Massively Hyperlocal Ad Network

During the boom, some entrepreneur registered (or tried to) all the zip codes in America,,, in 1999, domain name registration cost $35 per name. Domain names have once again become a land grab business - Financial Times mentions that even the misspelled domain recently sold for $242,000 .

Tipped by Search Engine Land, Marchex (a company I'm not familiar with) announced yesterday the simultaneous launch of 100,000 local websites with generic domain names,, and some higher end American zip codes, like The company had gone on a $164 million domain name buying spree last year (imagine having the job of purchasing 100,000 domains).

The example websites I perused (listed above) rank local hotels, veterinarians, etc. by aggregating relevant reviews from different sites like Citysearch and Insiderpages. Its current revenue model is nothing more than selling Yahoo sponsored ads.

A Brilliant Ad Network Strategy

The strategy behind the 100,000 sites is what I'll call a massive ad network based on the ubiquitous search engine model. On Monday ("Google Maps + Reviews = killer") , I discussed how Google has positioned GoogleMaps as a review site mashup utilized for rating restaurants and other neighborhood businesses. When a business icon is clicked, Google Maps presents a search engine results page of reviews for the business that links to Yelp and other review sites. I posit that Google Maps (upon which users can also add their own reviews) has become a competitor to Yelp, and is actually in the downstream position as the "map-based search site" for a user looking for, say, a restaurant in their neighborhood. This is a powerful position, it's the first stop and closer to the user... it's the same position occupies in any search (diagram below)

Marchex's strategy is to position their 100,000 sites to rank highly in Google, Yahoo and other search engines for common search terms like "Bay Area Hotels", "San Francisco Veterinarians". Note that these domain names are generally comprised of a locale (San Francisco) and a category (veterinarians), so the domain name itself is essentially a "search engine optimized" keyword. Google directs the querying user to Marchex's hyperlocal review site for its focus topical theme, which in turn directs the user to actual reviews at Citysearch and other review sites. The eventual hope is users will adopt the Marchex site by contributing their own reviews and generating content, but even if it doesn't build consumer traction, the site will still be a part of the traffic pipeline between consumer and review content (diagram below).

Finally, the potential for mutually linking the sites together and creating a hierarchy of "portal" sites based both on category and locale is intriguing for search engine optimization purposes. Marchex also plans to position their "uber-search engine" as the first search stop to directing traffic to their 100,000 local site ad network.

Can the same "ubiquitous" model be extended to real estate?

Real estate listings sites have their "Marchex" counterparts - there are literally thousands of listings sites with names like and Note both these sites have the same template because they and 1,000+ more are owned by The sites cover localities across America and the business model is lead generation focused on relocation referrals. BetterHomesUSA doesn't seem to be as sophisticated as Marchex as evidenced by a cryptic post on an abandoned BetterHomesUSA blog that tries to explain their value proposition.

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  • 6/28/2007 2:08 PM Rob Beland wrote:
    What are the odds that you will be back posting in the future about Google's acquisition of Marchex or some other company with similar domain name feeding frenzy plans...

    Google could basically take over the entire food chain from the top down
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  • 6/29/2007 5:20 AM Karl Lingenfelder wrote:
    I think these types of tactics are bound to be defeated by the search engines as quality search results are essential to the SE's business models.

    --- Karl Lingenfelder
    Reply to this

  • 6/29/2007 10:35 PM Jaunesk wrote:
    Of late, I receive many email from amny intenet gurus proposing investing in Virtual Real estate. i.e. registered domain name and later sold it for a profit, will this be the new flipping strategy for Online business?

    Just curious and contemplating.

    Thansk for your visit.

    Reply to this

  • 7/6/2007 10:46 AM Agent Scoreboard wrote:
    WHAT THE DUECE? How did I miss this post... I'm going to have to read your blog more closely or fine you for not proving more descriptive titles.

    Its funny that you talking about "hyper local", I just had a pitch from a company that is quietly buying danm near a million domain names for individual address, like I almosted laughed at what they are doing until, I read this post.

    good post!
    Reply to this

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