SuperMedia and Dex Merge 2012

August 22, 2012

Dex One Corporation and SuperMedia Inc. today announced that their Boards of Directors have approved a definitive agreement under which Dex One and SuperMedia will combine in a stock-for-stock merger of equals, creating a national provider of social, local and mobile marketing solutions through direct relationships with local businesses.

Upon closing of the transaction, Dex One shareholders are expected to own approximately 60 percent and SuperMedia shareholders are expected to own approximately 40 percent of the combined company.

Two ugly companies with a dim future get married and make one big ugly company with an even uglier future.

Why? It was planned years ago from the getgo. It is no longer a rumor.

Idearc and RH Donnelley both were loaded with debt. Both companies went bankrupt. The Paulson Hedge Fund has a stake in both companies. Both companies experience naked short sellers attacking the value of the business and manipulating the stock price. So much in common it makes you think they are perfect for eachother.

Idearc (one of the leftover marketing names from the “Verizon” brand development research) was doomed from the day Ivan (CEO of Verizon) decided to spin the company off with 9 billion in debt, without the assets or collateral to back it up. Idearc’s incompetent management team has no loyalty to the hardworking people (and teachers union) who invested in Verizon blue chip stock and subsequently lost it in Idearc stock. But Hedgefunds like Henry Paulson shorted the company and them bought both Dex and SuperMedia stock after bankruptcy. It was perfectly timed 2 years after SEC rules of course. No IRS penalties for Ivan! Just a bunch of unhappy business owners who have a great reason to hate the yellow pages.

It is this sort of Crony capitalism that sparked the Tea Party Revolution… But we at Idearc remembered Scott Klein the CEO ranting about his love of the Hope And Change Chicago politicians. I prefer supporting small businesses like the ones I have helped for the last decade. They despise this marriage.

Come to think of it, maybe it would be good if they reduced the saturation distribution business altogether?

yellow pages future

When I left SuperMedia in 2009 they still had over 80 sales reps in the local Dallas sales office. Last I heard they are down to less than 10 reps. The company has lost over 22% of its business year over year.

This is a move to keep the stock above $1 per share and avoid being listed only on the over the counter “pink sheets.”

Real small business online marketing takes a less “protectionist” 12 month contract product centric focus and a more holistic transparent client-side strategy that focuses on “content marketing.”

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The Final Nail is In The Coffin, Bye Bye to Greater Dallas

July 27, 2012

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SuperMedia, the formerly bankrupt publisher of the Verizon Yellow Pages, will announce what will likely be another double digit revenue decline in print advertising during the company’s quarterly earnings call today July 27th.

What the company will likely not be sharing is the decision to discontinue what was once the most profitable directory in the company’s publishing footprint. The Greater Dallas Yellow Pages will not have a 2013 edition. Rumor is that the company is no longer making money printing the once ginormous brick of recycled paper waste material, which was once the most used local search tool in North Texas.

Am I heart broken? No! Besides today being my birthday, I am overjoyed that they finally came to their senses.

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Who still uses the yellow pages?
Since phone companies no longer have a monopoly on printing books and thanks to Google, smart phone technologies, and the advancement of online search and online content, Dallas area consumers no longer need a bulky yellow pages to find information. The phone books that still receive ad impressions are likely hyper local books in more rural non-urban markets, like the ones “Idearc Media” (the former pre-bankruptcy name of SuperMedia) bailed on.

Word is the company will continue to push digital offerings and more failed attempts to sell advertising via channel partners while failing to create digital assets of its own. They have repeatedly outsourced all attempts at “quality online marketing” not limited to even include the advertising for the yellow pages brand itself. Don’t expect the company to hire hundreds of copywriters and begin offering content marketing like my company SMB SEO.

Back in 2009, I had a meeting scheduled with Dave Bethea, former Executive Vice President of Sales for SuperMedia, to discuss ways to improve the company’s online offerings. I had been helping clients with online marketing and SEO for almost an entire decade. Dave was a good friend of the company’s CEO at the time Scott Klein. Dave and Scott both came from a background of selling materials and fasteners for the building industry. Nails, fasteners, and whatnot. In my opinion Dave should not have been put in charge of running an organization like the Verizon Yellow Pages. He had zero experience with a consultative sales approach and it showed. I cancelled my meeting with Dave and shortly thereafter left the company.

The discontinuation of the Dallas Book represents an official changing of the guard and further proves that my concerns were justified back in 2009.

The reasons why consumers don’t use the yellow pages has little to do with the fact that the yellow pages abused the power and influence it had on small to medium-sized businesses. Constant annual rate hikes. Penalties for decreasing budgets. While other companies protected the customer base with affordable ads that brought a rate of return, the yellow pages disregarded the rules of the marketplace and repeatedly found ways to manipulate earnings. From selling customers ads they clearly could not afford, to 13 month long life publications and new double double truck seniority ads, and countless other gimmicks and tricks squeezing more revenue while providing less and less value to clients.

I have always maintained that it was wiser to keep a client then be forced to replace one. When a publisher loses a customer due to overselling or errors a publisher might miss revenue from that particular enterprise permanently, sooner or later your new business opportunity dries up and you have managed alienate your potential customer base.

What the yellow pages did was simply getting a significant stake in the SMB profit margin. Today business owners are not extorted out of revenue by a local directional search monopoly.
Google offers affordable pay per click (PPC) ads that fit most budgets and combined with analytics and dynamic call tracking offers an awesome value to businesses. Organic search marketing also concentrates on content contribution, brand authority, and share of voice vs “who has the deepest pockets” to buy the biggest ad.

RIP Greater Dallas, you will not be missed. Businesses thank you for helping them grow over the years… Now GO AWAY!!!

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SEO does not always mean the same thing

April 28, 2012

A wise man once said that “all marketers are liars.”

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This couldn’t be further from the truth. It surprises me that business owners are still not savvy about online marketing. Many don’t see the need for a local search marketing strategy because they think, “only the big companies with huge pocketbooks” advertise aggressively online. They are the companies always at the top dominating search results. Sure this can be done to some extent by sinking yourself deeper into credit card debt with Google Adwords, but why keep going back to the World’s Largest Auction (bigger than Ebay!)

Organic search results get over 1/2 of the click volume.

Most small businesses don’t understand the concepts and strategies of content marketing. Then again, most SEO services and agencies tend to focus on the on-page website changes, business may or may not deploy a blog strategy depending on whether the website is built in a blog style CMS like WordPress. Unfortunately for businesses, they often can only afford a cheap SEO agency who typically fails to use content for building backlinks. I say you can’t afford not to. Stop going back to the auction! Organic and local complements PPC domination and also stretches a budget with recurring revenues from search engine result page share of voice and real estate.

I once SEO’d a “bookie service” website that took up 5 of the first 7 results with multiple websites and different business names

Some SEO firms optimize for Google Places and setup local listings, but do they include accounts with the data centers UBL and Localeze listings? Do they provide manual local listing optimization that focuses on creating as many local citations (mentions of your business name, address, and number?)

I recommend finding a transparent and holistic firm that focuses on a diverse approach to SEO, not just moving things around on a page and changing a few settings (how often you gonna change a Page Title?)

If someone calls and offers you SEO service you have every right to be skeptical. After all, “all marketers are liars” and SEOs are the biggest out there.

I have always said the minute you change a page title you are “gaming” Google.

Just stay away from link builders who use non transparent or blackhat SEO methods. While the potential short term business may be good for your wallet, getting kicked out of the search results or worse de-indexed is not something you can easily overcome.

I do recommend considering separate IPs and crazy aggressive tactics for local search niche domains though.

Hiring an outsourcing company or yellow pages type company for your online marketing is just crazy. Everything is proprietary and you won’t own a thing.

They should stick to what they do best…

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How Much Has Yellow Pages Usage Really Decreased?

November 21, 2011

News is that SuperMedia, the company that prints the Verizon Yellow Pages, is planning to discontinue publishing the Greater Dallas Yellow Pages after 2012. The reason for doing so is declined usage and very high costs to print and distribute.

The decline of yellow pages is not news to consumers, but tell that to the folks buying and selling the ads and you will get mixed opinions.

The companies are laying off headcount to save expenses, while investors are seeing -20% year over year decline in ad sales and little results since Google moved Marissa Mayer to Local Search User Experence years ago.

The big companies that are buying the big ads want you the smaller business to think that it generates a nice profit.

It only helps them squeeze you more, just like big PPC bids.

One of my clients actually said that he believes he breaks even on his ads but hoped they made his competitors keep spending to keep up.

For most small companies generating a profit is a challenge. The smallest margin is significant. Money wasted on ads that do not perform have a bigger impact on the smaller operations than the companies with the double double truck plus size ads.

So, how much has usage if the yellow pages really declined?

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More than 55%. The costs of the ads just took a little bit longer to come down the same. They still haven’t.

Might be why big banks and hedge fund guys like Paulson own stake in them, shorting the stock and playing the same game they did with home mortgages and derivatives.

The decrease in print distribution has even taken longer. In urban areas less than 20% of people will use the yellow pages for a local search. Mobile search via Google is the new phone book. You will see less and less big bulky books soon. SuperMedia and AT&T will begin focusing on rural market books once again. Day late if you ask me.

I expect SuperMedia to discontinue publishing other Metro area books as well as decrease distribution.

I do not expect them to share these new distribution or opt out of delivery numbers any time soon.

Btw, we are offering mobile sites that include a nice commission for my former media consultant coworkers.

Take a look at Lewisville Divorce Lawyers Mobile Website that my Dallas Internet Marketing Firm built.

Hammerle Finley used to spend big bucks on phone book ads. They are the small town general practice firm who made others spend big bucks. Hammerle probably doesn’t feel the same about what became of GTE Yellow Pages from the 90’s.

They are David to Goliath if you ask me.

Who uses the yellow pages?

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Why you should rank for longtail keyword terms – Case Study

August 21, 2011


I recently blogged about information regarding the death of an executive at the company I once worked for. My blog typically shows up in searches (SERPS) for keywords related to the company I once worked for, including the company name.

My web analytics show me how many searches from Google and with what keywords related to this tragedy ultimately resulted in clicks to my site. I thought that if I shared a post on the site I could help folks find the information they where looking for. This would also be an opportunity to understand how people search for information.

In my opinion this is often not the best of situations  to conduct research, but I guess internet marketers can sometimes learn a few SEO tips from these weird, unusual, or even tragic situations. Case in point, Michael Jackson searches and the QDF algorithm.

Query Deserves Freshness

 What do BP and Michael Jackson have in common? Michael Jackson’s death was one of the big events which brought the “Query Deserves Freshness” concept to the forefront.  If a news event is big enough you will see the search engine Google struggle to figure out what results to display for the widely searched fresh topic.

Great keyword research can quickly be learned from search phrases that are seeing rapid growth in query volume related to fresh topics.

Unfortunately for us the comment section of my blog was attacked by a disgruntled former employee of SuperMedia, someone named “Bob” who felt the need to use my site as a platform, grandstand, or podium soapbox to share his utter disgust towards the company this executive (and I once) worked for. I decided to hide the comments from Bob out of respect.

So first I would like to say that if you would like to pay your respects to John Hillrich, please visit the John Hillrich Memorial Guestbook here.

A recent comment on the post summarizes my thoughts on what happened, and subsequently what took place on my blog, and how the vast majority of us all feel about it.

To all who have expressed such kind words for our dear John Hillrich, please take the time to visit http://www.JohnHillrich.com where you’ll find his online obituary and guestbook which is the appropriate resource to express our condolences.

This current forum is stained with comments that should’ve never been allowed to publish, nor been  they hgiven attentionave. John’s friends / family should not have to read such filth, so let’s move these well wishes to http://www.JohnHillrich.com where his family can read them in peace.

Love you John Hillrich. My heart aches for your family, parents, and children. God’s peace be with you all.

I want to apologize for the rude comments. I have since removed them out of my respect for John’s friends and family.  My deepest condolences.

With that being said, I would like to share what people searched Google for to find my original blog post.

You will see some of the keywords have been removed below. This is not a complete list. I want you to pay attention to the “value” of the long-tail and how “unique” most people search. It is obvious that most people search a few widely used keywords and then the real “SEO value” is in the long-tail terms.

Read the rest of this entry »


Greatest Call Count Research Statistics on YellowPages Ever…

June 12, 2011

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Imagine if I could use the power of this blog, with all the wonderful targeted keywords that it ranks for, to produce the greatest collection of yellow pages call tracking and call count results ever?

According to Gregg Stewart with TMP Directional Marketing:

Telephone tracking can be accomplished by setting up a dedicated call-tracking line, whereby a unique phone number (local or toll-free) is placed on a Web site or local search advertisement. The ad is suppressed from directory assistance databases, as well as other advertising sources such as Yellow Pages and White Pages. This enables the marketer to cleanly track the exact calls coming from the specific ad campaign.

To gather and then share great stats I would ask for the following data points from over the last decade from small to medium-sized business owners:

Year:
Number of calls per day, week, or month:
Directory:
Monthly Ad Cost:
Estimated Cost Per Lead:

I would then compare the years and see if the cost decreases while print usage gives way to digital local searches.

Can you share some call count information?

–——————————–

Let’s go Mavs!

With the Dallas Mavericks winning the NBA Championship today, I want to do something extra nice…

How about giving away a FREE Call Tracking service for your print or ppc ad via CenturyInteractive.com and CallMeasurement.com? This is valued at over $1200.00 each! I have got 3 to give. Just give me some great call count data on your print yellowpages or ppc ads!

If you want to be anonymous, just let me know that too!


Why the Internet and Google Kills The Yellow Pages

May 15, 2011

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On the most recent SuperMedia Verizon Yellow Pages earnings call the company’s CEO Peter McDonald, the 3rd CEO in 4 years for Idearc/SuperMedia, was asked a question:

“Okay. And then last question. I was wondering if you could comment on —

Google recently changed their algorithm for searches, if that’s affected small business? And if you’ve seen any impact from that?

SuperMedia CEO Peter McDonald replied:

“I really don’t –I don’t keep up with Google changing their algorithm. I think they do it every day.”

He also probably doesn’t consider Google or Bing Local competitors. This is a sad reality. You see, back when folks like Chris Silver Smith and his team of SEO experts ran SuperPages.com, the site was the #1 local search destination and was the site that Google used most for citations or references to local listings. The site had tremendous authority. Client content in the form of business profiles ranked high on Google for terms like “painting service Denver” and other category/geography keyword combinations.

The yellow pages are facing continued decline of use, which is attributed to a shift in local search from printed books to cell phones etc. People once needed the book to order a pizza, now they turn to a mobile application or simple search for “pizza” on Google for local results.

Peter is an old school print YP dinosaur who doesn’t get it. He probably thinks that half of Americans prefer the printed yellow pages local search product over the internet local search. This is only true in small rural areas. Peter is a yellow pages preacher. He preaches his faith regardless whether science and academia state otherwise. Peter will hire lobbyist to prevent municipalities from creating opt-out programs that circumvent his industry’s attempt to collect consumer data with opt-outs. When homeowners associations begin to put restrictions on yellow pages delivery it will be too late..

SuperMedia just announced plans to layoff 267 employees because businesses no longer need listings in the phone book to be found….. Why not? People don’t use the yellow pages or white pages to research local business information such as addresses and phone numbers. The call center they are closing once handled a bulk of the company’s business, including all the low-cost mailout renewal accounts. These accounts consisted of multi-heading and bold fonts etc. The demand for such a thing is non-existent.

Google’s algorythm change and the inability of Peter McDonald and his team to invest the time to “keep up with it” is exactly why SuperPages doesn’t get the traffic to client websites that it once did.

Another potential area of focus or failure for local search websites is the Social check-in, group buying and engagement sites. These sites are great response tools for measuring subscribers or the online social user-base. Unfortunately the yellow pages again have failed to adapt. They don’t seem to understand the word “subscription”. People don’t subscribe to the yellow pages. You must unsubscribe to get them to stop polluting your front porch or lawn with the once bulky books. If you continue to solicit your products to people that do not want them, fail to offer them a clear and easy means of opting out, your industry will fail by not respecting and appreciating consumer demand. Time to close up shop.

Check-in ratings are real. Use FourSquare or Gowalla and see how competitive it is to become a “mayor” of your local school or Starbucks. This is a great way to see the level of social engagement in your area. Something measurable vs drinking the company mantra and Kool-Aid.

Google loves a well optimized small business website. Which is better, a SMB website or Internet Yellow Pages listing? The answer is the SMB website.

I have also found that link-building from niche blog sites works well, just like topical content link-building from regional news sites and press releases.