Using IYPs As an SEO Strategy

There’s a very interesting discussion going on at the bottom of my post “Do Yellow Pages Still Matter?” The thread goes like this: if yellow pages are effectively playing the role of an “agency” that help SMBs (and others) gain distribution in search results is that a cost-effective way to do SEO?

Here are a couple of excerpts:

The issue is NOT should you advertise on IYP’s, but what is the customer acquisition cost for doing so. As Greg mentioned many IYP’s enjoy organic/SEO traffic (ie., Yellowpages.com in Google organic SERP’s), but when you have to pay the high cost of the Fixed placement ads in the IYP’s – the customer acquisition costs skyrocket – compared to the top search engines. SMB’s with limited monthly budgets have to target their spending to the sources with the lowest customer acquisition cost – so until the IYP’s can compete on cost, they will remain 2nd tier.

And:

Most small and medium businesses place their IYP ad without doing the math. They can tell you their cost per click on a search engine but if you ask them how their IYP ad is doing; no clue. As with search engines, IYP results vary per industry and per location.

IYP sites offer advertisers very qualified traffic but their volumes are quite a bit less than general search volume (and local search going on via the major search engines’ main sites). It’s an interesting issue.

11 Responses to “Using IYPs As an SEO Strategy”

  1. Neil Says:

    It is an interesting issue, and one that I plan to test in the near future. Yesterday I was looking at the cost of listing a catering client in Superpages.com. To make any sense at all, the business would need to be listed at the county level. A quick, rough calculation showed me that his ad, with county coverage and some enhancements like highlighting, near top of results, etc, would cost at least $200 a month. But here’s the question — would it bring him at least 200 clicks per month? That’s about what he pays for clicks on Adwords (less on Yahoo) – so unless Superpages brought at least 200 clicks, it’s not competitive. This client has had a basic, free listing in Superpages for just about ever, and like any basic listing on the IYPs, it is buried along with all the others. I cannot recall the last time I saw a visitor from Superpages in his stats.

    However, I am interested in knowing whether Google or Yahoo use the inclusion of a website in an IYP such as Superpages as a signal about the site, thereby enhancing the SEO value of the basic listing.

  2. Greg Sterling Says:

    But one interesting issue is would that lower-volume click on Superpages (if you bought it) convert better, which is what the studies seem to reflect, than one from G or Y — making it worth more?

    Robyn Rose, VP of Marketing for Superpages, was on a recent panel with me and she was citing conversion rates consistently north of 50% to 70%.

    Wondering if people have had that experience in their campaigns.

  3. Neil Says:

    What does Robyn say is the underlying cause for this high conversion rate?

  4. Chris Silver Smith Says:

    Neil, just a few comments/answers. (Disclosure: until recently, I worked for Superpages.com, though I attempt to respond as objectively as possible in my comments. I was actually in charge of Superpages’ SEO program for a number of years, so I prob have some accurate insight on the subjects you’ve raised.)

    Regarding a county-wide placement: if the cost were too expensive, you might consider buying placement in just the top few cities in the county. Probably most traffic would be from the biggest cities, I’d guess. Also, Superpages does offer Pay-per-click advertising, too, so you could just purchase the number of clicks the client can support.

    Also, consider carefully about graphic treatments for ads on any site. For natural optimization purposes, placement is the primary key. If graphic treatment makes your listing appear banner-ad-ish, it could work against CTR, in my opinion, since many seasoned internet users have a tendency to blank out content that appears too advertising-ish.

    Does Google/Yahoo count website inclusion in IYP sites for ranking purposes? Well, links in high-quality directories are used by search engines for ranking purposes, so it depends on a few additional factors. If the site lets everyone and their dog have a link, with no qualifications, then Google likely dismisses the link love. Most of the high-quality IYPs like Superpages would assess whether the link is functioning, if it belongs in the category/locality, and whether it’s offensive or not. I don’t know if these factors are sufficient for Google’s purposes or not.

    Additional factors would be: are the pages where the business’s link appearing optimized so they can be crawled/indexed by the search engines? You can test this by doing searches for your company name or biz category plus locality and see if the IYP site has pages indexed for that category or not. If the page with your link isn’t indexed by the search engines, your link won’t get you anything.

    Also, Google doesn’t like to count paid links, unless the payment is strictly for the time it takes to perform quality review and implement the link. Generally speaking, those IYPs which provide free links for all businesses would likely pass this test, while those who charge might not.

    Finally, is the link itself crawlable/usable? Some IYPs use tracking hyperlinks and redirects or NOFOLLOWs which might keep the link from being used to “vote” for your site. Tracking links and redirection can be set up to be search engine friendly, but you’d need to check.

    So, links from IYPs can help with SEO, though it’s a complex task to assess if it’s working or not for each individual one. The larger worth of the link would be in direct user traffic, IMHO. Secondary worth in building inlinks to the biz site.

    For your question on why Superpages would have higher conversion rates than general search engines: this isn’t unique to Superpages — it apparently applies to most IYPs. The theory is that when a consumer is using a yellow pages site, they’re already ready to buy a product or service, so a high percentage of those sites’ referrals convert. With a search engine, there can be many reasons why users conducted a keyword search beyond a desire to buy, and various keyword combinations could bring your ad up for searches that might not convert as well when a user clicks the ad. Various research firms have backed up these theories through observations — yellow pages traffic might cost more, but it also might convert to sales at a much higher rate in most cases. It’s important to try to look to actual conversion rates, not just CTR, to compare apples with apples.

    One other thing: you mention not seeing Superpages in a client’s stats. That could be due to him being low in alphabetical order, as you indicated. It also could be that you might not be checking for all referring domains that would be part of the Superpages network. Superpages syndicates the content to a great many sites, so you could see referrals from Infospace.com, Live.com, Local.com, etcetera — and all of these referrals might be originating from your Superpages listing or advertisement.

    Also, is Idearc Superpages the dominant provider of printed books in the client’s area? While Superpages.com is nationwide, they’re not the dominant printed directory provider in every market, and the websites of the dominant provider often have higher traffic levels than other sites for that area. For instance, I’ve seen a number of stats showing that Dex directories (owned by R.H. Donnelley) dominate online yellow pages market share for cities in Colorado where their print directories are dominant.

    It’s ideal to have placement in all top IYPs, but particularly for the one that’s market-leading for the local business area.

  5. peter caputa Says:

    I was talking to a Citysearch exec the other day. He told me that some 40% of their traffic was directly from search engines and mostly from google. I’d say that being prominently featured on a YPRP (Yellow Pages Results Page) is important for direct traffic, of course. But, I’d also imagine it is good for seo.

  6. Neil Says:

    Chris: thanks for the analysis of SEO and IYPs — really helpful. I bookmarked the page.

    I read somewhere on SEOMoz recently that Google actually considered a business’s listing in Yelp, and I believe Infospace, as a positive signal in terms of organic SEO. I don’t know whether this is true or not, and how widespread it may be. It’s fascinating if there is some truth to it, but how would Google, or any other search engine, scan the data? I must say that if I was a search engine, I would currently give some weight to a site that is listed correctly in local IYPs, or almost anything local. My feeling is that if a business is working hard enough to get into some local channels, it is likely a business that is seeking out new customers. And surely that is one relevant signal of what constitutes a local business. The job of the search engine, in this regard, is to provide a searcher with relevant results. If plumber A is actively seeking new customers, and plumber B is not, then the consumer might want to look at plumber A first. Doesn’t mean plumber A is better than B of course. But there are some things even Google can’t provide, yet.

  7. AhmedF Says:

    Neil: 100% true that Google uses crawled data for their local listings. We had a user submit a listing, accidentally put in the wrong address (eg East instead of West), and it turned up in Google (and we were the only ones with the same error).

  8. Neil Says:

    Ahmed:
    Thanks for that piece of evidence. Confirms my gut feeling about it.

  9. SEO ranking of US IYPs across 274 cities in 2009 | Net Magellan Says:

    […] example, Greg Sterling. Back in 2007 he wrote Using IYPs as an SEO Strategy, where he wrote about the Internet Yellow Pages (IYPs) being a proxy for search engine visibility […]

  10. Jon Colin Says:

    In my personal opinion iyps are extremely important in your seo structure for local seo sites. penguin is giving preference to those sites, even those with 3-4 cruddy backlinks , authority in search just for being on the pages section and having an iyp linking to it… i have 6 local seo clients at present and I have managed to obtain the top 2 results on each one just by using good old high pr edu & gov backlinks which i take the time to manually post on. some stick in 24 hours, others 24 days LoL – but one PR1 .EDU is worth 1 PR10 .COM to penguin, so think if you indexed just 5 of these bad boys for your local market’s authority, you’ll get to the top, and stay there. So as always, MANUAL LINK BUILDING prevails. if anyone reading this wants the list i personally use , shoot me an email to jcb at riseup dot net and ill send it for free to experienced webmasters who genuinely are looking for an excellent free tool… this is not spam lol that is my personal email address, you wont get an auto responder or a redirect or some crap like that, just write me a msg and tell me you are interested in the list and share the sites you are having trouble ranking, ill take a look at them and let you know my thoughts.
    We webmasters must stick together!

  11. Charles Says:

    Is doing a PPC with Superpages.com a viable way to appear on Google’s Organic traffic. Many stories online about Superpages.com being a scam!

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