Case Study: Optimizing Resources


Local.com, a newcomer in the local search category, had managed to climb to the #3 ranking in the space. However, the company was struggling with significant issues: their paid search efforts were yielding a -65% ROI, and they had virtually no organic traffic. I was brought on board to turn this situation around.

Upon my arrival, I identified several critical challenges. The first major issue was that the home page was designed as a form, similar to Google’s homepage, which meant there was no static content available for search engine spiders to index. Consequently, the site could not achieve any meaningful presence in search engine results.

The second challenge lay in the site’s overall design. It was built around form posts, cookies, and sessions, which prevented users from bookmarking or linking to specific content. Even if the first problem were resolved, this architectural flaw would still hinder the site’s usability and shareability.

On the paid search front, Local.com was heavily reliant on revenue generated through traffic arbitrage. This involved purchasing traffic from search engines and selling it back at a marginally higher rate—a strategy that is inherently challenging to execute. The difficulty was compounded by the fact that the existing keyword set consisted largely of combinations of dictionary words and locations that were not necessarily monetizable.

Additionally, the search engines imposed restrictions to combat arbitrage, including a limitation of 1000 tracking codes to cover millions of purchased keywords, and prohibiting unique revenue tracking per page. This severely limited our ability to accurately attribute and optimize revenue.


To address these challenges, I collaborated closely with the technology team to make several critical changes. We replaced cookies, sessions, and form parameters with URL parameters, enabling search engines to crawl and index our content. We also implemented URL rewrites to create more search engine-friendly structures.

Next, I conducted extensive keyword research to identify the most popular and profitable business types. Based on this research, we built a comprehensive site map that joined these business categories with local geographies. This structured approach enabled us to create content that was both relevant and discoverable.

Working directly with Google, I overhauled our keyword strategy. We scrapped the existing keyword list and started fresh, focusing on profitable business categories and overlaying them with local geographies to build a robust and comprehensive keyword list. I developed a custom taxonomy based on a subset of Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) codes and locales, mapping this taxonomy into our limited set of 1000 tracking codes.

By tracking inbound links and correlating them with our custom taxonomy, we could indirectly allocate revenue to specific keywords based on search engine reports. This innovative approach allowed us to efficiently manage and optimize our keyword strategy despite the constraints.

“We made considerable progress in local search during 2006, ending the year as a Top 100 website. Our organic traffic nearly doubled, and visits per user grew.”

– Heath Clarke – CEO, Local.com


The implementation of these strategies led to a significant turnaround for Local.com. Revenue per 1000 pages more than tripled, increasing from $8 to $29. Repeat visitors surged by 50%, and PPC traffic grew tenfold. Organic traffic also doubled, demonstrating the effectiveness of our SEO efforts. For the first time, the ROI from paid search turned positive, reaching an impressive 35%.

Through strategic reengineering of both the site architecture and keyword strategy, we were able to transform Local.com’s online presence, driving substantial growth in both traffic and revenue. The results underscored the importance of a well-structured, data-driven approach to digital marketing and site optimization, and cemented Local.com’s position as a formidable player in the local search market.

About Local.com

Founded in 1999 as Interchange by Heath Clarke, Local.com is a local search marketplace powered by its patented KeywordDNA technology.

Interchange filed its IPO in 2004 and purchased Local.com in 2005. By 2006, they were one of the top 5 local search companies.


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