Advertising networks are becoming web hosts in an attempt to provide a fulfillment destination for click advertising. Bringing more businesses online provides a destination for online advertisements from small businesses such as plumbers and restaurants creating new destinations for local searches. Microsoft and Yahoo! already offer free hosting for businesses and other advertising dependent businesses such as Google, Amazon, or eBay are likely not far behind.
What if every pizzeria in town had a website? Local searches suddenly become more interesting, with multiple pizzerias competing for your next purchase with a text advertisement on large search networks.
Yahoo! offers a free website for any small business. Microsoft just announced Office Live, a service that will match Yahoo!’s offering and add extra features such as group tools and business e-mail. Yahoo! offers a premium listing upsell for $10 a month and Microsoft’s upsells are still unannounced.
eBay currently offers paid web hosting through ProStores but I would not be surprised if they offered a free version of the service to attract more merchant offerings on Shopping.com or listings on eBay auctions. I am currently unaware of any Google web hosting option.
Cost Per Call: Bridging the Gap
Getting small businesses online will not be an easy task but everyone still has a telephone to receive sales leads. Local advertising networks will continue to develop cost per call advertising to connect to these businesses regardless of their online presence. eBay will integrate Skype into its lead generation services, Yahoo! will integrate Dialpad, and Microsoft has already demonstrated its Windows Live Call service integration with local listings.
That’s where I think small business advertising is headed.