A year ago, the Internet Yellow Pages (IYP) landscape looked very different than it does today. Back then, the marketplace was crowded and fragmented. Pure-play and telco-based IYPs battled it out for market share in an undeveloped local search arena.
Today, the marketplace has consolidated, and the once-pervasive directory-publisher mentality is undergoing significant transformation.
This consolidation and transformation is led by YellowPages.com, a leading destination site and distribution network that’s embraced the new requirements of directional media and local search.
It started last November, when SBC Communications and BellSouth agreed to purchase online directory publisher YellowPages.com. At first, many questioned whether the joint acquisition was simply a fleeting, last-ditch effort by two traditional publishers to compete with forward-thinking national leaders in local search, including Google, Yahoo, and SuperPages. Many wondered whether the $100 million spent for YellowPages.com would be the most expensive, irrational domain name purchase in history.
Boy, were they wrong.
Within a year, YellowPages.com has emerged as a leading force within the local search marketplace. Today, it’s turning heads with a forward-looking strategy that makes it look more like a nimble Internet company than a tap-dancing elephant.
Its road has been far from smooth, and many roadblocks remain. Successfully transforming a traditional directory publisher into an Internet company is like turning the Titanic on a dime; you just can’t do it. Yet, YellowPages.com is proving it’s up to the challenge. The ship has changed course and is now moving full steam ahead.
While other pure-play local search providers continue to play within the idealistic world of advertiser self-provisioning, YellowPages.com has put forth a comprehensive, winning strategy that includes sales, destination, and distribution, a combination most of its competitors fail to make.
Like other directory publishers, YellowPages.com understands sales. Following last year’s acquisition, it brought in leadership from BellSouth and SBC, two organizations with rich histories selling to the SMEs (define). The company’s quietly leveraged its traditional footprint, only to erase it.
Herein lies a critical difference between a footprint-driven sales organization and a national IYP sales strategy. YellowPages.com is simply not satisfied with the 22-state leadership position.
YellowPages.com’s network covers an astonishing 25 percent of the total IYP and local search marketplace. This year alone, YellowPages.com has announced major distribution agreements with AOL Yellow Pages and Switchboard that neatly afford its advertisers’ maximum local search exposure and reach within the confines of a single ad buy.
Many of YellowPages.com’s competitors fear that sending their advertisers’ information beyond Google and Yahoo empowers the competition. Conversely, YellowPages.com is comfortable with advertiser distribution. It’s instead focused on the one-buy, maximum-exposure concept that resonates well within an SME marketplace, which is generally confused and overwhelmed by advertising options and complexities.
Most impressive about the new YellowPages.com organization is its understanding that local search and IYPs aren’t competing ideas. Instead, it embraces the fact local search innovation and growing consumer savvy require changes to traditional IYP applications.
Later this year, YellowPages.com will release its next-generation local search destination site. It looks and acts more like an innovative local search utility than a rigid, flat IYP. Upon launch, SMARTpages.com and RealPages.com will redirect to the new YellowPages.com site, and SBC’s and BellSouth’s consolidation into a national local search brand will be complete.
Technology isn’t a core competency or an advantage of traditional directory publishers. For YellowPages.com, the release of its new search application has been a long, difficult exercise. However, when the new site and brand are finally launched, many will be surprised to find rich features and functions within the confines of a new, smarter local search utility.
Dozens of traditional directory publishers are grappling with their current IYP applications’ shortcomings. Many are uncertain about how to position themselves against competing inventories. They’d be well advised to take a page from YellowPages.com’s book and embrace competitive inventories as their own, while working to improve the destination site’s utility to maximize user and advertiser value.
Directory publisher advantages stem directly from their deep relationships with local advertisers. Those who decide not to embrace marketplace changes to maximum advertiser value and build walls around their inventory will find themselves left in the dust of their namesake, YellowPages.com.
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March 19, 2014