SuperPages.com Readies Performance-Based Listings
The move to pay-per-click listings is a departure for the Internet yellow pages site, which previously sold only flat-rate directory listings. SuperPages will continue selling directory listings, while layering on top paid search listings tied to a user's search.
"We found there's a large set of advertisers that were very comfortable with [pay per click]," said Jim Palma, director of strategic planning at SuperPages.
The paid search listings come via a partnership deal struck in December with FindWhat.com, which provides the back-end system for the program. Palma said the site would sell the listings through an online self-service option and its 2,100-strong local sales force. Unlike most paid search programs, advertisers will bid on business categories, not keywords. Palma said this would appeal to local advertisers put off by the complexity of paid search.
"We found that once advertisers understand the concept, there was a large number who liked the idea of paying for performance," he said.
Greg Sterling, a local search analyst with Kelsey Group, said performance-based advertising likely would gain in popularity at IYP sites.
"They're certainly moving in that direction," he said. "More and more will offer some performance-based pricing."
SuperPages, like other IYP sites, took a page from Google's book and simplified its site for users. Searchers will be able to use either a keyword or business search, with location optional.
A national search will return four paid listings of national advertisers, while a local search will return local advertiser listings with national advertising along the right side. SuperPages used to carry banner ads but now will rely on paid links. On the left side, the site will offer options for searchers to narrow their search into subcategories.
"We spent a lot of time over the last two months doing extensive research with advertisers and consumers about what kind of experience they want on the site," Palma said. "They want the results in an expedient fashion without all the clutter."
Internet yellow pages hope to fend off challenges from search giants like Google and Yahoo in the accelerating local search market. SuperPages is the biggest IYP site, drawing 9.3 million unique visitors in December, according to Nielsen//NetRatings.
The SuperPages redesign follows a site overhaul at the No. 3 IYP site, Switchboard.com, which on Feb. 4 simplified its site design and added learning search technology.
Danny Sullivan, editor of Search Engine Watch, said IYP sites needed to improve usability to draw users over search destinations like Google.
"If you're online, you need to search, you think Google," he said. "You don't think, 'I'll go to this specialized yellow pages site.'"
On the plus side, Palma noted that SuperPages has high brand awareness thanks to its ubiquitous offline directory with the same name, plus a large sales force and long relationships with small businesses nationwide.
"You can't count them out because they have deep pockets and feet on the street," said Kevin Lee, chief executive of New York search marketing firm Did-it.com.