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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What is REALLY wrong with Yellow Pages company products and services?

February 4, 2010

Recently a few bankrupt Yellow Pages publishers sent letters to clients disclosing information regarding previous contracts and commitments.  Does this permit them to no longer follow SIZE & Seniority commitments to yellow pages clients?

Did you know that to curb massive revenue losses, as consumers have shifted away from print yellow pages phone books, the yellow pages industry is now offering ad seniority placement buyouts?

When Bell South began publishing mini-books other publishers quickly followed suit. When one does something… so does the other? Let’s not hope so!

Rumor is post-bankruptcy yellow pages directory publishers are considering offering “select clients” the option of jumping phone book directory placement (old contract agreements that outline size and seniority guidelines) with new “display ad placement buyout options”.

Seems like they will do anything to earn a buck, huh?

How can you trust a organization who fails to keep promises clients regarding these advertising investments. They made a commitment to the client that the ad they purchased would be placed by size and seniority from the date when the contract is signed. The print yellow pages industry has held the “decrease your ad and lose your discounts” AXE over clients heads to persuade clients into keeping ads for many years.  Is the Yellow Page industry selling products or services? Is the pricing fair? In my opinion the yellow pages industry needs to stick to products… not services.  Search Marketing service requires fulfillment and constant attention, something the print industry has very little experience in vs local advertising agencies.

Yellow Pages sites are attempting to become the local resellers of Google advertising. As a local search marketer, I don’t think the long contracts that leave little recourse and zero cancellation options in the event the Phone Book Companies PPC Management campaigns are not performing to expectations. In my opinion this is another means of continuing to grind the axe on cancellations. Without flexibility and a diverse offering (product portfolio) they are going to have continued issues with client churn.

Did you know that when you place advertising on Google’s AdWords interface, not only do you own the work produced when hiring a local search marketer, (I do not recommend  signing a 12 month contract , considering Google does not require such a contract to advertise) you also are able to see what changes your account manager and “PPC coach” made to your campaigns

PPC management Account Activity Reports prevent PPC Fraud by Google Guru

Next topic for Today:

Google Maps vs Yellow Pages searches:

Here is the graph continued and combined with Searches for Yellow Pages companies:

"Yellow Pages" is now obsolete

Who has experienced the greatest and/or most rapid decline in the Top IYP (Interactive Yellow Pages) & local search brand sites?


Notice how much Yelp.com gained compared to the decline of Superpages.com? This goes to show the consumer preference for review based sites  (and why Google was tendering an offer for Yelp.com)

FACT:  Did you know that Yellow Pages print directory usage has declined over 50%?

Has your “Yellow Page Rep” told you about the trends away from print and towards digital that is taking place?

Have print ad rates gone down to accomodate for the decline of print yellow pages and the industry fragmentation?

According to Greg Stewart from TMPDM, “Print Yellow Pages accounts for approx. 28% of Local Search.”

Primary Source of Local Business Information

I will go ahead and state my prediction: Yellow Pages Print usage will be less than 24% of Local Search by 2012! That means the phone books of 2005 (that were over 70+% of local search product or service queries) are now less than half as popular as they once were as a medium. (yet more phone books exist today than ever!

Do you think it is time the phone book publishing industry adapt to OPT IN vs a very misleading OPT OUT method? What are your thoughts? Take my poll!

Cheers,

Mike Stewart

“Your Dallas Local Google Guru”

BTW, Webformance Inc. will be offering call tracking to all clients. If you want to track your phone book, direct mail, email, Google, Video, Business Card, or other advertising investments and see which ones are really bringing the calls….. all you need to do is call: 214-267-9553!

“You can’t manage to get the best advertising if you can’t measure what advertising efforts work!” – Mike Stewart the Local Dallas Google Guru


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.

pumpkincarving

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)

10 Steps to Help Your Dallas Area Business Survive & Thrive During the Economic Recession

Mike Stewart the Dallas Google Guru is here to help!


Just because your Dallas business has the biggest ad in the yellow pages… you will never be on the first page of Google, why?

October 24, 2009

I challenge local Dallas – Fort Worth area business owners to take a moment and call the local sales offices for AT&T Yellow Pages, Idearc Media (Verizon Yellow Pages 972-719-3790), and Yellow Book. Find out what the cost is for the largest ad in the heading and see what it will take to be the first ad in the book. All it takes is the purchase of a Forced Tab (2-sided tab that is thick paper stock that is forced in the front of the heading). If I recall the price is typically in the 6k-12k per month range depending on the heading and the book.

I GUARANTEE that for the same 6k-12k per month I can get you twice the amount of “qualified leads”, track all calls, and have the ability to change the ad throughout the entire year if you invest a lesser amount towards effective internet marketing. You cannot manage what you cannot measure. Kinda like PROXY based local search engine marketing providers who do not offer analytics and do a piss poor job of conversion tracking.  (A local Criminal Attorney client of mine had a total of 10 calls to his advertisements with the SEM proxy provider, after looking at the detailed call reports we saw that only 6 calls were unique and the rest spam…. what did he spend? The answer is shocking: $2700.00 for 6 calls! The service provider attempted to argue that this was a “GOOD ROI” … LMAO!!)

Why?

Just because you can buy the first spot in the phone book and have the biggest ad does not mean you can be first on Google. If it were only money the folks with the biggest ad in the phone book would always be number one on Google’s page results. What it takes to be at the top of Google is the know how and the content. Only someone who understands Search Engine Optimization and Content Creation & Distribution can make this happen. It takes a great relationship between the client and the marketer. It requires a line of communication that you can not achieve by simply calling your  “sales rep” or local office. Is it worth more than that first ad in the book? Of course it is! Yellow Pages books are not used as much as they were in the past. Local Online Yellow Pages sites are losing traffic to Google Maps.

You see, what you get when you hire one of these companies to manage your online advertising is someone willing to work for $9/hour who has some sort of experience putting ads in the companies bidding platform or system, if this  is worth anything to you than more power to you. But, a lot of times, website owners and web design/web marketing companies looking for SEO help don’t have realistic expectations of what an SEO consultant is worth or what QUALITY SEO work actually costs. All they end up getting is a PPC campaign and promises of riches from a sales consultant who has zero responsibility for achieving your ROI goals.

You know you are getting bad advice when your site:

  • Does not have a video
  • Says FIGJAM all over it: ($%#*@! I AM GOOD, JUST ASK ME)
  • Instead of answering questions, your site talks about what you do
  • Looks great in IE-6 but like crap in FireFox.
  • The home page of your site is titled: “Welcome to XXXXXXXX”
  • Your website has not changed one bit in 3 months!
  • In order to change content on the site you have to call your “WEBmaster”
  • You believe adding information and content is 100% someone else’s job to do the work, but don’t want to pay for it
  • You feel that contributing information on why you are the authority is the job of WIKI

Companies like the one I used to work for choose to work with any business that is willing to pay a monthly fee to them.  I am going to be somewhat picky about who I will agree to work with. I plan to turn down just as many new client opportunities as I am going to accept. I am going to offer my services with an “Exclusivity Agreement” for my clients. Why would you want me also working for your competitor? If you happen to get turned down by me, it’s not a judgement or reflection of you.  I do not have the desire to become a cookie-cutter churn based Dallas Search Engine Marketing Firm. I want to customize my service to your business and industry in order to get high search engine rankings. The more you participate in the process the lower your fees. The more content you create for me to proof and distribute the less I have to pay my talented copywriter to do for you. My goal is to make you money and at the same time I make money. I am going to be accountable for your success and have no intentions of burning you. Search engine marketing is a deep passion of mine.  After many years in the industry I came to realize that large organizations are incapable of offering the level of “boutique-style” service local Dallas area business owners need to achieve natural rankings on the search engines.  If this is the level of personalized service you expect from your web marketing team, Give me a call! 972-998-0050.  I look forward to meeting you and sharing what I have learned over the years.

Keep in mind, just because you have the biggest ad in the phone book, doesn’t mean you can be first on Google.