Archive for July, 2009

NYT: Managing an Online Reputation

Friday, July 31, 2009

Online local review sites are “the new Yellow Pages,” according to an article by Kermit Pattison this week in the New York Times.  At face value, you’d probably think that I’d take exception to that statement, but actually, there’s some truth to it.

For starters, it’s true because Internet Yellow Pages sites are by their very nature local review sites.  Online Yellow Pages sites (like SuperPages.com and YellowPages.com) offer users the ability to rate, comment on and review businesses across a long list of headings categories.

Additionally, many online review sites feed our local business data.  In that way, you could say they are a “new” kind of Yellow Pages.

What’s most interesting is that search engines are mixing it up even more, taking our data and displaying it along with other information relevant to their users.  Do a local search on Bing, and you’ll get sponsored listings from YellowPages.com, map/location content, data listings that we provide, and aggregated reviews from various sites – all in one spot.

There are a lot of things businesses can do to take some control of their online reputation.  Pattison gave some good advice about businesses adding content to their profiles on local review sites and placing advertisements to generate attention.  Helping local businesses do that has been a priority for us and I’d recommend that every business owner talk to their Yellow Pages sales rep about their Internet Yellow Pages profile.  Many experts agree that Internet Yellow Pages sites play an extremely important role in search rankings.  Yellow Pages reps can also provide helpful information on search engine optimization and other online marketing strategies as well.  A solid reputation is something that any business can be proud of and that makes managing yours all the more important.

Yellow Reflects on Chrome

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Don’t miss my recent piece Yellow Reflects on Chrome on Search Engine Land this week. Everyone from eWEEK to the Ethiopian Review is discussing their opinions on Google Chrome, I’m curious to hear your thoughts.

In the post, I reflect on how Google sees Chrome as an opportunity to move the Web application infrastructure forward with a new “modern platform” that offers a better user experience and, in the future, richer applications.

So for us in local search, what does this mean? We are the beneficiaries of new technology and if we stay on top of the changes we can be creative in the ways that we deploy them to the advantage of our advertisers.

As this unfolds it will be interesting to see if a better user experience and richer applications really are true to form.

For more about my thoughts on the Chrome, read my piece at Search Engine Land

Small Business Challenges Are Our Challenges Too

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

I’m no James Carville or Lou Dobbs, so I don’t want to turn this into a blog about politics. But, over the past several weeks, we’ve seen quite a bit of debate in Washington that affects our industry’s core customer – small businesses. From the healthcare bill to tax reform and trade policies, the outcome of issues being debated on Capitol Hill directly impacts Yellow Pages advertisers.

I think it’s critically important for all of us in the Yellow Pages industry, whether you’re the CEO of a major publisher, a CMR, or a sales rep, to follow and understand the debate. Ultimately, any legislation that affects our advertisers will affect us too. If our customers are worried about an increased minimum wage or how they’re going to pay new taxes to fund a national healthcare program, we may find their appetite for advertising spending to be less. Or on the flip, we may find them even hungrier to find new ways to increase sales to cover costs.

Two sources to watch for how the small business community might be thinking about healthcare reform and other legislation are the major associations that represent them: the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB).

I follow these associations pretty closely to get into the mind of our small business customers, and so it definitely got my attention this week when both organizations independently announced their opposition to the recent healthcare reform proposals. If you haven’t gotten background yet, I’d strongly recommend that you take some time to review the sites and understand where small business constituencies are coming from.  We can expect that issues like healthcare will continue to make headlines well into the fall session, so it’s worth it to check those sites frequently for the latest.

We all have our personal opinions on politics in Washington. But as representatives of the Yellow Pages industry, and trusted advisors to small business advertisers, it is our professional responsibility to fully understand the debate and the perspectives of our customers. Their business challenges are our business challenges, so when they are talking to Washington – let’s be sure to listen.

Digital YPA ELITE® System Increases Efficiency and Cuts Waste

Monday, July 27, 2009

As some of you may be aware, the Yellow Pages Association owns and operates proprietary industry software called YPA ELITE® that’s used by publishers and Certified Marketing Representatives (CMRs) to facilitate Yellow Pages advertising orders, graphics, and artwork transmittal transactions.   Our partner in hosting and maintaining this software is the B2B e-commerce solutions provider GXS.

As the sole processing system for national orders, YPA ELITE® executes over 6.1 million transactions each year. Just 15 years ago, this was a completely paper process – requiring prints, Veloxes, faxes, mailing and myriad labor-intensive steps to go from sales and design to final ad placements.  But with the help of GXS, we have gradually digitized the transaction process over the years, increasing the efficiency, accuracy and environmental safety of the system. This might sound small, but the migration to a paperless system has really added up.

According to the latest data from GXS, the Yellow Pages Association eliminated 55.39 metric tons of paper usage in 2008 through the YPA ELITE® System.   This translates to a significant reduction in the carbon footprint of the Association.  By migrating to a totally electronic system, the YPA ELITE® system in 2008 succeeding in:

  • Saving 201 tons of wood, or the equivalent of about 1,391 trees.
  • Cutting consumption of 2,292 million BTUs of energy which is the equivalent of the energy used by 25 homes each year.
  • Eliminating 341,141 lbs (170 tons) CO2 equivalent, which is the amount of CO2 emitted by approximately 31 cars yearly.
  • Avoiding the creation of 135,630 pounds of solid waste, the equivalent of 4.85 full garbage trucks.

Partnering with GXS has really paid off in savings and quality.  And this is just one small part of bigger steps the Yellow Pages have taken to reduce the environmental impact of the industry.

Yahoo! and AT&T Partner to Expand Local Advertising Portfolio

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

On today’s Yahoo! earnings call, CEO Carol Bartz announced a new sales partnership with AT&T that’s been generating some buzz. The agreement will enable more than 5,000 AT&T sales representatives to sell Yahoo! display inventory to local businesses across the United States.

We’ve been touting our “feet on the street” sales force as a differentiator for Yellow Pages companies for quite some time. Our presence in market enables us to develop personal relationships with small businesses who trust their Yellow Pages representative to build a advertising approach that will generate sales leads.

Through the AT&T and Yahoo! partnership, Yahoo! will have the advantage of tapping into those customer relationships that are held by AT&T. In turn, AT&T can add Yahoo!’s display inventory and targeting technology to its portfolio.

I believe that these kinds of partnerships are extremely important for our industry. At the end of the day, it’s about our ability to sit down with advertisers, understand their business challenges, and pull together programs that work for them. The more platforms we have to offer, the more cross-selling we do, the better it is for our customer. Ultimately, it helps solidify our position as a trusted advisor to small businesses well into the future.

‘Mad Avenue Blues’ Spoofs Ad Industry Change

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

 

In case you missed it, check out the Mad Avenue Blues video on YouTube created by Terence Kawaja lamenting “The Year The Media Died” to the tune of Don McLean’s famous American Pie.

As Kawaja (LMcDuff on YouTube) explains:

Mad Avenue Blues is about the media/advertising world and the impact to the traditional models brought about by the accelerating migration to digital.

And while the song reflects a lot of inside humor from the ad agency perspective, I think the points will resonate with many of us in the larger advertising and marketing industry.

The shift from old media to new media has been an ongoing topic for the Yellow Pages industry. We spoke at length about our digital transformation at the Yellow Pages Association conference in April and it will surely be a big topic again at DMS09 in September.

The song, with its oft-repeated chorus that “Tech has taken us for a ride, Algorithms got me cross eyed” implies that search has all but killed traditional advertising. This has some layers of truth – it’s not the whole story. And our industry should remember that we are in a unique position as both advertising vehicle and search engine. We started our digital transformation years before many other competitors saw the tsunami in the distance. That means that we have emerged with models to integrate ad sales, search marketing and print and online advertising in ways that provide new value to our customers, while also providing very clear ROI metrics.

But let’s not take it too seriously – it’s a spoof after all. I admire the creativity and wit that went into it.

The video has hit a lot of nerves, and therefore has been blogged about quite a bit, including Wall Street Journal’s Andrew LaVallee and BusinessWeeks’ David Kiley.

Forbes Points Small Business Owners to Yellow Pages Association Data

Monday, July 20, 2009

I ran across some good advice from Forbes magazine’s entrepreneurial expert Kern Lewis on Friday, “Market Research On The Cheap” advising business owners to act smart when their budgets tighten, and seek free data to keep sharp.

The article – the first of a two-part column – offers some practical advice to entrepreneurs on the value of “actionable data” and where to find it.   Lewis cautions that because a market can change quickly, savvy marketers need to keep an eye on demographics, measurable preference data and behavioral trends in order to stay competitive – all things that the Yellow Pages industry has been tracking for years.

To find that important trend information, Lewis suggests general searches, government databases, and trade associations.  And with that, I was jazzed to read his advice, saying:

Some associations are better data trackers than others, but be sure to browse what they do have. I’ve used information compiled by the Yellow Pages Association to advise my clients on the relative merits of advertising in print or online Yellow Pages.

All of us at YPA have been working with our members for a long time to support small- and medium-sized businesses.  We are proud to be referenced here and will continue to provide consumer information and business data to American entrepreneurs.  We know that data and metrics mean better ROI, and have built our industry around gathering and interpreting data to best serve our customers’ bottom line.

RH Donnolley Takes Dex Pages Digital

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

One reason many consumers still like print Yellow Pages is the way directories clearly organize and lay out local businesses.

In a print directory, you can quickly flip through the pages to find business information, browse the headings of interest, and compare the display ads of the various businesses under that heading. The display ads are often useful in helping a consumer select which business to call.

As online local search grows in popularity, the Yellow Pages industry has been expanding Internet and mobile search solutions. Last week, RH Donnolley and Innovectra announced an innovative new offering called Dex Pages that takes the print Yellow Pages experience online while adding additional flexibility that digital content offers.

This new virtual directory features clear digital replicas of local Yellow Pages listings, display ads, and page layouts, while including a multi-word search function. I’ve been experimenting with Dex Pages over the last few days and one tool that I think will be particularly useful is the hotlink to e-mail and Web site addresses of local businesses. They’ve also taken the time to include local community information that many people like to have close by via their Yellow Pages.

Dex Pages is available in all 28 states where R.H. Donnelley publishes directories. Take a moment to browse Dex Pages and see what you think.

YPA Releases Print White Pages Study

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Yellow Pages Association has just released a new study on print White Pages conducted by Wiese research and some of the findings are quite interesting.

When consumers are referencing business phone numbers , print Yellow Pages (80%) continue to be the predominant source for this information while the printed business White Pages (69%) are also used quite often.

Nearly seven in every ten consumers have used both the White and Yellow Pages of a phone directory in the past 30 days.  When White Pages usage is further segmented into residential versus business listings, it can be seen that the proportion of consumers using (as well as the frequency of use) is greater for the business White Pages than for the residential White Pages.

53% of those who have used the business White Pages in the past 30 days made a purchase, while one in five of these uses (21%) resulted in a new customer relationship. Over half of those who made a purchase using the business White Pages (59%) also referenced the Yellow Pages.

Member companies who are interested in obtaining more information on this study can contact Larry Small.

Consolidated Berry Company Positions Itself as Local Search Agency for Small Businesses

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Some exciting YPA member news that I thought was worth calling out. Local Insight Yellow Pages and the Berry Company announced today that they will consolidate and take on the Berry brand for the combined company.

The Berry brand has a rich legacy, is well known with small- and medium-sized businesses, and exemplifies a Yellow Pages company successfully transforming beyond print to offer its customers a full mix of marketing tools.

Berry represents multiple telecommunications companies and online brands, including Windstream, Cincinnati Bell Directory, Alaska Communications Systems, Hawaiian Telcom, Frontier Communications and CenturyTel, as well as Google AdWords and Yellowpages.com.

The brand, along with its tagline “Your Local Leads Expert,” is designed to communicate the company’s role as a local search “advisor” or “agency” to small businesses. And the team has certainly proven success on that front, providing a range of local search solutions today, including Web sites, search engine marketing and optimization, video and Internet Yellow Pages through its partnership with Yellowpages.com, and print directories.

This change for Local Insight and Berry is another example of the evolution of our industry. Yellow Pages companies are continuing to change and transform, even amid a very tough economic environment, to be well positioned for future success. The folks at Berry have a strong vision and great brand behind them, and I can’t wait to see what they do as a single merged entity.