FindWhat.com will introduce a pay-per-call advertising platform for search listings to bring paid search to the millions of small businesses without Web sites, the company said yesterday.
With pay-per-call, FindWhat aims to lure more of the nation's 23 million small businesses into search marketing. A survey by Verizon in late 2002 found 63 percent of U.S. small businesses lack Web sites.
The Fort Myers, FL, search firm partnered with Ingenio to provide the pay-per-call service, which debuts in the third quarter. Pay-per-call advertisers will be given a unique toll-free number to display in their listings. Advertisers pay each time a searcher calls the number.
“This gives [small businesses without Web sites] the opportunity to participate in online marketing,” said Rick Szatkowski, a senior vice president at FindWhat.
FindWhat also plans to offer local advertisers a landing page for searchers to click through to get basic business information such as hours of operation. Yahoo's Overture Services is devising a similar service for its soon-to-be-released local search service.
Szatkowski said FindWhat planned to set the minimum bid prices for pay-per-call listings higher than pay-per-click listings since its research indicates that a customer using the phone is further along the buying cycle than one clicking through to a Web site.
“This gets us much closer to a pay-per-conversion model,” he said.
FindWhat plans to operate separate auctions for click and call listings, with each set displayed separately. The top bidder's ad will appear first, followed by other call listings in bid order. Szatkowski said separating click and call listings would let both national and local advertisers participate in local search.
FindWhat and Ingenio also plan to develop a system for advertisers to use a unified pay-per-click and pay-per-call system.
Search giants Google and Yahoo have made forays into local search. Last month, Yahoo released SmartView, a tool on Yahoo Maps that gives users access to local information in 55 categories. A week later, Google countered with the beta release of Google Local, a new search engine that returns both commercial and non-commercial local information from yellow pages data providers and Google's index of 4 billion Web pages.
FindWhat has relied on partnerships to expand into local search. It powers the pay-for-performance listings on Verizon's SuperPages.com site, and it recently announced a deal with Thomas Global Register to create an online business-to-business directory service, ThomasB2B.com.
Szatkowski said pay-per-call would be added to ThomasB2B.com. A spokeswoman for SuperPages.com said the site would evaluate the pay-per-call service. SuperPages has a deal with Ingenio competitor eStara to provide advertisers with a click-to-call option that searchers can use to connect with advertisers using Internet telephone services.
In addition, Szatkowski said the service would enable FindWhat's network of hundreds of second-tier search distribution partners to offer local search options.
The Kelsey Group has estimated that the local search market could reach $2.5 billion in 2008, depending on how successful Google and Yahoo are in deploying local search opportunities.
Jupiter Research is more circumspect, forecasting the market will reach $824 million in 2008. Jupiter noted that traditional yellow pages advertisers differ greatly from paid search advertisers. While paid search is dominated by businesses selling online, yellow pages publishers depend on small service firms, often without a Web presence.
“It's a major factor in some of the challenges holding back the ad spending, recognizing that a local search is different than an online search,” said Niki Scevak, a Jupiter analyst. “It's something we do believe could change the game and could lead to that accelerated growth curve.”