Just read Greg Sterling’s linkbait on the end of smb websites and since for some reason Greg’s blog thinks I am spamming him I thought I’d reiterate my comment here (note to all bloggers please check your blog’s spam catcher and despam my profile!).

In Greg’s post he posits that the profile page as sold by the IYPs, the Weblistics, Webvisibles, LocalLaunches, ReachLocals, etc. may eventually become the main vehicle by which SMBs drive leads, thus rendering the SMB website superfluous.

My take is that SMB websites are going to continue to get better and better thus rendering the profile page superfluous.  Here’s what I think is going to happen:

1. SMBs are going to get more product and inventory info on their sites over time

2. The cost of good SMB websites is going to come down over time.

3. Niche website providers (e.g. Market Hardware, Creating Your Space, etc.) are going to get better at building websites that attract and convert for their industries and will sell marketing services rendering the need for a profile page moot.

4. Google will continue to send traffic to the SMB sites at the expense of the profile page aggregators.

5. The profile page providers will realize that their job is to get traffic and convert it, will realize that their flimsy profile pages ain’t doing the job and will start taking more ownership of the conversion metric on SMB sites.  This is already happening with the reverse proxy services that all of these guys provide.

The profile page will be around for a long time and is a great thing for SMBs with crappy/no websites, but eventually the SMB website is going to be where the action is.

Then again I may have no idea what I am talking about.  But that’s the risk you take with reading blogs dude.  Later.


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7 Response Comments

  • Stever  June 19, 2008 at 3:48 pm

    It’s rather obvious to me that a small business having its own dedicated website will outperform a simple profile page on a IYP type site.

    From a search perspective it’s rather easy for a website, with multiple content rich pages dedicated to the core set of location specific key phrases for that business, to out compete the IYP pages in the SERPS.

    Get a few similar businesses in the same city and those IYP pages get relegated back to page 2 or deeper.

    From a visitors perspective seeing an entire website with more thorough descriptions of the business and their service is far more informative and builds more trust.

    An SMB with its own website will generate more traffic and easily convert more sales than any profile page on some aggregate site.

    But in the more competitive niches why not do both? Website plus profiles.

    I can’t see Google wanting to shove all those great individual business websites out of the way and let top rankings become polluted with profile pages. Users get more benefit out of seeing a business’s website and the added , personalized, content it could offer over bland profile pages. So what if the profile page mashes up a bunch of maps and reviews with a little blurb about the company and some contact info. At the root of it all those profiles will basically be the same.

  • Tim Flint  June 19, 2008 at 5:31 pm

    The profile will be successful in the short term, but the small business website will once again be the most important.

    Many small business currently feel like they were burned by the Internet. They got online quickly and had a built it and they will come attitude. The thing is no one came because no one marketed their site. They also have been taken advantage of people who claimed to know something about the online space.

    Building out the online profile is a smaller commitment than a website. As small businesses begin seeing a return on their investment they will be willing to invest more online. Then they will want a more customized site where they can really interact with their customers and get more value by offering varying services.

    That’s my prediction, but again it is a prediction.

  • Teresha  June 19, 2008 at 6:47 pm

    We run a local site that provides free business profiles and yes we often rank above companies’ own sites but I do not think that does or should spell the end of the small business website.

    The reason most IYP’s show better in serps than a lot of small business websites is simply that the websites are poorly designed, badly optimised and not maintained or promoted.

    Business should see a well maintained, well optimised website as essential and should ensure their url is on every IYP listing they have.

    Potential customers need to see that the company has their own presence, it adds credibility to the company and is expected. Granted, there are some SMB’s (or SME’s in the UK) that don’t have a web presence other than their IYP listings and that’s where the IYP’s are currently proving most valuable to both the businesses and the public.

  • Andrew Shotland  June 19, 2008 at 9:58 pm

    Stever, Tim & Teresha,

    j’suis d’accord.

  • Will  June 20, 2008 at 8:23 am

    Andrew, I did notice that you were in my Akismet spam last week.

  • David Jaeger - About Results Marketing  June 23, 2008 at 9:55 pm

    It depends on the website. I’ve helped some SMB’s with marketing their websites, and have also tested the IYP’s etc…

    None of them really panned out traffic wise. It’s really the “we can only spend a little money, and company is promising me the sky” attitude that let’s them get away with it. From my experience, a profile that includes reviews posted on Yelp or Yellowbot is far more valuable than a paid position on yellowpages or even merchantcircle.

    I think their business models are going to have to change in the next four years, as more business owners become more savvy.

  • Jon Seymour  July 6, 2008 at 5:57 pm

    This is a fascinating topic for all of us involved in local search. I see a lot of reasons to favor what Greg was saying because a well-designed “IYP” site can give a lot of relevant exposure to a profile page. Call it “geo-relevance”, for example, when it involves showing consumers what else is nearby. Local businesses will be compelled by an easy-to-maintain video landing page that allows them to participate in a community network effect. The new role of the “IYP” is coordination and execution of that effect.