Google ‘Forcing’ Directories to Buy PPC?

Here’s a comment from David Mihm in response to an earlier post:

“Think ServiceMagic vs. a local contractor bidding on “San Francisco contractors.”

That’s why I think we’ve seen Google moving to take up SO much screen real estate with the 7-pack and Local Listing Ads.  They saw that their $$ was going to come from the Service Magics of the world, whose sites tended to rank well organically, making them less likely to buy PPC.

Now, with the 7-pack only showing brick-and-mortar locations, those guys are forced to spend on PPC, and the consumer still gets to see the moms-and-pops they expect to for those types of searches.

This is a very important point . . . Is Google trying to “level the playing field” for local SMBs by making it almost impossible for aggregators, verticals and directories to enter the 7-Pack and by “consuming” so much of page one? It makes SEO for these “resellers” difficult-to-impossible.

In other words now the SMBs themselves have the “upper hand” in terms of showing up on page one . . .

This forces directories, verticals and others who are trying to drive traffic and leads to their SMB advertisers to do one or both of the following:

  • Buy AdWords on their behalf or on behalf of aggregated SMB landing pages (see Matchcraft; but this is a much longer conversation)
  • Find traffic from other sources (each other, etc.)

They still must do SEO for themselves and their advertisers; it’s just not as effective as it once was. And this changes their strategy vis-a-vis Google at least. They need to sell a range of products and source traffic from all qualified places, including Twitter, Facebook, etc.

The bazillion directory sites that all previously ranked for a query like “dentist, san francisco” or “plumber, san antonio” in the old regime represented a kind of spam, such as used to be seen in the travel context with affliates that were grabbing organic links and then sending clicks to hotels.

Thus Google has mostly improved the user experience but put others in the local space that relied on organic traffic in the position of now having to buy it because they can longer get into the first page of results.

30 Responses to “Google ‘Forcing’ Directories to Buy PPC?”

  1. Chris Silver Smith Says:

    Hmmm…. I don’t know that I’d refer to the directories as “spam”, but then I admittedly have a bit more of a subjective view on the topic. Are searchers seeking a variety of good guides for “dallas accountants” when they submit such a query, or are they wanting to find just a couple of businesses which might be tops for that business industry?

    It’s certainly an interesting progression from past days when Google didn’t offer local directory listings so prominently. As we noticed earlier this year, their evolving to default many searches into geotargeting to include local business listings appears to’ve sharply dented referral traffic to IYPs and some other vertical directories.

    Google has been upfront with indicating that they want to turn more small, local businesses into advertisers, and they want to provide best user experience in search as possible. So, it’s not surprising that their ongoing improvements would erode IYPs and directories, since these have been put increasingly into a sort of “middle-men” position in users’ research and buying sequences.

    The sort of interesting question that arises from all this is what does Google think should be the fate of online directories and IYPs? We’re still at a middle stage where those other directories continue to have many valuable local business relationships that Google does not have. Yet, Google’s improvements in usability are cutting out the middlemen. Many of these companies are data providers to Google Maps, which have helped in part to build the Google Maps product. Further, revenue from these other directories also flows into the data aggregator companies. If Google completely chokes off IYPs, they could also cause problems for some of their own data sources.

    So far, Google’s in-house usability testing would appear to be providing evidence that users may desire to have the IYP pages showing up in SERPs along with Google’s 7-pack. Otherwise, I expect Google would have started suppressing those types of results. How long before they are no longer considered acceptable to Google?

  2. Chris Silver Smith Says:

    I don’t really believe Google’s moves were to push IYPs into purchasing more PPC ads, although that may have been the result. I think they’re more motivated by desire to obtain and grow SMB clients, and to improve usability/user-experience. But, I think they do need to carefully consider their strategy in how they go about the evolution, or else they could damage the local search ecosystem.

  3. Greg Sterling Says:

    Agree that it’s not a “conspiracy” but that’s the practical result. Re the “spam” comment I wasn’t referring to any particular directory publisher but the long list of links that are returned for these geographic, category queries.

  4. David Mihm Says:

    Hey Greg, thanks for the follow-up. Back in 2007, I fleshed out this idea a bit more towards the bottom of this post: http://www.davidmihm.com/blog/google/real-problem-with-local-search/

    Chris:
    “what does Google think should be the fate of online directories and IYPs?”

    I would argue that they ARE trying to cut these guys out. As I said in that 2007 post, why do they want SMB ad dollars going to Superpages, e.g., instead of Google?

    Also, if some resellers are making 50% on SMB ad spend, as Greg pointed out in his last article, why wouldn’t Google want to put that 50% directly in its own pocket via Adwords, Local Listing Ads, etc.?

    You are right that they are “motivated by a desire to obtain and grow SMB clients” and by nature that is going to take business away from a lot of IYPs and resellers. Not in the near-term while they continue to refine their SMB ad offerings but certainly in the mid- and long-term.

    Just my .02, though!😀

  5. David Mihm Says:

    I should clarify that I think G is trying to cut the IYPs out of FREE traffic but is still very interested in maintaining them as channel partners for the time being. But how long will that relationship keep going, given what we saw happening with TeleAtlas last month?

    At the Kelsey show last week, there seemed to be a lot of grumbling among the attendees about the 7-pack, and Chris LaSala’s presentation, so whether that was Google’s intention or not, I think it is clear that so far it’s been the net result…

  6. Yaro Says:

    “motivated by a desire to obtain and grow SMB clients”

    Isn’t this the reasoning behind G local listing ads? Simplify the process for the SMB owner to get more to jump on board.

    I wonder how these ads will compare to and affect the verticals’ (eg service magic) spending for regular ppc.

  7. juliemarg Says:

    As an 11 year veteran of AT&T Yellow Pages and yellowpages.com, I don’t think consumers are looking for IYPs to serve as guides – the iyp list does no evaluation of the quality of the business – those at the top simply pay the most.

    But I think many small businesses could really use help with internet marketing – both search and social. With the changes that are happening every 2 or 3 days, how is the plumber, hair stylist or real estate agent supposed to keep up? Many take the easy route, sticking with the people they already know. They’re making a mistake if they think that every person who knows about print yellow pages has any insight into successfully marketing their business online.

    Thank heaven for AT&T’s early retirement buy out – I’m on my own now!

  8. Chris Travers Says:

    But from a “do no evil” point of view we should not lose sight of the fact that Google has given legitimate local businesses FREE top placement in algorithmic results. This is a wonderful gift to them as long as they continue to maintain an accurate listing, with little or no SEO knowledge required. Figuring out how to ensure they are in the seven pack is another matter.

  9. Joe Says:

    If you understand SMEs and you understand google you understand this isn’t about giving legitimate local businesses FREE top placement in algorithmic results. It ain’t no gift but rather a curse.

    First, and least important, it means more SMEs will be yanking out their hair to figure how to rank in their local 7-pack, which they will never do. They may enlist the services of a SEM “professional” who will guarantee top rank, which anyone who understands either SEO or SEM knows won’t happen. Ultimately, most will throw in the towel and become even more disillusioned with internet marketing than they were. Really, no big deal, at least to Google.

    More importantly is this: have a look at the results returned for a Google search for SanFrancisco Restaurants–thousands of returns of which only 7 appear in the first page local 7 pack. For a vertical this competitive and this populated I guarantee it’s only a matter of time before google begins converting those “organic” returns to paid “directory” style listings–in order to place you’ll need to pay; want more features? You’ll have to pay….more. In the meantime they’ll have cut out IYPs and other aggregators. This has been their M/O for years.

    Ultimately it isn’t what Google does or how they do it; afterall, they are a business and they own the traffic by virtue of the fact consumers continue to choose them first for search. Google can only do what it does because of the failings of their competition, but isn’t that what free enterprise is all about? Eventually the DOJ may have something to say about it but for now never dare to assume any changes or “improvements” Google makes are done without an eye to both the top and bottom line.

  10. Earlpearl Says:

    I have this continuing fascination w/IYP’s and similar directory sites….though I think the older line IYP’s are slowly dying away for lots of reasons. More compelling sites that both list businesses but both create better content…and do some SEO to get higher rankings are far more compelling. Yelp is the prime example.

    Years ago when my sites started outranking the IYP’s for appropriate business terms…and the traffic from IYP’s started withering away….it became apparant that the IYP was a misnomer.

    Search is the old yellow pages on the internet. It generates significantly more visits/views/ searches than the old print versions in and of its own right. Searching is infinitely easier and more rewarding, interesting, and full of information than taking out the big fat heavy print YP and looking up a category. Search is about Intent. The IYP’s always liked to advertise and market about their “magic”…but seriously…their value was that they were a vast catalogue to mine when a potential consumer had a buying intent. That is why they worked. It wasn’t anything else.

    The IYP’s have been hanging on…but its a losing fight.

    Chris, I think the term “local search ecosystem” is a nice turn on words…but I don’t think it carries real weight.

    On the other hand, Chris, your analysis from a while ago using Google trend data and showing that IYP’s and similar sites were losing traffic…and it was occurring in conjunction w/ far more presense and visibility of G Maps was very telling. The further the IYP’s and other directories fall on the search page…the less traffic they get.

    On varieties of types of searches I see some of the following PPC advertisers: Maps.google.com, the IYP’s, local.com, some directories, Bing.com, etc.

    Whether Google’s intent in injecting Maps into organic search was to create more advertisers, create a better search experience, some combination of the two…who knows. It does seem to create more advertisers. Frankly, if our organic and Maps rankings are very very strong are ppc spend drops. I love it. Of course it might lead others to spend. Who knows.

    One interesting approach I’ve seen from one of the IYP types; foursquare…is this thing where visitors to a local place sign in via their mobiles and become “mayor” of a restaurant/place/business etc. Then some people sign in and displace the former “mayor”.

    Is it big…I don’t know. I do see it a good bit from tweeters in certain communities for my local businesses. Its a catchy little thing. Is it big enough to take off…I don’t know…but it is a twist that creates some kind of interesting content/interaction/etc.

    Frankly, I’d love to get in on what is going on w/ the big vertical directories outside of the IYP’s. Are they having revenue problems since G Maps became far more prevalent. That would be interesting to find out.

  11. Chris Silver Smith Says:

    David, I’m thinking that if Google truly had a goal of forcing the directories to buy more PPC, it would be really simple for them to just delist all the IYP listing pages from organic results.

    Back when I worked for an online yellow pages which had major partnerships with some of the search engines, I recall how one or two would completely delist our organic listing pages when our contract term expired. In those cases, our contract was for paid placements and had nothing to do with organic indexing, but they’d delist the organic results when the contracts expired anyway.

    Google’s shown no hesitation at delisting certain types of sites (such as affiliate sites or sites which had gotten their own search results pages indexed). I think they could easily declare IYP pages as another sort of search results page, and delist them on that pretext if they wanted to.

    Yahoo might be the best example of all — their Local pages are very well SEOed and perform pretty well in Google SERPs — it’s always surprised me that Google hasn’t chosen to delist their direct competition when they’d have every right to do so if they wished — and the precedent has been there since search engines have a long tradition of avoiding indexing of deep pages of their competitors. I think that Google might not be aiming to make aggressive blows against the competition.

    Earlpearl – I’ll give you that “local search ecosystem” is a bit of a fluffy term. But, what I mean by it is that there is a bit of interdependence going on between Google, IYPs and local business data providers. Google receives a lot of information from IYPs and vertical directories which they’re using in Maps. They’re also receiving data from the data aggregators to do what they do. Google also has reseller aggrements with some of these partners, leveraging their local sales reps to sell ads into Google. So, if Google harms or kills-off IYPs and directories, they could impact their own effectiveness in the local space as well. They could lose some valuable business data. They could reduce local business ad sales. And, they could harm some data aggregators’ bottom lines as well, which they also may have a heavy dependence upon.

    So, I think “ecosystem” may be an accurate term to describe the interdependence of relationships going on. Unquestionably, Google Maps has the stronger position and could survive the loss of other “organisms” in the ecosystem, but I think it would be negatively impacted in the process if it rapidly and purposefully harmed them. For now.

  12. David Mihm Says:

    Hey Chris,

    This might be the first thing we’ve ever disagreed on! I think Google has not chosen to “delist” IYPs (so far) for two reasons:

    1) They need them not to get SO angry that they stop spending money on Adwords…until Google has reached enough small business owners to capture that Adwords revenue directly
    2) Good or bad, they do have the mentality that their results should be “objective” based on algorithmic factors (witness the recent Michelle Obama photo debacle)…and personally I think we HAVE seen a tweak in their algorithm away from directory/IYP-style results and towards individual merchant websites.

    Perhaps more SMBs are just doing basic organic SEO these days and outranking those sites on merit but isn’t it possible that Google is just turning that algorithmic knob slowly?

    Re: your response to Earlpearl I totally agree that at the moment Google is quite dependent on aggregators and IYPs as trusted sources of information…just like they were with TeleAtlas until they’d built their own Mapping product & decided they didn’t need TeleAtlas anymore. I don’t see this happening anytime soon with data aggregators and IYPs but I’d say it’s “mid-term” rather than “long-term”…

  13. Earlpearl Says:

    Chris: I defer to your experience, technical knowledge, and history. That is interesting information as how 1 or 2 search engines in the past would delist IYP data when a contract had expired.

    Interesting comment about Local Yahoo pages. I immediately thought of this old comment about General Motors which probably dates back to the 1950’s/60’s or 70’s…all before foreign auto manufacturers had taken big market share of cars. It was stated by some business professors that GM could have used its market share advantage to ultimately crush Ford and Chrysler, but didn’t because of fear of anti trust laws used against it at that time.

    Maybe giving local.Yahoo pages high serps is part of their package of defenses against ultimate attacks for monopolistic behavior. Who knows.

    I was a micro data aggregator long ago, initially working as a commercial real estate agent representing retailers, retail real estate, leasing and selling those properties.

    I aggregated information on every piece of real estate, store spaces, contacts, etc. in active suburban retail corridors in my major metro market. Enormous pain in the @ss job.

    Once done, and used well it was extraordinarily valuable. I heard/ reported from a source that accesses and uses that type of information that they consider that Google now controls/has more and better information on more such retailers than any other source.

    Google has depended on aggregators in the past. They have had and may continue to have reseller agreements with YP’s/IYP’s and other data sources etc. Meanwhile they continue to put a lot of energy into being a prime source of information. Directly, subtlely, and in many ways they are working to make more contacts with more business operators. They push, market, advertise, email and make an effort to directly connect to businesses on a daily basis.

    As they do this, I find it interesting in the micro searches I do, that with all that effort, the majority of local businesses have not claimed their business record in the Google LBC.

    Conclusion….Google still needs to do ENORMOUS amounts of work to make that connection with many business operators. As long as most SMB’s haven’t directly connected to Google, I imagine Google will need some partnerships.

    Meanwhile, my local businesses have experienced the following:

    1. When we outrank any type of directory ie IYP, Yelp, vertical directories, etc. the value of those directories diminishes to a minute level.

    2. When we are in a favorable position with regard to organic SERPS and G Maps….contacts to the businesses SOAR.

    3. When we have a problem with SERPS and especially G Maps….contacts to those businesses drop dramatically for the specific phrases.

    Another observation….I was surprised at some suburban restaurant searches I recently did to find individual restaurants ranking rather highly in G SERPs. My experience in the past was that verticals slaughtered individual restaurants when it came to G Serps in the past.

    Maybe the restaurants are getting SERPS smart. Maybe Google is negatively impacting the Serps of the vertical directories. (my independant observations are similar to those of David, above)

    Maybe I’m not looking at enough variety of searches 😀

    In the meantime, The Universal Search Map in google.com has incredible impact. Its a game changer IMHO. Whether with serious intent or partial intent, (by Google) or whatever I would think that it has reduced the traffic to directories and forced them to buy PPC to maintain traffic.

    At one point I thought directories and specifically vertical directories were a spectacular business opportunity. Now I believe Google is slowly but surely strangling them.

  14. Jason Hyman Says:

    there is some really good discussion happening here. some of these comments should be “pots”. I made some comments today about Google changing the game. http://www.localsearchpilot.com/local-search/how-can-a-small-business-keep-up-with-googles-changes

    I am also working on a post about how I feel IYP’s are slowly falling out of the top 10 SERPs and would agree with David Mihm about it’s either the SMB learning SEO or Google slowly shutting off the IYP directory. I will comment more on my post.
    Great discussion and load of info from Power-house Local pros.

  15. Jason Hyman Says:

    by “pots” I meant “posts”. not a big F7 guy.

    @Earlpearl
    I am not a fan of the “mayor” system…yet

  16. Google ‘Forcing’ PPC on IYPs Comments « Screenwerk Says:

    […] ‘Forcing’ PPC on IYPs Comments By Greg Sterling This post, based on a comment on another post from David Mihm, has generated a ton of interesting discussion. […]

  17. Steve Espinosa Says:

    My two cents:

    Will directories eventually be phased out?

    Yes and no. There will always be a need for directories. There will always be a large amount of SMBs that do not have websites and if they do probably are not indexed, are brand new domains, and do not have any links.

    Directories will always be there to give accurate local results. There traffic will go down as Google and SMBs get more sophisticated but they will always remain around just not to the extent they are around right now.

    How do directories succeed?

    Directories like Yelp will thrive and will actually grow in traffic. They have fresh content and a lot to offer to consumers. The other directories that offer little except a Localeze/Acxiom/InfoUSA database and not much else will see their traffic slowly shrink.

    The future will eventually be vertical directories that do not try to be everything to the user except just great at one thing for the user. TheKnot.com is a great example of vertical site that is from the ground based around local venues and service providers all catered around weddings.

    What is next?

    Innovation and the free market will eventually solve this. I think it is more of companies simply innovating and grabbing users through features and content which in return will result in great rankings. This in return will naturally push the old and empty directories down in rankings.

    We are in the infancy of this segment of the internet and it will continue to grow and along with it user knowledge and input will grow. This will lead to more UGC which again will lead to the top sites to the top of the search results.

  18. David Mihm Says:

    Steve, I don’t disagree that directories will continue to stay around. Yelp’s done a terrific job growing a user base & many in our demographic don’t even search for certain types of businesses on Google anymore–we go to Yelp first. So there’s plenty of potential for innovation…I just see Google as being less likely to display the infoUSA/Localeze/Acxiom databases in results, as you say.

  19. Joe Says:

    Jason’s observations here- http://www.localsearchpilot.com/local-search/how-can-a-small-business-keep-up-with-googles-changes -are very accurate except I would say the confusion extends even to “professionals” who will become further confused after the holiday when Google again makes changes.

    Ultimately, I think Greg’s post Google Sowing the Seeds…” is also bang-on. Have a look at Google’s latest “real-time” search. It’s basically c… Not only that, but while Google claims to bring users “the best search results the fastest” this simply is no longer true. Together with the reality that Google has a near choke-hold on traffic to web sites/businesses/information etc. and is forcing virtually everyone from SMEs to aggregators, to directories, corporations et al to pay to play, it may eventually be users who weary of Google since their goal seems to be to devolve into nothing more than the internet’s greatest schill. (Not to mention the potential interest of the DOJ, which I did in an earlier post.)

  20. Adrian Cameron Says:

    I think Steve’s comment about the market and innovation solving this is salient.

    There are it seems an inordinate amount of small businesses who have no idea of the value of their online profile.

    Currently, in the UK at least Joe, Google local listings ain’t no curse. In fact for many of us it is a great channel to drive business. I haven’t noticed huge droves of seo professionals guaranteeing 7 pack placement, but then the UK has a real delay with regards to adopting US trends, or adopting at all.

    I and others are well aware of Google’s commercial creep, but currently there are opportunities to be exploited. I think that we all have an eye on the future but am hopeful that where Google’s fails to provide SME support, then someone will fill the void.

    Who knows, in 5-10 years the old yellow book might make a healthy comeback. I’m currently finding that hand written letters seem to have more resonance with customers than mass electronic communication and have that difference appeal. Is everything merely cyclical?

  21. Earlpearl Says:

    @Jason: Nice article. I used to sell services to SMB’s (the prinicples) and now I am an SMB for a group of businesses. (I have partners) I assist some SMB operators that I know with regard to disecting through the volume of SEO/web stuff.

    SMB operators have no time, inclination, or capacity to stay on top of the changes on the Web. Its way to dynamic.

    Unfortunately web and search IMHO is so incredibly powerful as a marketing/advertising media. Search can be the composite of the old print YP, radio, TV, and print. Its visual, has sound, search for a local product/service = intent…which is the old print YP…and there is plenty of content which equals print.

    And its easy. Sit in your office, searching for stuff (rather than working😀 ), do it at home, do it with mobile. Its very powerful and everywhere.

    Meanwhile google is in control, they dominate search and they are moving their tentacles everywhere. As they change the nature of the dominant position on the search page with Maps, more ads, etc. they impact every business out there. Directories have had a nice run…it looks to me that with Maps and a google move in mobile to “places” pages…directories are getting shoved aside. Its my opinion, not a fact.

    Also, Jason, I follow 2 markets for our smb’s in twitter. I see a fair amt of this “mayor” stuff from foursquare. To tell the truth I’m not sure if its a few people using it a lot, or a lot of people using it. It doesn’t look that substitive. I have no idea if it will catch on to a larger population or its the fad/flavor of the month. Just an observation from following (often scanning through) abt 1500 tweeters in 2 different regions for 2 types of businesses.

  22. Stever Says:

    Over the years I have often seen that an independent brick and mortar business website could quite easily rank amongst or above the IYP pages showing for their particular search terms. When doing initial competitive analysis for a client, if I saw mostly IYP pages on page 1 of organic results I knew getting the client to rank would be quite easy. And there goes one more IYP page pushed off page 1.

    The SEO strategy of a massive site like an IYP’s is to have its millions of pages well crawled and structured to flow “link juice” out to all those deep inner pages of “city name/business type” listings. Those deep pages never really attracted much external links on their own, so their ranking power mainly came from within. For the most part that power was weak, but the search game was easy as most small businesses didn’t have websites, and most those that did, didn’t have sites well optimized for search. So the IYPs grabbed the low lying fruit for millions of locally based search terms.

    That tide is turning. More small local businesses are getting websites and more and more are getting them decently optimized. It does not take much for a small business website to outrank an IYP page because it’s a whole site devoted to the topic at hand. It can easily attract a few quality links, with relevant anchor text. The “link juice” from external links flow right to the pages that matter, often the home page of the small biz site. Unlike the IYP relying on passing some of its own internal link juice (diluted over millions of pages) out to a deep deep listings page. Small biz sites have been slowly pushing those IYP pages deeper and deeper to page 2 and 3 (invisibility land) of the search results..

    I don’t think it’s a matter of Google turning the algorithm dials to slowly squeeze the IYPs out. It’s more that the organic results have slowly been filling up with the results it should have be showing all along, except they simply did not exist, but now there is supply arriving, slowly, to finally meet that demand.

    Up till now the IYPs simply had a free lunch on local search traffic. That’s coming to an end.

  23. Jason Hyman Says:

    @Stever,
    It’s difficult to say with any certainty exactly what’s happening, but based on you saying “it’s more that the organic results have slowly been filling up with the results it should have be showing all along, except they simply did not exist, but now there is supply arriving, slowly, to finally meet that demand.”

    I would counter with who’s to say those sites were not in the SERPs in the first place, it’s just that they were not in the top 10.

    We are also then assuming that Google is deciding that Joe’s Plumbing is a more relevant choice than a major IYP directory just because he optimized his site finally?

    I am only playing devils advocate and continuing the conversation.

    I just don’t think these new SMB’s simply came out of nowhere and optimized their site. I think it’s either a combo of the two or Google choosing to place priority on a non-IYP based SERP.

    some of these newer sites that are getting top 10 results are not deserving of those results just because their entire site is dedicated to “plumbing”. the IYP directory is a major directory dedicated to “plumbing” with loads of backlinks and citations to back it up.

    The SMB with a newly optimized site cant be more relevant with all that Google takes into account beyond the “title” tag.

    How have they developed “online equity” so quickly to place them in the top 10?

  24. Jason Hyman Says:

    @ Earlpearl
    I agree, its my opinion, not a fact.
    Also, did you see the news today about predictions that Facebook buys FourSquare?

  25. Earlpearl Says:

    Timely: After today I’d be happy to see the IYP’s and the YP’s die a painful death.

    One of our businesses got a last call from some “rep” from our friend’s at SuperPages.com. As has occurred over about 2 decades, their treatment and lack of common respect of small businesses is atrocious. This has always been our experience.

    This particular business had a small monthly bill for an almost non-descript “crappy” web service….that had no fundamental value over the last year. The business receives a monthly charge. Its attached to our phone bill. As with virtually all phone bill addendum charges its largely incomprehensible to the lay reader.

    What is this charge? What are getting for it?

    An IYP annual service was coming due. Frankly we forgot it. I can’t recall us setting it up in the first place. The annual traffic from Superpages is a virtual nonentity. In fact its been a non-entity for years.

    The renewal notice came at the last moment. The “affiilate” agent, tried to resell the service. She walked me through it. What a piece of garbage.

    I emailed back saying we wanted it discontinued. She emailed back saying the discontinue notice had to be made on the agreement. She sent a copy of the agreement.

    Whoa baby. Read through that contract. Its ALL Idearc protected and sided. There is an AUTOMATIC renewal clause. Its complex reading.

    I negotiated commercial sale and lease contracts within a complex market with often 40-60 page contracts with all sorts of clauses negotiated back and forth by very competent and experienced council on both sides. The process often took weeks or months. Why? Because the legalese is complex, and would have serious consequences. An attorney without deep experience was a disservice to a client.

    This Idearc contract is a joke to a consumer/small business. In our case it is presented with no time to review, written in a manner that is incredibly favorable to Superpages.com/Idearc, and sets out this automatic renewal/ complex method for discontinuation that is cumbersome and puts the buyer at a severe disadvantage. Additionally, as always it is presented last minute. The smb has no effective opportunity to review the service, its value, review the written contract.

    I sincerely hope the IYP’s collapse. What a waste of my time, a waste of our money, and a continuing disservice to the entirety of society.

    I hope someone from Superpages.com reads this. More than that I hope small businesses read this and stay away from the IYP’s as do those that advise them.

    On the other hand if somebody from Superpages or the other YP’s and IYP’s wants to make good with us…contact me through Greg. We deserve a refund after years of getting this miserable service.

  26. Stever Says:

    I’m very much generalizing, since we are talking about all kinds of business categories and hundreds of cities.

    Yes, some of those sites were already in the index, but based on my experience, poorly optimized. A quick fix of title tags, keyword usage in content (rich original content at that, paragraphs of it, not regurgitated telco data), internal linking structure, and pointing a few quality links their way would often send one of these SMB sites to page 1, from way back deep in the SERPS. Not much differently today than it was 3 or 4 years ago.

    Small business awareness of a need for SEO has been growing, slowly. As well as awareness of basic on-site SEO practices by independent and small web design firms building sites for SMBs.

    There are still lots of poorly optimized SMB sites parked back on page 5 in the SERPS. There are still lots of SMB’s without websites. There are still lots of clueless web designers building SMB sites in flash or image slices, or using silly content devoid intro pages, or setting title tags, without keywords, to be the same across every page of the site.

    But it’s slowly getting better. And thus contributing to the slow removal of IYP pages from page 1.

    The IYP sites may be building link equity towards their main Plumbing Category Page, but they’re not building much link equity directly to the “Cedar Rapids Iowa Plumbers” page. Instead they are pointing links to the State Plumbers Page or to the core City Page. Then their site structure tries to flow some of that link juice out to those deep specific city-category pages.

    However for some major metros and the more important “money” categories, they are building links directly to the city-category pages. But it’s just not feasible for them to do so across tens or hundreds of thousands, even millions, of such pages. So for the most part, outside a few money pages, the IYP pages were relying almost soley on optimized title tags, a little bit of internal link equity passed though keyword loaded anchor text and not much else, except a few instances of keywords repeated in business names listed on the page.

    Like I said, if optimizing a site for a local small biz client and I see nothing but IYP pages appearing for their main keywords I know it will be easy, and often is, to rank well. If I see page 1 is mostly other local SMB competitors, and the IYPs are pushed back to page 2 or 3, then I know we have to put our game faces on and step things up a notch.

  27. Mike Stewart Says:

    Keep the comments coming folks. The 10-pack had a big dent on YP traffic. Also the big players like Superpages are getting hit by the smaller folks like Yelp, Merchant Circle, CitySearch and others. Of course this was previously stated.

    You guys are awesome!

    Cheers,
    Mike Stewart

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