In an article posted on Search Engine Land this morning, I outline how Google Maps are increasingly appearing for keyword searches, reducing referral traffic to internet yellow pages . In a brief companion piece, I also mention how embattled yellow pages should step-up their SEO game . If Google Trends is truly indicative of a sea-change that is hitting online yellow pages sites, then they must do something about it:
Natural Search Performance of Top Yellow Pages Sites in Google
(Click to enlarge)
One specific recommendation I make in the “Brave New World For Yellow Pages” article at Search Engine Land is to perhaps partner with sites which could expand information on many business listings. The three sites I mentioned, ShopLocal , NearByNow  or Where2GetIt , all have some rich data which could easily be leveraged by a major IYP site into many, many more search engine referrals. Companies such as these could provide specific product inventory info for many local stores, along with comparison tools allowing price-conscious consumers to zero in on cheapest local providers.
Doesn’t it seem strange that an online yellow pages site hasn’t already provided product inventory information for shops?!? Well, they have, or at least some of us did in the past, perhaps before the concept’s time had truly arrived. At Superpages.com and BigYellow.com, we partnered very early on with a company which did this, called StoreRunner — a company which subsequently died during the infamous dot-bombs. We also partnered with some others, including MySimon , which is still around.
Superpages has an even newer incarnation of similar stuff in their current online shopping section  which combines display of products from spidered online sites with similar products from eBay and product reviews from elsewhere. (Though the section is pushed down some in prominence on the site, and is perhaps not as well-supported as other sections.)
Yet, the local shopping app-killer needed by online yellow pages remains elusive. I don’t think any of them really connect the dots in a major way between more comprehensive product/services information about businesses with the business listings.
As a consumer, if you could use a yellow pages to search for actual products, model names and comparative prices in the stores in your local area, wouldn’t that be a step up from merely finding addresses and phone numbers? Wouldn’t it be great if you could consistently peruse menus from local restaurants while deciding which one you’re going to for dinner? (Amazon.com once experimented with scanning in menus from restaurants around a major city!) Yet, the costs and time in connecting this information to many businesses’ listings and business profiles has made most yellow pages companies avoid truly stretching to meet the challenge.
But, it’s not impossible. ShopLocal, NearbyNow, and Where2GetIt have all done this in one form or another.
The company which achieves a mixture of: robust business directory, combined with social media & reviews, combined with increasingly extensive product/service info about businesses — that’s the company which could win big in the local search arms race.