New service makes it even easier for consumers to find the best local merchants in their community; merchants can now monitor and improve their online perception and local influence
SAN RAMON, CA – March 28, 2013 — Reply.com, the leading marketplace for local advertisers and owner of one of the nation’s largest local directories, MerchantCircle, announced today Merchant Scoring, a new service that empowers consumers to quickly identify the top service providers in their area based on a patent-pending scoring algorithm. Merchant Scoring simplifies a consumer’s search process by eliminating the need to sift through many reviews on multiple sites and helps merchants better understand and improve their presence and local influence on MerchantCircle and across the Internet.
“Until now there hasn’t been a simple and comprehensive platform for consumers to identify the best service providers and merchants in their community,” said Payam Zamani, founder and CEO of Reply.com. “Merchant Scoring will become the universal language for consumers and organizations of all sizes to identify and select the best local merchants. Likewise, the Merchant
Scoring solution will act as a tool offering business owners insightful data and simple prompts on ways to improve their online presence.”
How it works
MerchantCircle’s new patent-pending technology dynamically scores merchants based on the quality and quantity of reviews and ratings, awarding a score between zero and 100. It also calculates measures such as local influence, a merchant’s presence and engagement across multiple social and online channels and other social and reputation factors.
Businesses can opt-in their social network accounts to provide additional data points and means for customers to connect with them. Scores are updated in real-time and monitored via a dashboard that also offers merchants feedback, suggestions and prompts to help them improve their scores and increase engagement within their community.
Merchant Scoring features include:
Merchant Dashboard: MerchantCircle.com users interact with a unique dashboard that features score information, engagement history, and other data. Engagement Recommendations: The merchant dashboard offers suggestions for merchants to boost their scores, improve their presence and local reputation. Weekly Top 10 List: A list of top 10 merchants is published weekly on MerchantCircle.com highlighting the best merchants by area and category. Virtual Badges: Merchants can easily download virtual badges from the dashboard and post their Merchant Score on their company websites, social profiles, and more. To learn more about Merchant Scoring, visit: MerchantCircle.com
About Reply.com, Inc.
Reply.com, Inc. operates the leading marketplace for locally-targeted advertisers. Reply.com’s platform provides advertisers of all sizes with a simple and scalable solution for locally-targeted marketing. Reply.com owns and operates many destination sites including iMotors.com, Contractors.com and MerchantCircle.com, which is the largest online network of local business owners in the nation with over 1.4 million member merchants and 17 million monthly local consumer visits. To learn more about Reply.com, please visit www.reply.com
Sparkpr for Reply.com
In a recent Search Engine Land article, blogger Brad Geddes spotlighted Seven Incredibly Valuable But Underused Free Tools For PPC Marketers. Check it out! It’s worth a read. It includes insights about some great free SEM tools, such as Acquisio—a platform for optimizing pay-per-click campaigns—and Google Sets, which can help you maximize the effectiveness of your ad copy. Checking Thesaurus.com with the Google keyword tool is also a really good idea for keyword expansion.
The IAB and PricewaterhouseCoopers released US Internet advertising stats for the first half of 2009. US Internet advertising revenues totaled $10.9 billion, a 5.3% decline from the same period in 2008. 2008 was the peek for Internet advertising in the US, with $23.4 billion in total revenues, up from $6 billion in 2002.
Search accounts for 47% of the total ($5.1 billion), up from 44% 1H ’08. Display ads, classified listings, lead generation and email accounts for 34%, 10%, 7% and 1%, respectively. Retailers comprised the most substantial spending category, with a 20% market share.
- 11th: 25th – 11% of revenues for the second quarter of 2009.
- 26th: 50th – 7 percent in the second quarter of 2009.
- Industry revenue concentration remains high.
- Performance based pricing has maintained a strong sequential growth rate and is growing at the expense of CPM/Impression based pricing.
- Traffic is highly concentrated in the top 10 – 50 sites; everyone else is a traffic reseller.
Lead Generation revenues accounted for 7% of the 2009 second-quarter revenues or $361 million, down 10 percentfrom the $402 million (7 percent) reported in the second-quarter of 2008.
While lead generation was down for the industry, Reply! has posted over 50 percent revenue growth for the six-month period ending June 30, 2009 compared to a year ago in the Automotive and Real Estate categories, and has experienced increasing profitability over the last six consecutive quarters. Reply!’s growth can be partially attributed to its recently-launched advertiser-side exchange that efficiently allows for monetization of poorly-targeted traffic acquired from any online channel. Advertisers can quickly recover wasted online spend by making it available to buyers through Reply!’s platform.
For more information about Reply!’s success during this challenging time for the industry, read our recent press releases:Reply! Grows at Unprecedented Rate, Rips Beta Off Its Marketplace, Reply.com Brings on Board Top Real Estate Firms, Reply.com Launches Home Improvement.
Reply.com’s Marketplace and Exchange offer highly-efficient, locally-targeted consumer acquisition opportunities for large, sophisticated advertisers—as well as individual service providers—on a per-lead or per-Enhanced Click™ basis.
The full report is available here (as a pdf) and below.
While attending the Search Engine Strategies conference in San Jose this week, I couldn’t stop thinking about the lack of innovation in online marketing products geared towards local advertisers. Buying local display inventory is next to impossible, and buying local traffic from search engines is sloppy and inefficient. Creating local SEO pages is helpful, but is still very difficult to do in a scalable and sustainable manner. I believe the future of online marketing is in delivering geo-targeted advertising products that level the playing field for marketers with budgets of all sizes. I’m still stunned I didn’t see a single vendor focusing on geo-targeted consumer acquisition for new product launches (besides Reply!).
What really confuses me is the direction in which the major search engines are going. They’ve placed their focus on allowing consumers to find local products and services, but there’s a significant lag in allowing advertisers to profitably acquire consumers who are conducting localized searches. Why is it so hard to find consumers who are searching for specific products or services in specific geographies? Solving this problem will not only help local advertisers, it will provide more value to consumers who want to find and compare local products and services.
I consider myself to be somewhat of an online marketing expert. I manage a marketing team and a large corporate advertising budget; we’re profitable and we find creative ways to grow revenue and profits each month. I say this to set up my next point, not to gloat. My father is an attorney, and I manage his website and small advertising budget in my free time. I’m failing when it comes to delivering local prospects at a reasonable cost. This isn’t because I’m an unsophisticated marketer; this is because the major search engines are failing local advertisers. The major search engines can’t deliver significant traffic in the areas I want and they make changing geo-targets a painful process.The inflated cost for going local is disturbingly high. Simply put, online marketing is geared towards national advertisers. Local advertisers are at a severe disadvantage.
Large ad budgets understandably influence product changes and innovation for companies offering online marketing solutions, but we’ve reached a point where advertisers with small budgets need to be heard. Their needs should be driving innovation. The next wave of growth in online marketing needs to come from providing valuable products to local advertisers. This growth will help shift $10 billion in ad spend from offline to online services. I would be willing to grow my father’s ad budget if I could find a way to do so profitably, but this just isn’t the case. This means the major search engines are leaving my (and millions of others’) unspent ad budget on the table. It also means the door is open for an innovative product to sweep through this virtually untapped market.
To learn how Reply! is solving the problems with local online advertising, you can read any of the following posts:
- Reply.com Launches World’s First Marketplace for Enhanced Clicks™
- Online Marketing is Painful for Local Advertisers
- Making Locally-Targeted Advertising Simple and Profitable
- Reply! Click Marketplace Coverage & Clarifications
Director, Online Marketing & Product
- Microsoft will power Yahoo Search (paid and organic).
- Yahoo! will become the exclusive worldwide sales force for both companies’ advertisers.
- Yahoo! will become the exclusive worldwide sales force for premium search advertisers.
- Microsoft’s AdCenter platform will provide self-serve advertising for both companies.
- Prices for all search ads will be set by AdCenter’s automated auction process.
- Future battles:
- Google AdWords vs. Microsoft AdCenter
- Google AdSense vs. Microsoft PubCenter
- Bing will be the exclusive algorithmic search and paid search platform for Yahoo!
- Appears Yahoo is exiting search in a material way.
- Yahoo expects to fully implement the combined effort within 24 months of regulatory approval (early 2010).
WOW & WOW
According to Reuters, Microsoft & Yahoo have agreed on a search alliance. The deal should be announced within 24 hours. MSFT will not pay Yahoo the $500M-$1B upfront fee it was seeking. Microsoft AdCenter will be used to power Yahoo search and Bing will be at the core. Of couse, nothing is done until it is done and the deal may still fall through. We’ll see.
Yahoo’s Earnings. The good, bad and ugly.
- Rev: $1.573 billion (down 13%)
- Pageviews up 7%
- Search revenues down 15%
- display revenues down 14%
- Yahoo’s net income rose 8 percent to $141 M.
- Operating income fell 17 percent to $101 M.
- Yahoo’s search advertising revenues on Yahoo-owned sites declined 15 % to $359M .
- Yahoo announced a deal with AT&T to sell local online ads.
- Yahoo mail developing an initiative around improving the ad experience for consumers. They call some of their ads a detriment that cheapens the Yahoo brand.
Well– where does that leave us… MicroHoo anyone? according to Techcrunch, sources say a search deal is imminent. but Yahoo may be pushing for an acquisition. To me, both sides need the search deal to create a meaningful competitor to Google. Microsoft reports earnings on Thursday.
According to Neilsen, these are the Top 10 Search Providers for April 2009 (US Only). Based on our internal online advertising experience, we have found that as we purchase ads from lower ranking sources, the quality decreases and bounce rate increases.
|RANK||Provider||Searches (000)||YOY Growth||%of all Searches|
|3||MSN/Windows Live Search||852,998||7.20%||9.90%|
|6||My Web Search Search||59,110||3.60%||0.70%|
|8||Yellow Pages Search||37,160||N/A*||0.40%|
Source: Nielsen MegaView Search
*A year-over-year comparison is not possible because of a definitional change to yellow Pages Search.
According to comScore’s April 2009 rankings, here is the list of top Ad Networks.
Niche Ad Networks Emerge for Audience-Specific Targeting
As ad networks have expanded reach, a new networks surface that are targeted to pyschographics or behavioral segements. The reach of these new ad networks are small by comparison to the above list but they are highly targeted which helps advertisers reduce wasted ad impressions.
- For example, Snap Shots Network, delivers ads to users of Snap.com’s Snap Shots. The network reached more than 18 million U.S. Internet users in March.
- Widgetbucks Network delivers contextually relevant ads through a widget, with a reach of 9.5 million.
- NeoEdge Game Network, delivers ads through games, had a reach of nearly 1 million.
- HispanoClick by Batanga (Hispanics)
- Indieclick (young influencers or “tastemakers”)
- The Heavy Men’s Network (men).
|Selected Niche Ad Networks
Total U.S. – Home/Work/University Locations
Source: comScore Media Metrix
Independent if you are buying PPC text-based advertising or display media via an Ad Network, targeting is critical. Reply! offers precise geo-targeted and category-specific Enhanced Clicks and also provides the added benefit of equalizing quality by running consumers through a two-click process. If you are actively enaged in purchasing advertising online, check out our solution, quality and conversion metrics. We would love to hear from you once you do.
Cost-per-click (CPC) advertising is the lifeblood of our business. We recently began testing CPC advertising across a variety of search engines and ad networks, and we immediately noticed a lower quality of traffic as compared to Google and Yahoo. Specifically, landing page bounce rates are considerably worse on ad networks and low-tier search engines.
With any acquisition source, bounce rates serve as a great measurement of traffic quality, or the ability to accurately geo-target consumers. If a high percentage of consumers hits the back button immediately upon reaching our landing page, it indicates we’re attracting (and paying for) consumers who didn’t intend to see our offering. More importantly, a higher bounce rate means fewer clicks have the opportunity to convert on page two, which diminishes the revenue opportunity.
For clicks that don’t abandon our landing page, conversion rates on page two are comparable across all sources (SEM, SEO, display, e-mail, affiliates). This means the value of a consumer who reaches page two of our conversion funnel is equal across all sources (we use “net clicks” to define traffic that moves to page two). Net clicks are important to measure because the cost of a net click accounts for abandonment rates and allows for a fair cost comparison across all traffic sources. The data below shows how gross CPC and abandonment rates factor into the cost of a net click.
Ask.com is one of the search engines we recently began testing. As compared to the bigger search engines, our bounce rates with Ask.com are considerably higher, but the gross CPC is lower, causing the cost-per-net-click to be equal. In this case, high abandonment rates are tolerable because the gross CPC is low enough to offset the influx of abandoned clicks.
We’re also exploring AOL, Miva, 7search, ADSDAQ, MarchEx, Right Media, Value Click, Quigo, Avenue A, and a suite of ad networks offering CPC advertising. Abandonment rates are high across most of these sources, but only some of the sources offer a CPC low enough to meet our cost-per-net-click targets. For the most part, the revenue opportunity across these sources isn’t high enough to justify the cost of account management, bid management, and analytics tracking.
High abandonment rates, coupled with the inability to accurately geo-target, makes spending profitably on ad networks and low-tier search engines nearly impossible for small and local advertisers. Some of the sources work for us because we can buy nationwide traffic, we’ve invested heavily in landing page optimization, and we have a team dedicated to evaluating new media sources and managing the accounts. Most companies cannot invest this depth of resources, causing them to miss out on a significant volume of traffic across a unique blend of web properties.
We provide online marketing services to small and local advertisers, and we recently began selling geo-targeted net clicks to our clients. A net click that is geo-targeted is called an “Enhanced Click,” and Enhanced Clicks convert better for our clients than their traditional traffic sources. By eating the abandonment traffic and delivering clicks in precise geographic locations, we allow local advertisers to reach consumers across a span of web properties that have historically been too cost-prohibitive to manage.
Buying Enhanced Clicks avoids the costs of SEM account management, and it ensures an even quality of traffic, regardless of advertising source. We’ve seen almost no attrition across buyers of Enhanced Clicks since we began testing, and we’re confident this quality of traffic can’t be beaten. This offering is currently available for car dealers (new cars) and real estate agents (home buyers, home sellers), and we’ll be offering Enhanced Clicks for a variety of new verticals in 2009. Visit the Reply.com home page for more information about the Reply! Click Marketplace.
According to CNNMoney.com, nearly 20% of home sales in 2008 came from foreclosed homes, with another 11% coming from short sales. What’s even scarier is the fact that home values dropped more in the fourth quarter of 2008 than they did in all of 2007. As the presence of foreclosures on the market increases, the online buzz surrounding foreclosed homes follows closely.
As a company providing online real estate information, we measure the interest of home buyers across our portfolio of consumer acquisition sources. We’ve recently seen a drastic shift in the behavior of potential home buyers–more and more buyers are searching for foreclosures, and are showing less interest in “normal” home listings. Search queries for keywords such as “bank foreclosures” and “foreclosed homes for sale” have skyrocketed across the major search engines since Q4 of 2007.
Our marketing team first got a taste of the foreclosure buzz in late 2007. We had been targeting home buyers via search engine marketing for years, with foreclosure keywords representing a very small percentage of our traffic. When Yahoo ran a news story on their homepage highlighting an uptick in foreclosure listings and a reduction in home values, we quickly saw a shift in the interest of potential home buyers. For context, we were bidding on the keyword “foreclosed homes for sale” and went from spending roughly $50-per-day on Yahoo to more than $8,000 in three hours. The shift was quick, it was powerful, and it has sustained for well over one year.
Both sides of the foreclosure crisis are feeling the impact, but to varying degrees. Foreclosures have brought hardship to many families, forcing them to explore more affordable geographies while watching their home equity vanish. But for a new wave of home buyers, foreclosures represent an opportunity to acquire homes at prices that were inconceivable just two years ago.
Our goal, as we provide an online marketing solution to real estate professionals, is to acquire consumers with the highest likelihood of completing a real estate transaction. We’re interested to see where the real estate market will turn in 2009, and we’ll continue to monitor the intent of home buyers and sellers in an effort to provide the highest quality clicks and leads to our network of real estate agents.