I’m a big fan of location-based web sites for businesses that serve one geographic area, but I find that many of those aren’t optimized very well for search engines, and many of the business owners behind them don’t take steps to make those sites easily found in search engines.
Many of those site owners also don’t seem to consider using paid search advertising to draw more attention to their sites, or their businesses.
A new patent application from Google looks at some of the reasons why local advertising hasn’t taken off on the web and tries to come up with some solutions, based upon the use of mobile phones, internet-connected PDAs, and other handheld devices.
Here are three reasons why the inventors of this patent claim that local advertisers aren’t enthusiastic about advertising on the web:
- Local businesses might not want to devote resources to an additional advertising channel.
- Local businesses may not want to develop an online presence, or may not have the skills to do so.
- People often prefer to talk with someone at a local business (e.g., pizza order, restaurant reservations, contacting a plumber, arranging for car-towing, getting a cost estimate, making an appointment, etc.).
The patent filing notes that people often use the web to learn about local businesses, but then tells us that it’s often not the ideal medium to communicate with the people who run those businesses.
Generating and/or serving local area advertisements, such as advertisements for devices with call functionality
Inventors: Shumeet Baluja and Henry A. Rowley
US Patent Application 20060149624
Published July 6, 2006
Filed: December 30, 2004
Sets of local, (e.g., online) ads may be generated by obtaining sets of information about (e.g., local) establishments, each set including a business address information and/or a telephone number, (b) determining, for each of the sets, a location using at least one of at least a portion of the business address information and at least a portion of the telephone number, and (c) generating, for each of the sets, an ad that includes targeting information that targets the serving of the ad to queries related to the determined location. A query, including information about a location of a client device, may be accepted and at least one of the generated ads that include targeting information that targets the location of the client device may be determined.
Back in January, I wrote about a related patent application, Advertisements for devices with call functionality, such as mobile phones, in a post titled The future of ads on phones?
That patent filing is referred to in this new one as being related and shares an inventor, Shumeet Baluja. There’s some overlap in the wording of the two documents and taken together, they provide a nice framework for local advertising methods on handhelds.
If you are interested in local advertising via a search engine, it might be worth your time in digging into this document.
A quick look at some highlights:
There’s a focus on wireless devices, especially ones that are Global Position Satellite enabled, to match the location of the searcher with local advertisers.
Some sets of information about local establishments may be taken from data feeds from places such as the yellow pages.
The document describes ways to set up an ad campaign, involving one or more advertisements and ad groups, including links to web pages, email addresses, and telephone numbers.
Local ads may be served with search results.
Information about a local business may be included in an ad, such as
- Business name,
- Phone number,
- Business-type listing (e.g., “plumbers” or “painters” or “restaurant”, etc.),
- Graphics such as logos,
- Business hours,
- Associated descriptive text, and;
- Payment methods (e.g., check, credit card, etc.)
A call-on-select “button”, perhaps using a telephone icon, could be displayed with an advertisement, and if clicked upon, a call will be generated from the mobile telephone.
SMS functionality may also be incorporated into this system.
The document also details information about the selection and scoring of advertisements to serve, how ads may be displayed, .
There may be different options that a viewer of an ad can select, such as making a call or visiting a web page, or doing both. Different costs may be associated with each task, and different tracking mechanisms may be in place to identify these different conversions.
The phone calls may connect someone to a voice message or a live operator.
One alternative discussed is the ability to offer alternatives to a searcher who may see an ad, such as:
- Click here to place a take out order,
- Click here to order delivery,
- Click here to make a reservation.
I’m wondering if we will see local search, without payment, start to go away as developing avenues for paid local advertising start emerging. I would assume that it wouldn’t, but documents like this one have me thinking about how a search engine would be attracted to monetizing a local search system.
I also thought that it was interesting that the two named inventors on this patent filing also had another published on travel routes today, which I wrote about in my last post – Ending Gridlock with Google Driving Assistance (Zipdash Re-Emerges). There’s a brief mention in that document discussing how local search may be incorporated into the driving directions shown to a user of the service. Local search ads seem like they would also be a possibility.