AOL is Now Selling Local 10 Pack Spots

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 OleanNY 14760 Local Sponsored Listings

See more local listings near OleanNY 14760 »

******

Auto Repair near OleanNY 14760 Local Sponsored Listings

See more local listings near OleanNY 14760 »

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?

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
AOL is Now Selling Local 10 Pack Spots by

5 thoughts on “AOL is Now Selling Local 10 Pack Spots”

  1. The AOL results look like mirrors of YellowPages.com results for the same categories. Apparently, they have outsourced their Local Search entirely or nearly entirely.

    IYPs have long sold local listings to the highest bidders and have fee schedules and placement options which favor national buyers over locals. It’s not surprising that small town results would be dominated by national companies.

    AOL marks the Paid search ads as ‘sponsored’ in the top and bottom portions of the Local Search pages, but doesn’t disclosed the ‘local’ results as paid/sponsored, too. As a user, I want to clearly be shown the difference between paid placements and natural search results and here, AOL clearly fails.

  2. The engines already have PPC results for this. I, for one, would like to see Local kept algorithmic rather than monetary. There’s more democracy in it than capitalism, and I prefer it that way.

  3. Miriam

    I agree that the results are not ideal but I see several issues for a company like AOL:

    1)Is paid any worse than distance from the centroid as the criteria for returning results?

    2)Developing something more than distance from the centroid as the logic requires investment. What should a second tier search engine do to rationalize their development costs?

  4. My experience with AOL is simply that the traffic is pitifully small. When one realizes that direct traffic into a Local version of aol.com is a tiny percentage of AOL traffic…it suggests that traffic in that venue will be infitesmially small.

    OTOH; In light of a multitude of technical and spam problems w/the other larger engines, the difficulties in getting a reliable version of Local/Maps…possibly a pay for the freight listing is a reasonable alternative. It should be done in a way though..that at least the businesses are ONLY local.

    At least that would provide a reliable source of local contacts….if not one that is based on some kind of “hopefully” logical algo.

    In light of the small volume of traffic its not the biggest problem out there.

  5. Mike – I noticed that each listing has a toll free number. I suspect these are YPC / Ingenio ppcall ads. If you search the number and its a tracking number or used for ppcall, it wont turn up on the company’s web site, or in other usual places. I searched a few of these toll free numbers and there were several pages, but they all looked like YPC syndicated listings. I agree the results offer a poor experience for the searching consumer.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Comments links could be nofollow free.