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I have a small business with a strong presence in the search engines. Essentially I have #1 rankings for a large number of long tail phrases associated with my business service in 3 regions, Maryland, DC, and Virginia.
We are redundant in that we run a lot of effective ppc on both regional terms for the industry and popular generic industry terms (which we show on a regional basis.
Thirdly we have found effective link sources, including local and topical sources.
IYP trails all of this as a source of visits and conversions.
Is IYP working for you? If so, how is it working?
Most of the important IYPs have been selling for a long time.
The inventory is unique. It is largely category and fixed placement.
What this means is that for some, the IYP buy is a significant source of productivity, they would pay anything to keep their position. IYPs are disproportionate. Of course category selection, geography and the right IYP to begin with comes into play.
But this conversation is better served as a tactical one. For example we have had many conversations here about IYP and SERPs (ridding coattails). Enhanced profiles in light of migration of IYP to pure local search. Footprint directing your IYP buy, etc.
Tracking is the biggest issue for me. IMO, tracking clicks from IYP is pointless, and using tracking phone numbers fouls everything. What to do?
Some of my coveted categories are pretty competitive in both PYP and IYP. I'm amazed at how easy it is to dominate the SERPs, while the IYPs are congested with paid placements.
My experience is that it isn't effective vis a vis bang for the buck. High serps, high ppc, and effective serps coverage for the phrases that would show up in the categories that IYP would cover seem to do the trick.
I am starting to see some of the "Local Profile" sites and I am wondering what peoples experience is with these profiles. We are just starting a new push to create a standard listing with much of the same info as these profiles for all 12000 businesses in our market so we have a core set of info on all of the businesses which we can then begin to upgrade. The "Local Profile" sites I have seen range from $30 a month to $499 which seems like a lot of money unless it works.
Many small businesses don't need websites. What they need is standardized business information that can easily communicate to a potential customer the information necessary to make a decision.
Also, we've seen good results from IYPs. Often the website is an authority within a YP footprint, and there's a lot of type in traffic and authority where the users of that area trust their yellow pages online the same why they would by opening the phone book.
[edited by: eWhisper at 2:42 pm (utc) on Aug. 19, 2006]
Smartpages, Superpages, Dex, yellowpages.com, etc.
I'm working on compiling a list of the incumbents and their territories as I would expect local businesses advertising in the incumbent directories to convert better than any other local offering.
I will post that list here as soon as I finish.
There was a noticable number of searches for phrases like Yellow pages, White pages, etc. but that was clearly in the minority.
Most of the visits were for different types of businesses, entities in regions where it looked like the different Yps would turn up fairly high in the AOL serps.
In that my serps for local phrases outrank the different IYP's for virtually any phrase in my region, I'm not oriented toward them, BUT, I see how they can work for endless small business operators.
Despite that, though, if you are one of 12 different businesses paying for IYP, your business will rank relative to the "type" of IYP ad/listing one wants.
I think a small business operator should look hard at alternatives.
If you look at local users for Denver (which is in the Dex footprint), you'll see that Dexonline is one of the top local destinations online.
However, if you were to look at Dallas (home of SuperPages), you'll find a different set of authority (and referrer) sites.
So, when analyzing traffic from IYPs, are you looking at it across all searches, or just searches from within the areas they publish traditional yellowpage directories?
I don't see tons of traffic for localized results. One of the best ways I can figure to determine relative amounts of local traffic is to look through any of the prhases in overture or another keyword tool where the long tail phrases tend to be geographic; ie. Nursing schools, Denver nursing school, Detroit nursing schools, nursing school in Chicago, etc. Say topical traffic for the subject is 1-8% of the main phrase for your region.
The only way I pick up lots of traffic is to be well optimized or have ppc for a huge variety of phrases that work for the combination of business term and geo region(s)
My next move is branding. Local info pages with our B&M as the (very prominent) sponsor. "A public service sponsored by RossWal's Premium Widget Company".
General web search engines could bring more raw traffic to a business site in some cases than IYPs, though that traffic is more watered down with people accidentally finding their way onto your site due to various random keyword combinations. With an IYP, a user is typically searching and clicking on your business specifically with the intent to buy a product or service sooner.
Regarding where one could go to get comparative metrics for online directories by regions, I think comScore produces such reports.
Indeed, one way to chose an online directory to advertise with would be to find out what the dominant printed YP book for the area is, and go to their website. However, there can also be significant value to advertising in other local info sites as well, in order to insure coverage representing more demographics. You don't have to be listed in only one online directory, so get listed nicely in as many top directories and top local info sites and search engines as you can.
As for profiles, there are lots of local search and local info sites which offer some level of free profiles. Don't pay someone just to forward your info to free sites! It doesn't take that much effort.
(in the interests of honest disclosure, I should state that I'm an employee of a major IYP, though this note is solely my own opinion, and not representative of my company in any sort of official capacity)
here is our experience. Approximately 30-33% of our search inquiries off of SE's fall into what we consider the most fertile contacts.
These searches are long tail consisting of 2 parts, variations of phrases on our biz service and variations on our regional territory. These phrases convert at the highest rates.
About 1/3 of the searches to our site are generic on our biz service. They don't include geo descriptions. (the site has high rankings fortunately). These convert but at not as high a rate.
We are a local service. We pull off searchers who haven't yet tried the long tail search for the service in our region. Because we are local though, we pull out searchers from all over the country and that doesn't do us or them any good. So those searches are not as productive.
The last 1/3 are other phrases and content off the site that aren't really there for conversions. C'est la vie.
We have some limited IYP exposure. We have tested how those phrases show in serps with an incredibly large number of searches. Essentially they are a subset of our large exposure in the initial 1/3. In that regard the long tail searches and IYP are similar.
Here is a little anecdotal incident from today. Already I picked up 2 calls from people who caught our site on the web.
One picked us up from a strong conversion link that is highly local and particularly appeals to people interested in our service from a certain angle. It works. The caller reiterated what has happened with thousands before him.
The 2nd caller caught us off a long tail search phrase that combines our geography with an underlying reason why people choose our service. The phrases are somewhat tangential to the specific service but are very motivating. They work.
I couldn't replicate either of those methods through any version of IYP.
Not to say that IYP is good or bad...but there are many ways to skin the cat.
Now, I just noticed that they apparently only compared a small handful of business categories, so it's quite possible that other types of business might have quite different online user behavior.
So, perhaps Dave's business type would be one that just naturally converts better from direct referrals from SEs, versus IYP. I think mailorder businesses would fall in that category. Also, I suspect that users committing a search with a Product Name instead of a Business Type as the keyword would generally convert better at a Search Engine than at an Internet Yellow Pages. So, there's undoubtedly exceptions to the generalized study results.
Predictions from the Kelsey Group indicate that traffic to local search, including online yellow pages, will continue to grow at a nice rate:
Naturally, it makes sense to carefully assess what sources are bringing best conversion rates and shift money to bring you the best ROI. Make sure you buy the advertising treatment you truly need, since the industry likes to add on lots of stuff that may be not getting you the attention desired -- don't overbuy.
Admittedly I didn't study it. I would think that in the context of the IYP's ranking high for specific businesses/geo areas they would lead to conversions in a manner similar to natural high rankings.
For many keyword combinations, IYP sites may rank as more authoritative than direct business sites. So, businesses can optimize themselves by making sure they're well-represented in the online yellow pages directories.