Multi-Level Marketing (MLMs) to Enter Search Marketing – Yellow Pages Publishers Beware!

December 30, 2009

Yesterday a former “advertising and multi media marketing coworker” asked me to join a AdzZoo Webinar.

I am forewarning and reminding folks that this blog is about myself and whatever else I feel motivated enough to share.

So on to my weak “uneducated” attempt at an AdzZoo Review:

First and foremost, the folks bringing you AdzZoo, all appear to each have many years of experience in Sales, Network Marketing, and Venture Capital/Investments.

As someone else put it here:

If you take at look at the executive team at Adzoo, they are primarily made up of old-school sales and marketing people. Which begs the question, what does someone over the age of 60 who came from marketing know about an industry that is realistically less than 10 years old and which changes by the month? The answer is obvious- very little.

AdzZoo’s team has sales experience. The folks at the Online and Print Yellow Pages seem to have more “Internet Marketing” (cough** ADVERTISING SALES **) experience and are a bit more grounded vs the pump you up and send you out nature of an MLM. Although if you have ever seen a ridiculous attempt at pumping folks up, you should see Scott Klein’s Tomorrow Show Today broadcasts or Idearc’s local sales meetings! lol
The level of search engine marketing training coming out of Idearc is very basic at best. Don’t expect advice from Idearc’s “trained media consultants” to be any better than an AdzZoo rep.


AdzZoo Offers PPC
:  So do the Yellow Pages. Although AdzZoo says it focuses on PPC initially until organic rankings can take effect and produce the results as promised. Boy are they making a promise with AdzZooClientLeave Behind

Is this guarantee doable? Sure, give me $300 cash and I can also guarantee that I can get you on the first page of Google…. but at what cost and for how long? This is were accountability and service come into play folks!

They Offer Landing Pages: Well, the Yellow Pages sorta does this…… (AT&T more so than Idearc.) To be honest with you AdzZoo seems to be kicking yellow page website designers asses. This is horrific!

They Offer Google LBL (Google MAPS): So does Idearc/SuperMedia via Google crawling and indexing Superpages.com results, but Idearc does not recommend or offer support to claim listings which is what Google recommends.
Now some will argue that they are charging clients for what is FREE, as is the case with Google Maps, is a scam. But, if you consider the amount of listings that are unclaimed of folks who do not even have the basic understanding of local search, it maybe argued that AdzZoo is providing better service than that of IYP companies such as Local.com, CitySearch, and Superpages.com. Part of the Google Map listings are based on Google Maps Local Ranking Factors and another component is the Local Business Sponsored Link Ads which is a pay-per-click Adwords option to get in the maps. Now this is a strategy I always recommend for PPC clients

For years, I’ve recommended to clients to claim the businesses local business listings on Google. It is FREE and just takes a few minutes. Claimed listings are ranked higher than listings that are not claimed. Google Maps has taken a big hit to the Internet Yellow Pages companies like Idearc/SuperMedia’s www.Superpages.com Here is a video from Google on claiming your listing for FREE. David Mihm has a list of the local search ranking factors here:

Yellow Page sites traffic on decline due to Google Map display on SERPs

AdzZoo doesn’t have a website ranked in the top 25 of all sites, but if you have looked at SuperPages.com or other online Yellow Pages site traffic, you can see that Google has cut a big chunk. As well as the fact that keyword searches for “Super Pages” or “Yellow Pages” on Google are down significantly. This was caused not by the Yellow Pages consumers adapting or going directly to the sites directly (approx. 30% of SuperPages.com’s users visit the site directly vs clicking from Google Search Results,) but Google done a better job over the years of catching and surpassing to the folks at the Yellow Pages after the early days of the internet. The maps has made huge dents in the Internet Yellow Pages industry revenues.

New Slogan

In the early years, the yellow pages got ahead of Google by leveraging the print data and phone company listing information on its internet brands, such as http://www.SmartPages.com, YellowPages.com, http://www.Superpages.com etc.  (Currently they are getting beat in innovating subscriber’ship’ by YELP, AngiesList.com, and other hyper-local directories. I believe a good measurement of success for any directory is the number of subscribers.)  When you own the listing data (like Verizon or GTE or Southwestern Bell) it makes it easy to have more than a startup company like Google. This is no longer an advantage as Google has improved the ability to find and collect the listings data. What hurt the print yellow pages telephone company publisher before, competition from independent publishers who now have telephone company listing data without the huge costs associated with it,  is now impacting the future success of the industry. One of the reasons Idearc is the land of discontent to some degree. Hard to sell clients on SuperPages.com when it is less than 10% of local internet advertising.

I would have thought that a local directory would have already joined the Google Content Network and work-out a better and stronger relationship with Google. One that benefits advertisers and the publishers. Givin’ the cash that Idearc CEO Scott Klein is bragging about being in the bank, one would think that he could bring that to the table with Google. Stop trying to beat Google Scott…. this is not Coke vs Pepsi…. this is Coke vs Hansens.

As you can see by the chart above, less and less folks are looking for Yellow Pages.  All of this has resulted in a shift away from traditional print publishers for the internet space. I am not terribly optimistic about multi-level marketing (MLMs), but I will say that AdzZoo seems to have an edge on my previous employer Idearc Media.

Multi-Level Marketing offers low start-up costs, low overhead, strength in commitment, an endless supply of sellers. For a product that can be simplified such as AdzZoo is attempting to do here, I have a feeling that if the “Campaign Managers” can become educated and accountable, this may be a legitimate entrance of MLM’s in the traditional local small business advertising market.

AdzZoo will have more sales reps than Yellow Pages. AdzZoo’s sales reps will have individual websites. AdzZoo will have more “sales and promotion” websites than phone book publishers. I was one of the few that recommended Idearc adapt personal blogs and pages for Media Consultants. Idearc doesn’t seem to want folks selling internet marketing to utilize more than 20% of his or her brain apparently! lol

AdzZoo Offers SEO: WINNER WINNER CHICKEN DINNER. Traditional phone book publishers have yet to figure out a means of monetizing search engine optimization. The fact that AdzZoo is entering the market with an SEO offering is why I feel they are going to have a strong impact on local search sales. For years I, MIKE STEWART, have bitched, moaned, and groaned about my previous employer, Idearc Media, lack of focus on organic search beyond focusing on ranking Superpages.com. I had a few recommendations on how to do it, but Bill Brewer the new guy in charge of Idearc’s National Sales and Local Texas Sales Office decided to let me go vs. allowing me to opportunity to change the course and influence the direction of Idearc. But hey, I only put 9 years into the organization. What did I know about selling and servicing advertising for local businesses? Idearc wants telemarketers. They should have just became AdzZoo if you ask me! lol

Simply put, SEO & Social Media Marketing is where local internet small business marketers need to be. Paid Search marketing costs will continue to increase as the volume of searches increases. Although conversion rates and clicks per user are dependent on landing page optimization, paid search will continue to become more expensive vs less. Equity deals will also become the norm.

I am somewhat concerned about AdzZoos use of a subdomain for clients page. I don’t think Google will rank multiple AdzZoo pages for the same keyword on the first page. I agree with AdzZoo that seldom do consumers see more than the 1st or second page. Those other “gazillion” results mean very little. Google’s talent in indexing those is almost a waste if you ask me! The use of subdomain is very similar to what I recommended to Idearc as a Media Consultant for SEO, www.Ecordia.com ‘s Content Hub.

I have a feeling folks would be more inclined to purchase “ambiguously priced search marketing programs from friends and family with the latest get rich quick scheme to make money leveraging a business owners network vs a 12 month contract for only Google Pay Per Click Management that is irreversible and backed by credit and collections attorneys in the event something go wrong. You see, if Idearc / SuperMedia ‘s SMLOCAL does not produce results, which happens often, since they offer very little (if anything) as far as landing page optimization (unlike AT&T Yellow Pages.com who recently partnered with WebVisible to create landing pages,) you still get stuck with the management fee. In most cases they charge clients 12 months at $700-800.00 per month to “manage” basic pay per click campaigns on Google and Superpages.com with a targeted monthly spend of around 2000.00 per month. So total fees are around 2700.00 per month for only Pay Per Click advertising. Not a very good value if you ask me considering the churn in consultants and clients not getting to own the work they paid Idearc / SuperMedia to produce, but hey… they are in it for the profit folks! If it wasn’t for the Executives at the Unions, very few folks would be able to live like Idearc’s CEO Scott Klein. Let’s say you get behind on your bill due to the lack of true calls from Idearc’s lack of management of Google dangerous content network and decide to cancel your account with Idearc / SuperMedia, now you get to start building your own Google campaign from from scratch.

The one simple reason’s my business plan will succeed…. there is only one method of doing local correctly:

Partner a Website Developer with a talented Search Engine Optimizer who both specialize in Social Media. Build that around a team of talented Pay Per Click Paid Search Professionals, add an honors graduate Video Developer from the Dallas Art Institute, and you have the ultimate offer in local internet marketing.

Call SMB SEO.  214-267-9553

Now…. duplicating this process over and over? That takes money. Something I am not so fortunate to have enough of, unlike Idearc & Scott Klein or the folks at AdzZoo!

For only $300.00 to join AdzZoo, I think I might just try it. Seems to have potential to work well for folks in lesser populated and internet savvy areas outside of Dallas. Heck, AdzZoo and my knowledge of local search marketing might be a heck of a combination! Although, I am skeptical about AdzZoo’s ability to achieve high Google rankings in urban and suburban markets that have above average computer usage, I feel they may be a better offer than traditional print Yellow Pages internet marketing offerings.

Please feel free to discuss this! If you want to remain private just let me know and I will edit your comments before approving them!

I hope everyone has a prosperous and memorable 2010! Happy New Year!

Cheers,

Mike Stewart

The Local Dallas Google Guru

P.S. Don’t forget to comment. I can’t wait to finish http://www.YellowCrooks.com. Thanks to Scott Klein for the great idea! Look for it to launch in 2010! Look for Internet Yellow Pages companies to IP block it in 2010! LOL

Accountability and Fulfillment….. who will win? The MLM or the IYP?

Here is another video review of AdzZoo:


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Idearc Corporate Fraud Begins at Sales Culture

December 28, 2009

How quickly times do change.

Kinda crazy, a few years ago when people said the name “Ron Paul,” more times than not,  people probably thought of:

Also crazy is how quickly things can change. The growth of the Tea Party movement signals one of the greatest changes in my life. Not of the personal sort, but from a cultural perspective.  It appears to me, to some extent, that our opinions as consumers , businessmen, parents, teachers, consultants, employees, and citizens have changed towards corporate America, corporate greed. There is a growing movement towards ethical consumerism. Did your corporation donate money to a lobbyist? This might effect your earnings by patriotic American’s who believe in investing in moral and ethical corporations. Not just from the environmental or green sentiment, but also from that of a political sort. Business owners, like everyone else, are also consumers. They choose where they invest advertising dollars.

Who also recieved the email from Google for the $20 Million “Christmas Gift” to Charities?

Unions want to take corporate profits. Wealth redistribution if you asked me. Unions cater to workers, but who really profits in the unions? When a union is no longer non-profit they too become Crony Capitalists.

Aside from the message about “Card Check” at the end, I really believe this video communicates a growing sentiment in America toward Crony Capitalism.

I don’t believe Congress should pass the Employee Free Choice Act, maybe because I am not that big into unions, considering how bad they managed to screw the direction, profits, and innovations of many of America’s best corporations. Many American corporations are misguided my unions. It is often challenging for a business to sustain “LONGTERM” success with union involvement. Such is the case of GM being held back from innovation by its own employee labor union the UAW.  (My mother, TC Adams,  was a union steward in 1997  while working at the GTE Phone Mart in Garland Tx prior to joining GTE Yellow Pages as a sales consultant. ) GTE, then Verizon, then  Idearc, and now SuperMedia has a challenge working with the CWA Union. At Verizon/Idearc, reps in non-union states are compensated less for advertising sales than those in union organized territories. Cutting into corporate profits? Sure. Offering the company guidance from collecting information directly from clients and media consultants then sharing it  with the companies executives and so called product managers to guide the direction of the organization? Heck No!

(American Greed is a great show btw!)

I’ve always felt that I was paid too much  money just to sell Yellow Pages Advertising. Sell an ad. Move on to the next sell. Sell another. Do some paperwork. Move on the next yellow page ad sale. Man! When I was 20 years old I made over $100,000 selling Yellow Pages for Verizon! (And this was without selling “Fake Yellow Pages Ads to Fill a Phone Book.”) I think that was one of the years I earned one of my numerous Verizon Yellow Page Sales President’s Awards from Kathy Harless, the companies CEO. It was a great career. Up until I started becoming tenured in my job and craving to learn more and more about internet marketing.

Once I quickly recognized that the folks actually doing the work, managing the Google Adwords Campaigns and building the websites, got paid significantly less than those that made the big “SELLS,” it only took me a few years to really grasp what a lack of value Verizon Yellow Pages was really offering for online advertising. That’s when I began studying advanced Search Engine Optimization and Internet advertising methods and strategies.

The corporate sales culture had its flaws, but it was nothing like the direction that Idearc Media is headed, with leadership from Idearc CEO Scott Klein and his circle of crony executives.  As if corporate fraud of the personal sort from executives was not bad enough, they also don’t take accountability for the direction of the company. Ask anyone who heard quarterly earnings calls over the past few years.

If folks knew better they would be looking into Kathy Harless and her dream team of women who apparently thought it was wise to spin the company off with such a debt burden. Idearc paid the price to become a self sustaining organization. Verizon sapped the company dry of cash. Huge profits from Verizon Yellow Pages advertising sales went to fund FIOS and Verizon Wireless ventures. You would want to look into the corporate responsibility as well of Ivan Seidenburg and Verizon directors for FairPoint Communications, Hawaiian Telecom, and Idearc Media’s bankruptcies.

“Audit the Fed!”

If you haven’t been following Ron Paul’s latest movement.

After spending 9 years and 3 months in the Corporate jungle of Yellow Pages Sales from the age of 19 to 28, I want to scream out at the top of my lungs

“Audit Idearc!”

“Audit SuperMedia!”

Let’s look at just one thing that needs auditing in Idearc’s Corporate Sales Culture:

How much do Hispanic Reps in Texas earn vs non hispanic reps.Why do Hispanic Reps get paid higher commissions? Why did Hispanic Reps have lower quotas and earn more money since Verizon/Idearc began publishing Spanish Yellow Pages?

“Sell 4 different geography Solutions/SuperDirect mail drops of Spring vs selling 4 seasonal SuperDirect Mail drops of a single geography deck to keep from being charged back and losing commissions, when the clients doesn’t pay. Then disconnect the pre-paid cell phone that you are having someone answer. “

If this is the kind of advice,  Idearc local sales managers and sales reps believe will contribute to the success of the organization, may Idearc not go bankrupt but cease to exist. Idearc rewards sales. Even sales to illegal immigrants who want to start a business and have zero credit or identification. All you need is an address, business name, and a cell phone.

Quiere empezar un negocio?

Idearc does not reward taking care of the client.They do not reward media consultants for expertise beyond getting a signature on a contract to obligate a client for 12 months worth of billing, regardless of Idearc’s contribution to the success and outcome of the client. Idearc’s sales culture, unlike America’s Small Business Advertising Agencies such as this one,  do not reward results. Idearc does not reward sales based on retention or even receivables. The problem with corporate advertising sales is it is just too much about sales and not enough about advertising.

Audit Idearc’s local postcard sales have been made by hispanic reps in El Paso, Texas, and other hispanic markets. How many of the numbers in the advertisements are disconnected or ring to some newly formed paving, carpentry, locksmith, or painting company?

The Spanish phone books are a JOKE. The rates are a joke. The distribution is a joke. The profit margin is a joke. The entire thing stinks.

I don’t want a Spanish phone book at my house. (I need to remind myself to give Tim O’hare, the Mayor of Farmer’s Branch a call about Spanish phone book littering and see if the city councel can put something together to end this sort of environmental waste — I also recall Idearc changing the book’s name during O’Hare’s nationally recognized push to end the Farmers Branch sanctuary city policies towards illegal immigration.) If saturation distribution wasn’t a big enough issue, we get a few english and now spanish books! Apparently Idearc has had run overs, because they sent me two December publications of the Idearc Spanish Yellow Pages.

Idearc’s corporate fraud began when Scott Klein, the companies newly found CEO, incentivized by a $3.2 million home in Highland Park began lying to investors and employees about the state of Idearc’s business and the decline of yellow pages usage and receivables.  I still think Idearc / Super Media’s next CEO or group of executives needs to have experience with “carrying the bag” before they being hired.  I am anxious to see if he actually manages to reform the organization beyond his intense loquacious lip service work.

Most Yellow Pages advertising sales reps are greedy and unrealistic. I would say many of them are dumb, but I might lose a few friends. Seriously, how much is there to understand about an ad in a phone book. They might want to consider automating the process of purchasing yellow pages ads and transition the companies sales focus to more of a marketing/branding and promotion focused business model.

Well, time to get back to work. It takes a serious amount of energy and effort to start a business. Not as easy as buying an ad in the phone book.

I asked my future “local internet advertising boutique business partner” and chief web developer Jeff Swope what he felt makes he and I different from Idearc. (He has had the pleasure of getting an ear full of my soap box grandstanding over the years.)

His response:

We sell advertising, but advertising sales is not what we do. We are a small web Dallas area marketing boutique. We care about the success of our clients. We call our clients weekly and daily with innovative ideas. We believe that local advertising is as much about brand appearance as it is reputation and ethics. We are accountable. We are responsive.

I want to add:  We teach. My passion is to teach others what I know. I enjoy teaching my clients as well as learning from them.

What makes you the best in town is not just being the best but sharing what you know and being willing to spend the time effort and energy to learn more. I don’t have to the the authority for search engine optimization for all American Small Businesses. I just the SEO authority for my clients in Dallas-Fort Worth. My client who is a transmission shop doesn’t need to become the authority on Google for transmission repair in the United States, but just Garland, Plano, Lewisville and Dallas Tx.

Others in this organization might add that we don’t chase clients with contracts or big attorneys. When you have an issue, it is not softened by 4 mid-level managers before it gets to the desk of the CEO. In most cases you deal directly with the CEO. We have a team of pay-per-click campaign managers who don’t own the campaign after it is built. We build it for the client. We have content writers and web developers who utilize the latest innovations in Web 2.0 and content distribution. We don’t own the content or the site we build for the client. They do. If they cease doing business with our firm for any reason we can recommend another agency through the Dallas Fort Worth Search Engine Marketers Association. Benefit to the client is that most experienced developers can work with our existing efforts due to the capabilities of an open-source content management system like Joomla, WordPress, or Drupal.


Great Quote by One of Our Founding Fathers

December 23, 2009

“If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their money, first by inflation and then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around them (around the banks), will deprive the people of their property until their children will wake up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered.” – Thomas Jefferson 1802

Not trying to insinuate anything… but Eagle Eye was a great movie.

Check out this site:

http://goooh.com/


Rock the Vote says “Hold Out for Healthcare” -not work safe video-

December 22, 2009

F the Vote w/ Zach Gilford & Eva Amurri from Rock the Vote, Zach Gilford, and Eva Amurri – Video.

Silly kids… voting is not for idiots. Holding out for Healthcare? You gotta be kidding me! Rock the Vote?

Is it in the Constitution for a state to succeed from the Union again? I am thinking about refusing to play with California, the States that have Senators named Nelson, and wherever Kanye West is from.

Who’s coming with me?


Entrepreneurs Can Change the World – A Must See Short Clip

December 22, 2009

You can change the world. Remember when you were a kid?


Obamacare Hazardous to America’s Health — David Limbaugh —

December 22, 2009

Time for real change in Washington and in corporate offices everywhere!

Obamacare Hazardous to America’s Health — David Limbaugh —

Crony Politicians needing to be paid off for votes. Crony Executives looking to use power and influence to get a leg up.

https://i0.wp.com/www.john-goodman-blog.com/wp-content/uploads/Comments%20and%20Images/Chart_for_FYI_Expenditures_for_Health_Programs_Smaller.jpgAren’t you folks getting tired of all this? Wall Street and Capital Hill need to realize that Main Street Americans are tired of the bullshit!

The commonalities between Yellow Pages – A Prescription for the Future and the solutions to our Health care problem are very intriguing.

Senators on Capital Hill will do whatever it takes to shove health care “reform” (real health care reform fixes the insurance system and price of health care, such as fee for service costs etc, as well as builds health care awareness focus) which to me is another pay off. Instead of the banks, it is the insurance companies and doctors associations.

“Reforming” healthcare is one thing… paying off fellow Democrats simply to get the necessary votes to allow for debate is scandalous:

Staffers on Capitol Hill were calling it the Louisiana Purchase.

On the eve of Saturday’s showdown in the Senate over health-care reform, Democratic leaders still hadn’t secured the support of Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), one of the 60 votes needed to keep the legislation alive. The wavering lawmaker was offered a sweetener: at least $100 million in extra federal money for her home state.

And so it came to pass that Landrieu walked onto the Senate floor midafternoon Saturday to announce her aye vote — and to trumpet the financial “fix” she had arranged for Louisiana. “I am not going to be defensive,” she declared. “And it’s not a $100 million fix. It’s a $300 million fix.”

Even when she finally announced her support, at 2:30 in the afternoon, Lincoln made clear that she still planned to hold out for many more concessions in the debate that will consume the next month. “My decision to vote on the motion to proceed is not my last, nor only, chance to have an impact on health-care reform,” she announced.

“My vote today,” she said in a soft Southern accent that masked the hard politics at play, “should in no way be construed by the supporters of this current framework as an indication of how I might vote as this debate comes to an end.” Among the concessions she’ll seek: more tax credits for small business and a removal of the version of the “public option” now in the bill.

Democrats have shown they don’t care what they do to this country fiscally.  The $787 billion “stimulus” ($1.24 trillion with interest figured in) not to mention the nearly $1 trillion cost to “reform” and all of the additional costs that will hit individuals and businesses will result in less money in the pockets of taxpayers, less hiring by employees, and lower wages as companies seek to try and maintain some profits in our new Democratically managed economy.

Witness the recent statement by Emerson Electronics’ CEO regarding how Obama is treating American businesses:

One of the country’s most important industrial companies says the United States is not a good place to manufacture and it will continue moving its assets offshore.

The federal government is “doing everything in [its] manpower [and] capability to destroy U.S. manufacturing,” says David Farr, chairman and CEO of Emerson Electric Co., in a presentation at the Baird 2009 Industrial Conference in Chicago Ill., on Nov. 11. In comments reported by Bloomberg, Farr added that companies will continue adding jobs in China and India because they are “places where people want the products and where the governments welcome you to actually do something. I am not going to hire anybody in the United States. I’m moving. They are doing everything possible to destroy jobs.”

Expect this trend to continue as Democrats push for a more government managed economy.  The result is going to be rationed care, higher taxes, lower quality healthcare, higher unemployment, and more payoffs as we have already seen simply to buy votes.

The generational theft that the Democrats are perpetrating is criminal.

Meanwhile, Yellow Pages publishers want to shove phone books on you whether you want them or not. Then they hold the local government accountable for paying to remove the waste. I think they need to get your permission to send you a book. No OPT OUT… now that you are not regulated to send us one (the phone companies have said they don’t feel getting a book is now necessary) distribution needs to become an OPT IN based system.

The first yellow pages to announce that they are going green and creating a subscription based model will earn the respect of business owners everywhere and show that they want real change.

Prescription for the future

Clearly the advertising spend for SMBs is changing. This August, for the first time, the number of SMBs using the Internet to advertise (77%) was higher than the number of SMBs using traditional advertising (69%). However, the full weight and enormity of this has not yet been felt, as a disproportionate number of dollars were still attributed to traditional advertising. That, however, is about to change. In fact, Internet advertising, currently the third largest spend, is expected to surpass the newspaper spend before 2013 – newspapers being the biggest advertising spend overall today. Unless newspapers react with products other than print, we think this day will come as early as 2011 or 2012.

Much of this shift is happening as SMBs shift their advertising spend from traditional media  to their own online presences, pure-play verticals and Google Adwords. The YP industry is in a truly unique position to take advantage of this opportunity and potentially even grow their share of SMB advertising spend.

A successful future for YP will include evolutionary changes such as transitioning online to IYP, embracing transparency, pay-for-performance, user-generated content, publishing cycle changes, pricing model changes, and sales process changes. However, revolutionary change will need to be embraced to truly seize the opportunity. The YP industry will need to think back to their origins and rediscover the essence of what made them the most valuable source of advertising to their customers. Before the Internet the Yellow pages were:

  1. The most trusted and complete source of business information.
  2. A business model that was incontrovertibly the best ROI available.
  3. The most convenient, fastest way to engage local businesses.

Here is our prescription for how Yellow Pages can attain the above:

  1. Become the most trusted source by providing Social Context to consumers visiting the directory.
  2. Become the most complete and richest source of business listings by allowing all businesses to provide complete and rich data and participate in the online directory for free.
  3. Provide an incontrovertible ROI by embracing a new advertising model in which advertisers set their own advertising fee and only pay based on a successful transaction, and use this model to leverage the advertisers’ spend on their existing web presence.
  4. Become the most convenient, fastest way to engage local businesses by providing consumers with an interactive system to communicate with advertisers on a one-to-many basis.

We would be remiss if we did not tell you that we have developed the set of tools that can help YP companies do exactly what we’ve described.

Using our platform, the Yellow Pages can once again attain this position of advertising dominance. Yellow Page companies have both the sales force and the means to take advantage of the shift of advertising dollars from traditional print to online models.

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The Ethics in Paying for Reviews

December 22, 2009

Recently the Internet began buzzing about Google discussions on buying http://www.Yelp.com for $500 million.

I can only assume that either Yelp decided not to sell, or Google discovered how Yelp.com became the top online consumer review site for local businesses.

Paying Reviewers to Review.

Recently Dick Larkin, a well-known and knowledgeable yellow pages industry insider, commented on Yelp’s tactics of buying reviews on his blog:

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Why does Google really want Yelp?

Yelp Slumber Party


Google is reportedly buying Yelp.com for around half a billion dollars.  Heck, it makes me wanna yelp!

Yelp is a consumer review site that sells advertising to local businesses.

In a perfect world, the honesty of reviews adds credibility to each business, and advertising simply provides for greater exposure and content.

But it’s not a perfect world, and advertisers prefer not being bad mouthed where they spend their money.

Yelp has 8 million reviews on its site, which I suppose would make it one of the most popular review sites online.

When Yelp was expanding into San Diego, I noticed that a few people were posting massive amounts of business reviews.  So I called one of the most prolific posters and asked her if she was being paid by Yelp.

Indeed she was, and her job was to post information on businesses that she encountered.

That seemed like a good way to get exposure for local businesses, and since I was running an Internet marketing company, I decided to hire people to post Yelp reviews for my clients.

Imagine glowing reviews, “Dude, my sewer rooter guy is totally awesome!”

I ran an ad on Craigslist seeking people who would post reviews of local businesses on Yelp.  I was probably a little too forthcoming about the details in the ad, and I received an email from Craig Newmark (the “Craig” in Craigslist).

Craig Newmark


He said that my ad sounded shady and he wanted to know if I would really pay people to post honest, positive reviews of local businesses.

I informed him that I was doing exactly what the founders of Yelp were doing.

Craig contacted the owners of Yelp, and after a few more emails, he removed my ad.

Yelp was clearly much smarter than me, hence the half a billion Google’s tucking into Yelp’s G-string.

But it makes me question sites that post reviews about businesses that they then solicit advertising dollars from.

It creates a pretty big conflict of interest.

BBB Logo

Of course, the grandaddy of them all is the Better Business Bureau, who run the closest thing to a protection racket with hush money that you’ll ever find.

Some businesses have questioned the authenticity of an “authority” that rakes in dollars from businesses who try to clear their good name.

I’m certain that the Google advertising machine will make the Yelp acquisition into a gold mine of revenue.

But I really wonder how well Google’s “Do no evil” slogan syncs with the way local review sites actually operate.

I’d love to hear your comments.  Post them at: Post your opinion here: http://bit.ly/8xuGsZ

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So back to my soapbox:

Realistically, what do you expect from companies? Consumers leave reviews when they have a bad experience more than a good one.  I feel as though there is going to be no means of avoiding the reprocussions of the bathroom wall of America: The World Wide Web. When you start paying people to add data or manipulate the information for profit, the integrity of the site is at question. Questionable activities and sites do not last for a longtime or build a large subscription base once people find out what is going on behind the scenes.  Even the BBB is not 100% authentic with reviews. Of course folks like me have known for years it is about as governmental as “Federal Express” (or the Federal Reserve for that matter.) What are the solutions to maintaining integrity and ethics in online reviews? How long until the publishers manipulate reviews to keep protect and keep from losing clients? What happens when a big advertising spender offers horrible service? Will people who work for online directory publishers, such as SuperGuarantee.com’s site by Idearc Media, influence consumer perception by removing negative reviews or sales agents adding fake positive reviews? If you folks don’t think this is going to be an issue going forward, you are sadly mistaken!

What is a possible solution to this issue?

A few years back Idearc attempted to leverage content from Sue Goldstein of  The Underground Shopper on the cover of local Dallas-Ft Worth area yellow pages directories.  It didn’t make a lot of sense to me at the time since folks seldom use the yellow pages to research products and reviews/ratings information.

Sue Goldstein  Now it makes great sense to reach out for local experts and create a paid “secret shopper” program. Now, I would first recommend that said “media company” that leverages a great idea, like partnering with local bargain hunters and experts such as Sue Goldstein, on the right vertical. Social media is the vertical for ratings and reviews. Internet directories can become great rating and review sites. The issue is: How Do You Encourage People To Leave Reviews? How about a day of shopping with Sue paid for by the publisher to members who are subscribed to the companies print and online products? How about subscription based rewards programs? It would be a great idea to leverage the expertise and reviews of a bargain hunter like Sue Goldstein? How many unknown Sue Goldsteins exist? I am sure there are a few of them all over the country.

I also think it would be wise to pay for reviews from experts such as SuperHandyman Al Carrell.  This is the kind of marketing that the print industries can take offline and leverage online (or vice versa.)  I am less than pleased with the attempt from the major phone book publishers to adapt to a content strategy for local search. Unlike vertical web properties (sites like Cars.com, Ebay, Attorney.com, Lawyers.com, ServiceMagic.com, etc) the yellow pages internet brands do very little to leverage important consumer content other than a list. If you are looking for tips and information, all they are attempting to do is API tweets on Twitter with very little focus. I don’t understand what they are attempting to accomplish.

My suggestion to print publishers: Take your ideas that won’t work in print and see if they stick on the web. Some of the ideas: like leveraging well-known local experts, can really work well in the social media world wide web.

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Time for the YP Industry to start leveraging relationships with area experts. Create a new form of content that folks want to subscribe to. What about a column from the areas expert in the phone book with a barcode scanner app on a mobile smartphone such as the Droid or iPhone? Time for the industry to get creative.

If the best you can come up with is a copied gimmick…… you deserve your fate:

The Future of Yellow Pages