Shopping.com would compete well thanks to its focus.


"We want to be the Expedia of shopping," he said.


The deal adds to Switchboard's paid listings opportunities. The site signed on in July to carry Google's AdSense contextual listings. The paid listings, which run along the side of the page, replaced banner ads on the site. In addition to its directory listings, advertisers can buy links to their Web sites from their own listings and other non-commercial listings.


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