National IYPs (Internet Yellow Pages) have long been amongst the biggest benefactors of organic search engine traffic. The typical IYP has north of 15MM business listings. Add category pages, city pages, reviews, maps, etc and you are easily looking at a 50MM+ page site with a huge amount of high value & high volume keyword targets. Many IYPs even use their Google rankings as part of their sales pitch. When I got an email from one asking me to advertise and take advantage of their rankings, it got me thinking about which IYPs are the best at SEO, and thus the IYP SEO Rankings report was born.
Here’s what I did:
- Searched Google (with personalization turned off) for 20 of the top yellow pages headings in the top 20 U.S. cities.
- Each query was in the following format – <City>+<Category> (e.g. “Chicago Doctor”)
- Each top 10 ranking was scored in reverse order, so a #1 ranking = 10 points, a #2 ranking = 9 points, etc.
- The points for each IYP were added up and averaged across all queries for all cities. The IYP with the most points was crowned American IYP SEO Idol of 2009.
And now, without further ado, here are best SEO IYPs of 2009 in rank order along with their scores:
- Yahoo Local
I should note that after the top 6 the scores dropped significantly. The top 6 represent 75% of all the rankings for these queries. Superpages has 19% of the rankings, CitySearch 18% and Yelp is coming up in the rearview mirror with 14%. So if you are thinking about marketing your site on an IYP seems like you need to be on these three.
I was also impressed by the performance of the sites that are not particularly well-known brands – AreaConnect, MagicYellow, GetFave & Yellowbot are all playing the SEO game well. Not particularly surprising was the relatively weak performance by some of the big Yellow Pages players such as DexKnows (#40) & Yellowbook (#25). In Dex’s defense they are more of a regional player and in Yellowbook’s defense, well the whole David Carradine thing must have been distracting.
Rankings by Site Type
We also looked at the different types of sites that the National IYPs were competing against for rankings. As you can see from the list below, local business sites are doing the best with 32% of all rankings, while national Vertical search sites (e.g. doctoroogle.com) are also doing well. I was surprised to see that the local yellow pages directories (LYPs) were not doing as well. My guess is because most of these have not gotten aggressive with their SEO strategies. I was also surprised that video results barely showed up as these are some of the easiest rankings to get at the moment. One of the biggest changes I expect to see the next time I do this is with the Social sites (e.g. MySpace, Facebook, etc.) . Sooner or later these guys are going to catch on to this local thing.
% of Top 10 Rankings by Site Type
BTW nice to see that “Unrelated” is a fairly small percentage of results. Well done Google.
Of course there are inherent limitations to this type of analysis. The fact that the searches were not conducted from an IP address located in the searched city is a big flaw, but c’est la search. I am going to continue to dig through the data and provide some more analysis by category and by city. If you have any questions or want to see specific info, please post requests in the comments or else email me.
And here are the cities and categories I used:
20 Popular Yellow Pages Categories
- Auto Repair
- Car Dealer
- Auto Parts
- Beauty Salon
- Department Store
- Tire Dealer
Top 20 U.S. Cities
- New York
- Los Angeles
- San Antonio
- San Diego
- San Jose
- San Francisco
- Ft. Worth
I will also be speaking about my findings tomorrow at the Local Search Summit on the “Local Search: Where Are We Today” panel.
73 Response Comments
Always a great report, Andrew. I’m a bit surprised that YellowPages isn’t further up, but maybe they’ve spent too much money on TV and not enough on SEO… =)
Did you note whether the listing was for a category/city results page at the IYP vs. a specific business profile page?
Just curious to see if any of the IYPs are better than others in getting having their business profile pages rank well.
This is great analysis Andrew. Vertical search sites are definitely doing well. I’d be interested to see the results for the same study in Canada. In terms of SEO IYPs, YellowPages.ca is still towards the bottom of the list. Websites like Canpages, Goldbook and Candian based vertical search sites have better SEO and outrank YP.ca. I think Dev Basu and I should collaborate on similar study for Canada – Thanks for the inspiration Andrew!
You mentioned that Yellowbook came in at #25, though you stop your list at #20. Plans on publishing top 25, top 50, top 100??
Super post, Andrew! I can’t believe San Francisco is so far down on the list. What’s that all about?! C’mon, SF, get it together, man.
Really interesting stats, Andrew!
Brett, I will be publishing more of the data over the next week or two. Didn’t want to overload the first post.
Shagun, let me know when you guys want to take on the Great White North.
David, I have not finished that part of the analysis but I have the data.
Will, I too was surprised that Yellowpages.com wasn’t higher and that Superpages came out on top.
Did you benchmark this data against a ComScore or Hitwise. Superpages is the IYP of Idearc (Verizon spin of their YP). I find it interesting Superpages is # 1. My understanding is IYP stand for Internet Yellow Pages. Some of your “IYP” are 3rd party aggravators. Per com Score Yellowpages.com is ranked 25 nationally as an accessed website. Actually, ahead of Bank of America.
I do find your report informative and will retweet. Keep up the good work. Can you be followed on Twitter?
Great post Andrew…
Interestingly, it wasn’t too long ago that superpages disallowed the spiders, except for the business profiles. They reasoned if they handed over all the information they we were actually paying sales reps to gather… who would need them.
It seems a change of heart when Kathy Harless left and Scott Klein took over.
@Tim Coleman – Completely and utterly false. Where DO you get your information from sir?
@Andrew Shotland – Thanks for the props.
Good stuff, Andrew. I’d think there would be value, though, in maybe doing the 10 biggest cities, then 10 mid-sized, and 10 small towns. You?
jspats, I didn’t use any third party data. YellowPages.com may have the most traffic but that doesn’t mean they have the most organic traffic, or if they do, they still might not rank as well for these particular searches, which is a flaw in the methodology – but hey I’m just a blogger.
Tim & Conrad, take it outside or get a room.
Matt, that would be an interesting analysis. Perhaps we’ll save that for Wave II.
Thanks for sharing your IYP rankings list. I’m hoping that you’ll follow up with additional analysis of why some of these ranked as they did, focusing on the internal link structures.
ANDREW – A VERY SHORT TIME AGO WE TRADED EMAILS MY ASKING IF SUCH DATA EXISTED AND YOU SAID NO. SO YOU DID ORIGINAL RESEARCH AND GREAT RESEARCH AT THAT. THANKS – THIS IS VALUABLE
Interesting post. I am wondering why I don’t see Local.com in the list. I thought that they had decent SEO rankings.
Henry, some Local.com affiliated sites showed up in the top 50 but not Local.com itself.
And Loqal.com, which is owned by Local.com, showed up as #17
Thanks a ton for doing this research. very interesting!
Regarding why local business sites ranked highest for ‘rankings by site type’…
I’d assume those local business have at least a basic amount of onpage SEO (ie. at a minimum have their city name and category someplace in the title tag), but in many cases the big sites would have more inbound links overall.
So it makes me wonder if those local websites’ server location has a more significant effect on rankings that most would consider… and that what inbound links they DO have would also be from sites hosted nearby (ie chamber of commerce for that city, links to/from other local businesses)
ie. a small business will often use a local or internal website designer, and it also makes sense they’d additionally contact local companies that offer hosting to host the site (the local website designer who was hired may also host sites at their business).
I have read – and it sounds logical – that actual IP location is a factor for rankings, and for local business type websites (especially) it stands to reason that Google would use that to rank geotargeted searches and geospecific-type sites.
Something to ponder, and your research here may be a significant piece for that puzzle. If you have the chance to check the IP location of a few of those local businesses that pushed up the rankings for that category, it would be interesting to hear. 🙂
– Fox Krieger
Anchor | ENN
Andrew, great research…looks like our little site might be in radar now…we love to fly under radar however…chw
Nice post Andrew…we’ve finally found something Matt McGee and MC can agree upon 🙂
I’d love to see how results differ when looking at smaller “long-tail” towns…
Great article. This info is certainly hard to come by when researching the IYP field. I hope you will be doing some follow up reports on this segment of the web!
This is great research. My experience has been that the day that a particular site (local business) outranks the IYP’s, the IYP lookalikes, and the verticals, is the time to stop advertising in those vehicles. The payback just drops off the map.
As a business operator one of the funny things about all the sales calls is that the sales people really emphasize how, if you add features, bells, and whistles, with different internal upgrades such as banners…the business will really benefit.
Geez, I don’t care about the internal traffic at these IYP’s and IYP look alikes.
Get high rankings and I’d be interested.
I think if I was an IYP at look real real real hard at information like yours, and strive for high Google and other SE serps and then sell in large part on that basis.
Finally, really smart analysis. I wish I had thought of that.
Darren, if I can unite MC and MC McGee I think I could die happy.
Clyde, sorry to blow your cover.
Fox, my take is that local businesses tend to have more local signals, of which server location could be one, which can help push them up the rankings for local queries.
Dave, while I would never recommend that you rely solely on IYPs for leads, they do drive some good traffic – and they spend a lot of money buying the traffic they can’t get organically – so there is still value there.
Have you assumed that IYP’s like Superpages, which rank well in Google, do so because they have better SEO?
I think it would be good if you clarified that. Superpages has long been a Google partner on several fronts.
John, I am highly doubtful that Superpages does better in SEO because they have a commercial relationship with Google,, but it certainly makes for exciting blog commentary.
Local internet marketing in general is very important. Many local businesses often times forget that it is still important to market a business to local online audience.
“John, I am highly doubtful that Superpages does better in SEO because they have a commercial relationship with Google,, but it certainly makes for exciting blog commentary.”
If an SEO said that to me, I would immediately suggest they study the concept of “trust” and the way Google has woven trust into the rankings picture over the past several years. In this specific case, I would point to the use of Superpages data to validate local business center listings during at ;least the first few years of Google local, as perhaps a place to start. Certainly if I were a business partner of Google I would have to sign an agreement, and that agreement would restrict me from certain practices, thus providing Google with a basis of trust that does not exist otherwise?
I agree about “exciting blog commentary”. I also find anything that leads deeper down the rabbit hole of Google’s complex processes to be exciting. The surface SEO stuff most blogs cover, taking things at face value and ignoring clues of more complex issues, I find just plain boring and of little value.
I don’t know John. I’ll never say never, but Superpages has had a deal with Google for a while. If you looked at their site 6 months ago the SEO had a lot of problems. I think they may have hired a new SEO consultant recently (I was asked to potentially pitch them via an ad agency that was pitching their business). Also they have spent a ton of $ on advertising their SuperGuarantee thing which would have created a lot of inbound links and “trust”. There are no other IYPs that are marketing their sites as aggressively.
If you look at the Compete graph http://siteanalytics.compete.com/superpages.com/ it looks like they have slowed down the marketing.
Bottom line is we just don’t know if Google hit the “super index” button for these guys or not.
Wondering why Local didn’t show up when the majority of their traffic is driven by organic results not paid keywords? Could you clarify why you think this is? Thanks great article!
I don’t have a good theory James. I was kind of surprised as well. Perhaps they are not targeting the biggest DMAs which would be odd. Or they could have been having some SEO issues during the time period during which we did the research.
Andrew, nice report. That Top 20 list of YP searches, is that list in any type of descending order such as revenues or searches.
Does anyone have a list of the Top 20 IYP searches for local search? Thanks. Mac
Great post, Andrew. It was timely, as I was about to review IBP and I decided to test just four keyphrase sets as per my post linked from here. I look forward to your updates.
Wow! Great post, Andrew, as I mentioned to you via email last week and via Tweets!
There are so many comments here that I’d love to address, too, but there’s limited time/space.
Tim Coleman, I believe James Johnson is right – Superpages did not disallow bots from all pages except biz profiles. It’s quite possible that you could have leaped to that conclusion if you checked robots.txt on the wrong subdomain, however. They have a lot of subdomains, and some of those subdomains have bot limits on them for various reasons.
jspats, Andrew is right – this wasn’t an overall traffic ranking survey, and IYPs do often get traffic from many sources in addition to their organic search referral visits.
John, I can appreciate the SEO conspiracy theory view, but it’s untrue. Superpages enjoyed the top position for the keyword “yellow pages” as far back as 2000, and the more comprehensive SEO work started functioning as far back as 2004, years prior to any agreement between SP and Goog. Superpages agreements in no way involved any extra ranking “juice” from Google. Design and structure of the Superpages site, along with considerable link-building programs were some of the main reasons why Superpages has performed well on some queries.
Among various SEO researchers, there is also a theory that older, well-established sites might enjoy some preferment due to an incumbent seniority status in the rankings for some keyword queries.
Finally, if you go out and review the construction of many of the internet yellow pages sites out there, you would not be surprised that a lot of them do not perform optimally. So, when one site optimizes, it can rise out of the pack much more easily. No behind-the-scenes special ranking agreement necessary!
Thanks for stopping by Chris. I hear a lot of players in the IYP space, particularly in Europe, grumbling about getting special (usually negative) treatment by Google based on how much they spend or don’t spend. While I have no doubt that Google has the ability to manipulate rankings to favor specific sites, I find it hard to believe that they would play that game when they could just as easily get $ out of these players by not playing it.
Wow. Thanks for doing this. It’s given me something to think about in terms of expanding my local search options for my clients.
I’m amazed that attorneys are not higher on the list. And what about realtors? Those are such competitive areas I would have thought they’d have clamored their way to the very top!
Sigh. I wish we could do away with the bias towards “conspiracy theory”. It does get in the way.
Perhaps focus precisely on trust and reconsider what I suggested. Trust as Google uses it “algorithmically”, meaning the trust signals that exert some influence on ranking.
Fine if Andrew wants to say there is no influence on rankings exerted via the trust associated with the past/current collaborations between Google and Superpages. We will simply disagree. But say that, rather than alluding to conspiracy theories and the like, or re-stating my comment as if I had said “Superpages gets a ranking boost because they have a business deal with Google”. I didn’t say that.
Google trusts known entities more than unknown, and Google knows Superpages (or knew, if no longer the case) better than others. They know people behind the site, share some vision w/r to how sponsored ads work and how searchers should be served. I am not as close to this as Silver was… but for what I suggested, I don’t need to be.
Carolyn, the categories are not listed in any particular order.
John, I guess the question is does Superpages get more trust than other big IYPs because they have a deal. No one except GOOG and maybe Superpages knows the answer, but all my years of consistently kicking Superpages’ butt in search results leads me to believe that they are not getting any more SEO love than many of their competitors.
There is no favouritism towards Google partners. We power G Maps in Australia.
For about two years we tried to rebrand ourselves by dropping the word “Pages” from our brand. I noticed us dropping in rank for secondary phrases such as “Victoria YP”, “Western Australia YP”. We never lost the primary “YP” #1 position. Once we reverted to the Yellow Pages brand, we quickly regained the secondary keyphrases.
This article is great but it doesn’t account for those yellow page companies who are currently optimizing landing pages or customer websites instead of their own IYP. These sorts of companies can provide a larger value for the client and the end user since they are not optimizing their own brand, but they are connecting buyers to sellers and taking the middle man out of the equation.
Actually it does account for landing page optimizers Dan. In my research none of these companies showed up in the top 10 web results for these queries, unless they had direct control over a local business’ website. While these companies can provide a lot of value in my experience they tend to have more success at ranking well for longer tail queries. I was looking at perhaps the most competitive queries in the the top cities. That said these services are more likely then the IYPs to show up in the 10 pack results. A comprehensive SMB marketing plan might include both tactics.
Andrew, by coincidence, we just published a sample report for our newsletter which follows a similar methodology but is focused on search terms in the golf industry (national, not local). The difference is that we adjusted for market share given that Google is 65%, Yahoo 19.6% and MSN/Bing 8.4% (comScore’s June numbers when we did the report).
When you invert the numbers like you did, multiply by market share, and sum, the result represents (in this case) 93% of the search market.
I know from our own experience how time consuming this is but did you consider taking a weighted approach like this? Any thoughts about that?
Fantastic report. Thank you Andrew. This is very helpful information and something our IMAHawaii members are going to really appreciate.
Aloha, Bob Sommers
Great report! Do you think caffeine will significantly change the rankings? I ran a few tests and iyps were either up or down but didn’t really stay the same. But, my tests were very limited.
Hey, great report, any thoughts on doing this on Canadian businesses? Canpages Inc is an IYP company based in Vancouver, BC, we’re growing very fast both online and in print. We were named the “Fastest Growing local search firm in 2008”, http://www.canadianbusiness.com/markets/marketwire/article.jsp?content=20090824_061502_1_ccn_ccn
I’d love to know how we rank! We launched our Voice Activated iPhone & Blackberry app, acquired 4 businesses this year alone, and show no signs of slowing down.
Great article from the Globe and mail.
Thanks for the report.
Thanks for stopping by Sandro. I was hoping one of my Canuck SEO friends would step up to the plate on the Canadian IYP SEO rankings. But if they don’t soon I may have to 🙂
Been meaning to actually build up a compendium for Canadians but just haven’t gotten around to it.
Really more interested in a city-by-city case.
This is fantastic!!! A lot of our clients use the yp and it’s great to see how their online properties line up. Even the best performers – from an SEO standpoint – are still grossly over priced IMHO.
I guess being out of the country for 2 weeks after it was written would make me miss an article like this, really great stuff, thanks!
Dave Oremland, I can completely agree with your comments as well. It’s funny when potential clients talk about the money they are spending with 6 different IYP’s and the sales pitches they were given in order to sign up for their respective services. My response is simply, why rely on the IYP traffic from organic searches when you can do that yourself with good SEO?
Andrew if you do end up wanting to rule out the IP based scenarios for research like this in the future, I’ll volunteer my time for a Chicago IP. Could be interesting to compare the findings from this study to the same one performed with searches in the city’s IP range.
Great list! I have been working on Local SEO for a little while now and your site has recently become a great resource for me.
I look forward to following your posts and getting more involved with the community here.
I do have a question for you regarding Yelp. Does it make a difference in the search engines if a local biz has some or no feedback on their Yelp listing? Just curious how this plays in and what your thoughts are on this.
Besides SEO factors I would think a biz would want to have reviews on Yelp, as long as they are positive.
Thanks for the reply! I agree that a biz would want positive feedback, I just wasn’t sure how much it played in SEO factors. I am going to have to guess that it has some effect. At least by some I have seen. Thanks again.
What do you think of http://www.gomylocal.com ? I noticed it was not mentioned…
Um, Mike, no offense to GML but one of the criteria of getting on the list was that your site actually had to have some traffic:
I fail to see the significance of this research. I would never recommend advertising on a particular IYP based on that IYP’s SEO rankings. The article implies that IYP’s that appear higher in the search result are better than IYPs that don’t. This could not be further from the truth. What matters is how many people actually use an IYP for a specific category in a specific geographic area (comScore provides this data) . Everything else is gravy.
What I often recommend my clients do is to take the time to find out what IYP’s have ranking under the targeted keyword phrases and approach listing purchases with that in mind. I also believe that the free IYP links from profile pages are worth weight in gold and are undervalued. They lose SEO by not having them, as would be the case if they all attempted to charge for the listings. SMB’s benefit tremendously with SEO by having the proper links and profile pages on IYP sites.
we have got a SEO client that needs local SEO, this is our first experience, so will definitely rely on your research.
Hello Alex, When you say that you have a local client, where is local?
Im in the Greater Vancouver (Canada) area, and I would be able to meet with you to show you what options we have to help out with your clients SERP’s and SEO.
Feel free to email me!
Do you have any more Canadian listing that will affect local listings up here?
Very interesting list.
What I noticed that the results can vary greatly from Google to Bing or Yahoo.
Some “yellow pages” sites are loved by one but ignored by the other.
I suppose everyone is so focused -rightly so- on courting Google that others make babies with Yahoo.
I love this guide. I’ve already referenced it twice to a couple local business owners looking for local SEO tips. The methodology you used is right on. I wonder how these directory sites actually make some of the claims they do and get away with it with this kind report available!
I would never recommend advertising on a particular IYP based on that IYP’s SEO rankings. Thanks for sharing the seo report of 2009. Nice post.
Great list! Thanks for the post–it’s very helpful in deciding where to focus efforts in directory listings.
Sending this out via Twitter again for Friday.
Thanks once again!
Any chance of getting the scores along with the IYP rankings?
Currently working on the Canadian IYP study and we’re hoping to have it up on the Powered by Search blog by next week. Can’t wait to see how the different/similar the final results are!
Great Shagun. Since YPG pretty much owns everything up there I would expect to see them dominating.
This is a really cool post. This really shows your dedication to the meaning behind the results, which is the backbone of seo. I can really see this kind of research becoming more popular with companies focusing on local attributes of their businesses.
Insite Advice, LLC
Nice post sir. This is quality info for the masses. Would be curious to see what the updated version would look like today, oh how things have changed.
Really nice post Andrew , just loved the analysis part. I am sure this will be a great help to all the SEO guru’s out there wanting to deliver consistent quality results.
I’d be interested to see the results for the same study in England. In terms of SEO IYPs, yellowpages.co.uk , do they work in the same manner ?
Ever sing Google started integrating Google Places into their search, the search results have changed dramatically. Now you have adwords at the top, about seven local listings from google places a youtube video or two and then the actual search result. Times have really changed.
I found that very informative. I just went down the list and hit every page and submitted my site for Carpet Cleaning in Portland. I am trying to market my own business at 23 and I love articles like this that help me build my online presence easier. Thanks
You are forgetting the Better Business Bureau, check their PR , link quality, and traffic! Great Directory! Great Citation for Google Places!
Kenneth Grey, the BBB over looks a ton of important aspects of “proving” a business as legit. That’s why there aren’t truly a lot of people who actually trusts the BBB. For instance, the BBB still to this day verifies scam as legit business. Also, thanks Andrew, all this information has helped me a lot for the cosmetic dentistry in Utah.