Guest Post: SEM Scams from Big Media Yellow Page Companies Like SuperMedia

July 7, 2010

Super Media Search Engine Marketing programs are a scam because they over promise and under deliver, and the company is motivated by making money, not making YOU money.

Could this be one of the reasons the stock is at an all-time low Today?

Super Media receives the honor of being the first company on my SEM Scam list. Next on the hit list is Reach Local. They have many of the same problems as Super Media.

We have all heard “If it sounds to good to be true, it probably is.” Why then do we not listen to our guts when some smooth talking salesman from Super Media, or Yellow Pages, or Dex talks us into an appointment, and then delivers a perfect speech, with just the right amount of pressure to get us to sign a long term (12 month) contract for an internet marketing program?

I will preface this list by telling all of you that I am a former employee of Idearc Media, now Super Media. That is how I know some of the things I know. Before anyone decides that I am disgruntled, let me say that I am only upset, because Idearc Media made a liar out of me. I wanted to believe in this company, and from day one in training, I saw signs posted all around the training room that spoke of Integrity, and always doing the right thing. The trainers even spoke of NEVER selling a client anything they don’t need, and even implied that you could be terminated for such behavior. Then I got out of training, and stepped into the real world. That is when things went sour. Not because of a boss, or fellow employee, but because when I smell B.S. I ask questions, and that is not perceived very well in the corporate world.

Long story short – I was excited about the “new” SEM packages that Idearc was offering, and I bought in 100%. I hit the streets running, and sold a good amount of these programs, in addition to selling their other products, Yellowpages, and Direct Mail. I was a top 5 sales rep (top 3 for a while and tops on my team for a few months) and made over $75,000 my 1st year. Then the reports for my clients SEM program started rolling in, and let’s just say that the news was not good. There was red flag, after red flag.

Now you reap the rewards of what I learned about Super Media Programs, as well as their competitors. Listed below are the reasons I can think of why you should run from this SEM program, FAST, and don’t look back. These are just he one’s I can think of – there are more.

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The best local small business PPC service does not come in a box…..

January 29, 2010

So you signed a contract for Pay Per Click from the yellow pages?So I was driving by McDonald’s yesterday while on the phone with a local Dallas area business owner, the comedic timing for my comments to him could not have been any better.

Prepare for another soapbox soliloquy:

I said to him, “You don’t expect the so-called internet advertising experts at the yellow pages company, who state they offer “transparency in reporting,” to actually incorporate Google Analytics do you? I explained to him that when the Yellow pages industry started feeling the shift from consumers away from the printed phone books that litter millions of doorsteps, and finally decided that they needed to create an advertising product to grow alongside the world’s #1 search engine Google, they had very little focus and very little experience. It wasn’t that folks in the phone book industry were not smarter than I am. It wasn’t that they didn’t have the ability to put businesses in front of consumers on the internet. The real issue was fulfillment and transparency.

FACT: PPC campaign managers were on gag order and instructed not to disclose the number of PPC accounts managed.

FACT: 12 month contracts only work for print yellow page ads (since the books can not be undelivered)

FACT: Google and Yahoo do not have contracts for internet advertising

FACT: Yellow Pages PPC marketers use your data to build competitors campaigns

FACT: If your campaign does not perform, you are required to pay 400-1000.00 per month or more for management regardless of clicks…. for the ENTIRE 12 MONTH TERM!

FACT: PPC costs are higher when doing PPC with YELLOW PAGES (just look at the margins and overhead)

FACT: LOCAL SEARCH MARKETERS are on the rise…..

FACT: Management fees should not be a fixed cost. They should be billed hourly or transparent.

FACT: SEO is not as complex as the industry leads you to believe.

FACT: Wide spread abuse of Google AdWords Certifications exams exists at Yellow Pages organizations.

FACT: Yellow Pages do not build your brand, your website, or your Google AdWords campaign…. You have a bad experience and cancel your contract…………………………………. YOU LOSE EVERYTHING!

He told me that he and other business owners were in the process of filing a suit against a yellow pages company located in Dallas for click fraud. I asked him, “How can you prove it?” He stated that when he put analytics in the site, he was shocked to see that Google was not tracking the same data that the Yellow Pages company was billing him. I wonder to what extent business owners are experiencing this same problem? How many “bad experiences” exist for the business owners that rely on the “Marketing in a Box” products from the Yellow Pages?

It seems to me, as a fellow small business owner, the choice is very clear…..

Don’t expect to get good advice from Phone Book or Super dooper Media companies for your internet advertising!

“YOU CAN’T PUT LOCAL INTERNET MARKETING AND SOCIAL MEDIA BRANDING IN A BOX!”Mike Stewart

Instead of signing a contract for a SuperHappySearchMarketing Meal served with “Kool-Aid” and cronyism….. find a local search marketer who will train, teach, consult, create, innovate, strategize, quantify, measure, fulfill, and be accountable for your businesses growth and prosperity.

NO CONTRACTS FOR PPC ADVERTISING * OWN YOUR WEBSITE * MEASURE YOUR WEB TRAFFIC * BUILD AN ARTICLE BASE


The Best Six Local Business Review Sites : Google, Yelp.com, Merchant Circle via THE MARKETING ZEN GROUP

December 15, 2009

The Best Six Local Business Review Sites : Google, Yelp.com, Merchant Circle | THE MARKETING ZEN GROUP

Posted using ShareThis

Great summary of local sites.

Since a potential customer’s initial search still starts with keywords on a search engine using a service-oriented keyword followed or preceded by the city in which they’re searching (ex: BMW mechanic Dallas). You should first pay attention to the truly important ones already showing up in Google, Yahoo!, and MSN for your keywords. Below are six of the major review and business listing sites which hold weight and have huge online presence. Learn the six biggies.

1. Google Local Business Listings (The “10 Pack”)

You can get your business listed on Google’s map and show up directly on the search results by registering at the Google Local Business Center http://www.google.com/local/add Describe your business with location info, services, hours of operation and business website link. After you have a listing, your goal is get reviews. If you let Google find your business first, you’ll be rewarded with better placement on the map. Much like Google would rather find your website on its own through links rather than search engine submission, Google Maps will trust and more than likely post reviews from other review sites before submitting or modifying your listing. Often, the Google Local Listing bot will scour the Internet for other reviews sites already touting your company’s offerings and experiences, so start building profiles on some of the other sites first and you’ll already have a diversity of amazing reviews before you expand. Another backdoor is getting your business listed on the BBB’s website or InfoUSA.com to ensure your Google Local presence. Reviews are by far the #1 one factor in achieving top placement in the alphanumeric listing of the Google Local Business Listings/Map Listings. Make sure the reviews are real though. Having keywords in your business name and a complete profile also helps. Get started at the Google Local Business Center.

2. Yelp!

Almost tripling in traffic from 10 to 25 million unique visitors over the last year, this community has exploded becoming a full-on social community with add friends function, reputations, commenting, and picture profiles. Yelp! has recently opened its doors a little more allowing business owners to talk back. Yelp! shows up well in search and they have the trust factor down due to their proprietary algorithm which has been cutting out fake reviews since 2006. To gain control of your profile you should first see if your business is already listed, then you must “claim” the listing with phone call verification. It’s the same process with most of these sites.

See what others are saying about your business and talk back on Yelp.com

3. Yahoo! Local Listings

Similar to Google Local Listings above, Yahoo! now offers the “10 pack,” only it’s three instead of ten. Complete with a map and full landing page, Yahoo! local shows up above organic search and below the top three pay-per-click listings. It’s wise to promote your Yahoo! Local Listing by treating it like it’s one of the family – get reviews, flesh out the profile, add business information. Although Yahoo! only gets 20% of the search engine share, that’s a pretty big chunk of search engine goodness. Get your Yahoo! Map Listing started.

4. Citysearch

This business review site has been around for many years. I can remember at least 10 years ago, when I wanted to be a “City Expert” reviewing restaurants and the like in my area. According to Wikipedia, Citysearch started in 1995 and although much of their content is not user-generated, they do have the notoriety to command attention when they put out a top ten list. Each review, although staff provided, seems thoughtful and specific. The most important aspect of the site — they show up well in search for Google and even better in Yahoo!. Get your business listed, and it may even be worth to have an “enhanced listing” for a monthly fee. Check out CitySearch.com.

5. MerchantCircle

Somewhat new on the scene, this company started in 2005 and has been infiltrating search listings and growing ever since. In June 2008, MerchantCircle announced over 5 million monthly users, 500,000 registered merchant users, and over 5,000 paying clients, with 4.3 million visitors a month according to Quantcast in 2007. Join the circle.

6. Insider Pages

Insider Pages is an online “local search” service operated by IAC/InterActiveCorp. Before its acquisition by IAC the company was based in Redwood Shores, California, and had over 600,000 reviews of local merchants around the country. Insider Pages was founded by Stuart MacFarlane in 2004. On March 27, 2006, the company announced an $8.5 million investment by Sequoia Capital, Softbank Capital, and Idealab. The company addressed a demographic (by its description) of young and middle-aged families who own homes in urban and suburban areas. Add you business. Google Maps definitely picks it up. Be an insider.

Three Important Local Business Review Marketing Tips

1). Never fake reviews or testimonies, it’s not worth the consequences (possible banning).

2). Ask happy customers to review right after he/she has bought, and keep reminding.

3). Don’t freak out if there are some less than 100% positive reviews.

To address the last one, potential customers expect a balance with everything veering on the side of positive and not for your business to be perfect. If there are any negative reviews follow up with that person by contacting him/her and try to make their after experience a good one. Consumer studies and surveys have proven customers are more satisfied with a company in which there was a small issue and the issue was resolved, compared to if there was never one in the first place. The more reviews and complete your business profile the better.

For almost five years, Neil Lemons has worked behind-the-scenes to help create exposure, traffic, leads, and sales through major search engines like Google, Yahoo!, and Bing. Calling upon his diverse background in copywriting, advertising, marketing, and sales, he has been learning traditional SEO and SEM tactics since 2004.  He is the lead SEM Strategist at MarketingZen.com, a Dallas website design company. For more information on Internet Marketing, SEM & SEO contact The Marketing Zen Group for a free site evaluation.

I would also include Superpages.com (which includes Switchboard.com and LocalSearch.com) on the list. Although, after Chris Smith left the company, Brian Gulledge from Inceptor took over the search marketing objectives for the company and they have become significantly less innovative, strictly focused on a single tiered approach in search marketing via paid search (as opposed to SEO & Google Maps,)  as well as offering less contribution to local search at local search SEO conferences, seminars, and discussions. He and Briggs Ferguson (the former CEO of CitySearch) are not the leadership Idearc needs.  I blame this on CEO Scott Klein. I also feel they have shifted away from Google focus beyond PPC.

Klein showed an error in judgement when he went to market with SMLocal (1.0) while not having the staff or tools to support sales. He also had PPC managers on gag orders by giving directions to managers not to disclose the amount of clients they were managing. According to a former PPC manager at Idearc, he was responsible for well over 100 accounts. In my opinion it is impossible for 1 individual to manage more than 15-20 accounts. Unless of course you use the taxonomy of Superpages.com for keyword research. lol. Wonder when the last time someone searched on Google for a “Plumber Licensed Commercial & Industrial”?

I have a strong hunch that Briggs Ferguson will soon leave Idearc Media.


Are you having problems with your “SMLocal” advertising?

November 28, 2009

SMLocal + Your Own AdWords Campaign = No Phone Calls

I have a “former client” who I helped setup a Google AdWords campaign. He also signed up with Idearc to have listings on Superpages.com. He specifically instructed Idearc’s PPC managers not to put him in Google distribution. The reason for this was because he had a great performing campaign on Adwords already. After a few months, Idearc asked him to raise his budget. He agreed to do so. Apparently without his permission they also overlayed his existing Adwords campaign with his “SMLocal” campaign. For the past few weeks he has been wondering why his calls dropped to his office.

Go figure! And to boot….. they don’t offer customer service on Saturdays!

This PPC campaign manager also seems to be really good at copying other companies ad messages and campaign settings!  lol

The other day I searched for pics of Gina Carano (the talented female cage fighter who I think is extremely “HOT”) and found another “former” client, John Teakell (one of Dallas’ top criminal defense attorneys) on a page result. Now that is some impressive talent at wasting a clients click budget with “content network” folks! Only a company that specializes in print advertising can do this kind of think for you with the internet.

Here is a pic:

How does Idearc Media waste your click budget with content network?

I am guilty of taking the results or “lackthereof” personal. I really want my clients to succeed and make money. I am passionate about Search Engine Marketing. When I earned the trust of a client to represent his business and provide a return on this investment, yet the company does not have the desire or tools to fulfill his expectations, I take it personal.

Take a look at the website Idearc and Superpages.com did for Robert at All Action Water Extraction & Carpet Cleaning Fort Worth Tx

http://allactionftworthcarpetcleaning.com/

Pretty bad if you ask me! They could have at least taken the time to make sure the page titles were setup for search!!

I am going to build a site for him. He did a great job cleaning my carpets a month ago! He is a really nice guy to boot!

He charged me $145.00 to clean all of my carpets and even went as far as wiping the window sills when he moved my furniture, two other well known carpet cleaning companies in Dallas-Fort Worth charged me $220.00 and $310.00 for the same quality service.

Fort Worth Carpet Cleaning by Robert at All Action

Picture of Robert's truck in front of my home while cleaning my carpets.