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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In Google WE Trust…..

November 23, 2009

CitySearch & Yelp have a higher percentage of traffic from Search Engines

What Percent of Traffic to IYP Sites Come From Search Engines?

In Google WE Trust……In Google We Trust

and in Internet Yellow Pages sites you don’t.

A question many business marketers ask me is:   Should I advertise in the online yellow pages sites? And what budget should I allocate?

Local Search traffic details year over year

Online Yellow Page directory sites such as Superpages.com, Yellowpages.com, CitySearch.com, Yelp.com, and YellowBook.com accounted for approximately 1/3 of all local search traffic in 2008. Since then Google, who has approx. 77% of all internet searches, has made big changes to the way it displays local search results. This change to the “10-Pack” of listings, Google Local Business Listings or LBL results, has made a huge dent into the overall traffic to IYP sites.  So considering that IYP sites account for less than 30% of overall local search traffic, why would you give an IYP company more than 30% of your online advertising budget?

My answer to the question of How much money should I allocate to sites like Superpages.com and Yellow Pages.com for my internet advertising budget would be no more than 30% divided up according to ComScore data.

Now the next question: Which online yellow pages sites should get the larger share of my local search budget? In my professional opinion it is best to see which sites have a higher ranking under your targeted keywords. For instance, Let’s say you have a local Dallas Divorce Attorney website, if you conduct a search on Google for “Dallas Divorce Attorney” you will see FindLaw as the only directory in the first page results on Google. I would advise this client to list with FindLaw to be listed on this:  http://lawyers.findlaw.com/lawyer/firm/Divorce/Dallas/Texas page result.  You always want to be listed where the traffic is going to from the major search engines like Google and Yahoo, and the other even more significant reason to be listed is that it will help your SEO efforts. Your ranking on Google is dependent upon being linked to from other popular results. You want to create an authority with Google and you cannot become an authority without links that build this authority. Who is the authority on Google for “Dallas Divorce Attorney”? Google ranks your website based on authority.

If you online budget for pay per click is $2,000.00 per month, I would allocate around $400-$600 per month to the online Yellow Pages sites.  A suggested budget allocation would be as follows:

$250 to Superpages.com

$250 to Yellowpages.com

$100 to other high Google ranking IYP’s for your keyword search phrases

To achieve high organic web page rankings on Google you must first understand that SEO or Search Engine Optimization is 40% your website keywords, articles, and content and 60% depends on links, social media, and overall off-page authority of your website. Local IYP sites are great tools to build authority. Most local directory sites offer a “FREE Listing” or profile page that you can “optimize”. This profile or listing is very important to your organic rankings. A large percentage of the traffic to local search sites is from people looking for “white pages” type information. It is very important to take this into account and avoid paying a premium for leads and traffic from existing clients who are looking for your business contact information. This is easily accomplished with Google AdWords with bid management strategies. I have seen IYP sites charge clients for business name searches the same fees it charges for new client leads (around $2.50 per click or more).

You Don’t Want Traffic, You Don’t Even Really Want Clicks……. YOU WANT CONVERSIONS!

CONVERSIONS = CONVERSATIONS

If your Google Adwords Reseller is only giving you Clicks and Call Reports without discussing your website converting visitors into conversations, it is time for you to stop giving them money for HORRIBLE advice, or lack thereof.

As far a concerns about click fraud, I would not participate in ANY online marketing without detailed analytics. One of my former managers at Idearc Media once told me years ago that “treatment without diagnosis is malpractice” and I have been telling my clients for years that you can’t manage what you can’t measure (“management without measurement” is an Internet Marketing malpractice“.)

Be cautious of a company that offers a bid system on top of Google’s perfected bid system. It is not as challenging to manage PPC ads as many Google resellers and PPC lead companies may lead you to think. Paying for phone calls has always been the most effective means of tracking ROI to advertising. Phone calls is only a measurement of ROI, not a very good measurement of what is going on with your potential clients thoughts and whether they saw your ad, read your message, and felt about your website. The combination of Google Analytics, Google AdWords, Landing Page creation, Ad Testing, and Google Voice is an extremely strong offer to local small and medium-sized businesses.

You Know Your PPC Company is Doing It All Wrong When They Charge You The Same Fee Per Click for Traffic Regardless of Conversions & Quality!

My agency offers affordable PPC management for a flat fee with no contract.

Why buy the cow when the milk is free? If you want to buy the cow…….. I can “sell” Daisy to you as well!

No agency should own the PPC work that you pay for… that includes the ReachLocal and Yellow Pages companies.

Give me a call! 214-267-9553.

I look forward to serving your Dallas Search Engine Marketing needs soon!

Cheers,

Mike Stewart


Are you paying for your competitor’s Verizon Yellow Pages advertisement?

October 8, 2009

As I said before, I left Idearc recently after almost 10 years with the company. I have notices lately that it has gradually been turning into a hire ’em and fire ’em style culture. The company has been churning media consultants and managers. It is obvious that they want sales. I understand that it is a sales organization.

(I edited this article to add the following supportive quote on my “opinion”)
I am offering a quote from Andrew Rudin’s comment titled: “On My Honor, as a Salesperson . . .”: Why Sales Ethics Matter

Which business risk represents the greatest threat to shareholder value? Natural disasters? Terrorism? Product defects? Piracy? Patent infringement? Lack of ethical boundaries?

If you answered anything but the last choice, think again. The massive collapse of market capitalization at Tyco, Worldcom, and Enron underscores the grave dangers posed to shareholder value when employees lack an ethical compass. The cumulative decline in market capitalization resulting from fraud at these three companies was $136 billion, according to Public Citizen’s Congress Watch.

These scandals originated in the executive suite and required an ecosystem of compliant people to execute. What about ethical problems that originate elsewhere? What happens when ethical violations spiral from what are euphemistically called “aggressive sales practices?” In 1998, ethical violations at Prudential Insurance became so pervasive that the company’s management eventually estimated its liability from the pending class-action lawsuit at $2 billion. Among the voluminous courtroom testimony from the case was this nugget: “Your judgment gets clouded out in the field when you are pressured to sell, sell, sell.”

The company is allowing sales fraud to take place by Hispanic sales reps in the Texas area for Spanish yellow pages products and also paying these reps higher commissions to boot.  (before you throw stones at me for stating this: If this subject were taken to court, I am more than 100% positive that it can be attested that what I am saying is true, and I have documentation to prove such) I think Idearc needs to read this article from Harvard Business School.

Idearc has to keep the print business and is forced to make it work. If it doesn’t work Idearc will not survive as a company. It is too horrible at servicing the internet business and offering the level of service it can offer with a print product. It is theoretically impossible for them to retain the same margin going forward as print rates start dropping and so does advertiser count. Idearc has lost many clients during the recession and it will be a challenge to win them back. I am also sure that they will also consider wiping existing client debt away (which is going to be great for sales reps commissions) to increase the amount of opportunity for sales results once they emerge from bankruptcy. Reminds me of the class action law suit regarding credit limits. Idearc will keep paying commissioned sales consultants for .com and ppc sales when the majority of the money goes to Google and Yahoo but declare the revenue not based on the management fee for PPC but the actual client budget (investors correct me if I am wrong?). Seriously, do you really think that Superpages.com is more than 10% of local search? Although, I do see value in both it’s print and online offering, your typical search marketing “uneducated” Idearc sales consultant is just in it to make a buck from a company that wants to get paid with unachievable margins. Yet in my professional opinion they have a few media consultants at the company who are worth more than weight in gold. Folks that have experience that even Harvard Business School could not teach. Working with so many different industries and on different forms of marketing, promotion, message and ad buying is a huge asset. Just my .02 cents.

If you need further visual proof of my statement on sales fraud… just grab a copy of the SuperDirect Postcard decks for the Greater Dallas area…. why are there so many Hispanic surname painting, remodeling, flooring, concrete, and landscaping companies in the decks? They are not making money if they keep allowing the credit limit to be given so freely in an attempt to show positive sales results while telling Wall Street that it was having issues with Receivables. Company motto going forward needs to be reward good paying clients for quality leads. Stop forcing paying clients to foot the bill for non-paying clients advertisements. Why should a reputable company lose calls to a no-pay business? It is hard enough competing in today’s marketplace without all the fraud. I think Idearc doesn’t need but 5-10 clients per category. Have a set rate per lead. Build a call center to screen the leads. Offer existing worthy clients premium opportunities. Kill all the free listings!

It was also apparent that Idearc wants a culture that rewards calling the same clients over and over with the same old spill. Reps are told to disregard notes that state “do not call” or NITC (not interested in telephone call). Now, I don’t know what Idearc’s upper management thinks about this and whether it is just local sales managers, but the thought of beating a client into a sale does not do much to resolve the issues it companies have with client churn. But hey….. according to some clients they just want your credit card number!

I will also mention that I have clients that are making serious ROI on advertising in the product. It does work. It just takes the right ad message, the right ad price, and the right position in the product. Media buyers need to step in and start buying ads for clients vs commissioned sales reps who have no clue what the business can and can not afford. Transparency in pricing will go a long way to helping the yellow pages industry. Make pricing more like Google and give up on this idea of a “affluent homeowner” using and urban scoped directory that takes a zillion lbs of paper. Heck, I remember someone actually stating that if you stacked the Greater Dallas Yellow Pages one on top of the other it would reach the outer atmosphere…. if this is true…. No wonder Ed Kohler at http://www.thedeets.com is going nuts!

Cheers,
Mike Stewart
(former Idearc Media Consultant speaking out)
http://www.dallasSEOguru.com