Search-engine marketing firm TrafficLeader, whose technology supports BellSouth€™s "Real Search Engines Solutions," announced a deal with the Houston Chronicle to sell search marketing to local businesses on a similar €œflat-fee, guaranteed clicks€ basis.
We had predicted €œsimplified search€ would make its way into the newspaper arena before long. The deal represents the first formal announcement of such an arrangement with a U.S. newspaper.
Local businesses can currently buy such products from select Yellow Pages publishers (Dex Media, BellSouth), vertical directories and Web hosts (Interland, Affinity Internet). In addition to TrafficLeader, there are several other companies in the market that are enabling simplified, guaranteed clicks products to be sold to local businesses, including SME Global Solutions and Inceptor. Local SEM firms like ReachLocal, LocalLaunch, Leads.com and LocalLead also provide similar offerings.
The entry of newspapers — as another category of "small business aggregators" — into this arena means that SEM is being commoditized at the local level. In a year, in any given metro market, there could easily be several players offering these seach marketing tools to the same pool of SMEs.
The Houston Chronicle and its related Web site are owned by Hearst Corp. (which also owns YP publisher White Directories). The paper is considered the seventh-largest U.S. daily metro paper.
If the product sells well to local advertisers in Houston, expect to see Hearst expand it to other markets where its owns other newspaper properties.