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Here’s a question: How long would directory publishers sit back and let new companies such as RedBeacon, AlikeList and others disrupt the leads economy for SMBs with search and socially driven features such as Twitter and Facebook? Or Google, with Place Pages? That’s a question that Local Matters and other Yellow Pages  vendors have obviously asked themselves.

Now Local Matters has come out with “Destination Search,” a new social platform that seeks to level the search and social playing field for its U.S. and international clients, which so far includes  Dex B2B in the U.S;  Truvo, European Directories and Pagini Aurii in Europe;  and Yellow Pages Group in New Zealand.

Playing off a feature set originally developed for real estate multiple listings services, Local Matters’ platform includes state of the art social and search features. It also seeks to leverage existing strengths, such as business profile information.

Key features of the white label solution include enhanced profile listings; search optimization; integration (and easy sharing) with Facebook and Twitter; blog enablement; ratings and reviews ported from Yelp and other sources; and the addition of social media feeds on assorted online advertising.

Kris Skavish, Vice President of Products and Marketing, told us that Local Matters started planning Destination Search last September, with the specific intent of focusing on building rich local context. “A problem with online directories has been search relevancy,” she noted.

Another challenge has been to reconcile Yellow Pages headings with most searched categories, which are typically microheadings. “’Plumbers’ is too broad. You need to get to the correct root,” said Skavish, noting that Local Matters has also created custom microheadings for categories such as hotels and attorneys.

For instance, “romantic hotels” might be sought out in user generated content but not generally included as a category. Users can also rate pictures included in romantic hotels.  Publishers can also insert content at the top of the page, or refine results. They can also create brand oriented categories, such as “Toyota.”

While Destination Search leveraged Local Matters’ work with real estate Multiple Listing Services,  important differences revealed themselves, added Skavish. “With the MLS,  you prove your value with a lead ” she notes. “It isn’t a ranking model.  And in real estate, the default view is maps. But with Yellow Pages, it is an ad model. You want users to make an action.”

Local Matters CEO Mat Stover is a featured speaker at Marketplaces 2010 March 22-24 in San Diego.

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