A reader recently pointed out that AOL is now selling all the spots in their “Local 10 Pack” on a CTC and possible PPC basis through YellowPages.com and ServiceMagic. I don’t follow AOL search hat closely so this may have been happening for a while.
Here are several sample searches:
Attorneys near Olean, NY 14760 Local Sponsored Listings
- Allen Dyer Doppelt Milbrath & Gilchrist PA | (877) 886-8810
255 S Orange Ave Ste 1401, Orlando, FL
- Law Offices Of Robert L. Steinberg | (888) 891-2200
- The Lawyers Group Advertising, Inc. | (888) 261-7157
- Auto Accident Attorneys | (877) 420-6806
- Lawyers Group | (800) 698-1823
- Personal Injury Attorneys | (888) 767-6751
- USA Legal Resource | (888) 298-3671
- USA Legal Resource | (888) 281-5892
Auto Repair near Olean, NY 14760 Local Sponsored Listings
- Tire Kingdom/Merchants/NTB | (877) 744-8544
- Glass America | (877) 390-1391
- Safelite AutoGlass | (877) 888-4980
- ACDelco | (866) 636-6163
- Sears Auto Center | (800) 859-2772
- Precision Tune Auto Care | (800) 438-8863
- Monro Muffler Brake & Service | (877) 466-6676
- Nissan North America | (866) 791-2423
The results are not uniformly bad but particularly on the small town searches above the results are less than acceptable. In the lawyer search none of the results are even remotely local and in the car repair search most of the national franchises are not available in this market. When I searched for Plumber Olean NY, I was given a single plumber located 70 miles away that specialized in water proofing. Not much help if I have a leaky toilet. Searches in more urban areas (see Washington DC Plumber) returned somewhat better but still not stellar results.
Whether that is a function of lack of inventory or a bad algo is unclear but the results are very unsatisfying. AOL is likely under pressure to monetize their search. It seems to me that doing it with such irrelevant results is a quick, one way ticket to oblivion.
That being said there are a number of good reasons why a lower volume search engine might want or need to monetize these results. In the absence of an alternative ranking strategy, it is also a strategy that might make perfect sense as alternative to distance ranking in certain market segments (like plumbers) that are not really location based.
Should local listings on general search engines go to the highest bidder? Do you think we will see more of this practice on high volume sites?