Yellowbot made a big splash in the local search world earlier this year when they launched and grew very quickly for a site that was basically just a directory of businesses and service categories. Within three months of its launch the site reportedly had somewhere between 500,000 and 1,000,000 monthly visitors.
So how did they do it? I already talked about their effective use of creating tag pages for microcategories in my post about keyword expansion and local category search. These guys have created the best implementation of Localeze’s enhanced content database I have seen.
But in my book Yellowbot’s real innovation is the elimination of the category hierarchies.
On most local search sites you will find a category directory page like Automotive that houses a number of subcategories, and in some cases those subcategory pages like Auto & Truck Wrecking have a directory of sub-subcategories. These pages are created by product managers who are still thinking that an online yellow pages site is a book that requires a directory for people to find what they are looking for. And that would be true if it wasn’t for those little search boxes that people seem to like to use. Remember the Yahoo Directory? When was the last time you used that? 1997?
But screw the user, the real innovation here is the SEO benefit of removing these pages. Very few people search for “Automotive in Pleasanton”. Most people are going to search for the subcategory (e.g. Auto Wrecking) or the sub-sub category (e.g. Auto Salvage Yards) so having the category directory page does not have a lot of SEO value. In fact these pages are an impediment to SEO.
Let’s say Superpages has information for 10,000 cities and 18 category directory pages for each city. That’s 180,000 pages that search engine robots have to crawl through to get to actual content that might be useful for SEO. And if each category directory has 10 subcategory directories underneath it, well you do the math.
By removing this obstacle to both users and search engine spiders Yellowbot has created a well-flattened website with a tremendous amount of relevant internal links. The tags on their results pages might be a overdone a bit and their city pages may not be the prettiest things but they have figured out a way to effectively move the bots around their site to great advantage.
And for that I take my white/gray/black hat off to them. Well done gents.