Archive for the ‘Verticals’ Category

Sugar Buys BookFresh and FreshGuide

June 9, 2010

Female-centric content and ad network Sugar, Inc. yesterday announced the acquisition of BookFresh and FreshGuide (also part of BookFresh):

In its first foray into providing local editorial and advertising, Sugar Inc. (SugarInc.com) today announced it has signed a definitive agreement to acquire FreshGuide Inc., which operates FreshGuide.com and BookFresh (BookFresh.com). FreshGuide.com is an online women-focused city guide that provides access to exclusive daily offers from a well-edited selection of local businesses in beauty, health and fitness, dining, travel getaways and other relevant categories. BookFresh provides an online booking service for local businesses, such as spas and salons.

BookFresh began as HourTown and is an online booking platform for SMBs. I wrote about it and the segment previously:

FreshGuide was a second effort by BookFresh CEO Ryan Donahue and team and is a group-buying site, although Donahue describes FreshGuide as a cityguide (more fodder for TheDealMap and Yipit):

Donahue will now run local for Sugar. He said the following to me in an email exchange:

[I will be] GM of FreshGuide and run Sugar’s local business. I am excited to create a female-focused local advertising platform that will leverage the offers capabilities of freshguide and the online bookings capabilities of BookFresh. I think local advertisers with an interest in wooing women, will find that we offer a compelling combination of merchant tools and a hyper-targeted female audience.

Deal terms were not disclosed.

Local Search Ranking Factors III Now Out

June 9, 2010

David Mihm has published results of the third “Local Search Ranking Factors” survey in which he and other professional SEOs discuss the variables that affect local listing rankings, chiefly on Google. It represents a kind of consensus of highly informed (and practiced) professional opinion about local SEO.

Mihm provides a summary overview of the results on his blog. For those professionally engaged in SEO it’s invaluable. And for those even casually interested it’s worth exploring. However there is an enormous amount of detail there: more than 70 “factors” discussed at length.

Here are two lists from the survey that I found interesting:

RedBeacon Poised for National Rollout, Growth

June 4, 2010

I was an early critic of RedBeacon when it first launched. I  thought the site’s founders had created an elegant platform but were naive about the small business market. Here’s what I wrote last year:

I’ve got nothing against RedBeacon and wish them well. But they will find, like many others before them, that the local space is much much harder to crack than it appears from a distance. There are many failed startups in local. In most cases they failed because they didn’t realize how tough it would be to get businesses to advertise or sign up.

Since that time there have been many changes at the site and it has evolved considerably. I’ve been impressed with these enhancements and the “sensitivity” to the market shown RedBeacon’s management. I also recently compared RedBeacon to other lead-gen type sites (including ServiceMagic) and found it, while imperfect, to be overall the best of the several sites I examined.

Today after several weeks of trying I spoke to Ethan Anderson, RedBeacon’s CEO. What I learned in that conversation convinces me that RedBeacon has Yelp-like potential in the market and, as it prepares to close a funding round and roll out nationally, is poised for tremendous growth.

IAC-owned competitor ServiceMagic is on track to do $150 million (or more) in revenue this year. I can imagine that RedBeacon could approach those numbers in three years.

Anderson told me that the site is going to shortly announce some major partnerships and a self-service widget strategy that will enable any publisher or developer to embed a contextually relevant widget/lead-gen form on its site.

RedBeacon currently has a very generous revenue share that comes out of a 10% commission on the value of jobs actually performed. There’s another model that charges a flat fee to up to three businesses when an on-site consultation or estimate is required, in more complex jobs.

One of the keys to RedBeacon’s model is that it doesn’t need to sign up that many businesses in each category to reach “liquidity.” The company qualifies 12-15 businesses in major categories that the site feels are the best in the group — they do this by looking at other sites. Then they reach out to these businesses with a CPA pitch: you only pay a commission on jobs actually performed. “You’re buying a customer not a click,” is the essence of the conversation. This is analogous to Groupon’s pitch and model but the SMB doesn’t pay 50%; in this case it pays 10%.

This relatively small number of businesses required to populate each category means that each job request will receive several bids. Anderson told me the average is five. In my two experiences with the site (landscaping and fencing) I received more than that.

Anderson also told me that 50% of consumer come back and use RedBeacon within a month after booking a previous job. The company is also considering a loyalty program.

There were several other roadmap features and developments that Anderson described, but I don’t want anyone visiting me in the middle of the night so I’ll restrain myself.

Regarding the issue of communication between SMB and customer — an area of particular skepticism about the model from me and others — RedBeacon recently implemented chat on the site. Anderson said that about 70% of consumers are utilizing it. There was obviously a need for more direct, real-time communication with service providers and RedBeacon has accommodated that need. In addition SMBs and customers can communicate through email facilitated via the site to ask and answer questions as well.

In terms of whether SMBs “get it” or are sophisticated enough to take advantage of this platform, clearly enough of them do. Right now it doesn’t matter if 80% of the market doesn’t utilize or can’t utilize the system. Anderson just cares that there are a savvy group in each category and city that can.

He even told me that some SMBs have gone out and bought iPhones or Android devices so they can respond to RFP request from the field. RedBeacon has SMS notifications but is also working on mobile apps.

As the tone of his post suggests, I’m no longer the skeptic I was when they launched. Had the site not changed and evolved my criticisms would have remained, but RedBeacon is rapidly improving the service in anticipation of the coming national roll out.

As a final matter I asked Anderson about use of the phone and call tracking: would they consider it? He said they wouldn’t totally rule it out but right now he didn’t think they needed to implement it. Despite the fact that defies conventional wisdom, he may be right.

I would all but guarantee that a year from now (or in less time) the site will have several suitors hoping to buy it.

NY Times’ Scoop App a Model for Others

June 4, 2010

The NY Times now has four iPhone apps: its main site, real estate, crosswords and a new city and entertainment guide “The Scoop.” In my relatively quick perusal of it The Scoop seems to be a very useful New York restaurant, bar and entertainment directory.

It uses the paper’s editorial content and selectively extracts those listings and reviews that are relevant to the app, also taking advantage of location-awareness on the iPhone. Here are some screens:

This kind of app will give UGC sites a genuine run for their money. And, as you can also see, there’s great ad inventory for contextually and locally relevant advertisers — including rich media.

Other newspaper publishers could equally create mobile apps along these lines. For example the SF Chronicle should build an app around its popular “top 100″ restaurants guide.

Snapfinger Points toward ‘M-Commerce’ Future

June 2, 2010

The lines between online and offline commerce are blurring. The idea of “buy (or reserve) online” pick up in store is fairly well established today. Open Table is a cousin of that for the restaurant industry: online inventory management, offline fulfillment.

In the same vein, a company called Kudzu Interactive (no relation to local directory Kudzu), which owns site/app Snapfinger, just announced a new $7 million round, for a total of $11 million to date. As you may have read the company enables “remote ordering” (online, mobile) from chains and franchise restaurants for “in-store” pick-up:

The company integrates at the point of sale with the restaurant, like Open Table. And like Milo with independent local retailers, Snapfinger is working to bring independent restaurants into the system:

Snapfinger enables users to access more than 28,000 restaurants from leading national chains such as California Pizza Kitchen, Outback Steakhouse, and Boston Market, as well as local independent restaurants currently in its network. The product uses location-based technology to find nearby restaurants and enables the user to order food and complete the payment transaction in a matter of minutes. Snapfinger is fully synchronized with the restaurant’s POS (Point of Sale) system, ensuring order accuracy, real-time menu updates and accurate prep times.

Snapfinger has competitors such as GrubHub, among others, and several chains offer their own mobile ordering apps: e.g., Pizza Hut, Chipotle. Because of their convenience, however, it’s likely that centralized ordering will win out over individual restaurant apps for most consumers. Regardless the idea of mobile inventory/ordering/purchasing for offline pick-up will continue to gain steam as consumers overcome security fears.

Kudzu Interactive/Snapfinger is a company (and app) that, as it grows, will become increasingly attractive as a takeover target — including by OpenTable.

Why Yahoo! Should Consider Buying Zvents

June 1, 2010

Yahoo!’s interest in beefing up local news and location-based content should lead it to consider buying Zvents. Yes, Yahoo! owns events destination Upcoming. However Zvents has more data and an ad/distribution network that includes many of Yahoo!’s newspaper partners.

Zvents is really a platform and media play that Yahoo! could develop further in many interesting ways. It could also exploit Zvents’ data in mobile.

If I were Yahoo! I would buy the site and also put CEO Ethan Stock in charge of local for Yahoo!

Zvents has raised just over $30 million to date and so the acquisition price would likely be comparable to or slightly more than what Yahoo! just paid for Associated Content.

I have no financial interest or stake in this outcome; I just think it makes sense for Yahoo!

Yahoo! Continues Outsourcing with Match

May 24, 2010

Yahoo! has outsourced another vertical — dating (which is largely local) to IAC’s Match.com:

Match.com, an operating business of IAC (Nasdaq: IACI), today announced an agreement by which Match.com will become the exclusive online dating site on Yahoo!.  Yahoo! Personals users will have the opportunity to move to a new co-branded Match.com experience, “Match.com on Yahoo!” where they will combine with the greater Match.com community. The Match.com on Yahoo! service is available starting today.

Yahoo! Personals users will receive special offers designed to help them enjoy all that Match.com has to offer. The two companies are working together to help users easily migrate to Match.com on Yahoo!. Over the next two months, existing Yahoo! Personals members will be given the opportunity to seamlessly migrate their Yahoo! Personals accounts over to the new experience. Match.com on Yahoo! offers compelling features including mobile access, daily personalized matches and robust search tools and will fully replace the existing Yahoo! Personals experience at the end of the transition period.

This is now part of a pattern that includes search, shopping and other verticals. In a way its smart: pick the best-of-breed partner and then let them worry about product development. It’s part of an overall cost-containment strategy. Yahoo! gets the content without the engineering costs.

The company has decided there are a number of strategic areas that it needs to keep in house: news, sports, finance, among a few others. I believe that Local is also on that list.

___

Related: Yahoo! announced a relationship with coupon/direct marketing vendor Valassis last week:

Yahoo! is entering into a partnership with leading media and marketing services company Valassis. The partnership will expand the online advertising options available to Valassis’ clients, providing them with Yahoo!’s customized targeting solutions for reaching the right customers in their communities. Valassis’ clients will further benefit from the ability to access premium online display advertising inventory from Yahoo!

The partnership is a key component of Yahoo!’s greater strategy of working with local partners to help them reinvent their business and provide them with the tools they need to maximize their online spend.

Dex Contest Promotes Weddings Vertical

May 21, 2010

Dex is running a contest to promote its recently launched weddings site:

And this week 40 finalists were announced:

Selected from more than 1,000 entries, the finalists are comprised of brides and grooms seeking to win $10,000 by sharing how they plan to keep wedding costs low without sacrificing style and quality.

Now it’s up to the public to select the final four couples who will take home $10,000 apiece. Public voting is taking place from now until May 28, 2010 on the DexKnows Weddings website and on the site’s Facebook fan page. Winners will be announced June 2, 2010.

Celebrity wedding planner Yifat Oren — who has produced weddings for Kevin Costner, Mariska Hargitay, and Jason Bateman, among other high-profile clients – selected the finalists based on their creativity and inspiring alternatives to traditional and often costly wedding items.

It’s a smart idea and way to promote the site.

Next up, a reality TV show?

Urbanspoon ‘Rez’ Challenges OpenTable

May 20, 2010

Publicly traded OpenTable has been the Microsoft of restaurant bookings, a proprietary hardware-software inventory management solution with Cadillac fees and effectively without competition for the better part of the last decade.  The company has a market cap of almost a billion dollars.

That was the beginning of an elaborate post I was going to do on Urbanspoon’s new “Rez” challenger to OpenTable. But the Wall Street Journal “broke the embargo” last night and then everyone piled on. You can read all the competing stories here.

So in lieu of the elaborate post I was going to do, here’s the “just the facts ma’am” version:

  • Rez was in beta in Seattle and LA with something approaching 150 restaurants for the past several months
  • It’s essentially a widget that goes on Urbanspoon, Citysearch profiles and I believe InsiderPages (and is distributed with those profiles via CityGrid to third party sites). It can also be added to the restaurant’s own site too
  • Many of the Rez beta testers were also on OpenTable; Rez can be used along side OpenTable
  • There’s an iPad inventory management app that replaces the elaborate hardware-software combination OpenTable requires
  • Fees for Rez (to the restaurant) are $99 per month plus a dollar per “head” per reservation. This includes new customers and repeat business. Urbanspoon/IAC won’t charge if the reservation comes from the restaurant’s own website however.
  • The Citysearch sales force will sell Rez to restaurants
  • OpenTable is already responding in Seattle by trying to cut prices and being more aggressive from a sales standpoint.

Here are a couple of images of the iPad inventory management app:

The bottom line is that this is a cheaper, simpler alternative to OpenTable, which the company will have to take seriously. It will probably force OpenTable to step up brand marketing and cut prices. If Rez gains visibility and “word of mouth credibility” among restaurant owners OpentTable’s growth may be slowed or stopped in some markets. Unofficially OpenTable has only about 10K restaurants across the US — a tiny subset of the entire population.

Citysearch and Urbanspoon can bring a compelling set of related marketing services along with Rez, which OpenTable cannot. And Rez can become a more generic online booking/appointments system for Citysearch and InsiderPages over time, extending to other categories beyond restaurants.

Now there’s an angle nobody else covered!

Trulia Wants You to Rate Your ‘Hood

May 20, 2010

This was probably formally announced in the past and I just can’t remember. But Trulia is soliciting reviews of neighborhoods to add to its data:

Trulia Pushing Mobile in Newsletter

May 6, 2010

I just received the newest Trulia newsletter and it puts mobile front and center:

Trulia says that about 10% of its traffic comes from mobile devices. Zillow told me about the same number, spiking to 15% on weekends.

Trulia recently added rental listings, which CEO Pete Flint said were even more likely to be searched on mobile devices in his view. But this is clearly not a case where mobile is cannibalizing traditional PC search behavior. It’s very much a complement to PC usage and an illustration of how local sites need to offer good mobile experiences — to deliver utility but also to cement loyalty.

Yahoo! Taps DexOne’s Biz.com for B2B Exposure

May 5, 2010

Yahoo! has joined Citysearch in utilizing DexOne’s (formerly RH Donnelley) Business.com site for B2B exposure and distribution:

Hot on the heels of a recent agreement with Citysearch Dex One’s Business.com subsidiary has inked a deal with Yahoo! to help businesses achieve greater online exposure.

Yahoo! advertisers now have the opportunity to have their paid search ads appear on select sites within the extensive Business.com Network, providing them with expanded opportunities to reach online customers.  Simultaneously, users who search on Business.com Network sites now have additional results to choose from, thereby helping them find more products, services and businesses that best suit their needs.

Business.com claims 40 million uniques for its ad network, which contains a range of B2B sites such as Financial Times and AllBusiness.com. There’s some very targeted vertical exposure in these impressions/clicks.

Google’s UI Refresh & Local Filters

May 5, 2010

There are already lots of posts and articles discussing the update to Google’s UI this morning. Preceded somewhat by the old Ask 3D, and more directly by Yahoo! and Bing, Google is promoting a three-column format with various filters (search options) on the left.

There are a dizzying array of options and tools there (previously text, now expanded and mostly graphical). Most of this is “power user” stuff. It comes out of “Universal Search” and is a successor strategy in a way to the blended organic content Google has been displaying in the body of search results. To my knowledge all that remains as it has been and won’t change.

Danny Sullivan at SEL has a very complete discussion and roundup of all the new features. I’ve done a quick write up of the mobile version of all this at Internet2Go.

To illustrate the new look, here’s the query “solar energy” before and after (I’m not seeing it yet so I borrowed Brad Stone’s/NYT’s graphic):

But what about local? What are the local features here worth noting? Most prominently you can filter by “Maps.” Because I can’t see it yet on any of my machines, I’ll have to speculate that it simply takes you quickly into Local/Maps.

There’s also the existing ability to sort by “nearby,” based on IP address or you can specify a custom location alternatively. Those have been part of the “search options” for a few months.

However I just noticed a “social” filter, which has probably been there too. I just hadn’t noticed it. This is what my options look like for the query “sushi” (new UI not yet live for me):

Danny Sullivan mentioned that there was also supposed to be a “reviews” filter (which is not exclusively local of course). It had existed previously, but apparently “didn’t make the cut.”

If you sort by “shopping” you’ll eventually be able to get to local product inventory information. It currently exists in mobile for a small number of large retailers and will be coming to the PC.

Some time ago Google changed the name of Maps to Local and back to Maps, citing consumer confusion over the idea of “Local.” However in mobile there’s a “Local” tab, which people “get.” In a way it would be better to have a Local icon/filter than a Maps icon. You could still have the maps icon at the top of the page. Local represents a broader sent of consumer intentions and use cases than Maps. However it would be problematic perhaps for Google to develop a new local filter.

Local is really a “horizontal vertical” — a more “narrow” category than general search that also happens to be broader than any other vertical, because it contains most other verticals. How to best reflect and represent this in this new set of UI changes and filters is both a daunting challenge and right now something of a missed opportunity.

vFlyer Adds FB to Listings Distribution Network

May 5, 2010

vFlyer is intended to simplify the process of distributing local (mostly real estate) listings around the Internet. Like others the company is also trying to solve the local “fragmentation problem.” All the Local SEM firms offer a version of this service too. As part of that vFlyer has added Facebook to its “network.”

The new functionality now allows real estate professionals to show their listings as part of their Facebook pages:

Earlier Roost introduced similar functionality.

InsiderPages Finds Its Voice with Doc Finder

May 5, 2010

InsiderPages, which was purchased several years ago by Citysearch/IAC, just introduced reviews of doctors and dentists. It joins Angie’s List and ZocDoc in offering this information. There are a couple of smaller sites that do a version of this as well, including Ratemds.com.

Angie’s List is a subscription-based model and ZocDoc doesn’t have the same national review coverage. ZocDoc does offer online appointment booking however.

The ratings content here comes from InsiderPages’ and Citysearch reviews and from a partnership with HealthGrades. The key innovation, not totally unique to InsiderPages, is the ability to sort by insurance carrier as well as other criteria:

Most people today are forced to go to their carriers’ sites, which generally offer a bad user experience and little or no valuable information about the doctor or dentist him or herself.

In addition to the insurance carrier filter, users can filter or sort by medical specialty, distance, gender, language, board certifications (and the all important “clean record”). InsiderPages GM Eric Peacock told me that he thought they had reviews for roughly one-third of all doctors and dentists in the US, with higher coverage in major metros.

In addition to reviews InsiderPages is providing HealthGrades’ patient survey information, which offers responses to standardized questions about the patient experience with the doctor or dentist:

When I spoke to Peacock yesterday it immediately struck me that this area would help define InsiderPages. He said that indeed doctor finder will become an area of emphasis and focus for the site, though it will still offer restaurant reviews and other categories.

He also said that over time the business/ad model would probably move into lead-gen for the doctors and dentists on the site.

As a side note, InsiderPages is going to probably get a ton of SEO traffic here as they create pages like “Family Practice Doctors San Francisco.” This is an advantage that the site has over virtually all the competitors in this segment.

Urbanspoon Supersizes for the iPad

April 28, 2010

Urbanspoon’s new iPad app is the second entry on the new device from IAC/Citysearch. The first was the relatively undistinguished Cityseries app. But the Urbanspoon translation onto the iPad is a success.

While there’s a good deal more that can be done with the larger “real estate,” Urbanspoon has made the leap well and may reap rewards from being early in on the iPad — as it was on the iPhone (Yelp, take note).

Whereas the iPhone app is all about the “slot machine” experience, the iPad app is all about the map. The same carousel functionality exists here but it’s more discretely up at the top of the screen.

In general I find more “utility” here than on the iPhone version. And, as I said, there’s more than can be done with things like filters, favorites and neighborhoods.

For those that don’t have an iPad (yet), here’s a video of the new Urbanspoon app in action.

With Golden Data Will Facebook Push Local?

April 22, 2010

Earlier this year at the Borrell local conference Yellowbook executive Pat Marshall made the remarkable statement that the site was getting more traffic from Facebook than from Google. I never was able to get complete clarity there or unpack the remark to fully understand it and the underlying data. But it’s symbolic of the growing importance of Facebook in the local ecosystem.

Now with the advent of the Like button and Open Graph local publishers will race to integrate these tools. Indeed, they’ll make local sites more social and personal by showing friends’ activities and so on. They also provide a simple way for local businesses and the publishers to gain greater exposure to networks via Facebook. This was already true to varying degrees with Connect; the new tools merely amplify the effect.

The potential “dark side” of all this is the fact that all the data that emerges from all the Like button clicking will be in Facebook’s hands. Other third parties in the network will be able to access some of that data with permission but no single party in the “Open Graph” ecosystem being created will have the entire data set — except Facebook.

Facebook has given no indication that it will do anything like what I’m suggesting here, but let’s play out a scenario.

All the local publishers in North America and Europe implement Social Plug-ins, etc. Millions upon millions of businesses are “Liked.” That creates a master data set in the aggregate. Facebook will know:

  • The favorite sushi restaurants in every city
  • The favorite contractors
  • The favorite attorneys
  • The favorite  . . . in every category

They’ll know all these things in the aggregate and in terms of my network in particular. Each “Like” is a “vote” in the same way that each link is a “vote” in the SEO world. But a Like vote is much better than a link vote.

In a very short period of time Facebook will have a ton of valuable data. What will do with all this data (courtesy of all the local sites that will implement Social Plug-ins)?

It could do nothing in particular or it could build the single most effective local directory and search site that exists. This data will be more valuable than anything Google has or any individual local publisher-partner possesses. That includes Yelp, YPG or anyone else that joins the Open Graph and implements these new Facebook platform tools.

Now let’s think back to Google a few years ago.

Google was originally regarded mostly a source of SEO traffic to local sites. It had maps but it wasn’t considered the local competitor it is today. Over time Google continued to improve its local offering and started showing maps + local listings increasingly. It’s to the point now where local SEO is a very limited option. The need for alternative traffic is fueling the rise of CityGrid, the anti-Google.

The story could well be the same with Facebook, should the company decide that local information is important to its users and/or that it wants to make local search a bigger part of the Facebook experience.

One could also imagine a mobile app, “Facebook Likes,” that provides recommendations from my network and from Facebook users in the aggregate. The “coverage” on such an app would be unmatched because of the data that Facebook will be capturing — data that nobody else will have.

Just like SEO in the past local publishers probably cannot afford not to participate in the Open Graph program. For them the benefits are clear and immediate. But in the long term the benefits to Facebook could be far greater.

The question and uncertain thing is the degree to which Facebook wants to offer its own “local search” results or apps. No one at Facebook has given me any indication that they’re going to do something like this. It just popped into my head yesterday at the F8 event. And Facebook wouldn’t do anything for at least a year or two at the very earliest.

However given the goldmine of data that will be coming from the Like button it will be very tempting to do something at some point.

Hitwise: Zillow Now #2

April 14, 2010

In the monthly Hitwise real estate report the company pegs Zillow as the number two real estate site in the US:

And here are the top search queries in the real estate category per Hitwise:

Realtor.com is unlikely to hold on to its top position in my view, as a relatively complacent incumbent, much like MapQuest lost its crown to Google in Maps. The question is when will Zillow become number 1? As an aside, Yahoo! Real Estate (number 3) is increasingly a mix of third party content, including from Zillow.

It’s totally amazing how the newspapers have let this market slip from their fingers in a slow-motion process that has lasted more than a decade.

SuperMedia Getting Vertical

April 13, 2010

Not long ago DexOne (formerly RHD) launched a vertical strategy with a weddings site. I didn’t talk to the company but assumed this was the first in a series of verticals that it was going to pursue. Now, SuperMedia is doing something similar but more aggressive. It has built a new “AskLearnHire” platform and three new verticals at launch, all with the “prefix” Super:

They all follow the same “template” and these are the first verticals in a larger planned rollout. The sites try to capture and address different stages of the consumer research and decision-making cycle with Q&A, content and lead-gen, hence the tabs Ask, Learn, Hire:

Consumers can ask a question and get it answered by a service provider; they can read content (written by writers but later by SMBs) and/or they can submit an RFP/lead-gen form:

According to the press release out this morning:

During the beta phase, leads will be sent to participating businesses at no charge. After official launch, businesses can purchase exclusive leads at a competitive market fee. Leads are only offered to one business at a time with information about the consumer’s needs so businesses can evaluate before deciding to accept that lead. Businesses are only charged for the lead if they decide to accept. The consumer’s contact information is only shared with the business once the lead has been accepted, which eliminates consumers being contacted by multiple businesses.

As you can see from the presence of the cape-wearing fellow, the SuperGuarantee is a prominent part of the entire offering. SuperMedia is trying to build lots of brand equity around the SuperGuarantee, which I’ve been told independently by several people at the company is very popular and “working.”

During a call last week, I was cautioned by SuperMedia VP Robyn Rose that the sites are a work in progress and in beta. The initial three categories were chosen because they’re popular on Superpages and involve varying degrees of research and consideration.

SuperMedia is trying to learn from consumer and SMB interaction with them whether and how to modify the sites before proceeding with a larger rollout. Conceptually this is very creative and interesting and trying to go beyond and provide more utility than the typical profile page details and content that are common to directories. There’s also broad SEO potential here in the Ask and Learn categories.

The sites will also gain exposure on Superpages.com and vice versa.

Taking a broader view, the changes and new efforts at Dex, Yellowpages.com and now SuperMedia reflect a time of transition and change in the US directory industry. The local market is now incredibly dynamic and competitive (as it extends into mobile) and these efforts are new attempts to bring more content, relevance and value to consumers and advertisers. In the case of SuperMedia, in addition to its various syndication programs, this vertical strategy is an effort to not only provide a useful consumer experience but also something of a hedge against reliance on a single consumer destination.

What do you think of this new vertical approach?

Trulia Adds Rental Search Capability

April 7, 2010

Trulia, like some of its competitors (e.g., Zillow), has branched into rental property search, the company announced today. This is a response to changes in the market. According to Trulia CEO Pete Flint approximately 30% of those in the market are equally looking at buying and renting.

Flint told me that the rental data on Trulia are coming directly from brokers/agents, aggregators and a range of other sources. He said that anyone can add a rental listing for free. Flint asserts that Trulia’s rental database is more comprehensive than any other rental property site online. He also said the company’s search functionality and filters allow for a wide range of searches and lookups than competitors’ sites.

Another interesting feature being launched is user ratings for neighborhoods, which will be featured on property listings pages. According to Trulia, users “can rank neighborhood attributes on 12 different traits including parking, cleanliness, safety, public transport and weather, along with many more topics. There will even be details about whether a neighborhood is good for a family vs. singles, etc.”

Listings can also be shared on Facebook.

There will also be an updated mobile website that is optimized for the iPhone and other smartphones featuring the rental search capabilities and listings. Flint told me that he sees the rental market as even more suited to mobile than the for sale market. That’s because “it’s a less considered purchase . . . and the inventory is more perishable,” according to Flint.

He added that roughly 10% of all Trulia’s page views are now coming from mobile devices.


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