Sensis works overtime on small business search engine

Popular search engines Google, Yahoo and ninemsn now have a new rival: Telstra’s sensis.com.au.

The Sensis launch on Tuesday came at the end of six months of development.

The technology platform was built by IT service provider Fast Search & Transfer International.

Sensis search general manager Greg Ellis said the Sensis search strategy differs from its competitors in that it will be direct, deep, locally relevant and will span across the Internet, telephone and eventually wireless.

Sensis.com.au will use its own Yellow and White pages, the recently acquired Trading Post Group and other Web sites in its search engine.

Sensis claim that through the use of meta tagging each and every single aspect of its directories, it will provide local results for simple keyword searches. The results will come with maps, business opening hours and contact details.

Sensis plan to launch wireless products and services later in the year.

“We have launched our telephone search service 1234 and now our Internet search service. This means we will be able to offer businesses the chance to advertise over all of these mediums. It also means we will be able to offer users the information they need wherever they are, whether that information be over PC, mobile phone or hand-held device,” said Ellis.

The good news for smaller businesses, Sensis claims, is that even if they do not have a Web site they can now have an online presence. Simply by being listed in the Yellow Pages, a small business will now be included in a search term at sensis.com.au. This will not cost the business any extra money.

Advertisers can pay extra for what Sensis calls ‘priority placements’ in their search results. There is also a ‘bidding’ system where advertisers can ‘buy’ keywords through an auction model.

The top three results in a Sensis search will be paid results, highlighted as ‘featured listings’.

“We’ve integrated the paid-for results, because our research shows that to be more effective than putting them as side-bar advertisements,” said Sensis national sales manager Robbie Hills.

Ellis admits that pulling customers away from Google and Yahoo could be challenging.

“We’re not approaching this as though it will be easy. It’s not.

“But I challenge my competitors to deliver a product that is as locally relevant and direct as ours,” he said.

Mel Bohse, the managing director of Yahoo subsidiary Overture, said she plans to do just that.

Overture will release its LocalMatch Australia product later this year. It will be similar to the US version released two weeks ago.

Like the Sensis search product, it will provide local deep information to users and enable smaller businesses to have an online presence without a Web site.

“We will create a ‘locater page’ for small businesses to which they will be linked instead of a Web site. It will simply contain the business contact details, opening hours and a map giving directions.”

“The Australian public are not driven purely by multi-million dollar advertising campaigns. They want a good and reliable product. If Sensis can offer that, they deserve a slice of the commercial market, but we are yet to see.”

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