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:



Idearc Media’s SuperGuarantee…. what’s all the fuss about it?

October 5, 2009

Mondays are typically the day of greatest change.  CHANGE– It is only a 6 letter word but can embrace the meaning of many words. Last Friday was officially my last day as an employee of Idearc Media (it is interesting how folks seem choose to leave or get the pink slip only on Fridays).  I started the company in August of 2000 as a “telephone call-center” sales representative.  Most recently I worked in the (Irving)  Texas local sales office which services the entire state of Texas.  Change has been taking place at the Idearc Media Texas “division” office for the past few months. Personally in my final weeks at Idearc, I had two different District Sales Managers.

Change is also in the air at Idearc as it attempts to fight back against a path of doom and gloom in the print Yellow Pages environment. It is obvious that the above average or average computer user is no longer using the printed media to locate a local plumber or attorney. Although the industry will continue to spit out 5 year old stats from CRM Associates President – Dr. Dennis Fromholzer, who is the leading world expert on “printed” Yellow Pages. You see, the problem with this information is that it is biased. It comes from a source that is paid to produce it.  While working at Idearc,  I found it very hypocritical of the company to ask and push for syndicated research on Yellow Pages as it pertains to the discussion of usage, preference, and the possession of the Verizon Yellow Pages product vs Yellow Book USA’s printed Yellow Pages product.   I am not going to continue the ongoing debate on the uses of print yellow pages, but I want to make sure that folks are fully aware of what is going on.  As an employee of Idearc I was discouraged to discuss what is going on in the industry as well as the company due to the nature of employment. Most recently a very interesting serious of events took place on Ed Kohler’s blog The Deets and I posted about the discussion. Media Consultants at Idearc are instructed to leave discussions about what is going on at Idearc (might also be because policing 3000 sales reps in a social media bathroom wall environment is theoretically impossible) alone via fear of termination. Although it was apparent that Idearc wanted me todrink the Kool-Aidwhen working with clients regarding my personal beliefs of print yellow page usage, I still persisted to reach out and share my opinions. In my opinion what makes a successful media organization is a culture that embraces questions. Questions is how you uncover what CHANGE needs to take place. Idearc Media’s previous (and maybe current–although I have some faith in the new Jefe in town) management team did not want to ask questions. Questions such as how to mitigate issues with receivables and delivering quality leads to non-paying customers. Questions about sales fraud and how serious an issue it is (local sales management folks turned the other cheek in many occasions).  Questions regarding pricing and how a new client can purchase the same size ad for a significantly reduced cost vs an existing advertiser. So many questions and so few attempting to create the solutions to these issues with the right answers.

As many issues Idearc Media has in the sales offices, down the road at DFW Airport the marketing team that Scott Klein has in place have come up with a very well concoct plan to get consumers to use the Verizon Yellow Pages vs other brands in the Yellow Page industry. Since 2001 sales of yellow pages have been falling (an assumptive opinion strictly based on the fact that Verizon did not fully disclose what was taking place with the Yellow Pages division) like a rock. I have seen local Dallas area books come in at negative percentages for years. While Idearc states to the investment community that is was cyclical and due to an economic recession, growth for Google in the local segment has been skyrocketing. Why you may ask? Well my opinion is that Google has more credibility with its offering. Transparency, Price, Usage, and Distribution—- all the things that Idearc states separate its product offering from the competition.

So, what is Idearc’s solution to creating a brand advantage and distinguishing the product from competition this year? The SUPERGUARANTEE program – A $500 reimbursement for Labor on Services Rendered by participating advertisers. When you actually take the time to read the terms and conditions of the product (revised July 30th 2009) it is very clear that Idearc has no intent on being fully transparent. It is more of a marketing gimmick than a real Guarantee. Why you may ask? Here are a few things that you may want to be aware of before getting on board with the FUSS:                               source———> http://www.idearcmedia.com/CammsServlet?assetid=10236

  • Subcontracted services are not eligible for the SuperGuarantee program –  “Subcontracted Services Excluded”
  • You must enter a written contract with service provider prior to services being rendered. Signed by both parties. Labor needs to be itemized
  • Submited claims for the SuperGuarantee must be filed within 30 days of service completion and no later than 90 days from registration date.
  • SuperGuarantee may ask you to obtain & provide to us 2 written estimates of the labor costs to correct the problem described in your claim

and the ones that completely will drive any consumer insane:

  • it may take up to six weeks from the time you submit your claim & all required documentation to complete resolution or payment of your claim
  • Idearc reserves the right to determine that your claim is valid with ” sole discretion”

Well, if politicians and lawmakers actually took the time to read the bill before voting on laws and issues in Washington we consumers would have more money to spend today. So, my warning to advertisers and consumers is be aware of the details of the program prior to participating. I personally believe that Idearc is going the right direction with the SuperGuarantee. It is a step forward to differentiate the product from those of its competitors. The fuss has merit, but just like anything else with corporate marketing, it manages to lose FUSS after reading the fine print.

Personally, I wish Idearc the best going forward. I am no longer with the organization after 10 years due to my inability to conform. I don’t think such a large agency will ever put the client first and foremost before profits. Idearc is accustomed to high margins from the print business, and you just can’t do that with Local Search (we all know that Google, MSN, and Yahoo make all the REAL $$).  In web marketing you must become an authority. Idearc is not in the business of creating authoritative websites online, other than its http://www.Superpages.com, http://www.LocalSearch.com, and http://www.Switchboard.com sites. If they did they would have already upgraded all the sales reps to IE7 from IE6, put an emphasis on content collection, search engine optimization, social media, and the 9 million other things that local search marketing agencies manage do discuss with local small medium businesses.