Citysearch Launches ‘CityGrid Complete,’ Invests in Orange Soda

Citysearch announced today that it has shifted its ad model for small businesses, moving from the cost-per-click model that it pioneered several years ago to a new model that will drive consumers directly to their own Web sites. The new model provides advertisers with a complete range of SEO and marketing services across the CityGrid network of 100 Web and mobile partners.

The new services are being offered as “CityGrid Complete,” and will use Orange Soda as a partner. As part of the announcement, Citysearch also announced an investment in Orange Soda, which competes with the likes of ReachLocal, Yodle, WebVisible, Marchex and MatchCraft to resell search engine advertising and optimize content. Orange Soda currently works as a reseller for media companies such as Gannett and Freedom Interactive, and also works with franchise operations such as Remax and Jiffy Lube.

Neil Salvage, Citysearch executive vice president of sales and service, said the announcement is consistent with the enlargement of his own job description, which now includes product development on the merchant side. Salvage acknowledged that Citysearch has had a “not robust” search engine marketing platform, and has been searching for a better solution for 18 months.

“We talked with everybody,” Salvage said, and came to the conclusion that Orange Soda is a superior solution with a “robust back end oriented system.” Its SEO solutions “fit somewhere between ReachLocal and Yodle,” he added.

To Salvage, what’s really important about the announcement is that Citysearch is moving away from its complex cost-per-click sales model and toward a fixed-fee model that will boast a wide bundle of services. The move should allow Citysearch to increase its monthly yield from$600 to $800 per advertiser to more than $1,000, said Salvage. “That’s where we need to be.”

Cost-per-click overemphasizes the reseller factor and has become “old school,” added Salvage. “It was built to go after Yellow Pages, but wasn’t really appropriate because the Citysearch product set did not really support that. It was an entertainment site. Now we want to focus our time and energy on platforms and the process,” he says. “We are focused on signing up more publishers, not on owning the [SMB] relationship. ”

Citysearch CEO Jay Herratti is a keynote speaker at Marketplaces 2010, which is taking place March 22-24 in San Diego.

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