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In about a year, Yahoo! alone launched services that hunt for videos, pictures, travel deals, local information, and even files buried in your desktop hard drive.
But the future could be specialized sites, many of which are adding their own tricks to finding information on the Web.
OBTW: Here this post sits, on the frontpage, and it's looking kind of lonely from the POV of people piling on their additions, analysis, questions, etc. That I find rather interesting. Such a large and looming issue. So much "okay . . so . . "?
Y'all ought to spend some time hanging out with Justin Sanger (Chicago) and Jake Baile (Baked_Jake) as they are visionaries in the realm of local search and you are fortunate to have them passing out hints concerning where you should look to focus some effort in the next 12 months. Mucho $ waiting in the wings to pour into local online. Post up your questions, comments and concerns while you have them still hanging around here. I suspect both will be retired to their yachts in the next 12-24 months. (I've alread applied to be keg boy on their yachts. "Keg boy, go hook up another keg! Company is coming!")
People will get into it, but I don't think their is a lot of money to be made, even by G and Y, outside of the top 25 markets.
Here's a bit of history.
I used to pay the local yellowpages ~$25,000/year for leads for my law firm. I bought based upon following the herd. I bought based upon statistics. I bought because ads in the local newspaper were comparatively expensive. I bought because a yp ad was a "once done, keeps on working" thing, and so on.
Of course, I wasn't the only one buying yp ads and that was a fact that kept getting shoved up my nose: "Hey, Webwork, law firm X is now buying "double truck" (2 page) ads. That means their firm will be listed first in the yp. So, if you want to keep up . . " I knew people with 6 figure yp budgets.
Interesting thing: In my last year of yp advertising I paid ~$25K for leads that were worth about $30K, so at some point I was mostly working to pay for the ads.
Then I discovered the www and gave thought to geotargeting by domain name . . and search engines.
Cost of 25 domains: $250/year. Allocated share of a colo server: $1350/year. Value of leads in the first year? $$$,$$$. Very nice. 1/10 the cost for 5 times the value of the leads. (Ssshhhh, don't tell anyone.)
So, I was doing local search before local search became widely known as local search: By geotargeted domains (nice, localized type-ins), by assisting search engines to help them help distant people finding a local lawyer, and by employing those lovely geoprofession descriptive domains in tiny inexpensive ads - since anyone with a pc could easily remember the website name and find out more online.
Okay, now that's old news.
Now, I'm into a new mode of local search, still geotargeting by domain, but casting a bit of a wider net.
Final bit of advice: What's the guidance that you read in this forum, over and over again, usually posted up by the old bulls (and dare I say old cows?) :) Runs and hides
Diversify. Think of local as one more revenue stream in the building of your cash flow river, feeding into your cash flow reservoir.
I have no doubt that given another 6-12 months, TrueLocal will live up to its name.
Webwork, with your domains, keg boy is beneath you.
YP industry is 15 billion a year which dwarfs what Search currently represents. The migration is starting from users and slowly but surely advertisers.
To kirby's point:
You've got it. That problem is being solved and the collective group of providers is pushing the issue. There will be a tipping point in the future (maybe 12 mo - maybe 24) where the data quality, aggregation, and dissemination is such that the utility is truly there for many properties....then watch out.
I can go to yp.yahoo.com and get 10X more comprehensive results than I can get at TrueLocal.
So why would consumers want to use it? And if users don't use it, advertisers won't advertise there.
I mean, I just used the TrueLocal for the first time and if I was a "normal" consumer I would never return.
They provide the same thing as 100s of other sites, and most of the big yp sites provide better results. What am I missing here?
Currently the site ranks above the companies own websites on 1000s of searches and can get instant rankings on most small business names or local categories, even outside it's own national reach.
There is HUGE potential, it simply needs teh right kind of SE friendly software...
when Google suffices the user needs
When is that? What needs?
(taking off my TrueLocal hat)
TL and other startup local search engines have significant advantages over the big search guys who are getting into it. With the exception of Yahoo (we'll have to come back to them later), I don't think LS is a priority for the big guys. Mostly, because LS is hard to monetize. It's not self service at all, and it doesn't scale.
The little guys are innovating right now at a very fast pace.
Our own Chicago has said time and time again that the YPs are something to fear. But they don't always have the technical ability. So there's a market there for backend turnkey solutions (a la Local Matters).
Oh, yeah, you mean you want features other than your basic name, rank, serial number? How many times can you make the same cool map go round and round?
I had drinks last night with a few of the MSN Local guys. One of them asked me where I see things going - typical big picture question. All I could say is "Great Plains, Small Business Server" over and over and over again. It was the only thing coming through my mouth.
But they're not leading the small business accounting world. Guess who is? Oh, yeah, QuickBooks. Hey, wait, didn't Intuit just lauch a local search site? Look at all the negative reviews they're getting... "just another LS site"... "nothing to write home about"...
Wait until realtime inventory is implemented. Intuit already has the technology infrastructure built for on demand communication of financial needs - why not go to inventory? It wouldn't be hard.
So now we have inventory data. Google wants to do that too, but MS will never partner with them.
How about Yahoo? Yahoo wants to own commerce on the Internet.
And, you still have 60% of the folks who own a high-speed internet connection but still go back to the yellow pages, mostly because they never thought to look on the Internet for what they need. Weird.
Oh, and someone still has to provide data to all of these people. Who's going to do that? And don't say "The Yellow Pages". Because there is hundreds in the US alone. And the directory companies don't sell their data.
Google is not it in this space. They are a player, but there is a lot more to be done.
won't truelocals become the Vivisimo's
Ask Jeeves sold for $2 billion.
I just used the TrueLocal for the first time and if I was a "normal" consumer I would never return.
I'm sorry you had a negative experience. I could lie to you and say we're perfect and we have no work to do, but we do. We have a tremendous amount of work to do, and I spend 18-20 hours a day doing it. So do 25 of the hardest working people I know.
But I have a lot more work to do. So does everyone else.
Things get better every day in this space.
While everyone is loudly blogging and harping on and on about AJAX, a few of us are quietly building an empire.
Who here knew that the yellow pages was a $20 billion/year business?
what is their angle?
(putting TL hat back on)
One of my senior developers reminds me often of an old tactic in academia. You see, a good amount of scientific breakthroughs come from graduate students.
A professor will give an assignment to a grad student that the professor and the rest of the scientific community know is impossible.
But, the grad students, often unaware of the negative stigma, will find ways to solve the problem.
You said the little guys innovating right now at a very fast pace. Without giving away any trade secrets, can you give me an example of what you mean? You must mean in relation to data collection?
Obviously if you can get every mom and pop shop to provide with you "extra" info about their business and post it on their own little page, that's great. But it seems one would need to get a majority of them setup to make really useful, and how realistic is that?
Your final comment about the grad students is certainly true in a lot of cases. But what is the huge "problem" you face? Is gathering data on local businesses THAT hard?
[edited by: limitup at 4:38 pm (utc) on Nov. 30, 2005]
Are you saying that eventually your goal is for TL to have more data on more local businesses than established yellow page sites?
Is gathering data on local businesses THAT hard?
Name, address, phone number, no, that's not hard.
Beyond that, it gets harder.
You must mean in relation to data collection?
Yes, that's where the innovation happens in this industry. It's a data war - who can get the most information the fastest.
[edited by: bakedjake at 4:39 pm (utc) on Nov. 30, 2005]
Having said all that I again have to ask the question - how do the True Locals of the world intend to get a better dataset for 50 states when they have problems with 1 community.
I still believe that it can only be done "locally" and the yellow pages will eventially get close but because they are not "local" 12 months a year and they will over price themselves as they do in print there will always be ways around them. I just don't believe it can be done well nationally unless it is a network of small sites worked locally and consolidated into a national site but I don't see how you make any money at that.
I just don't believe it can be done well nationally unless it is a network of small sites worked locally and consolidated into a national site but I don't see how you make any money at that.
That's sort of the approach that local.yahoo is taking.
Also, Citysearch has been doing that for years.
Overall we are as close as you can get to an up to date directory.
Are you selling your data? If not, why not?
Moderator Hat: Let's try to keep this as a generalized industry discussion. limitup and dh3325, you guys have both brought up good points about differentiation and data collection, so let's continue down that road but from an industry perspective.
If you approach the problem from the perspective of one vertical at a time, it makes it much more manageable. I can get relevant metadata about golf courses from a few sources and have a pretty comprehensive search built.
But you have about 400 meaningful local consumer categories. So it's a slow process.
More and more I think we'll find specialized vertical sites being eaten up by the local players.
how realistic is it to get a huge number of these small shops on board?
To what you said eariler, it's very realistic if you're the Yellow Pages. With the feet on the street that they have, it's not hard to collect a few extra attributes from each business when they buy their ad every year.
But, there's hundreds of yellow pages directories in the US alone. So the challenege is to aggregate all of that data. Even Dex, in the western US, needs data from someone else for the eastern US. So the yellow pages find themselves in the same boat as everyone else.
But the future could be specialized sites, many of which are adding their own tricks to finding information on the Web. Nye's site, www.truelocal.com, starts by scouring databases of local storefronts and then scans the Internet for more details.
Is this something that is going on behind the scenes, but is not really implemented on the site? No matter what I search for on TL I "only" see name, address, phone number and a link to their website if they have one. So what is the above paragraph from the article referring to? Where are the "more details"?
As far as selling my data, while I am open to anything, it seems that taking a dataset that I work very hard on and selling it to someone who basically wants to compete with me is not a very good business plan. Having said that I am open to offers.
Seriously, I am not trying to belittle the national sites, heck, I know what it takes to do mine. I am just curious how to make it work, as any insight I can get from the national level can only help what I do.
By the way I have been at it for 4+ years and I am in the middle of redesigning my site and site functions to improve what I offer and I can say this, I spend alot more money than I make on this but I am starting to finally see some movement on the local level. I have a couple people on the street all the time selling my print products and updating the online and we are starting to see some interest in the online as a separate advertising choice.
I will add this as a simple observation. Several years age we designed a local garage sale site. In doing it I looked at alot of sites that were national in scale just doing garage sale and I kept wondering how they planned to roll out something that simple on a national scale. When I look back now every single one of them is gone. Apparently no one figured it out.
Is this something that is going on behind the scenes, but is not really implemented on the site?
Yeah, we have a lot more data than what's implemented on the site. That'll change very soon.
it seems that taking a dataset that I work very hard on and selling it to someone who basically wants to compete with me is not a very good business plan.
And you'd be right. My question was attempting to make a point: There are better datasources out there from companies not willing to sell. Unfortunately, those sources don't have the publicity resources of the major players.
But, when you consider you business plan, you have to ask yourself if you think a major player will eventually catch up to you. Which you seem to be thinking about already:
How do the national sites plan on improving their data to the point it is useful to the end user and how do you make any money at it?
Refine the data mining operations, partner deals, etc. You make money by selling it.
The local data industry is very incestuous.
One thing we don't talk about is margin for error. Data in the local space runs between 80-90% accuracy when it is produced. But many players don't update often enough. Data in the local space erodes extremely quickly - we see about a 33% change rate in the basefile every 6 months. That's a lot of businesses opening and closing!
Often, in the rush for new features, we (as an industry) forget about data. But, as this thread shows, it's vitally important.
As far as the other players, I wish them well but I have yet to have a discussion where someone can explain how they plan to make it work. And thats ok as everyone has their ideas and plans and I wish them all well. It makes it interesting to see each new and better directory and yet the information always seems to have the same flaws.
I certainly don't have the answers but I will say this. As the talk seems to be about the print yellow pages migrating to online we are in the midst of preparing to launch a new print yellow pages product in a couple of communities that will be far and above the quality of the conventional books (glossy paper, all color ads) at appox 1/4 the ad price as the big boys and we are finding in our initial market research that most of the businesses in our area are still committed to the print books but want better quality with less cost. They are interested in the web but for the most part I don't see them spending alot of time to get listed unless someone comes through their door that can explain it and do it for them. Not a web site or anything fancy, even a simple listing they don't want to bother with which is why we don't bother with self serve. I have someone who's job it is to enter our data and follow up with our listing customers.
[edited by: limitup at 5:49 pm (utc) on Nov. 30, 2005]
Oh, for the old days when there was one yellow page book and all we did was send them lots of money for an ugly ad. We did not have to make all these decisions. See what technology is doing to us. (Can you say paperless office?)
And Jake, just so you know, earlier when I said as a consumer I wouldn't use your site, I only meant as it is now based on the fact that I can get all the same info you currently provide at any other YP site. Obviously when you implement the stuff you're working on now, that would probably change. Very intriguing stuff ...
And you are right that eventually businesses will sign up because everyone else is doing it but even them I bet not more than 30-40% will and even that is probably 5 years away.
If I sound down on Local Search I apologize. I am not really, I just get tired of reading stories about the next great idea or way of doing things only to see the same lousy data. What we need is a realistic discussion on how to improve the data in the short term and how to maintain a reliable data stream in the future. What is happening now is that people are reading about Local Search in the mainstream media, thay rush out to look at the sites mentioned and see the same old thing and then my company comes in to list them in our "accurate" manually compliled yellow pages and they could care less. If we are going to get the press at least lets be ralistic about the data and come up with something that actually works. Right now I believe the only way to do it is to key the print yellow pages and then constantly update the data manually. I know some of the data providers say they do it but their info is not really any better and it is very costly. I would like to see someone with a better idea that show it works rather than talk about whats in the pipeline or how they have a new algorithem coming or something else. Lets see something that works so we can take advantage of the press and the increased interest in "Local Search"