Archive for January, 2009

Diversity Is Our Strength Against Online-Only Ad Providers

Thursday, January 29, 2009

From time to time, we see Internet ad providers tout promotions to convince businesses to give up their Yellow Pages print ads for an online-only advertising strategy.

There are a number of ways we can stay competitive against these promotions.

First, it’s all about volume. For most advertisers, any program without print Yellow Pages is suboptimal. Period. Prudent advertisers simply can’t ignore the sheer volume of leads produced through print Yellow Pages coupled with its strong ROI. Print Yellow Pages get 13.7 billion references each year, so we shouldn’t discount the ready-to-buy consumers who use the directory to find what they need.

Second, many Yellow Pages companies are also offering online, mobile, and search solutions — from Internet Yellow Pages listings, to YouTube videos, to Google AdWords setup and monitoring. The fact that we offer that bundle of print, Internet Yellow Pages and search is a huge advantage for directory publishers over online only players. And if we’re doing our job right as publishers, we’ll guide our advertisers to the most effective and efficient solutions that produce the volume of business they need at the right investment level.

Third, we can act on our personal relationships. Yellow Pages salespeople work every day with small businesses. We are in the unique position of building off a strong track record of success, built over time, as marketing advisors to small businesses looking for guidance in an increasingly fragmented local media market. The online-only providers do not have this degree of access.

Advertising today is increasingly complex. Our future success depends on our ability to help small businesses build their business by finding advertising solutions that work for them. For now, that’s likely not an online-only strategy, but one that includes numerous mediums to reach the right consumer at the right time.

Extending the Local Search Network

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Today’s announcement that AT&T Interactive and Idearc Media have entered into a cross distribution agreement to help businesses increase their online exposure aptly demonstrates the changes taking place in our industry.

The agreement gives YELLOWPAGES.COM and SUPERPAGES.COM advertisers the opportunity for additional online placements on each site. YELLOWPAGES.COM and SUPERPAGES.COM will also have the opportunity to share business profiles and other content from each other’s advertisers — providing consumers access to more comprehensive and relevant information.

This partnership is an example of how Yellow Pages companies are looking for creative ways to take advantage of local search, generate qualified sales leads for small businesses, and provide greater value for advertisers.

It’s also about making it as easy as possible for consumers to find the information they need when they need it. What better way to do that than for these two companies to bring together the full weight of their experience and relationships.

Read AT&T and Idearc’s announcement.

Choosing Your Yellow Pages Is Easy

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

As Internet Yellow Pages and our search engine partners have rolled out online local search tools, some consumers have asked how they can stop or limit delivery of print Yellow Pages.

It’s easy to choose which directories you receive. Publishers have put opt-out procedures in place to help ensure that we’re only delivering to people who want to receive them.

It’s best to work directly with the publishers serving your local area. We’ve centralized the opt-out contact information for directory publishers on our site at www.yellowpagesoptout.com. Opt-out information is also generally found in the directory itself or by calling the publisher’s customer service number.

There are a few third-party Web sites that claim to take care of opting-out on behalf of consumers. We recommend you avoid using these services for a number of reasons:

  • Unverifiable Information: Most publishers don’t accept opt-out lists from third-party Web sites because the information cannot be verified. Your cable company wouldn’t let a third party cancel your service without some sort of verification, and directory publishers won’t either. There’s no mechanism to stop someone from submitting the names of other people without their permission. The lists frequently even contain fictitious names and addresses.
  • Risk to Personal Information: Submitting information to third-parties poses significant risk. The sites provide no reliable assurance that information will not be sold or used for other purposes. The individuals or organizations operating the Web sites are usually not identified. Consider this before providing any personal information to Web sites.
  • Lack of Choice: The lists don’t differentiate between which directories a consumer might want to opt-out of — it’s all or nothing. So if a consumer wants to receive one directory, but not others, there’s really no choice at all.

We believe most people continue to find the print directory a useful search tool to have nearby, and publishers have outlined a strong commitment to environmental responsibility. But if you choose not to receive a print directory, please protect your personal information by using our Web site www.yellowpagesoptout.com to work directly with the directory publishers.

Reflecting on the Year Ahead

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

After reflecting on today’s inauguration, it seems appropriate to think about the promise of hope for our own industry.

My post today on Search Engine Land outlines the search landscape and the opportunities we have:

Search is fragmenting, consumer habits are changing, and the platforms through which Yellow Pages publishers interact with advertisers and consumers are rapidly evolving. And everyone is touting themselves as a local search expert.

The good news is that we are well positioned to succeed and we are telling that story more aggressively to the market:

  • We have one of the most sophisticated systems available for advertisers to track ROI.
  • We have an unrivaled sales team — thousands of feet on the street that act as marketing consultants to small businesses. No other medium matches the personal relationships we have with our customers.
  • Many Yellow Pages publishers have built vibrant Internet operations and are serving as data providers for search engines like Google and Yahoo, ensuring that we have a role to play in digital search.
  • We are dedicated to consumer choice so that people who want a print directory have one available, and those who choose other search options can limit the receipt of printed materials.

Most importantly, the need for local search isn’t going to disappear. We must, as an industry, stay on top of trends and technologies to remain competitive in an increasing competitive landscape.

Read more at Search Engine Land.

Protect Your Business from Bogus Yellow Pages Billing

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Look closely at your Yellow Pages bills before you pay them. Industry experts estimate that as much as $500 million is being lost each year through misleading and fraudulent billing.

These bogus bills are easily mistaken as legitimate invoices from a Yellow Pages publisher. In many cases, telemarketers working for the fraudulent companies use misleading and confusing statements to obtain agreements from owners and employees.

These fraudulent companies may actually publish a directory, but distribution is usually limited to the advertisers themselves as well as an unspecified number of public libraries, chambers of commerce, gasoline service stations, government agencies, and other non-traditional target markets.

What to Look For
Fraudulent Yellow Pages bills are generally for less than $200 — a relatively small bill that can be unsuspectingly and routinely paid without arising suspicion.

Bills often carry the famous Walking Fingers logo, causing businesses to assume the bill is coming from their legitimate Yellow Pages publisher.

Bogus invoices typically proclaim that “This Is Not a Bill,” list no telephone number and often have lots of fine print on the back. The fine print usually states that they are not affiliated with any local or long distance telephone company.

What You Can Do
If you believe you have received a bogus bill, don’t pay it. Review the bill and fine print carefully. Check your files for contracts you have with Yellow Pages publishers to make sure the bill is for advertising you have actually ordered.

We can also help you determine if the bill is bogus. You can contact me with any questions.

If you determine the bill is bogus, you should do the following:

  • Notify the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. They track these schemes and can take action.
  • Contact the Federal Trade Commission.
  • Contact your local Better Business Bureau. They can issue an advisory to help tip off other potential victims.
  • Contact the Yellow Pages publishers you advertise with. Many have active programs to help combat fraudulent Yellow Pages billing.
  • Educate others. Post it or circulate it among your accounts payable staff members so that they can also be on the lookout for bogus bills.

Slicing the ‘Pizza’ Heading Data

Monday, January 12, 2009

 

For those who follow YPA data, you know that we like to analyze specific headings to understand how small businesses can use Yellow Pages to drive qualified sales leads.

 

In January, the biggie is “Pizza.”

 

It’s the fifth-most referenced heading overall – but in January, usage skyrockets. The NFL playoffs, New Year’s Day, college bowl games and other post-holiday get-togethers all contribute to the spike in pizza orders.

 

Last January, “Pizza” had 60 million searches, compared with 318 million over the full year. Plus, pizza generated another 22 percent of searches under the “Restaurant” heading. In other words, pizza accounts for more than half a billion Yellow Pages searches every year.

 

The ROI on a Yellow Pages ad under the pizza heading is very strong. On average, a display ad generates $7 sales for every $1 spent.

 

Independent pizzerias use Yellow Pages to reach their local customers against tough competition from larger brands, which have more resources for television advertising and flyer campaigns. Out of the 76,355 pizzerias in the U.S., 65% are independently owned. 

 

The larger brands, like Papa John’s, also use Yellow Pages to generate pizza orders both via telephone and online.

 

For the pizzeria owner, or CMR working with pizzeria clients, here are some other interesting stats that may help your ad strategy:

  • Just over half (52%) of searches are for local pizzerias.
  • The pizza heading is referenced most often by 18-24 year-old single males.
  • Usage is especially high among male customers renting living spaces in the Northeast portion of the U.S. – perhaps due to the high ratio of pizzerias in that region (four pizzerias for every 10,000 people).
  • The region with the second highest frequency of references is the Midwest, followed by the West and South regions.

That’s a slice of Yellow Pages data that anyone can appreciate.

YPA on Huffington Post: What We Learned From the Election

Thursday, January 8, 2009

I wanted to share a piece that I authored on Huffington Post today about lessons businesses can learn from the presidential campaign (Ad Tactics: New and Old Mix It Up in 2008, But What Did We Learn?):

“The 2008 election has forever changed political campaign management, but the implications go far beyond politics. There are important lessons that the Fortune 500 marketing manager and the small business owner can use to generate customers in a tough economy.”

Those of us in the Yellow Pages industry would be well served to consider those lessons. Digital media has come into its own and can generate real impact. Traditional advertising methods are alive and well. And, local focus is more important than ever.

The Yellow Pages industry is poised to deliver for clients in each of these areas. Like Obama, our industry is also facing some tough challenges in the year ahead. But we’ve got the expertise, the services, and the team to address them head on.

You can read my full piece on Huffington Post.

YPA Blog – A New Voice for Yellow Pages

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Welcome to the first official blog post for the Yellow Pages Association.

We’re seeing so much interest in the Yellow Pages industry and where we’re headed that we thought this would be the perfect outlet for us to contribute to the discussion.  And as the industry has gone digital with search tools on the Web and with applications for mobile devices, it seems only natural for us to participate in the online discussion as well.

In fact, using this as a space to talk about our role in digital search will be a top priority.  Of course, the print directory remains key to our business, but we need to expand perceptions to better reflect the reality of our innovative digital search services and the quantity and quality of leads they deliver for small businesses.

We’ll also use the blog to post interesting data, comment on small business and local search trends, highlight news from our members, and offer candid observations about discussion on our industry.  You’ll have the opportunity to hear from the YPA staff, who work with Yellow Pages publishers, CMRs and suppliers every day and will be our main contributors.  There’s no single team of people out there who know the ins and outs of the industry like they do.

I look forward to active and insightful conversation about Yellow Pages in the days ahead.