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Superpages.com is getting good reviews from the ad community for new directions it is taking with its redesign (clean), ad serving formats (based on relevancy, performance and bidding) and its overall effort to update itself for a Google-centric marketplace (where appropriate).

Dick Larkin, the Small Business Commando, hasn’t been shy to express his opinion about the new directions. “Superpages…. is the hands-down leader in Internet Yellow Pages,” he noted. Other nice things are being said by CMRs (Certified Marketing Reps) who attended an Idearc-hosted summit just before last month’s YPA show. Many apparently walked away thinking that Idearc really has its Internet act together for localizing national buys.

Idearc’s VP of Internet Marketing Robyn Rose, who worked with me on the board of YPA’s Local Search Guide, noted that “on the advertiser side, we’re offering a new sort functionality that is giving us more relevant results,” especially for pay-per-click and pay-per-call customers. It provides an alternative to other search rank models, where “you could pay a lot to temporarily boost” your ranking, she said.

In any case, bid ranking is a little one-dimensional for an IYP customer, who typically has multiple marketing points, online and in print. “A lot of (our) advertisers know they want to be on the Internet. Our message is ‘let us manage it all for you,’” said Rose, noting that Superpages is an active reseller for search engines. She emphasized that Google, Yahoo and MSN are all seen, in some regards, as “complementary” to Superpages.

Rose also noted that the company has regional sales offices in Atlanta, Dallas and Seattle, and at this point, has fully integrated Inceptor into the sales efforts. Last July, Idearc purchased Inceptor, an SEO/SEM tool, but has since changed the brand to Idearc. “We’re leveraging the technology.”

As for the site’s redesign, it is meant to highlight Superpages’ subtle-but-important change from an IYP to a local search site. But the mission hasn’t changed. “We’re still linking buyers and sellers,” said Rose.

Some of the redesign’s strategic issues involve maps and local content. Unlike other map-happy sites, “we chose not to do an enormous map,” said Rose. “We conducted focus group, and they told us that consumers want maps for meetings, and locations. But they don’t need them when they’re looking up plumbers.”

The inclusion of local content was meant to really jump-start the switch to a local search site. The content includes User Reviews, expert material from Mobil Travel guide, and a listing of local WiFi locations. Rose noted that the service has initially zeroed on 25 cities, outfitting them with animated cityscapes.
Over the years, Superpages, like other IYPs, has gone back-and-forth on the importance of local content. The debate is generally about whether it pays to launch local sites with one foot in the water like this – and whether it reduces the site’s overall credibility. Then again, having some local based content brings in some extra dollars via national traffic.

But Rose argued that it is shortchanging Superpages’ overall vision to focus on the national aspect. The site usage “is not all national travel stuff,” she said. “Sure, hotels are one of our top categories. But physicians/surgeons, beauty salons and dentists are also among the top categories.”

As for the user reviews, it is bound to be a struggle for a corporate site like an IYP to attract many user reviews. Rose said Superpages got a nice bump in the number of reviews that it received after a consumer contest last fall. But “no one player will get enough. We’ll likely aggregate some reviews, exchange with others sites…to get to critical mass.”

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