The More Things Change – Google vs. Yellow Pages

Search Engines vs the Yellow Pages

Phil: Do you ever have deja vu Mrs. Lancaster?
Mrs. Lancaster: I don’t think so, but I could check with the kitchen.
- Groundhog Day (1993)

Remember looking in the yellow pages and seeing a company listed as AAA Painters and then wondering why the company would choose such a strange name? We all know reason was to be listed first alphabetically. You can call it crafty marketing or an abuse of the system. Well, now the internet has a system being abused as well – or craftily marketed…

As SEO consultants, we really are marketers at heart. We market our client’s websites and we use the search engines to do so. We are so totally dependent on the search engines (let’s be real, we mean Google) that we will do anything to get the results we want, even when they tell us through guidelines they want completely different.

Confusing? You bet.

Most SEO companies follow what they see working, not what Google tells them they should be doing. This comic pokes fun at one of the most abused SEO techniques. And I use the term technique very loosely. I am referring to domain name keyword matching and/or stuffing. If you are in the SEO field you see it quite prevalently. The comic is using imaginary pizza terms, but we did see something very similar for a competitor of one of our clients. If you do a search for ‘fireplace mantels’ the odd domain name in question is ranking #3 and the domain name is fireplacemantels123.com. That is what spurred this comic.

In the comic we went a bit overboard and made really silly URLs but with a bit of looking I’m sure you can find domain names that are equally ridiculous as our made-up pizza delivery URLs. I’m sure that you can because Google has made it clear that keyword-rich domain names are helpful for higher rankings and exact match domains work even better.

We did a test and found this to be true for a brand new domain name. I won’t give away the exact domain, but we were able to rank within the top seven results with a blog and a generic Hello World post. The domain name matched the search result and that was all that was needed. No links, no marketing, no content.

But what are we as SEO companies supposed to do? Do we resist using strategies that are obviously ploys only to get rankings or do we follow the Google Rules and hope for the best. In today’s economic climate it is an even harder question to answer. Google, of course, could make this issue moot by simply not ranking sites highly only because of an exact domain name match. Sure it can be a very small part of the equation, but I feel your domain name should be your company or your product name or something that helps your company’s brand awareness. Using exact domain name matching seems spammy and unprofessional, but at the same time it works to some degree.

The real point of this is not about domain name matching or SEOs following the Google Rules. It is about Google following their own rules and not reinforcing bad SEO tactics with high rankings. If Google wants the SEO game played with a white hat, make sure those wearing a black hat are not winning.

Shell Harris, Big Oak SEO
P.S. Just for fun we asked our incredible artist, Kelly Ishikawa to capture his creative process on video. Enjoy the time-lapse action. Oh, if you look at the 1:21 mark in the movie you will see the crude stick man drawing (on the left) I sent to Kelly for the comic. I didn’t want anyone to think Kelly drew that. ;-)

7 Responses to “The More Things Change – Google vs. Yellow Pages”

  1. Chip Trout says:

    Another impressive comic. I loved the video-nicely done.

  2. Great comic. I think that companies need to start getting more actively involved on the internet and building their ranks so that strange AAA companies dont steal their thunder.

  3. Caig Scott says:

    Very funny, I’ll keep coming back for more.

    Seriously, a good critique. The use of the domain name as a primary ranking criterion seems very… 1999.

  4. Lancaster says:

    nice story for the comic, very modern and true.. looking forward for more advice of your character.. hehe

  5. David Jenyns says:

    Yellow pages = archaic search medium? Could be.

    Gone are the days when YP is the star book of every household. They should always be seen in the living room, ready to be flipped when the need comes.

    But now, we even hit the streets of Melbourne to find out where people think of going should they need information on something. Let me share a snippet of the results here:

    Q1. How often do you use the print version of the Yellow Pages?

    * 7.69% use it regularly
    * 23.08% once a month
    * 15.38% once a year
    * 53.85% never use it

    Q2. How do you search for products and services you’re looking for?

    * 92.86% use Google.com
    * 7.14% use Yellow Pages

    Respondent Quote: “I reckon the yellow pages is obsolete, why would you spend money on the yellow pages when they’ll just as easily find you on Google.”

    Q3. How often do you use Google?

    * 100% use Google.com everyday

    Respondent Quote: “If I need information I go straight to Google.”

    So in that random survey, Google won over Yellow Pages, any taker for YP here? :)

    Cheers,
    Dave

  6. Brad says:

    Having worked at Sensis I can testify to the fact that there is still money to be made in physical directory listings. For how long? that is the real question. You would be surprised at how valuable yellow pages is outside of metropolitan areas.