Urban Mapping Forms Partnership, Gets Into SEM Game

Urban Mapping yesterday announced a partnership with mapping technology provider Placebase. Placebase basically has an API built on mapping tiles (the standard unit of Web 2.0 mapping) that lets developers do a lot with pushpins. This comes in handy in mapping mashups for enterprise applications that require lots of dynamically plotted points.

Urban Mapping, for those who don’t know, has a very interesting neighborhood data engine that generates and uses neighborhood-specific terms to better index mapping data. This takes into account the types of colloquial geographic modifiers some users will type in their local searches (“west end,” “southie,” “china basin,” etc.).

These drill deeper than city name or ZIP codes that otherwise structure mapping data and local listings. Most top-tier search engines and mapping providers have already begun to integrate UM’s technology.

This partnership means that Placebase will integrate UM’s Urbanware Neighborhood product with its own platform, to better index the data within the maps where its own product is used. Check out the Urban Mapping blog for some more examples.

Localized Keywords for SEM

On a related note, I had the chance to catch up with Urban Mapping CEO Ian White last week about some interesting things the company is doing around geographic keyword research. Given the ability to generate neighborhood level geographic terms to better index map data, why not also use the same process to spin out keywords that can be used as a starting point for geotargeted SEM campaigns?

“What we’re doing is reverse parsing the search terms in looking at the queries and finding geography-based terms,” says White. “If a hardware store says their service area is 15 miles, we can extract geographic entities from that 15-mile radius such as churches, schools parks, transit nodes, congressional districts, etc. We extract these keywords and provide back to them so essentially it becomes a geographic keyword research tool.”

This becomes valuable if someone does a search for “barber shop near JFK Middle School” or “florist near Caltrain Terminal.” Of course most users will search using the traditional ZIP code or town names, but there are a certain number of searches that will specify these neighborhood level modifiers.

If utilized by SEM firms, the idea is that these terms can be scaled across many localized SEM campaigns. In that way, they represent the long tail of keywords and prices should reflect this, given presumably low bid pressure on such terms.

“So if we provide 5,000 geographic search terms for this 15-mile service area, you effectively pay us once and you can use them in multiple campaigns assuming your service area is germane to those search terms,” says White. He adds that you can choose the radius and the type of term (schools, hospitals, government buildings, landmarks, etc.) that may be more complementary to a given SEM campaign.

White hopes SEM firms will integrate this into the workflow of their existing campaign management systems in order to query his database and for relevant terms on demand.

“We’ve designed this Web service to plug right into existing campaign management APIs,” he says. “So the idea is that you have Acme flowers and they have 20 locations. You’re doing keyword research and you push a button for Urban Mapping. We give you suggested service area and you say ‘accept’ and then we pass back these keywords.”

We’ll get to find out more from White, who is speaking at the upcoming ILM:07 conference, and will also be on a mapping panel during a local search track we’re running at SES Chicago. Hope to see you there.

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Related: A pair of TKG reports will publish next week that examine local SEM campaign management for small businesses (parts II & III of the Selling SEO and SEM trilogy).

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