All the grand plans that eBay’s Meg Whitman had for Skype largely failed to materialize. Many of those visions had to do with driving calls to local merchants and the prospect of PPCall. Now as Skype becomes an autonomous company it’s getting back into the local game by pushing into the yellow pages space with a new “click to call” offering. Earlier this April Mike Boland at Kelsey was told of several tests going on between Skype and directory publishers that were integrating Skype “click to call” functionality in search results. I wrote about my views of the prospects and outlook for such partnerships at the time.
Now the first such deal has been formally announced, between European Directories and Skype. According to the press release:
The partnership between Skype and European Directories will offer consumers free calls to up to 700,000 businesses across Europe. Participating European Directories advertisers will have the opportunity to be highlighted with Skype’s blue “Free Call” button anywhere their number appears on the internet.
In order for telephone numbers to be activated, users must have Skype for Windows 4.1 installed. Most (North) Americans don’t appreciate how popular Skype is in Europe, with millions and millions of users.
Under the deal, European Directories advertisers will be the beneficiaries of the Skype pnr “free call” button. Other phone numbers will be equally “activated” online but they will not enable a free call (in other words no need for SkypeOut to call a landline). Thus the idea is that more calls will be driven to European Directories’ advertisers because their numbers will be highlighted. All those calls will be tracked/trackable and won’t need to be replaced by unique call-tracking numbers.
The second bit is the SEO value of the move. With a small number of exceptions, yellow pages are having to rely increasingly on SEO in Google for traffic. Even as print usage declines, many publishers find they are losing increasing amounts of online traffic to Google as it makes its Maps product stronger and more “sticky” as they used to say (e.g., tying the PC and mobile more closely). The not-so-new battlefield is page 1 of Google search results and the 10-Pack in particular.
This deal will call-enable numbers that appear in the Google 10-Pack in addition to elsewhere on the page. Here’s a Denmark search result for that quintessential local search subject: pizza.
European Directories’ advertisers will now go from this:
And here’s how the full 10-Pack will look under the new deal (for those will Skype 4.1 installed):
Directory publishers (w/Skype) will thus try and “colonize” the 10-Pack and first page of organic results on behalf of their advertisers. My understanding is that preliminary results from the trials Skype has done with a couple of publishers were positive. (I wonder if specialized publisher icons will be developed to provide “branding” in the 10 Pack.)
For European Directories it marks another step in the journey from traditional publisher to lead-generation platform for local businesses. The buttons could support a PPCall model as well, even though my understanding is that it’s not part of the offering at launch. For Skype it also represents a bold move (back) into local. It’s less clear to me how consumers will react — although most local business searches do result in a phone call.
It’s also not clear how Google might react to this and, if it dislikes the move, whether the company can effectively do anything about it.