The YellowPages.ca Answer Service has been running for over 1-month now and the numbers of local questions being asked and answered is increasing steadily. There are a lot of questions around plumbers, mechanics, electricians, restaurants, etc, however, I wanted to highlight some questions that don’t really fall into the traditional categories of what people are looking for.
Here is my list of the 8 most usual or out of the ordinary local business questions asked by users:
- I need to find mannaquin arms, 10 to be precise. Where can i find them? – mannaguin arms, I wonder what he needs those for? What about the rest of the mannaquin?
- Does anyone know a good, high tech dentist w/ cute assistants in Montreal, QC (near downtown core)? – love this question, forget the dentist, it is all about the assistant
- Does anyone know a nice no-tell hotel in Montreal, QC? – hmmmm, I wonder what the no-tell is about
- Does anyone know a good escort service in saint john? – interesting, perhaps the person looking for the no-tell hotel could help, see above
- Does anyone know a mediocre taco bell restaurant in guelph on? – some would argue that all food at Taco Bell is mediocre
- Where is a good place to buy NHL jerseys in Toronto? Jerseys from other teams, not just the Leafs. – exactly, who would purchase a leaf’s jersey?
- Anyone know a mediator specialized in neighbour disputes in Montreal, QC? – see Samual L Jackson in Lakeview Terrace, might give you some ideas
- Where is the best place for happy hour on a Friday afternoon in Ottawa? – somebody has their priorities straight
I will continue to monitor and update this list later in the year with more unique questions that are being asked.
From a business perspective the Answer service can be used to increase sales and leads to your business. Here are 3-Steps on how a local businesses can take advantage of this service?
1) Create an account and if your business uses Twitter, connect it to your twitter feed
2) Monitor the questions
3) If a user is asking for a recommendation on your business category or you think you can help them out, provide a recommendation. I suggest that you disclose that you are recommending your own business. In the comments field give some insight into why that person should do business with you.
What this does for a local business is gives them direct access to users who might be interested in their products or services and opens a dialogue with users.
YellowPages.ca has launched its affiliate program. This program has all the standard IAB sizes for search bricks, the ability to select between YellowPages.ca stand-alone or YellowPages.ca and Canada411.ca integrated bricks in both French and English.
A versatile program for any website that has local traffic in Canada and definitely one program to look for. Currently the program is invite only, so if you are interested in joining – send me your website via my comments and I will forward directly to the affiliate manager.
For full program details – please visit Affiliates.YellowPages.ca.
You can see an working example at CanadaEast.com.
Here are some examples of the types of search bricks you can select – note I will only display bricks that fit within my blog. The affiliate program contains all the major search brick sizes including; 234×60, 728×90, 468×60, 180×150, 300×250, 336×228, 250×250 and 300×140.
180×150 – English YellowPages.ca Search Brick
300×250 – English YellowPages.ca and Canada411.ca Search Brick
336×228 French PagesJaunes.ca Search Brick
250×250 French PagesJaunes.ca and Canada411.ca Search Brick
Posted a couple of days ago is an interview that I did with Larry Sullivan of Local Biz Bits, blog dedicated to provides relevant information, in simple terms, on local search marketing and related Internet marketing techniques for small businesses.
The interview was on such subjects as the local search space in Canada, the impact of social networking, my thoughts on local search in the US and Europe and more.
If you are interested in reading this interview please visit the posting, Local Search – Canadian Style.
“Successful people ask better questions, and as a result, they get better answers.”
In discussions with small business owners, when asked, what method of tracking do you use to measure your new sales, the most common response is “I ask my consumers where they heard about me”. Usually the second part of the conversation goes this way – “word of mouth is my best form of advertising” and “I tried many forms of advertising, none have worked for me”.
For this particular post I want to focus on two areas:
1) How word-of-mouth (WOM) needs support
2) How to leverage in-store questions and online traffic
I am a very strong believer in WOM and the incredible growth it can generate. That being said, WOM often takes more credit away from supporting advertising vehicles, giving the impression to a SME that their advertising is not working.
A typical conversation with a new customer may go like this:
Bus Owner: Thanks for coming in. How did you happen to hear about our store?
Customer: A friend recommended you
Bus Owner: That’s great, if you liked the service today, please tell your friends
The above dialogue is good, however, what if the conversation was slightly changed:
Bus Owner: Thanks for coming in. Can I ask you two questions about how you come to our store today?
Bus Owner: How did you hear about out store?
Customer: From a friend
Bus Owner: Thanks, how did you get our address?
Customer: From your website? From my friend? From the Yellow Pages?
Bus Owner: That’s great, if you liked the service today, please tell your friends about us and have them visit my website, Yellow Pages ad, etc. for my store details.
Of course the exact questions can be changed and tailored, but the main point is that in most cases WOM is supported by another medium that connects the buyer and the seller. People will refer people they like to people they trust, however, those same people will usually not know all the details about your business. WOM can accelerate your sales when you have a support mechanism behind it and you incorporate it into your WOM strategy.
In-Store Questions and Online Traffic
Continuing with the example above and examining customers who indicated they used the Internet to find your address, we need to examine our web analytics. The first question I usually get is, should I ask customers how they found me on the web? I advise against asking any questions about how people found you on the web. The reason is that there is a lot of confusion among web users – so the typical response is Google – even if they used MSN, Yahoo or something else. This gives the illusion that all web traffic is generated from Google – which is not the case. As a business owner, if you have a good analytics package – all you need to know from your customers is whether they saw your website. Once you have a in-store count you can cross-reference this with your web analytics to find out what is and is not working online.
As a side-note I want to share a quick story. I helped a auto dealer in Calgary with their tracking and customer acquisition strategies. Calgary has two major newspaper dailies – the Calgary Herald and the Calgary Sun. We started by creating a baseline, by spending one month asking customers how they came to stop by the dealership. Of the two newspaper dailies what we found was that 25% came from paper 1 and 15% came from paper 2. Here is where it gets interesting – this particular dealership had not advertised in paper 2 for a couple of years, yet 15% of new customers said they found the dealership there. Here is my take on this non-scientific survey – when asked, some customers will simply answer what comes to their mind first as opposed to what is actual. Not because they are dishonest, just that they most likely don’t care and will answer to shut you up. The same thing is happening on the web – I bet I could take 10 people who use Yahoo Search as their primary engine and half of them, when asked quickly, would probably say Google. My point is that only relying on asking people how they found you on the web can be misleading, whereas this potential misleading information does not exist with web analytics.
Here are some stats from my mom’s business, The Bra Lady. What we have learned over the past 4-years of tracking results is that WOM is by far her #1 way of generating new business with the Internet as her primary support mechanism to WOM. What we have also found is that many people are referred to her business, but use search engines and directories to find her web address. Probably 80% of her new clients indicate that Internet played a role. NOTE: this may be high and in her particular situation makes a lot of sense – because she is a home based business. However, when I worked with Auto Dealers – this number was about the same and dentists were up there as well.
On a monthly basis we compare the number of referrals who indicate the Internet was a source of them finding her to her actual analytics – we use Google Analytics to understand better exactly how these people ending up finding her.
Here is the aggregate view:
In the above you will notice that the top three referrers of traffic are Google, YellowPages.ca, and Direct. Examining just the top three referrers, typically I would examine further both the traffic from YellowPages.ca and Google.
What I notice is the majority of keywords from Google are good quality. You will notice that keyword #20 – the one that references ebay is not considered a good keyword, however, this is the nature of search engines. It is important when examining search engine traffic to look at the keywords to get a accurate picture. The conclusion is that Google is generating good traffic.
What I notice is that the top referring URL from yellowpages.ca is the merchant page that was built for her business by YPG – this is good – it supports the decision to have the website URL located on this page. If I continue to examine further I see that users were searching using keywords we anticipated and specifically in Calgary. What I like about directory traffic is that people don’t surf directories. They go there for a purpose – usually to find something in particular – so the traffic generated here is high-quality.
This is pretty self-explanatory.
You will notice that we are also showing other top referrers in Facebook and CalgaryPlus.ca. I did a posting back in July of this year – Facebook – Can Local Business Florish in Social Networking? and its potential impact on local business – watch for this. For those of you interested – here is an article I posted back in 2005 on the strength of media companies and front-page placement – Power of Front Page Placement.
In conclusion – I would challenge any SME to dig a little deeper in 2008 in terms of their tracking and understanding of customers. Also I would encourage you to not presuppose answers as to where online traffic might come from. In Canada – we are continually bombarded with US news and information about the Internet, which sometimes gives us a US perspective on traffic as opposed to a CDN perspective on traffic. Build your measurement criteria, find the tools to track and examine them monthly – this will generate great results for your business in 2008.
I thought it would be interesting to run a blog post comparing different ways to present information on local businesses in Canada. Most local business sites present information in a standardized way, so the following examples will give you an idea of what some of the most common players in Canada are doing. By the way – there are many small regional players in the local space, however, for this particular post I wanted to focus on sites that the majority of Canadians who recognize.
Lastly I had to reduce the images to fit within my blog post – so for a real comparison, please click on the images to load the full page.
Here is a screen shot of the same company on Google Maps
Here is a screen shot from Yahoo Local
SMS (short message service) is a really easier way to access information on your mobile device such as cell phone or blackberry. In light of the recent announcement on November 29 by Yellow Pages Group in Canada, ” With the hectic holiday shopping season underway, finding a product or merchant is now easier with the new Yellow PagesTM directory on Short Messaging Service (SMS), better known as text messaging. For those looking for local businesses anywhere in Canada, the information is now literally at their fingertips using their mobile devices. Read the rest of this press release at YPG.com“, I thought now would be a good time to give you a quick lesson on text messaging.
So how does SMS work? I will use the example of Yellow Pages Canada SMS using a cell phone:
1) First – you will want to go to your messages area on your cell phone (all manufacturers are a little different) but typically they have a message area with an option that indicated “Create Message”
2) In the “Create Message” area, make sure you select “Message” – some phones will give you the option of creating a voice mail, email, etc.
3) In the “Message” area, enter the following – taxi, toronto
4) After you enter your search query, typically in the bottom right or left corner you will see “Send To” – select that
5) Enter 935569 (YELLOW)
6) You will instantly get a response, via text, open up the response. For the search taxi, toronto – I received 9 found businesses – it will then list the names, via number, with the company names beside them.
7) When you find a business that you want to get more information on hit “Reply” (sometimes found within options) and type in the number of the business. This will send a reply back to the SMS service asking for more information on the business that is related to the number that you selected.
8.) The information that you get back from the system is the company name along with the phone number and address (if applicable, for example a search for a retail location will give you an address, some searches like taxis may not return an address).
9) Finally, complete your transaction by selecting Call – it will pre-populate the number for you so that you don’t have to dial-in.
SMS is a great service that can save you time and if you are roaming – usually text messaging is quite a bit more cost-effective than calling 411 or making a call back to the office. Remember there is a charge for SMS – for example, I pay 10 cents per message, but some plans offer unlimited text messaging – just check your carrier first so that you understand what you will be charged for this service.
Yellow Pages SMS:
935569 (YELLOW) for English
528637 (JAUNES) for French
Enter keyword or category followed by a comma and the location (city or postal code). You can also perform a reverse look-up by texting a business phone number.
* taxi, toronto
* pizza, M5V2T6
* pizza, M5V
* tow truck, vancouver
Finally – if you prefer to get your weather updates via SMS – check out the service from The Weather Network, however, they charge you a premium of 15 cents over your regular SMS charges.
This is a follow-up on a post that I did back on July 19 – titled “YellowPages.ca Launches Facebook Integration for Local Businesses” in which I profiled that yellowpages.ca had included facebook as part of their save and share functionality. However, in September, yellowpages.ca expanded one step further by integrating the “add to facebook” directly into the search results as well as the merchant page for each and every business in Canada.
Here are some screen shots of what this looks like. I used my mom’s business in Calgary called TheBraLady.ca. Here are the steps of how I got these screen shots:
First visit yellowpages.ca and do a search for bras in calgary. This actually loads a full page of results, but I captured just the result listing. As you can see, from the listing level you can add to facebook.
If you click on the company name this loads the merchant page for TheBraLady.ca. As you can see from the following screen shot there are two locations where you can “add to facebook” including the logo in the top right hand corner. Sorry for the small size – click on the link above to see the live version.
This is what it looks like inside of facebook.
As far as I know this is one of the first times that a company has allowed every single business in a country the ability to brand itself inside facebook – if you know of another integration – please send me a comment.
From a user perspective this is a great way to share a meeting location since all the merchant pages on yellowpages.ca have a map – when an address is available. From a small business perspective – this is a great opportunity to brand yourself within facebook.
Imagine – you set up a small business profile in facebook and invite your customers to connect to you. Why would they do that – because you are going to send out messages, promotions, coupons, etc. You use the add to facebook functionality to continue to update your friend list of these promotions. There is very little investment to make this happen and you potentially create a great viral tool.
If I had a small business – I would definitely take advantage of the many opportunities that could come from this integration. But that is just me – I tend to think a little differently.
I thought I would take this opportunity to discuss some of the mobile platforms that are available for users in Canada.
Although mobile search is not main stream yet, I think this is definitely one mode of search that has potential to expand and will become important for any local businesses to ensure they have placement within these mediums. There are 2 major barriers that I see to the mass adoption of mobile search in Canada:
1) Cell Phone Data Plans – in Canada we are not in a fortunate position with our cell phone carries in terms of competition. Meaning that as of this blog posting there are no unlimited data plans available, like our US counterparts or in Asia. This is a major barrier to the adoption of local search, but as the cell carries start to open up their data streams, I see growth.
2) User Interfaces – if you have ever tried to use a cell phone to surf the web, you have probably been frustrated by the experience. Although the interfaces today are much better than previous – I would still say that there is a long way to go yet. As a side note, I have had the opportunity to view and play with the Apple iPhone – very nice.
On the user interface front, I wanted to share with you the local search interface from the Nokia Mobile Search Platform. Nokia has signed a number of deals with local providers around the world to include in this application – in Canada, Yellow Pages Group is the partner using data from yellowpages.ca.
The Yellowpages.ca local search plug-in enables you to find local businesses and services from your Nokia mobile phone. You can search by business name, business type, or location. As well as a company’s address and phone number, you can get useful additional information and detailed color maps showing you how to find them.
Another platform that is working checking is the Yahoo Canada Mobile Platform. If you visit their site and enter your cell phone number, it will text you a link to install the application. This platform consists of a lot of different features – of interest for local business is their local search platform – btw, the data for this platform is provided by yellowpages.ca as well.
Above are just two examples of good user interfaces that are taking the right steps to bring local mobile search into the mainstream. As I play with more, I will blog about them as well.
Are you a high volume user of MSN Messenger? Do you live on your BlackBerry? Then you might be interested to know that Canada’s First MSN Bot is now live and you can use it to get your Yellow Pages.ca listings, maps, driving directions and more. This post is going to focus on some screen shots of the bot and how you can go about accessing it through your MSN Messenger. Once again, Yellow Pages Group in Canada is proving to be a worldwide leader in partnering with new technologies to access their data.
To start with, load your MSN Messenger and click on the Yellow Pages Tab on the left hand side,
Then select the tab to the right called IM Search, which brings you to the following screen:
Now we is a detailed description of the service, but if you want to start to get information from the bot, just click on the Add Me button,
At this point – it asks you whether you wish to start a conversation with email@example.com – since this is an automated bot, you can safely start a conversation. At this point, it takes you to the messenger window where you can start your conversation. When you first launch the service it basically sits there until you give it a command. You can type a variety of things, I will choose Dentist.
You will notice that because this is the first time I have used the bot – it also asked me for my postal code. I selected a random postal code and you can see that the bot is now going to get me information on dentists closest to that postal code.
Looking at the screen above, the bot has given me the 8 closest dentists to the postal code that I selected. From here I have the option to type "m" or " more" to see more results or simply type in a number to select a particular dentist and get more information.
I opted to select more information on dentist #8. The bot gives me a couple of more options – it provides me with a link to view more information about the dentist which loads this dentists YellowPages.ca advertising. I also have the choice to type in "dd" for driving directions or if I want to view a map to this location I can accept the invitation to do so.
When I select map, notice that my messenger window expands to provide me with a detailed map on the left hand side of the screen – powered by Windows Live – this is a very cool feature.
Finally I can select "dd" and it will provide driving directions from my address to the this location.
So, if you are a big user of MSN Messenger and Yellow Pages, now you can have the best of both worlds, through your computer or handheld device.