Friday, September 28, 2007

Local search kills online yellow pages

The online yellow pages sites: SuperPages, YellowPages, and CitySearch depend on user reach for their livelihood. In contract to social engines like Yelp which strive for page views; yellow page business advertisers expect high degree of reach, meaning exposure to a wide audience.

The problem is that the daily reach of internet yellow page sites has been consistently decreasing for over the past year.

Slow Death
Google Kills Yellow Pages
As I found before, the term yellow pages is dying in terms of consumer awareness. As well, the actual traffic to the internet yellow page sites is suffering. The writing was on the wall when Google Local first was launch, but the downward took effect when Google Local Ads were made available - allowing our company to place over 1,200 local business listings nearly overnight. The death nail was delivered with the inclusion of local business information in Google search results. Since Google introduced these features, a progressive downward slope has continued. It seems that as users have found the local business information in their search engine, the have weaned off of the traditional yellow page sites. Considering that over 81% of users start their internet experience at the search engine, I would expect to see the IYPs this pattern to continue.

Am I Stuck?
If you are a yellow pages advertiser, consider this like you would a stock ticker. There will not be a rebound or a valuable acquisition, so take a deep breath, get out of those contracts and get out while you can! If they try to hold your feet to the fire on a contract, I would be quick to point out that their product has lost over 50% of its reach in one year; perhaps you should even get a refund.

While there are multiple outlets for online advertising, search is the most effective and delivers the highest return on investment. The sooner you focus on Google, the better - having a long-standing history is beneficial for getting a tri-fecta, placed with higher ranking in Google Maps, Web results as well as Sponsored Placement.

About the Author
David Rodecker is President of RelevantAds, a service that gets local businesses online through local search. RelevantAds provides highly targeted search placement and advertising packages for small to medium size businesses and franchises across the United States.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Google Maps vs. Yellow pages, users have decided

The writing has been on the wall for years, Yellow pages is loosing place in the market. There have been surveys, speculations and studies, but here is a clear indication that users are taking notice.

Yellow Pages Loosing Brand Identification
If you haven't used it already, Google Trends is a nifty tool to view and compare the historical popularity of search terms. Here is a comparison of Google Maps (blue), Yellow pages (orange) and SuperPages (red):

Yellow Pages Google Trends
Keep in mind that Google Maps was rebranded in April 2006 (from Google Local) and users shouldn't really need to search for the term anyway since it is already linked in the local results as well as above the Google search box.
Yellow pages could as well be entered into the URL, but we know that 41% of internet users typing in a query to locate a website, rather than entering that name into the address bar (from DoubleClick/Harris Interactive).
Nevertheless, the trend is clear users Google Maps is taken over in brand penetration over Yellow pages. The yellow page brands such as Yellow book and Superpages aren't even close and moving in the same downward direction as the general term "yellow pages".

Search is Key Distribution
Google Property Popularity
Yellow page companies are not receiving enough user visible for their product make the jump online, however they still have a chance to deliver a viable product to their customers. How? Distribution through search engines. Google Maps is the largest growing section within the Google properties, growing over 20% in the last month according to Hitwise internet traffic sampling. Rather than spiting the competition, they will have to embrace, partner, and resell sponsored coverage in order to get results.

Advertising End Game
If only it as simple as writing a check to Google. Equally impressive as the Google Search algorithm is the AdWords marketplace. There are many dimensions in tailoring campaigns, monitoring and managing them to deliver effectively. Individual businesses either hire an online advertising specialist or spend hours managing it themselves; it takes uber technology powerhouse to properly manage 1000's of search marketing campaigns in scale.

RHDonneley has already acquired
a search optimization/marketing firm specializing in local listing and I'd expect to see others taking similar courses of action. Print media companies are concerned that buy working closely with Google that they will be ultimately marginalized by the advertising giant. Ultimately, though, they provide something that Google doesn't: reach. While Google is the brand name of users, advertisers are much more aware and trusting of their local newspaper, Chamber of Commerce, network or organization. Packaging, selling and delivering a simplified online advertising service to offline companies is the land grab opportunity at stake.