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The Kelsey Report® White Paper

IYP in the Era of Local Search:
Charles Laughlin,Greg Sterling,Steve Marshall , 10/27/2004


Executive Summary

Back in the mid-1990s the early days of Internet Yellow Pages (IYP) BigBooks Chris Hagerman appeared on the cover of Red Herring magazine tearing a phone book in half. The message this image conveyed was clear. The Internet has arrived, and it is here to make the printed Yellow Pages a relic of the analog past.

The reality since then has been quite different. While the printed product has suffered a decline followed by a leveling off of overall usage, the source of the decline until now cannot be pinned entirely on the Internet. In fact, a host of other factors (business consolidation and big box retail chief among them) have had a greater impact to this point. The future is another matter. The Kelsey Group (TKG) anticipates a much more direct correlation between declining print directory usage and adoption of high-speed connections to the Internet at home, in the workplace and, with wireless broadband, virtually anywhere.

So the stakes are higher than ever for Internet Yellow Pages providers. The opportunity to capture usage is perhaps greater than it has ever been. And advertisers inevitably follow users, even if there is often a considerable lag.

Enter local search. As the conditions for success in IYP improve, and as the IYP providers have failed until now to raise their game sufficiently to take advantage of this opportunity, the search engines have turned their sights on the local market. Google, Yahoo! and AOL, among others, have launched local search betas. And the entry of the search engines into the local marketplace has influenced the online product-development decision making of the major print Yellow Pages publishers around the globe.

Pressure from the search engines has also created a much more aggressive pace of introduction for new or redesigned online directory products by directory publishers. In effect, what has happened is that the search engines have tried to become more like Yellow Pages publishers, just as Yellow Pages publishers have tried to become more like search engines.

Lost in all of this activity is a real understanding of how the user experience has evolved. Amid the flurry of redesigned, if not re-invented, local online directory products, The Kelsey Group felt it was time to assess the state of the product from a users perspective.

To achieve this, TKG designed a rating and review process through which we evaluated and ranked 15 U.S.-based Internet Yellow Pages and local search sites and six global IYPs. We applied a ranking based on the following criteria: User Interface and Interaction, Relevance of Results, Depth of Content, Search Capabilities and Site Intelligence. We ranked each site on a scale of 1 to 4 for each category and then averaged the scores for a total. The testing methodology is explained in detail in the body of this White Paper.

TKGs evaluation scores ranged from a low of 1.0 to a high of 3.4, with a wide distribution between these extremes. The overall message, however, is that even though online directories have been around a while and have come a long way from their origins, they still have a long way to go. While the grading in this report may at times seem unforgiving given the difficulty involved in producing a quality online directory, our objective is to clarify a set of standards of excellence, or at least adequacy, that all IYP and local search providers can judge their efforts against.

Copyright � 2005 The Kelsey Group. All Rights Reserved.
This published material is for internal client use only. It may not be duplicated or distributed in any manner not permitted by contract. Any unauthorized distribution could result in termination of the client relationship, fines and other civil or criminal penalties under Federal law. The Kelsey Group disclaims all warranties regarding the accuracy of the information herein and similarly disclaims any liability for direct, indirect or consequential damages that may result from the use or interpretation of this information.

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Copyright© 2006 The Kelsey Group. All Rights Reserved.