SUMMARY: The new YellowPages.com — which AT&T and BellSouth created jointly last year — represents one of the most significant changes in the U.S. Internet Yellow Pages and local search market. The new property, with its enhanced advertiser content and improved search functionality, demonstrates a major evolution in both AT&T’s and BellSouth’s approach to local search. As important, it combines the sales power of more than 4,000 telephone and premise representatives with the directory content, advertiser relationships and resources of two of the world’s largest Yellow Pages publishers (which will become one mammoth company once AT&T completes its acquisition of BellSouth, which is expected to occur in November).
In paying a reported US$100 million for the YellowPages.com URL, AT&T and BellSouth placed a huge bet on their ability to use the improved national platform to increase traffic and online revenues and to better compete with the juggernauts dominating online local search, namely Google and Yahoo!. The new platform is already making a difference: Searches to YellowPages.com’s advertisers have grown 150 percent since January 2005, and 75 percent of users say they would recommend the site to others. The site faces a number of challenges, however. Based on comScore data, YellowPages.com lags behind Google, Verizon’s SuperPages.com and Yahoo! in overall IYP and local search traffic. However, YellowPages.com cites its own research showing it has a higher user preference and usability ranking than SuperPages.com, its most direct rival. YellowPages.com is working to improve the user experience on the site, grow its Internet distribution, and leverage its ubiquitous brand and massive sales force. Says Matt Crowley, YellowPages.com vice president of marketing: “Our vision is to be the default online brand when consumers need something local and when consumers and businesses think about doing business on a local basis.”