Is the ’10 Pack’ Killing Internet Yellow Pages?

Picture 7In a provocative piece at SEL, Chris Silver Smith discusses how universal search and the rise of the Google “10 Pack” have negatively affected organic traffic and referrals to Internet Yellow Pages sites. But he also talks about sites that are “bucking the trend”:

A number of notable local info sites appear to be bucking the trend or holding steady—most notably Yelp which is still holding steady, but also MerchantCircle, Zillow, ServiceMagic, and . . .

The article discusses what directories should do about the trend:

I see quite a lot of lost opportunities in SEO terms when I look over most business directory sites. Displaying the same, bare-bones content for a business’s listing which is also being displayed on hundreds of other sites is going to be less and less sufficient to maintaining organic referral traffic from search.

It may be necessary to expand out your taxonomy development efforts or partner with a company like ShopLocal, NearByNow or Where2GetIt to find out what is being sold at many of the stores listed in your directory. Finding ways to expand out keyword-rich description data about companies could be the deciding point in whether or not sites can continue to obtain natural, non-paid referral traffic.

Whether or not Chris is correct in every detail about the deterioration of search-directory referrals (vis-a-vis the Google 10 Pack) the issues he identifies are important and need to be carefully considered.


8 Responses to “Is the ’10 Pack’ Killing Internet Yellow Pages?”

  1. Steven Brier Says:

    It’s been my experience that Google’s Local ’10 Pack’ was slowly killing alternative forms of advertising until 10 Pack’s were displayed without city and state or zip included in query.

    The much higher number of 10 Pack results increased the impressions immeasurably. Google as usual is way ahead of the general awareness of the amount of traffic a properly optimized local business can obtain. Google as accelerated the decline of both print yellow pages and other forms of local advertising.

    I’d like to note that most Local 10 Pack results still have not been fully optimized but dispay the best available but do not fully satisfy Google’s ideal listing requirements.

  2. Mike Bunnell Says:

    I agree that expanded 10-pack presence is improving Google’s local search share. Optimized listings is part of this, and other LBC integrations are going to push this further.

    For example, I can link my Google Base product feed items with my Local Business Center location listings, so that when someone sees one of my products in a SERP (in a product onebox), I can expose my bricks-and-mortar locations as well. Then there’s the beta program that enables you to expose your product feed items inside an expandable box in your AdWords ad. Multiple overlapping points of integration.

  3. Greg Sterling Says:

    It’s also about consumer laziness and the presentation of information “right there” so that the user doesn’t have to drill down too much further on third party sites.

  4. Mike Bunnell Says:

    Definitely, Greg. Google’s strategic focus on speed again pays dividends. Subconsciously or otherwise, people know that when they click on directory results in the organic section, it’s a mixed bag, with the potential of slow, sparse or cluttered sites. When they click on Google’s various links (sponsored, product, business listing, etc.) they get zero latency, fairly dependable relevancy and no LOSE FAT NOW!!! flashing banners…

  5. Chris Silver Smith Says:

    Mike, the “no LOSE FAT NOW!!! flashing banners” is a vivid description, but pretty apt. Indeed, many of these sites continue to experiment with mixtures of ad content versus user-friendliness.

    I’d agree with the implication that too much unfriendly UI and inconsistently relevant results are impacting consumer loyalty for most IYPs.

    However, I can also play the devil’s advocate some with this – I’d seriously conjecture that Google Maps has yet to be profitable. Google has sufficient revenue from other areas to pay for their Google Maps development. If Google had to make profit or break even on Maps, how might that impact their user-friendliness? Thinking in this vein, it’s almost not a level playing field.

  6. Greg Sterling Says:

    Chris: Definitely not a “level playing field” in that sense; Google subsidizes maps.

  7. Earlpearl Says:

    I thought this is a great article. The advent of dramatically more 10 pacs for inherantly local search queries in the dominant real estate of the page makes a HUGE difference.

    I’m an smb w/ a couple of businesses. We have authorititative 1 maps, top of some 3 and 10 pacs…and are shut out on some queries. Depending on how we show in maps we see demonstrative differences in search traffic for particular phrases.

    We have 1 local smb w/ extremely strong rankings w/out geo phrases. For years it has had excellent rankings for industry terms in all 3 engines. When we saw both high serps and a 10 pac w/ us at the top for industry terms(non geo)….traffic soared and contacts/conversions soared.

    If smbs saw this analysis it would scare them off of the IYP’s and IYP/like sites. For years the IYP’s and their cousins have made sales pitches that often rely on capturing traffic within their own entity(s). IYP’s: Your traffic pales in comparison to searches.

    Meanwhile, while doing various types of local searches for a variety of products and services in some metro areas I became increasingly impressed by Yelp’s high serps rankings. I can’t help but think that effective SEO is one part of Yelp’s increase in traffic. (Clearly, though it is a compelling site on its own. Its evident in the volume of an active Yelper community)

    Finally, several years ago, I spent a lot of time reviewing the results from the infamous AOL dump of anonymous searches. One thing I looked at was IYP traffic. So much of their traffic at that time was dependant on high serps rankings for a wide variety of local searches for all kinds of services. (AOL used and uses Google serps. It did not have a 10 pac/ 3 pac/authoritative 1 map over the serps at that time.)

    If 1/2 the IYP traffic was/is the result of ranking highly in Serps….being pushed down the search page is going to have a devastating impact….as Chris has identified. Further, as Greg identified years ago, roughly 1/2 of the possible search traffic for local services (i.e. Denver Dentist) is often made by a searcher in or near Denver who uses the search term “Dentist”. 1/2 the search traffic w/ local intent . That is an enormous amt of traffic.

    I’ve seen that traffic on one of our business sites. Believe me, it dramatically outpaces huge aggregates of all the long tail phrases with appropriate geo terms. Those 10 pacs are dramatically vacuuming up traffic and sending them into maps.

    The losers–> the IYP’s and other directories pushed further down the SERPs. Excellent article, Chris.


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