Many of my recent discussions have been about SEO Local Search. This in turn lead to my recent post about best practices when setting up Google Places for your business. But one of the more contentious and rapidly more talked about factors in local search is our lovely friends at the Yellow Pages and Thomson Local.Dont forget we've spoken about yell.com before.
Now before we begin, let me make clear a fair amount of what I am about to say are things that I have done, experienced or had permission from clients to talk about. I will not name those clients (past or present) but suffice to say it is their views I will convey and not just my own.
With local search being a growing market, given Google Places show up in search results more and more, their default mobile search page now has buttons to say "local restaurants" or "local businesses" etc the question may not be is the end now, but rather why they still exist. If the question is to be the latter, the answer is simply money - there are still people who don't realise they can do more for free than using either the Yellow Pages or Thomson Local. But this post is about the former, outlining why Google Places is different and better than either the Yellow Pages or Thomson Local.
Before we go on, I do want to say that both the Yellow Pages and Thomson Local, as well as Google Places, offer different "things" for different markets - but we in this post are talking about Local Search, not PPC or their websites (as discussed previously, link above). Both of the "Google Competitors" will have something the other doesn't, for example Thomson Local we know is some how linked with Bing Local Search, but so is yell - and if Bing coping Google search results is anything to go by Google Places will also be being copied to some extent. So lets say it's a level playing field here ... so why should you pay Yellow Pages or Thomson Local for something you can do yourself ... for FREE!?
The answer is you shouldn't.
Both of these companies are known for going through people who make free listings on their respective websites and offering to "enhance" or "guarantee" local search listings. The way more often than not, if you trip them up, they do this is via making you a free listing on Google Places (just as you can yourself) and then giving you a few clicks via PPC. It doesn't take much to get either party to own up to this. Oh and don't forget for your buck, they will also put you into their directory, which you can also do for free anyway - if you can stand a fair few phone calls from that company offering you a load of bull.
So I hear you now saying but Yellow Pages and Thomson Local are known to people in the UK. Well yes, they have a physical brand - but did you notice the shrinking of the size of the Yellow Pages over the past 5 years - ask why is this and you will soon see that it's because no longer are those paper directories the default - ask why they offer you local listings on Google and you will understand that this is why the paper directory is dead, Google is now the default "go to" point for most people looking for a local shop or services.
An example of local results showing up on a search is a search for Piano Lessons in Glossop or Electrical Services in Manchester - and by the way this is probably the most common way of searching for a shop or service in an area ... services / shop name IN area name.
The next question to pose is why do the Yellow Pages or Thomson Local claim to have a higher conversion rate? Well the simple fact is they have a smaller audience, it's a target audience ... people go to their sites to look for something specific will click on maybe 2 or 3 links to get what they want and bingo ... conversion rates will always be higher here than on a search engine where the results are shown with contextual results - which are actually much better for some searches and what people want. So yes people may want to know what is close to them but they also want to know which is best, which is why Google Places conversions are always increasing as they have reviews of each location - supplied by real people both via Google itself and other websites like trustpilot or freeindex.
Another reason for this claim is of course that they want you to part with a few sheckles, and pay for inclusion. This is also why they are failing, because Google Places and Bing Local Search are actually free to register too, you get verified (which yell don't do) and everything is free. Yellow Pages and Thomson Local want to make just a few more quid before their game is up ... and boy is that time close.
Google Places (and Bing Local Search) offer far superior results to that of the Yellow Pages or Thomson Local, they even take into account what your friend like and don't like, what others around you have done, are doing or are likely to do ... Search engines are far far superior in so many ways... and they are free!
If you want further proof that the Yellow Pages and Thomson Local know they are in trouble, take into account that they no longer simply offer you a local listing on Google, they offer it in a bundle with PPC / adWords, why? well thats because in 2009 they stopped playing the game of charging for this alone, people realised it was free, and they now claim to "guarantee you a listing on Google" ... its nothing of the kind - it is simply PPC and nothing else and they charge through the roof for it. Put simply they know the game is up, they have little worth in this rapidly changing world of online media, and with Google putting local search at the centre of their mobile search it really is a matter of time for the rip off merchants that are Yellow Pages and Thomson Local. Don't get me wrong they may still be ok at "paper" and "ground" marketing in the real world but online and socially they are nothing ... oh and just a tip the Royal Mail offer much better real world marketing than these too companies ever could.
Don't forget you can set up your Google Places listing for free! and here are my 10 steps to success.
UPDATE: 15 / 8 / 13
We've already seen Yell Web Design rebrand as Hibu in an effort to move away from a dead brand (it hasn't worked). Today we heard that Thomson Local have gone into administration and at least 170 jobs have been cut. The Guardian are now reporting that they will be bought by Corporate Media Partners, a uk company that is one of the data suppliers to 118 118 - the news comes as no surprising following a loss of more than £4.5m in the first siz months of the year. ... maybe i was right then, they are not long for this world?