Ouch! 2013 Traffic Bleeds 22% for Internet Yellowpages (IYP) Websites

Remember sites like Yellowpages.com and Mapquest, before you Googled everything?

Internet Yellowpages (IYPs) are “business search engines” that categorize businesses by type.  Users search by biz name or type, and then see basic results showing phone number, website URL and physical address.  In the Internet’s formative years, people turned to these websites as an alternative to search engines.  This consumer behavior was largely in the legacy of print Yellowpages books.

top-12-directoriesThe Top 12 IYPs; courtesy of the BrightLocal IYP report dated 2/14/14

After 2005, Google results pages began displaying crucial contact information for companies — without the need to click further into any website.  From that time, IYPs have faced an erosion in overall value to consumers.  Do you still use sites like Yellowpages.com instead of Google?  

Google’s search ranking algorithm still continues to rely on information from IYPs as confirmation of business location and contact details.  Many companies’ regional success online benefits from creating a network of “citations” in this way.  Yet the entire IYP industry is in panic mode, as traffic to IYPs continues to bleed across the board.

Industry thought-leader BrightLocal.com published a report this month noting a 22% decline in traffic across the Top 40 IYP websites in 2013 alone.  As a few sites such as (Google darling) Yelp.com hold strong, so many others are losing out.  Changes in Google’s algorithm are perhaps the core cause — and Google’s ability to actively compress the visibility of hundreds of IYPs — meanwhile elevating Yelp.com — further shows Google’s super-dominance in this space.  Google plays god with IYPs.

iyp-traffic-2013

Will Google continue to cross-reference info from IYPs in Google’s own display of business results?  Will business directory websites be obsolete in 5 years?  We predict that the faster consumers demand information, the faster we will transition away from IYPs for good.

 

Funding for New Social Media Ideas – So 2011?

According to Bloomberg Businessweek, the social media bubble is bursting.  From Wall Street trading to closed-doors corporate funding, investors have begun turning a cold shoulder to the inventors of tomorrow’s social sharing networks.

In fact, corporate investment in social media (in networks such as Facebook and Pinterest, the funding of apps, etc.), has steadily declined from its high point in late 2011.

According to Businessweek‘s Ashlee Vance: “Silicon Valley is reaching the saturation point with business plans that hinge on crossed fingers as much as anything else.”

“We are certainly in another bubble,” says Matthew Cowan, co-founder of the tech investment firm Bridgescale Partners. “And it’s being driven by social media and consumer-oriented applications.”

Is this the pending death of social media?  Read all the gory details here >>

To provide a bit of Upright analysis: 

The monetization of the actual social media platforms is obviously crucial here. When General Motors quit spending ad dollars on Facebook in May 2012, investors began to wonder: “if the all-powerful Facebook can’t make money (monetize features/ads)…who can?” Suddenly, many home-run new ideas appeared as a huge gamble.  Whereas from 2009-2011, the market was (naively?) friendly to social media investments.

As people are becoming increasingly “platform agnostic” (not loyal to any one social media site or service provider), investors are even more gun-shy about putting all their eggs in one basket. The truth is that social interactive concepts — such as watching videos, sharing photos, Do-It-Yourself project forums, etc. — will continue to be created and diversify. But the more we become addicted to these social/narcissistic interactions in our lives, the less we care who provides them.  Social media brands become generic utilities pretty quickly…or are bought out by Google. This creates an incredibly narrow path for long-term, independent success with any one social media network or app.

Investing in social media has become like investing in the next catchphrase or slang. I still like “radical”, though. It’s rad.

Create a Google Plus Page for your Business

You’re a busy businessperson.  You don’t have time to read commentary and speculation on the future of Google+.  You just want to know how to create a solid Google+ Page for your business.  Because it gives your business vital, local visibility.  And you’re smart like that.

STEP 1: Check whether your business already has a Google+ Page.
To do so, visit http://maps.google.com and search “your business name” + “city, state”.  What do you find?

  • If you find a result for your business location(s), you have a Google+ Page.  Click on your business name in each legitimate result, and then click “more info” in the map at right, to review your current Google+ Page(s).  Go beyond — scroll to the bottom-right of your Google+ Page to find a “Manage this page” button.  Click this button and follow all prompts until the Page is under your control and your Page is fully complete with your contact information, website URL, hours, service offering, photos and more.  AND THEN YOU CAN STOP READING THIS POST AND GET BACK TO WORK! 

  • If you do NOT find a result for your business, you do not have a Google+ Page. Click “Sign In” in the upper right corner to log into your Google account.  After logging into your Google account, follow any prompts until your personal account has been upgraded to Google+.  Don’t have a Google account, click here to create a Google account.

STEP 2: You now have a Google+ personal profile.  Now you need a Google+ Page.  Ensure you are still logged in to your Google account. Then click here to create a Google+ Page. Follow all prompts until your new Page is fully complete with your contact information, website URL, hours, service offering, photos and more. If any verification steps are required, follow them so your Page remains under your control forever.  AND THEN YOU CAN STOP READING THIS POST AND GET BACK TO WORK!
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This post was simplified for the crazy-busy business owner.  If you have questions, post them in our Comments below and we will do our best to help.  Best of luck with Google+!

PS from Google Headquarters:
If you are a business owner, you should continue to manage your information in Google Places for Business. You’ll still be able to verify your basic listing data, make updates, and respond to reviews. If you don’t yet have a Google+ Page for your business, we encourage you to create one now. And if you do already have one, hold tight for news on how to get it linked to your local listing.

Meet Google+ Local (Google Places Is Dead)

UPDATE: MAY 30, 2012

Google announced in July 2011 that there would be one day be Google+ business profiles.  We didn’t know they’d look like THIS…

We here at Upright have been spending our after-hours tonight scouring through the new features of Google+ pages.  In our conversation we’re focused on the entirely new system of reviewing businesses on Google, using a 0-3 numerical scale.

When Google drop bombshells like this, we get to headscratching and re-strategizing!

Starting now, this blog will feature a series of helpful posts teaching business owners about the new Google+ pages, including:

  • how to create a Google+ page
  • how to make your Google+ page earn new business for your company
  • how to instruct customers to leave feedback on Google+

In the meantime, search for your own business in Google, ie. “Upright Communications Cincinnati OH”.  If you find a link to a Google+ page, click it to explore how your business is now marketed locally on Google.

Stay tuned!

Upright Attends Cut & Paste Design Competition

The first Cut&Paste digital design competitionwas held in New York City in 2005. It has grown massively since. Today, preliminary rounds are held in each of 12 cities worldwide — with winners competing in the Global Championship in NYC each year.

This past Saturday, I was in attendance for the Los Angeles qualifying round of this now-famous design competition. Held in a small warehouse downtown, graphic designers and 3D animators hunched over their computers as we watched 3 speedy rounds of live graphic designing.

There were 3 teams of designers competing for just 1 spot in the championships. All 3 teams were well-spoken about their visions and calm under pressure.

Friends of Upright, Claudia and Danny joined me for the DJ set, great drinks and fun of watching graphic creations come together.

We were surprised by several twists and turns as the designs developed. With its combination of 3D animation and 2D drawings, the designers’ creative process reminded me (naively) of a special I saw on TV on the making of the Toy Story films.

Visit the winners’ circle page from the 2012 Los Angeles Cut&Paste design competition.

Is the winner’s design your favorite?

 

Shifting Trends: Mobile Apps vs. Mobile-Optimized Websites

Dr. Jakob Nielsen, often called the “father of Web usability,” remains a thought leader today as he continues to research emerging trends. Today we focus on Nielsen’s new findings on mobile usage — do people prefer using mobile apps, or visiting websites from their smartphones?

This report asserts that as of early 2012, the experience of receiving information from a mobile app is superior to visiting a website from a smartphone.

Why? Apps are flat-out easier for everybody now. Designers only need consider a few devices during app development, and all user experiences can be tested easily. The issue of hundreds of Internet browser versions and screen resolutions — making a website appear different on nearly every screen — is irrelevant. Apps are fully branded around your company, they load quickly on phones, are colorful and sound great, and require no scrolling or squinting to read.

For these reasons, today’s user prefers using mobile apps versus surfin’ from their smartphone. However, the trend is switching towards mobile websites as a preferred portal of on-the-go information. I’d recommend that you read Dr. Nielsen’s entire report for the reasons why.

Good News for You?
As mobile apps become more expensive to develop and mobile websites become faster and easier to use, the small business owner will win.

Currently, many popular apps are produced by large corporations with millions of American customers. For these app creators, the hefty pricetag of mobile app development sees an immediate return in downloads and new customers earned. But for the average business owner — with a smaller mobile market or a less consumer-focused product — an app is not beneficial, forcing the business owner to struggle to present website information for smartphone users in a universal, user-friendly format.

I look forward to the day when mobile website experiences can be simplified and sped up. Websites are accessed by all — anytime, and for free. Apps sometimes cost, require search and download time, and must release updated versions to remain useful over time. A company’s own website is still their richest, most dynamic marketing tool and the hope is that mobile technology will streamline so every user experiences a website on their smartphone in the way the web developer intended.

How Does My Website Look On Different Computers & Mobile Devices?

We receive this question all the time.  Often it starts with the line, “I checked the website from home and ______ was different…”

Good web designers and developers do a considerable amount of testing before launching a new website — using tools to simulate the view of the website on different computers (various resolutions), different Internet browsers (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Opera etc.), and different devices (desktop, laptop, tablet, mobile).

Here we’d like to share a few of the FREE tools we recommend for those who would like to simulate the view of your website as others see it:

TEST AT DIFFERENT RESOLUTIONS <- Viewlike.us is an online application that enables you to quickly test your website in different resolutions. Simply enter your website URL in the provided field and click “Submit.” Once the webpage loads, click different resolution tabs to view how the site looks on computers of several resolutions.

TEST IN DIFFERENT WEB BROWSERS <- A link to a strong list of cross browser testing tools. We recommend Adobe BrowserLab (the first on this list), but wanted to include this full list of recommendations, as BrowserLab will switch to un-free shortly.

TEST DIFFERENT MOBILE/TABLET DEVICES <- A link to a strong list of device “emulators” as they’re often called. Your best bet is to simply research which are the top 5 or 10 mobile and tablet devices at the time of your website/project launch, and download the individual emulator specifically catered to those tools. (Emulators that claim to match the view at several different devices typically do not work.)

Testing is important and (shhh — don’t tell!) can actually be fun. Remember to also test the view of social media campaigns, such as your Twitter profile and Facebook landing pages. Happy testing!

Verify Your Business in Google Places & Bing Local Business Center

Every business– from local start-ups to international corporations– benefits when they claim their location profiles in the Top 3 search engines’ local listing centers.

The Top 3 local listing centers are:

The larger your business and the longer it’s been around, the higher chances that incorrect or outdated info about your business is displayed by these 3 business centers.  Claiming these profiles ensures you have control over how your business is represented online.  You can correct mistakes and also add marketing assets like photos and coupons!  Each has its own special perks — Google Places offers the Google Dashboard, where you can see visibility numbers for your local listings.  Yahoo does not require any verification step to complete Local profiles.  And Bing offers mobile-marketing considerations and allows you to prioritize your services.

HOWEVER, there is one minor caveat to the simplicity of this process: the dreaded VERIFICATION STEP required by Google and Bing.

This verification step, required before a new listing is published, is vital to limiting spam.  But for those attempting to ethically publish info about their location(s) online, verification can be an inconvenient challenge.  Depending on several factors, Google and Bing require one of two forms of verification before a location’s listing can successfully publish:

1) phone verification – Google or Bing call you, and provide a PIN number to enter
2) letter verification – Google or Bing send your location a letter, supplying a PIN number to enter

There are pros and cons to each method.  When given a choice, phone verification is more immediate.  However, it requires the person who answers the phone at your location(s) to understand the process described above (sometimes a lot to ask during a busy day!).  Good thing both Google and Bing provide multiple attempts before letter verification is required.  Letter verification is no longer a snail’s journey.  The time it takes to receive these letters is getting faster– most companies will find Google and Bing letters in their mailboxes within a week.  And letters can be easily resent on command.

The bottom line is to stay calm during the tricky verification process.  These verification systems are patient and offer several attempts.  And the light at the end of the tunnel is awesome — much-increased visibility of your business to local consumers.

If you continue to have trouble verifying your business in Google Places specifically, search Mike Blumenthal’s blog for solutions.  The actual Google Places forum is a tangled web, and Mike does a great job to synthesize issues business owners face during this process.  Popular user issues covered on Mike’s blog include:

What does “We currently do not support this location” mean in Google Places?
My Google Places listing has been in ‘Pending’ status forever!

Why did I receive the error message that I’ve used a banned term in Google Places?
Why is my business marked closed in Google Places?  I’m still here!

Best of luck, and please comment below with any questions as you verify your business in Google, Yahoo and Bing!

What % Click Search Results in Positions 1-10?

The stat was ingrained in my mind.  That 89% of search engine users clicked a result on Page 1.

But a new study, published recently by Slingshot SEO, debunks that old statistic.  Reported today by thought-leader Search Engine Watch, the number of people who click on results from Page 1 of search results is now proven to be…only 52 percent.

Click here for details and implications of this important study.

In the meantime, we leave you with a chart (courtesy Search Engine Watch) of what percentage of Google users click on results in the first 10 positions:


 

Google Business Profiles to Become Un-Free?

Eyebrows are raised.

The sheer timing of recent changes to Google Places (reported here) and the introduction of Google+ (reported here) is suspect.  Google strips a considerable amount of information from Places profiles in the same month as they release Google+, which enables rich social interactions for users.  A coincidence?

Local Search experts are reading between the lines.  Previously, Google encouraged all business owners to edit information about their business for free, in order to provide consumers with details on the businesses nearby.  Will Google soon charge business owners for enhanced profiles, data-rich and infused with flashy features from Google+?  Will business owners pay for this?

Previous attempts from Google to encourage local business owners to advertise have NOT been wildly successful.  Products like Google Boost have come and gone, as business owners did not see the benefit of paying to display their hours and photos.  How better to force business owners into advertising, than requiring payment in order to create a business profile at all!

As we anticipate Google Business Profiles (an unreleased product), many theorize that Google Places will become the equivalent of a bare-bones Yellow Pages listing.  Meanwhile, paid Google Business Profiles would become big and colorful display ads with lots of interactive features.  There is certainly a demand for business owners to control information out there about their business.  That is really their right!  If data control becomes un-free, Google seeks to reap considerable rewards.  Stay tuned.