No Bail Out For Yellow Pages

Greg Sterling has been writing a lot about the possible disappearance of newspapers.

Seth Godin has also speculated about newspapers’ disappearance.

I think both of them and others are talking about them because they feel like it is really important; but what about yellow pages. Does anyone care? Until yesterday I thought so.

Now I believe people who use the internet on a regular basis believe yellow pages are irrelevant. What changed my mind?

Late Thursday it was reported by the Dallas Business Journal

Idearc Inc., a provider of consumer information that includes phone directories, posted a fourth-quarter loss of $77 million on sales of $709 million, and said in notes attached to the earnings statement that it is “currently considering a restructuring” under federal bankruptcy laws.

The company, headquartered at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport, said that based on current forecasts and year-end results, it is out of compliance with one lender’s agreement and risks being out of compliance with a second.

As a result, lenders have the right to consider all the company’s debt in default and could call it due within 30 days.

You would think this would be big news and people would come to Google and type in ‘Idearc Bankruptcy’ to learn more about this huge story. Well, another post on this blog happens to rank #1 for that very term and I was just looking over the analytics and thought I would share them with you.

Google Analytics

Displayed is the network location of the people who read a previous post speculating on Idearc's Bankruptcy

This screenshot shows the network location of the folks who were reading the Idearc Bankruptcy post yesterday. As you can see, only 126 views… a big yawn, right? But even more telling is that most of the views were from inside the yellow page industry and more than one-third came from Idearc and Verizon. Folks who may lose their job tend to care, what surprised me, was how few other people did.

I don’t believe people care that much if a single yellow page provider goes out business.

Posted in Local Search, Uncategorized | 5 Comments

You-Tube Rating System – A Pre-Emptive Word

Rated Stupid
In the mid 60′s, the word ‘screw’ and the phrase’hump the hostess’ were said in the film ‘Whose Afraid Of Virgina Wolf?.’ People freaked out and the Movie Ratings system was born and from it sprang the porn industry.

Earlier in that decade, the surgeon general wrote a report asserting that cigarettes caused lung cancer and congress passed a law requiring manufacturers to a put a warning label on their product. This shielded these companies from liability for years and allowed the cigarette industry to just keep growing.

Later the music industry was required to label their music and today there is more foul and explicit language in music than when I was a kid. Why? Because bands that had stronger warning labels on their CD sold more, and so it became… be explicit or be obscure. The result is explicit language is almost a requirement today.

Doesn’t it feel like enough time has passed since the TV and Video game rating systems that they’re going to come after something else?

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Local Search Marketing Gets A Little Easier With GetListed.Org

Search Engine Land has an article about a new web based tool that helps small business owners to take the first step in Local Search – claiming their business profiles, getlisted.org.

You just enter the name of your business and the zip and the tool will tell you whether or not you have claimed your listing in google, yahoo, msn and botw and if you have not the link to claim it is right there to help you get started.

Well worth a look.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

How To Opt Out Of Telephone Book Delivery

Chris Silver Smith wrote a post on saving the yellow pages over at Search Engine Land last week. He outlined 10 points that could help the yellow pages industry. Though I have tremendous respect for Chris Silver Smith I disagreed with almost each point he made. This post is about his first point:

1. Come up with some way to stop distributing books to people who no longer use them. There’s no way to explain to people why they should be getting these if they don’t use the books, and it irritates the environmentally-conscious even if the books are printed on recycled paper like you’ve been telling everyone.

This one I disagreed with because the ability to opt out of phone book delivery has been around for over a year now and the cynic in me believes that most people care about the environment only when it is convenient for them so nobody took the time to do it.

Then I did a search on the internet and couldn’t find the number to call and no one commented on his blog post like… Hey Chris, diid you know that you could do that for over a year now! So I was forced to consider the possibility that no one knows about this or how easy it is to do.

So, let’s find out. Here are the numbers to opt out of Yellow Page delivery for each major publisher. Is Chris right? Will the environmentally-conscious take the time to call? Or was the cynic in me right all along?

Idearc 1 800 888 8448 Option 2 (Opt Out Of Verizon Yellow Pages)
At&t 1 800 922 0008 Option 3 (Opt Out Of the Real Pages)
Dex 1 877 243 8339 (This will also work for Embarq)
Yellow Book 1 800 888-8448 Option 2

The funny part about this is how cleverly the phone companies disguised these numbers. Each one is published in their own directory as the number to call to order a phone book. I swear you can’t make this stuff up.

I would also like to assert that just because I disagree with what he wrote on that one post in no way diminishes how much respect I have for Chris Silver Smith as a leader in the local search industry. A lot of what I know about local search I learned reading his blog.

In future posts I will discuss the other 9 points.

Posted in Uncategorized | 11 Comments

Am I Social Enough For Social Media?

Will Scott, a search marketer in New Orleans, who I’ve met online, emailed me yesterday asking me if there was a way we could talk. “IM? Twitter?

That email was sent around 10:30am, I responded “not really” at around 3 because that was the first time I checked my email since early in the morning. So, the combination of the content of his message along with my inability to respond quickly has woke me up to the need to get more social.

So last night I got the kids down and joined twitter and despite feeling a little awkward I twatted tweeted my first tweet.

Now, feeling empowered and ready to move forward… what’s next?

LinkedIN? Facebook? (oh! Dear God no, not Facebook), maybe I just better start with a few IM accounts and have my 9 year-old teach me how to aggregate them.

I would like to follow some of the local bloggers I read most often including , Miriam Ellis, Mike Blumenthal and David Mihm but I couldn’t find them in the people search or they had me pre-emptively blocked :)

Any other tips to help me get more social in 2009, please let me know. Especially any tips that help me understand how you find the time to be social online.

Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments

Might Idearc’s Impending Bankruptcy Be The End Of The Yellow Pages?

Where can you buy a company that generated $377 million in cash after expenses in the first 9 months of this year for a total of $14.6 million? Check your local yellow pages.

Though Idearc has not made any announcement regarding bankruptcy, in the last year and half Idearc’s (publisher of the Verizon yp and superpages.com) stock has dropped from $35 to around 10 cents a share. The company has 146 million outstanding shares of stock, which means you could pick up a company that does about $3 billion in revenue with fat margins for just over $14 million. Usage of the yellow pages is still relatively strong at over 12 billion look-ups last year.

So, why would a company that is so cash rich be facing bankruptcy? Well, when Verizon spun it off in 2006 it sent it away with 9 billion dollars in debt. (Which sounds a little shady to me). So, it would seem the logical thing to do now would be to file bankruptcy, pay off the debtors at a few cents on the dollar and reorganize.

But they may cause a whole other problem. In this headline driven world, everyone is going to hear only that the yellow pages is bankrupt. And everyone will think they ran out of money because no one is using it anymore. Then people will think they now NEED to use the internet to get information when making a local purchase decision. Then the yellow pages will be bankrupt for real.

Idearc better think long and hard about the public relations end of any bankruptcy.

If Idearc does file bankruptcy it could void their intellectual property agreement with Verizon.

Under the Intellectual Property Agreement, Verizon Services also agreed not to
grant any licenses to use specified intellectual property to any person who
competes directly with Verizon or Idearc Media. The Intellectual Property
Agreement is terminable by Verizon Services only in the event of Idearc Media’s
bankruptcy, or in an event of default by Idearc Media.

I would not be surprised if they are in negotiations with Verizon right now over this and this may be what’s been keeping them from filing thus far.

Posted in Local Search | Tagged | 28 Comments

Unleashing The IdeaVirus In Local – Video Email

While technology has made it more difficult to build one’s brand by spending lots of money, it has made it a lot easier to build a brand while spending no money.

Let me show you how the owner of a garage door company where I work has turned an ordinary problem into a $0 cost brand building bonanza.

Here was the problem… everyday he would get a ton of phone calls for garage door problems that did not really require a garage door technician; like changing the battery on the remote. Not knowing this he would send someone out who only needed to change a 9-volt battery and charge a service call.

Here lies the problem. People resent like hell having to pay a service call for things like that and so the reputation of the business suffers. And the business LOSES money, because the service call charge can’t cover the cost of the technician, gas etc.

So, a series of videos was made on how to solve simple garage door problems and they are distributed in 2 ways: via the website and by video email.

We feel that any marketing should use nice packaging and giving something away shouldn’t be any different. Nice packaging makes the solution more credible so more people will use it and more people will pass it on. Here is a picture of the how the video email looks when being viewed by a “customer.”

The video is optimized to load and play in that format and its container is optimized so the customer will remember the name of the garage door company that helped them out.

You’re probably thinking this is all well and good but will this really effect the way people think and talk about a business. I’ll let you be the judge. These 2 testimonials came in just hours apart last Friday…

Thank you very much for your assistance in “fixing” my garage door today. Your explanation as well as the helpful video certainly helped me to solve my problem. So far, all is well and my whole family is thrilled. Your diagnosis over the telephone and your honesty are certainly appreciated in today’s world. Thank you for listening to me and taking the time to help me.

I will certainly remember your company and refer you in the future.

You rock.

I was moving some stuff around the garage the other day and inadvertently moved my son’s bike right in front of one of the eyes. I moved the bike and we’re go to go.

Thank you so much for helping me to avoid the cost of a service call. If in the future I need anything done on my garage doors you’ll be the first one I call. Great customer service.

How often does someone say that a garage door company rocks?

Now, all that is left to do (I’ll use the words of Seth Godin) is to amplify these voices.

Posted in Internet Advertising | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Multiple Google Accounts And Other G-Phone Discoveries

  • Knowing this url: https://google.com/accounts/ or doing a search on Google for ‘my account’ (it’s the 3rd result) will allow you to manage multiple accounts on Google. Good to know, if for example you have one for business and one for personal. Google does not provided an option to sign in or out on on the G-phone home page provided. You need to navigate to that page, then sign out… you can figure it out from there.
  • Liquid layouts look like hell until they are zoomed out… many look so bad that I’m not sure users will stick around long enough to zoom unless they are familiar with the site.
  • Laying down and reading the internet is really comfortable. This position was previously reserved only for books. Prediction: More time on the internet… less time watching TV.
  • If it’s in Flash I won’t see it…
  • Javascript is turned off by default… there is an option to enable.
  • Apps wish list – screen capture. I hope someone comes out with this quick before Snag-it charges me for it next year when Market will allow paid apps.
  • Viewing pdf’s was quick and simple… I was able to view it quickly without the option to download… a more pleasant experience than I am accustomed to with this format.
  • Every telephone number on every webpage is in effect “click-to-call.”
  • Double-tapping an image is the equivalent of the right-click; it allows viewing and saving the image.
  • Yellow Book provides a yellow pages app complete with auto-complete. It worked well but… uh… the phone comes with google maps… it is the G phone after all; so it doesn’t really take-on an unsolved problem now does it?
  • If you are Curious whether folks are finding your site on the Gphone or iPhone. Shimmy over to Google Analytics (you must have Google Analytics hooked up to your website) and look under Visitors > Browser Capabitities > Browsers and OS. Here’s how it looks:
Posted in Gooogle Phone | 3 Comments

G Phone Calling… HellOOOooo!

Back in May, after weeks of consideration, I had made the decision to purchase an iPhone. Soon after that, Apple announced 3g so I decided to wait. Finally, in July with much anticipation I trekked over to the Apple Store and was stopped cold in my tracks by a 4HOUR LINE.

Annoyed and without a solution I hadn’t done anything about it until this week. The Google phone came out last week and so I was even more uncertain. Given the complexity of the issue and the number of features to consider, I brought out the big guns… my nine year old daughter.

After she recited the available features of each phone, I decided the 3 most important to me are surfing the web from anywhere, GPS, and a convenient way to purchase the darn thing. Since Apple didn’t offer the latter, I bought the G1 by T-Mobile.

UPS knocked on the door last night and I’ve been like a kid on Christmas morning ever since.

Some quick and dirty thoughts about the browser as a consumer and designer.

1) The browser is more than I expected from mobile. It really allows you to enjoy the full web.

Here is how it renders Mihmorandum a well designed blog of which I am a frequent reader. Notice how it allows you to see the site how it was intended to be seen, while also allowing you to read it with only a minimum horizontal scroll. (2 zoom outs)

2)I have definitely endured some frustration in getting used to it. My most frequent peeve is that the home key doesn’t take me back to the browser’s home page, it takes me back to the device’s home. It’s the equivalent of hitting home on your browser and being taken back to your desktop.

3)I can see the eventual disappearance of the drop-down navigation menu. When touching the link, I am taken to a new page and the hidden links are never revealed. If I scroll through the links the hidden links are revealed on “hover” as they should be… I just don’t think that very many people will navigate that way on this browser; which could spell doom for the drop down.

Caution: Really geeky sentence coming, I’ll try to make it brief. If the navbar is absolutely positioned the scroll wheel can’t “see” it; so it CAN’T be hovered. In this case, Hidden links will never be revealed by android’s browser and accessing those links is impossible as far as I can tell. If anyone can let me know in the comments if the same is true of the iPhone I would appreciate it. It’s safe now, total geekyness is over.

Despite the early frustration I am thrilled with the phone. Each time my daughter hears me swearing under my breath, she sighs, and says “no one under 20 should have a phone that cool.” I’m determined to prove her wrong.

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

What Is Direct Traffic In Google Analytics?

Digital Alex defines Direct Traffic perfectly at Search Marketing Gurus as

These are visitors who came to your site without first visiting a search engine, another site or some marketing tactic.

This post will take that last part – “some marketing tactic” a little further and demonstrate how small businesses can learn more about traffic from other online advertising by having Google Analytics give you all the goodies that most other portals won’t show you.

Then it will show you how to segment Direct Traffic to help figure out how many visitors came through a bookmark (favorites) and how many likely came through some offline media like yellow pages.

Let’s start by looking at Traffic Sources in GA:

Traffic Sources Google Analytics

Traffic Sources Google Analytics

Looking at the 2 different line items for superpages.com in the above report provides a good example of how Google Analytics reports traffic. In a nutshell, Google will report traffic from all “free sources” and show it to you. However, if you pay for it, it will get buried in Direct Traffic (unless it’s Adwords… now that’s marketing). So, if it comes from superpages.com for free, this is a referral and GA shows it , however if it is superpages pay per click … it will go into Direct Traffic – that’s what Digital Dave, means when he said “some marketing tactic.”

So, how did I get Superpages/PPC out of the Direct Traffic bucket and have it report like other sources? The answer is you tag the url. That sounds complicated but Google makes it kindergarten simple. Simply, go to the the Google Url Builder and create the new url and then use that at the sites you want to track. For superpages I created a new url for each category (keyword) I wanted to track and then let the magic begin.

Now instead of this traffic getting mixed in with Direct Traffic I get this:

Superpages.com PPC Traffic As Reported In GA

Superpages.com PPC Traffic As Reported In GA

This is already way more information than I would get from the reports provided by Superpages but I can also segment it by keyword, city, landing page or anything else I can do with GA.

Perhaps even more important is that my Direct Traffic bucket now represents uh… well… direct traffic; so I can learn more about how folks are really ending up on the site… and since this traffic is VERY high quality and converts at twice the rate of Organic traffic and Three times the rate of PPC understanding it could be critical to future marketing decisions. To get a clearer picture a few more graphics will help; but first back to Digital Alex… where he explains how to figure out WHAT pages are being bookmarked on your site, which is cool info.

And then you can use this same technique to segment by Visitor type to determine which people came from bookmarks and which typed in the url directly, which in my case, probably means they came from yellow pages. Also, you can find out where the searchers are located, which is obviously important for a local business to learn whether the traffic is really quality.

Segmenting Direct Traffic In Google Analytics

Segmenting Direct Traffic In Google Analytics

Now I click on VISITOR TYPE and see this:

New vs. Returning Visitors

New vs. Returning Visitors

Using some educated guesses, I can surmise those who are returning, originally found the site through search engines, bookmarked it and returned later. The new visitors typed the url in directly and since the url is not intuitive I further surmise most of these folks came through yellow page advertising.

Now, by clicking Goal Conversion, I can see which is converting at a higher rate.

New Vs Returning Conversion Rate

New Vs Returning Conversion Rate

This actually surprised me… I had sort of assumed the conversions from direct traffic were latent conversions and represented business obtained from our search marketing; but having seen this it looks more like it came from yellow pages or another offline source… yellow pages dissed again! This really shows how important it is to segment the traffic to better understand it. Without this information we could have easily underestimated the business coming from offline media.

If I wanted to be certain which offline media it was coming from I could do that… here’s how:
Tracking Offline Advertising With Google Analytics

And believe it or not if I wanted to track the phone calls from the Yellow Pages using Google Analytics, I can do that easily. Go to Mongoose Metrics buy a unique telephone number and place it in the ad. Mongoose Metrics will allow you to configure the phone number to a hidden page on your site so you can track the call to a thank you page on your site. Then you just need to set that up as a goal in GA. Here’s how it will look when your done:

Tracking Phone Calls In Google Analytics

Tracking Phone Calls In Google Analytics

But don’t forget to tag the url to the hidden page or the phone call will show up in Google Analytics as… you guessed it – Direct Traffic.

Posted in Analytics | Tagged , , | 24 Comments