Switchboard Rolls Out Paid Link Program

Online yellow pages provider Switchboard announced the availability of new advertising options, offering businesses the chance to insert Web site links on their own listings or on non-commercial listings.

LocalClicks allows advertisers to purchase transactional links on their listings. For example, a local car dealership could pay for links to pages on its Web site that let people sign up for a test drive or see a new car model. The program also allows advertisers to buy links on non-commercial listings. A flower shop, for example, could buy a link on a hospital listing. Advertisers only pay when a user clicks on the links.

Dean Polnerow, president and chief executive of Westboro, Mass.-based Switchboard, said the program would harness the power of paid listings with the traditional strength of yellow-pages listings, allowing a more local approach than paid search can offer.

The potential is to attract advertisers who are already purchasing online advertising,” he said. “A lot of those [advertisers] are very interested in clicks and paying for clicks. Our hope is to be able to give them a lot more opportunities to get those clicks.”

The listings will be sold in-house by Switchboard. Polnerow said the price for each click would be determined by category, on the basis of what an advertiser might pay for a listing with Overture Services or Google.

“A click is a click is a click,” Polnerow said. “What we’re saying is Switchboard is a great way to get a click.”

The program, which already has participants like LexisNexis Martindale-Hubbell and Best Flowers, is Switchboard’s second foray into using paid listings with a local flavor. In mid-July, it inked a contextual advertising deal with Google’s AdSense to display contextual paid links on some of its content pages.

“We love it,” Polnerow said of the AdSense program. “So far, it’s been performing very well.”

Local paid listings are often thought as a huge potential market for paid search providers like Google and Overture Services. While Overture is at work on a local search product, which it hopes to release within a year, Google has struck deals with partner sites to use its search technology to create local listings.

In addition to the Switchboard implementation, Google inked an AdWords deal with MapQuest in June to serve paid listings in categories like hotels and restaurants by combining searchers’ self-identified locations with the category name. For instance, a user requesting a map of Philadelphia would receive AdWords listings for “Philadelphia restaurant” and “Philadelphia hotel.”

The market for local paid listings has also caught the fancy of InterActive’s Barry Diller. In March, InterActive-owned Citysearch began giving advertisers the ability to move up to a “featured listings” tab on the results page of searches on Citysearch’s local sites.

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