Why a “Super-phonebook” SEO Program may not be your Best Investment

If you are looking to join the millions of others committing money to online marketing, you probably have given thought to the large “Super-phonebook” companies that claim to be the best choice for your online marketing needs. Before you start spending money or make a commitment, there is a lot of information—and some misinformation—of which you should be mindful.

There is no shortage of horror stories floating out there in cyberspace about why people have regretted going the “Super-phonebook” route. But we wanted to find out for ourselves, so we placed a call and talked with a representative about the opportunities they could offer their clients. In comparing their options with a smaller, more customer-focused business that offer similar services, we began to understand the reasons for the complaints.

Red Flag #1 – Best Practices
After our conversation, our rep sent us a tidy PDF explaining why we should go with search engine marketing. The problem is that the study it cites is already four years old, and in the Internet marketing business, relying on anything that is more than even a few months old can get you in trouble! As with your business, a lot can change in four years. We believe a responsible partner would be mindful of new trends and information, and shouldn’t be afraid to modify their approach, programs or research, when necessary. After all, if outdated data is used in sales flyers, how old is the data used to market and run your campaign?

Red Flag #2 – Details
If you are looking to make a large investment, you generally try to get all the information you can before you make a commitment, so why should your online marketing investment be any different? You should be provided with a clear outline of everything your partner is offering, as well as the steps they will take to ensure your success. “Super-phonebook” companies like the one we contacted made very broad, generalized statements with regard to their organic SEO efforts, explaining that they’ll help you rank, but don’t offer any insight into how they’ll do it! The only specifics given are that they will spend a large portion of your money on a pay-per-click (PPC) campaign, which leads us to our third point.

Red Flag #3 – Longevity and ROI
Much like a newspaper or magazine ad that only lasts as long as the newspaper or magazine itself is sitting around, a large portion of your campaign with a “Super-phonebook” outfit will be exhausted on pay-per-click (PPC), which has the same type of shelf life. In the long run, this “quick hit” investment is typically not as effective of an investment as an organic search campaign when it comes to long-lasting results. And that’s not even counting the fact that studies indicated most users don’t like paid advertising, and prefer the organic listings when they are browsing.

And to make matters worse, the “Super-phonebook” groups will take a large portion of your PPC budget to manage your campaign—up to 40%, or more! The irony is that, in most cases, you can just as easily manage these campaigns yourself. This is not to suggest PPC is a bad option in all instances, especially when it’s mixed with a more organic-oriented campaign. This mixed approach will give you more immediate sales, while also contributing to the success of your organic SEO (assuming your pages are properly optimized and you are correctly targeting those keywords).

Red Flag #4- Contracts and Costs
Large “Super-phonebook” companies typically require a contract of at least 6 or 12 months. In our instance, our rep indicated if we only choose the 6-month plan, it would cost us an extra $498 up-front. And we would be bound to their contract for the duration, facing a staggering $500 per month fee should we choose to exit the agreement early. While SEO campaigns do naturally take some time, you shouldn’t have to be confined to a fee-laden contract!

Perhaps one of the biggest differences between a large “Super-phonebook” company and a more customized, local provider is simply price. We’re seeing a range of anywhere between $1,500 and $6,000 per month for their “one-size-fits-all” approach on the basic plan, which is several times the costs of competing packages!

Red Flag #5 – Personal Care
Large “Super-phonebook” companies claim to give you a team of people that manage your account, which typically means no single point of contact. This means you could be dealing with someone different every time you call or e-mail, and each person you reach may or may not be familiar with your region, your target, or even your business! But… if you spend enough, they’ll claim to make a single rep available to manage your campaign. Otherwise, you’re flying coach.

The Local Alternative
As we quickly discovered first-hand, there are many significant considerations when entrusting your Internet marketing to a “Super-phonebook” company. And while we have no doubt they do some things well (they no doubt know how to market themselves, at least), the best option for your online marketing investment may just be to keep it in the hands of local professionals you know and trust. But don’t take our word for it… do some investigation and compare offerings. You might just find—as we did—that it’s not just the printed phonebook that’s bloated and behind-the-times.