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Yell.com launched another revamped version of its website last month, just months after launching a new homepage (May 2007) and about a year since it last rolled out a new site.
We caught up with Matthew Bottomley, Head of Strategy for Yell.com, to find out the reasons behind the relaunch, and what the future holds for Yell, and local search in general...
Can we start by asking you to explain the team set-up at Yell.com?
My role at Yell is head of strategy for Yell.com, and I head up the product team and the eDevelopment group who are responsible for YellDirect, our site which supports our advertisers.
The product team are the people responsible for the site revamp, and have a wide-ranging remit. The main task is of course to develop compelling propositions for the user.
Those propositions range from maps, to enhancing search capabilities, to development of vertical propositions such as shopping or hotel partnerships. Of course the team looks at all the innovation that’s happening in the market place and internet as a whole, and identifies what will work best for our users and prospective users.
The team is also tasked with enhancing user loyalty, so we’ll be introducing 'My Yell' in Q4 of this financial year to give people useful life tools and organisational features when they log in to Yell.com. They’ll also be able to send maps and business listings to friends.
Why did you decide to revamp the site, so soon after the May 2007 update?
Yell.com constantly looks at what our users want and seeks to share our unrivalled knowledge of the local market and local businesses with these users.
We underwent a major redesign in November 06, followed this with the homepage redesign in May this year and have now taken another step forward.
We pooled all our knowledge of the marketplace into developing roadmaps for our site that we believe will keep us at the forefront of local search. The exact details of this road map are clearly commercially sensitive but you can expect a regular stream of improvements with bigger changes, such as our new mapping, being delivered every couple of months or so.
The biggest change we’ve made this time is in our mapping of local businesses. We're the first site in the UK to enable our users to display, at the click of a button, hundreds of thousands of local businesses and services on a map.
We've transferred our local business expertise, combined it with a high quality mapping interface, to provide users access to this rich information with only one click.
Uniquely, we are enabling users to layer multiple business types and services onto the same map. So now people can plan entire trips out in a couple of clicks instead of simply finding the local restaurant.
For example, they can now find and get directions to their hairdresser, choose a pub for lunch, before popping to the florists to pick up some flowers before meeting their partner in a local restaurant for dinner and then finding the nearest taxi rank to get them home.
What other changes did you introduce?
Other changes include a more contemporary look and feel. This includes tidying up the way results are displayed so users can quickly find the information they’re looking for, creating a flexible layout that fills the browser window flexing as a user adjusts their screen size and improving the branding to show the relationship with the other channels offered by Yell – i.e. yellow pages and 118 247.
The new look and feel also includes some Web 2.0 features such as a tag cloud on the homepage. This shows our users the some of the most popular searches on the site.
Local search is an intensely competitive marketplace simply because it is such a valuable area for advertisers. However, we welcome any competition as it ensures Yell.com will continue to develop innovative ways to attract and retain consumers. Yell.com is a large player in the field.
What about mobile? Are you doing anything around texting details/maps to users?
We do have mobile services on Yell.com mobile. There’s an application which you can download by sending the word 'mobile' to 80248 or you can visit mobile.yell.com/uk on your mobile web browser for our WAP service.
This provides business contact details, maps and directions to your mobile for free. In addition to these, you can send any business details to your mobile direct from Yell.com, once you have registered as a user.
How are local businesses responding to the site?
I’m assuming you mean how our advertisers are responding to the new site? If so, feedback has been uniformly good. The site has been redesigned to enable the user to find the right business or service for the task in question, whether it’s a florist open late who takes American Express or a CORGI registered plumber.
Advertisers benefit from quality leads – in fact, 58% of Yell.com visitors go on to contact the advertiser, and of those who make the contact 53% go on to make a purchase. (Stats from 2005-2006, Saville-Rossiter Base).
What do you think are the best ways to monetise local search sites?
Yell.com has always maintained that the best way to create value for the advertiser is to provide trusted, relevant content for the user, delivered in ways which do not intrude on the user experience.
While we continue to look at new ways to monetise our search, such as pay-per-click and the introduction of vertical channels, our focus must always remain on giving the user the right set of results in an appropriate format.
Where do you see local search going in the next few years?
Local online search is an extremely attractive area for businesses and as internet usage and acceptance continues to grow the market will mature and services will become increasingly sophisticated.
Users want trusted content when it comes to contacting local businesses so I forsee some consolidation in the local search market, particularly when it comes to user generated content and reviews.
Web 2.0 is all about communication and users do want to interact with brands and companies, but the proliferation of social networking options means that users will increasingly turn to only a few trusted brands. Hopefully Yell will be one of them!
Does Yell have any plans to add other Web 2.0 features, such as user generated reviews?
You’ll appreciate that our future plans are commercially sensitive, so we can’t reveal too much, however you can certainly expect us to become more and more active in engaging with our users as we progress into 2008 and giving them the content and tools they need to find exactly the right business and services for them.
How many people are using Yell.com?
In July 07, Yell.com had 6.6m unique users (ABC audited).
Is Yell.com profitable? If not when do you expect to break even?
Yes, Yell Group UK is profitable. Please see our latest financial results which are available on www.yellgroup.com for more details – we can’t break details of individual products out further than are done so in this release.
What resources do you use to stay up to speed on digital marketing?
Constant analysis of the marketplace, research from analysts such as yourselves, Kelsey Group, Search Engine Land among many others, analysis of competitors – all the methods you would expect from a market-leading local search engine.