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LJWorld.com weblogs The Lawrence Marketplace Blog

Yellow Pages Stepping up a Notch in Local and Social

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A few days ago AT&T YellowPages launched an improved site, yp.com, with a better-defined assertion that they are contenders in local search. I'm finding, almost in spite of myself, that I really like a bunch of the improvements. But I'm still quite disappointed when it comes to delivering complete local results.

Clearly, YellowPages realizes that the mass shift of consumers to online and now social online is not going to slow down and if they want to be a legitimate contender in local, social and search they've got to step up to the curve.

The Stuff I Like

So first, the stuff I like. The new feedback feature works great and is easy to find. The information on the search pages is presented in a more organized way. The look and feel of paid spots, like sponsorships and ads for example, are finally distinguished from the rest of the results and less obnoxious than with the old site. The site is cleaner overall and they've minimized the traditional yellowpage yellow and black. This might not seem like a big deal, but I've often contended that one big strike against phone book companies when it comes to repositioning themselves to local online search is that they all use some variation of the fingers walking and a yellow and black motif. With so many different phonebooks, often in the same community, how can one of them stand out as the most recognizable name and lead the market?

What I Don't Like

But despite these improvements, I still find fault with their fundamentals. It's downright painful to see how incomplete the search results are for my local community. Some searches yield better results than others, but often there are businesses listed for my query that haven't existed for years and at other times there are some well established businesses I'd expect to find info on that just don't show up at all. (Search for "clothing" in Lawrence - where's Weaver's?? our oldest local department store). And then, why am I finding all of these outside my city businesses ranked in with my actual local city? I'm sorry but the trend is towards hyper-geolocation. Kansas City is local relative to Lawrence in a regional way, but if I wanted a plumber in Kansas City versus in Lawrence where I live I would have searched for it that way.

Another important thing that caused me much irritation on the old version of the site was that sponsored or paid results were mixed in with organic results, seemingly indiscriminately. I mentioned above in my praise that paid spots were better separated this time around from the regular organic results, but on closer inspection I'm wondering how far this holds true? I'm still seeing results that don't look local at all and maybe only belong because they paid to be included in my zone. What's with the toll free numbers and the same business listed over and over again "serving my area" ?

Still got a ways to Go

In short, this is definitely a step in the right direction But while some of the "local search" functionality is greatly improved it still feels like they're just paying lip-service in other areas. And they're still a couple years behind national trends even with these improvements to local search. This new offering doesn't seem to have gained much ground when it comes to utilizing social media tools.

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