Natural Search Blog


Google Maps Should Consider A Canonical Phone Number Tag

Google Maps, local search engines, internet yellow pages and other online business directories often receive biz listing info from a great many sources and must merge it together (see my description of this in Eric Enge’s interview with me). When this happens, loads of variations in the business’s name, address and even phone number can cause listing data to fail to be merged. All this makes me think we might need a “Canonical Tag” for phone numbers! Read on, and I’ll elaborate… (more…)

Local Store Inventories Might Help Yellow Pages SEO

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:

Top IYPs & Business Directory Sites
Natural Search Performance of Top Yellow Pages Sites in Google

(Click to enlarge) (more…)

Is Verizon Responsible for Idearc’s Bankruptcy?

Idearc's Bankruptcy Caused by Verizon?My op-ed piece, “Idearc’s Chapter 11 Bankruptcy: Who’s Really Responsible?” published today on Search Engine Land, and in it I put forth my position that Verizon is responsible for spinning off the company with an unreasonably huge debt load, and the people ultimately paying the bill are the stockholders.

I describe in the article how Verizon spun off Idearc Media (division which publishes print phone books and operates Superpages.com among other online yellow pages), and set that company up to pay back some billions of dollars for its worth. Verizon then turned around and resold those debt instruments to other companies, fully divesting itself of ownership in the new, standalone company.

This sequence in of itself isn’t remarkable – it’s the normal process a company might go through when spinning-off part of itself to form a new company.

But, my contention is that it was done so in a highly irresponsible manner. Verizon had to know beforehand that print directory business was going into shrinkage mode, and that the debt repayment structure would simply be too much for the new company to be reasonably expected to be able to handle. If so, then this could be expected to be a form of fraudulent conveyance, and Verizon could be culpable.

Is my contention outrageous?

Well, even Idearc’s Chief Executive, Scott Klein, has been paraphrased by the Wall Street Journal as saying “Everyone was aware that ‘$9 billion was really more debt than this business could bear’”. So, Idearc was spun off with a majority of this debt from Verizon from the start – clearly set up to fail.

So far, I’ve seen maybe three different law firms filing class-action lawsuits against Idearc and its executives, based on the premise that the stock tanked due to them secretly changing policies, resulting in inflated-looking sales on the books for businesses with higher likelihoods of not paying for contracted advertising. But, I think the real culprit in all this is likely Verizon – they pushed off a part of the company with an untenable debt load, in large part to pay off debts incurred by Verizon FiOS (Verizon’s fiber optic network) expansion.

AT&T Acquires YP.com for $3.85 Million

Yellow Pages Dot ComAT&T has acquired YP.com for $3.85 Million. I distinctly recall back when AT&T previously bought YellowPages.com in for $100 million in 2004. Does this make sense?!?

Back in 2004, I laughed and laughed and laughed, and I told coworkers that it was a huge waste of money, because, I said, “they won’t be able to buy themselves into the top position for searches for ‘Yellow Pages’”. SuperPages.com long held that distinction under my SEO direction, and I knew that purchasing the term in a domain name alone would not depose all the work we’d done to rank tops for it. As time passed, however, yellowpages.com has indeed deposed the Superpages forerunner. (more…)

Decider Enters Local Search

Decider logoHumorous faux-newspaper, The Onion, has launched a new local directory site called Decider in beta. While The Onion is famous for its satirical “news” articles, Decider is a decidedly serious guide intended to complement their other offerings like serious classifieds and the A.V. Club (The Onion’s arts and entertainment site).

Decider brings local business listings for bars, restaurants, music venues, events, and reviews. It appears to be targeted to the college-to-early-thirties demographic, and sports advertisements on the pages.

When I heard about Decider, I immediately though, “oh, yet another business directory site among the many others,” — a thought apparently shared to some degree by Andrew Shotland. (more…)

Australian Yellow Pages Finally Optimizes For Search Engines

Sensis LogoThe Australian edition of Lifehacker reports that Sensis, Telestra’s yellow pages division, has finally allowed bots to crawl their online yellow pages so links to their listings are now showing up in Google SERPs and other search engines. Previously, they were apparently blocking Google and bots by either using robots.txt disallow rules and/or blocking the bots with network access rules.

Australian Sensis Yellow Pages in SERPs
Australian Yellow Pages in Google results (click to enlarge)

Amusingly, Lifehacker mentions, (more…)

Yellow Pages Guerilla Ad Campaign

I was speaking at the Search Engine Strategies (“SES”) Conference in Toronto a couple of weeks ago, and was impressed by the YellowPages.ca booth in the exhibit hall:

YellowPages.ca booth at SES Toronto Conference

YellowPages.ca Search GraphI’ve seen other, equally-large booths for online yellow pages companies, but this one seemed particularly attention-getting and inviting. The glowing yellow desk and the simple design made the thing very friendly-looking, and the geek in me was drawn to the near-real-time search volume graph they had playing up on one screen. (more…)

Should Businesses Rename Themselves For Better Search Traffic?

Mike Blumenthal has a great article this week, going over some aspects surrounding how businesses may opt to rename themselves for purposes of local search engine optimization within Google Maps.

As he mentioned, I’d previously listed this idea in my somewhat tongue-in-cheek post on “Extreme Local Search Optimization Tactics” some time back.

While my Tactics were intended to be a bit over-the-top, the tactic is indeed likely to work to varying degrees in different search engines and internet yellow pages directories, as Mike outlines. I should note that I only endorse the engineering of business names for purposes of branding and for purposes of targeting business-category/product/service terms for which the company involved is actually providing. (more…)

Google Maps Now Allows Custom Categories For Businesses

Search Engine Roundtable notes that the Google Local Business Center is allowing businesses to enter their own, custom categories. While this new functionality has been around for a few weeks now, it is an important one and addresses a major need that both Mike Blumenthal and I have highlighted previously — I recently spoke about this issue again at the SMX West session on Local Search & Blended Results. Previously, businesses could only select business categories from an unusually short list of categories. Exacerbating the issue, some businesses achieved other category associations outside of Google’s sharply limited taxonomy when their listings found in other yellow pages providers such as Superpages were absorbed into Google Maps, including the more comprehensive categories found in those other content sources.

Under the new functionality, businesses may type in custom business categories, and the interface also provides helpful potential term using the Google Suggestion Tool:

Choosing Categories in Google Local Business Center
(click to enlarge)

Free-form categories is a slightly unique way to address the need of businesses. Yellow pages companies have traditionally offered businesses the option of categorization under many thousands of unique categories — on the order of twelve thousand to fifteen thousand categories in some cases. However, YP companies have also carefully considered and turned down requests for additions of completely new categories in some cases, mainly due to how yellow pages are constructed — if there are too few businesses in a category it won’t make monetary sense to add it into a directory. And, if the category name is too esoteric, consumers won’t search for it anyway.

With Google’s local search operating more closely as a straight keyword search tool, businesses could associate categories with themselves that are as specific as they desire without affecting usability or cost.

In other, related news, Google has announced that YouTube videos are now integrated with Google Maps, allowing businesses to add video info to their listings.

Consumers: Stop Dropping Yellow Pages Books At Our Doors!

Walking FingersI noticed this article from Boston today, “Bothersome business pages“, which outlines residents’ irritation over receiving print directories which go unused.

I’m seeing more and more articles on the subject — this article indicates that as consumers perceive that there’s low usage and little need for print yellow pages books, they’re also coming to believe that the books sent to them are an inconvenience and an unacceptable environmental waste. (I’ve also mentioned before how I find the print directories less worthwhile, even though I used to work for a major yellow pages company.)

Apparently the Cambridge city council and other cities are actually considering going so far as to enact laws requiring that residents must opt-in for receiving the books, or they might ban mass distribution entirely… (more…)

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