YellowPages.com Launches as Potent Local Search Player

Telcos BellSouth and AT&T (formerly SBC) have at last launched YellowPages.com, a year after forming their joint venture and acquiring the URL.

The new site combines the former SBC SMARTpages.com with BellSouth’s RealPages.com. Those sites now point to YellowPages.com, creating a single nationwide local search entity where before there were three.

The move creates a strong new competitor for both users and advertisers in the hotly competitive Internet yellow pages (IYP) and local search environment.

“The consolidation of leading Internet yellow pages brands into a centralized utility that further extends an advertiser’s distribution [is significant],” said Justin Sanger, president of LocalLaunch, a digital marketing firm serving small- to mid-sized companies.

The new interface allows visitors to conduct local searches by keyword, business name or business type. Users can also save preferred results to a “My YellowPages” list. Other features include click-to-call, maps and driving directions, plus “City Guides” and “Consumer Guides” that combine proprietary editorial with content from partners.

For marketers, the site’s most important new feature is reach.

“This increases the reach in terms of geography, as well as traffic and value,” Matt Crowley, YellowPages.com’s VP of marketing, told ClickZ. “Previously, you had traffic to YellowPages.com, traffic to RealPages.com and traffic to SmartPages.com, as well as distribution relationships. This brings it all together. The advertiser has the value of the full reach of the YellowPages.com platform [and its] greater content, functionality, traffic and brand.”

Internet Yellow Pages (IYP) providers are simultaneously competitive and cooperative with the major search engines. In some cases, IYPs provide listings for search engines’ local search products. Meanwhile, over the summer, SuperPages.com began placing campaigns with Google and Yahoo on behalf of its local advertisers — effectively playing the role of SEM agency.

“Today the lines are blurring rapidly. It is a mistake to think of Internet yellow pages and search engines’ local search activities as distinct environments,” said Sanger. “They both are after the same core things. They’re after users, they’re after advertisers.” YellowPages.com will launch a cross-media ad campaign in the first quarter of 2006 with a budget in the “tens of millions,” Crowley said. It will be created by Omnicom agency GSD&M, which the company tapped in August to handle its marketing.

By virtue of its name, YellowPages.com will benefit from a strong brand affinity, particularly from older consumers. Adding to this, the logo design for the site integrates the iconic “walking fingers” graphic in place of the letter “A.” The fingers are not a registered trademark, and any business can use them.

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