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


Idearc’s potential post Bankruptcy 45% buyout offer by John Paulson’s 20+ Billion Hedge Fund good News?

October 31, 2009

In my opinion, Idearc’s potential post Bankruptcy 45% buyout offer by John Paulson’s 20+ Billion Hedge Fund is really good News.

But I think they need to get the majority share of the company and go all in! Just 45% does not give them the stake they need to create real change in the organization. I don’t think what they are doing is close to being enough to save the Yellow Pages unless they start re-monopolizing. The industry has officially been broken apart since deregulation of the telephone companies and the birth of independent yellow pages publishers.

Recent announcement that current Idearc Employees likely are unaware of:

NEW YORK, Oct 30 (Reuters) – Hedge fund Paulson & Co is seeking to buy nearly half of bankrupt Yellow pages publisher Idearc Inc’s (IDARQ.PK) common shares when it emerges from bankruptcy by offering creditors cash for the shares they are to receive under its proposed reorganization plan.

Under a proposal Idearc filed with U.S Bankruptcy Court in Dallas, Paulson “will not beneficially own more than 45 percent” of the new Idearc’s common stock, Idearc said in a statement on Friday.

Paulson would have the right to name one director to Idearc’s board under the proposal.

A hearing on the deal, which is subject to court approval, is scheduled for Nov. 18. A separate hearing on Idearc’s plan of reorganization is set for Dec. 9.

Idearc Inc filed for bankruptcy in March, as revenue for its printed directories business dwindled amid a shift to online search and advertising.

Idearc was spun off from Verizon (VZ.N) in 2006.

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The case is in Re: Idearc Inc, U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Texas, No. 09-31828. (Reporting by Phil Wahba)

WOW…..

If Paulson Hedge Fund is making a hard offer for 45% of the company’s stock it might potentially possibly maybe a great move for the employees of the company. Who knows? Something new related to how the company is going to make more money other than the cloud computing-outsourcing bandwagon the CEO is on to reduce expenses (meanwhile in my opinion simply making things more challenging to service the clients, and curb the churn of its mid-level clients.)  The yellow pages have always done well with clients that are “just gonna be represented anywhere and everywhere”.  They are typically your marketplace leaders and have the largest amount of resources and current clients. These folks are just now realizing that the company is best suited handling printed yellow page ads and postcards. Calling a client twice a year to discuss his internet presence by a new sales rep will never work towards the same level of success in search marketing and other forms of more creative media. It is great that the company is just about the last sales organization in America to annoy homeowners with unwanted direct mail postcards. It has been saturating Americans for years with wasteful phone book distribution.  The beauty of the internet: Folks actually ask for the information! WOW… subscription based…. what an amazing concept.  (DALLAS BUSINESS ADVERTISING TIP: Pay very close attention to the smart phone revolution — It may soon become another 2002-2004 when local search boomed the first time.)

Things for Paulson to consider when looking to replace a member of the companies Board of Directors: Idearc has had questions asked about tactics in the past on how it reports revenue, how it reports earnings due to the nature of being a publisher and collections on delinquent advertisers, and last but not least a class action lawsuit over raising credit limits for previously non-high risk advertisers with accusations of executive fraud related to the manner in which Executives of the company were reporting issues with receivables. Just imagine if they took the time to invest in Sales Fraud, accusations related to false contracts, unethical business practices of media consultants, and last but not least the manner in which it reports losses to influence incentive trips and bonuses for managers and executives.  Crony capitalism…… we Main Street folks love it!

I think the board needs to look at how this company has started and where it is now since becoming its own company in 2006.** (remember folks, I started as  a 19-year-old “Telephone Sales Call Center Rep” out of High School back when GTE became Verizon in 2000) ** Idearc was spun off in a very suspicious way Verizon’s part in order to unload some debt. Very disturbing since it had been investing the companies profits over the years to fund other projects (wireless) and then spun it off with the debt to fund another (FIOS/TV) project. Great move Verizon. You didn’t get caught like Bernie  the investment fella or Ken from Enron. Considering two other companies, Hawaiian Telecom & FairPoint Communication, also went bankrupt after Verizon separations; you can’t help but wonder if it was planned.

Paulson’ hedge fund ought to read:

Termination without Cause . If the Executive’s employment with Idearc is terminated before January 9, 2010 by Idearc without “cause” (as defined below), then the Executive will be immediately vested in a pro rata portion of the Shares that would have become vested on the next succeeding January 9, based upon the number of days elapsed from the preceding January 9 until the date the Executive’s employment with Idearc terminates, and the Executive will forfeit any remaining unvested Shares. For the purpose of determining whether the Executive’s employment is terminated without cause, the term “cause” means (A) the Executive’s commission of a felony; (B) the Executive’s grossly incompetent performance or substantial or continuing inattention to or neglect of the duties and responsibilities assigned to the Executive; (C) the Executive’s fraud, misappropriation or embezzlement or a material breach by the Executive of the Idearc Code of Conduct; or (D) such other misconduct detrimental to the business or reputation of Idearc or to the ability of the Executive to fully perform the duties of the Executive’s employment. The determination of whether the Executive’s employment is terminated with or without “cause” will be made in the good faith discretion of the Human Resources Committee of the Idearc Inc. Board of Directors or its designee, and any such determination shall be final, conclusive and binding on all persons.

Time for my soapbox:

Crony capitalists believe that it is acceptable to attempt to manipulate the stock price of a company with false or misleading tactics. I believe in transparency from corporate employers and agents.  Main Street deserves it folks! (It is almost Nov 3rd Elections Time and I am pumped up!)

The poor company has it coming from all angles. Consumer’s hate the industry method of saturation distribution, environmental conscious folks hate the paper waste and tree pulp used when creating yellow pages directories, and businesses see costs increasing and value decreasing. Idearc’s solution to the declining revenue is creating a PPC product that far from being as effective for key advertisers as they claim it is. Idearc does not vSoapbox imagealue organic search on Google which is roughly 70% of all web search click results. Google Maps has also impacted the company’s traffic to Superpages.com’s Network. Is it time for the phone book’s to do more than copy innovations from other Local Internet Verticals like ServiceMagic.com’s Service Guaranteeco or copy ReachLocal’s offering to local SMBs. You know… the Proxy-Site based PPC platform that doesn’t offer analytics (doing PPC without analytics is technically managing what you can’t measure) to the client. Who needs to know what is going on with the website when you have a call report like the phone book. Everything they do is hack work. Sorry, but I left due to the inability of the company to service my clients and not spending my time making “Cold Calls”. It required a significant amount of my time to fix issues with fulfillment. For instance, campaign managers actually go to Google and copy the Adwords campaign messages from Google page results when building ads. They also create generic ads and do not focus on landing page optimization.

If I were investing in the company, I would ask… what does Google offer that you do not? What is Google providing campaign managers that Idearc opts out of with its proprietary system? Does Google have a better handle on PPC than companies like Inceptor which Idearc acquired in July of 2006 during the time the company became its own. (or should I say folks like me invested in it based on the credit markets at the time in relation to corporate debt.)

Maybe this potential buyout by the right party will be a good move for my friends and “family” at the company. I wish you guys luck with SuperGuarantee, SuperSEE, SuperPages, SuperTools, SuperKlein, and the SuperTeam from the antiquated yellow pages whose used to nice fat margins that don’t happen when you service your client unless you quit the “Sales Model” business model.

A word of advice for Paulson,  Don’t be sold as easy on Idearc as the cocksure David Letterman wannabe who likes his drink his Pepsi and cocktail a certain way while having some nonsensical view that advertising in the Yellow Pages is target towards intelligent homeowners.

Here is a video of Scott Klein doing “motorcycle stunts” on Dallas highways in order to pump the sales reps for the future announcement of the fact that the company could not afford the debt Verizon had given it. Scott was so kind that he spent millions to let them all stay at the Sheraton Hotel in Dallas earlier this year for a few days introducing ServiceMagic.com’s ServiceGuarantee as the new Verizon Yellow Pages SuperGuarantee and announcing that he wants reps to have a menu pricing list instead of haggling, they want to charge clients for leads at huge rates that reps today refuse to sell, (almost like selling yellow pages ads that don’t work) and I am sure to cover a few other things.

(Maybe the next ads will be of “EveryDay folks touting of how they used the yellow pages to find something…. gotta love brainwashing folks…. sounds better than a catchy jingle or superheroes or copying companies like ServiceMagic.com)  Things still are not as peachy as the folks a the corporate ivory tower pretend them to be. When it comes down to taking care of the client the company holds very little accountability and while it knew it was having issues taking care of clients it did very little to correct the problems.  (Yellow Pages industry profit margins don’t leave much room for good old-fashion customer service) I really don’t feel that the print and online business can be more than ads based. The company will have a huge challenge adapting to the quick pace of the internet marketplace with social media and changes that the major search engines make. Idearc has very little control when Google holds all the cards (traffic). Why a business owner would sign a 12 month contract for Pay Per Click management is dumbfounding.  When they fail to fulfill the promise that “sales reps” commit to with clients the company pauses your advertising campaigns and you the client get stuck receiving collections calls for a $300.00-$1000.00 per month management fee.

Why do companies feel that they can do PPC better than Google? I have seen what the proxy companies use to fulfill Google Adwords campaign orders and I have seen all aspects of the Google Adwords Campaign Management interface and I will tell you that Google has the market beat. You can combine Webmaster Tools and Analytics from Google and get a great picture of what is going on. The ability to measure and the ability to manage.

The Local Google consultant thing is going to kick the company right in the teeth. Not just me down the road, but what happens when business owners realize that $400.00 per month and no dedicated campaign manager is nuts. For that kind of money you can get SEO advice, Websites and still have money left over to fund Google Adwords.  Only a Yellow Pages publisher would create a rate card for the internet that is as boring as the antiquated Yellow Pages.  You cannot treat the internet like you treat ads in a phone book. Only a yellow page company would get into the internet business via acquisition of a search marketing firm only to end up copying its closest and best competitor. At least with ReachLocal the sales reps are paid residual and try a bit harder service the client. Too bad the sales rep is about as clueless as your average “I know what PPC is but I don’t know how to do it” SALES REP.  Not really the place to get advice on internet marketing is it folks?

Meanwhile, Paulson… if you want to know how to fix the issues in the company, ask the clients.   Good luck with the investment. Time for real change at Idearc! Time for real innovation. Time for folks to stop copying the rest of the industry and be more creative!

If you want to be at the top of Google, the last person you need to speak with is the Yellow Pages! The last thing you need is a 12 month contract for Pay Per Click management.

Pay for the campaign build, pay for the knowledge and help if you need assistance Doing-It-Yourself, pay for options specific to your business needs…….

Oh yeah, and DO NOT ALLOW the Yellow Pages companies to build your small business website. You might just end up with something like this:

http://allactionftworthcarpetcleaning.com (it amazes me that some of the best companies have the worst website, Thanks Yellow Pages!)

When for less money you can have:

http://yourfortworthattorney.com ( template site using open source Joomla Content Management System)

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