In his keynote address at DMS ’10, Yext CEO Howard Lerman pointed to the imminent release of a tags product in response to Google Tags and emphasized that tags could grow into the standard local advertising unit. Sure enough, the company will officially unveil Yext Tags in January across more than a dozen locally oriented partner sites, including AOL’s MapQuest and Patch, Citysearch, SuperPages, Yahoo and Yellowbook. And no, Google is not taking part.
Many will assume that Yext Tags is launching to combat Google’s continued migration into local advertising. Some have even termed this an “anti-Google alliance.” For the non-conspiracy theorist, perhaps it is about integrating online advertising for merchants into a single buy and a central distribution engine. Whatever the case, the key to breaking through with SMBs that have found search engine marketing to be a confusing experience will be simplicity, which is at the core of the new platform.
Pricing is flat rate for advertisers ($99 per month), to be split evenly between Yext and the partner sites where the tags appear. From Yext’s dashboard, businesses can create, distribute and modify tags across a local network that reaches more than 100 million UVs each month. No keyword bidding — these are natural search results, not sponsored ones.
For Lerman’s New York-based start-up, tags broaden the overall value proposition that Yext can offer the 30,000 businesses that are currently using some combination of its pay-per-call and reputation management tools. Initially, Yext will market the product, but will soon allow partners to resell it. Another “next step” will be enabling clients to update their listings and tags from partner sites (not just on them).
While Tags can be messaged any number of ways, many merchants will seize on it to promote deals and offers. This could appeal to national retailers seeking to drive local store traffic in particular areas (a theme that sprouted in 2010 and will only gain stream in 2011). Gold’s Gym, for instance, has been experimenting with localizing offers across the partner network as part of a Tags beta test.
Google first pushed out its Tags offering in June at a flat rate of $25 (seemingly its new magic number, with Google Boost also being peddled at this rate). The search giant recently enlisted at least 100 telesales reps to market Tags and Boost to businesses that have claimed their Places page. Now it is offering $100 million in AdWords credits to SMBs that enroll in Places. Funneled together, these initiatives have many online search and Yellow Pages companies wondering if Google is trying to take their turf.
This isn’t the first coordinated effort to push back against Google. IAC’s CityGrid Media developed over the past year to connect sellers and publishers through a targeted ad engine that optimizes placement for businesses across the network. At BIA/Kelsey’s Marketplaces conference this past March, CityGrid CEO Jay Herratti described the network as an alternative “scale player” to Google.