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Last week during the Interactive Local Media conference, search marketing company Kenshoo launched a new division to tackle the challenging but opportunistic area of local. I spent some time talking with division head Sivan Metzger both on and off the stage.

For one thing, Metzger acknowledges that the company’s move into local is telling of the size of the opportunity. Previously the company has thrived as a leader in SEM tools for large enterprise clients such as Zappos. Increasingly, though, it’s seeing a need to serve these clients with better tools to manage local SEM campaigns.

This comes with sizable challenges of managing different geographic keywords, and targeting lots of different geographies. Managing sometimes thousands of locations or franchises for enterprise clients is also a well documented challenge.  Kenshoo’s toolset, as far as I could tell from a demo, simplifies this process with the automated “on-boarding” that is a core feature of the platform.

From the release

In addition to facilitating the bridging of the gap between small businesses, agency efficiencies of scale and on-line marketing, and unlike other solutions in the market, KENSHOO Local provides advanced campaign conversion optimization capabilities based upon both clicks and calls, in tandem with hyper-local targeting down to cities, neighborhoods, postal codes etc.

This move into local also has possibilities beyond better serving its existing enterprise client base. It could come with the opportunity to move down market into SMB and mid-market segments as the release implies. This would likely come with the help of channel partners.

But for now, the focus seems to be on the important “national-local” space — something that’s growing in importance with evolving user search behavior to look for and expect information about where to find, see or buy specific products locally.  Good data and distribution in the hands of national advertisers is a vital first step.

The Kenshoo Local launch comes with the full backing of existing blue chip investor Sequoia, and from Michael Moritz himself. The announcement was coupled with a cash infusion of an undisclosed amount.

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