Brownbook.net, the open local business directory for small and large businesses
 

Online Video Marketing

January 7, 2009

Video marketing campaigns have previously been dominated by large global businesses that have huge marketing budgets.   But now, thanks to the Internet, small businesses can also benefit from the power of video to reach their customers and drive their brand recognition.  Interacting and engaging with customers through the use of online video is an important part of social media marketing or the Web 2.0 phenomenon and this article examines why it should be adopted by all business of any size.  It gives examples of a handful of different video sharing opportunities including You Tube, Brownbook.net, My Space and blip.tv and suggests how you may like to use the channel of video to communicate directly with your customers.

Why online video is vital to your marketing strategy

A business may chose to produce any number of the styles of videos mentioned above to engage potential and existing customers in order to ultimately generate more sales.  These online videos are part of the creation and development of an alternative online world in which consumers and businesses buy and sell.

Brownbook, You Tube, My Space, blip.tv, are examples of just some of the places where you can upload videos or photos to market your business.  Marc Lyne, CEO from Brownbook.net said: “We have made some tweaks and added some new features to the latest version of Brownbook, but the video and photo facilities are already proving to be popular with users.

Video gives small businesses a cost-effective and powerful way to reach the widest possible audience. It enables you to personalize your messages and reach a large, global audience.  So, get filming.

How to get the most out of Brownbook

December 11, 2008

Here are two videos from Dave that tell you how to make the most of your business listing on Brownbook – hints and tips, what to look out for and what really works:

And part 2…

Brownbook.com

November 6, 2008

Hooray, we just got the Brownbook.com domain name.

(but we still go by the name of Brownbook.net, we’ve become quite attached to it :) )

www.brownbook.com

Dancing gorilla in pink tights and a tutu!!!

September 30, 2008

I had an interesting chat by email with one of our business users yesterday and today, the main subject of which was how best to list his business which operates statewide in Florida, USA.  The recommendation I gave him and will give any business that covers a wide area is use one listing, and then use the Business Tags to denote towns or areas.  Our search uses the business name AND the tags amongst other things, and the SEO on Brownbook.net puts a lot of emphasis on the tags too.  This means your one listing gets you exposure against searches (in Brownbook.net and on the major search engines) across many areas, plus you only need maintain and update one listing.

We’re also noticing that recently updated businesses are benefitting from mopre frequent crawling by search engines, so do come back and keep your page fresh, either by ading or updating a detailed business description, photos, videos, or getting customers to add reviews.

I’ll leave the last word in our conversation to Marcus, owner of Singing Telegrams based in Clearwater Florida but serving the entire state:

“You have no idea how this helps my business, I had an advertising catastrophe and now I have to make up for lost revenue – I can use all the free advertising I can get.  So, once again, THANK YOU!!!!!”

Do check our Marcus’s business listing right here

(http://www.brownbook.net/business/31006505/all-occasion-singing-telegram-entertainment-statewide)

and if you need anything from a dancing gorilla in pink tights and a tutu, to a Marylin Monroe celebrity lookalike, drop them a line.

It just gets better and better

September 24, 2008

Related searchesWe just released a new version of Brownbook.net which has a bunch of enhanced features for businesses and for consumers.

 

Here’s the skinny:

- Related searches – When you get a results page following a search, you’ll notice a new panel called “Related searches” (top right of the page), click on related business tags or location tags to perform a related search.  When you click a related business tag or related location tag Brownbook.net uses an algorithm to substitute the new tag with one of your previous keywords, making an intelligent guess as to which keyword(s) to replace.  Give it a try, see what you think.  <b>Business Owners</b>, make the most of this by adding more relevant tags to your business listing so you come up in more places in results, helping new customers more easily find your business.

- Changes for Claimed Businesses – Last month we allowed you to lock your business listing when you claim it (this now happens automatically when you claim your listing) but we still allowed people to update your tags.  This month we’ve changed it so that others can ADD relevant tags (which enhance your ability to get found) but they can’t edit your existing tags (thereby undoing the great tagging that you’ve spent time on).

- Anyone can invite reviews – This is in keeping with our ethos of NOT making it mandatory to register to do the most common actions.  In this way we allow business owners and customers to invite others to review businesses without having to first register, thereby making it easier to get and give great testimonials.

- Changes to our search algorithm – We’re making some important changes to our search algorithm to present better and more relevant results to users.  Business owners, this means you’ll get found more often (so long as your tags are relevant of course).  Whilst we don’t publish our algorithm the main changes are improving the priority of businesses that have bought the priority listing promotion, improving support for accented and special characters, adding a positive weighting to recently modified/added/reviewed business listings (business owners, be sure to update your pages/tags/reviews regularly to benefit from this).

- Improved search engine indexing – One for the business owners… we already benefit from great organic SEO in the major search engines (meaning: being listed in Brownbook.net helps your business get found all over the web) and we’ve just made some further tweaks which are improving that still further.  Generally these relate to improving the way that the site is organized and therefore improving the visibility and usefulness of pages for the major search engines as well as users.

- Improved claim process – We’ve simplified the claims process, making it easier and faster to claim your business listing as well as helping you configure any promotions.  It’s now much simpler to add photos, videos, and detailed text to your business listing, plus it’s more obvious how you can go back and update them to keep your business page fresh and engaging.

- Bigger photos and videos in reviews – We’ve doubled the size of photos and videos in reviews, so now it’s easier to see what the reviewer wanted you to see, and for reviewers your photos and videos are much clearer for viewers.  Previous photo and video reviews are not dynamically resized, but its easy to update your past reviews with new (or the same) photos or videos which will display in the new larger size.

- MUCH improved help pages – The new help pages provide answers to every single question we’ve ever been asked.  And as new questions come along we’ll update the help pages accordingly.

- Improved ‘contact us’ page – In concert with the new help pages this gives you a ‘first port of call’ by pointing you to the most commonly asked questions in the help pages (the fastest way to get answers to common questions), plus gives you a mean to get in touch so we can answer any questions that are not covered in the help pages.

That’s about it for now, I’ll have more news in about 3 weeks when we release the next set of improvements for you.  Remember to keep your business listing up to date, and help us spread Brownbook.net by telling friends and colleagues.

All the best

DI

Who are you calling “the lunatic fringe”?

September 22, 2008

I was privileged to be invited to speak on a panel at The Kelsey Group’s annual conference last week in Atlanta (Directional Media Strategies).  Since Kelsey Group is the number 1 worldwide ‘yellow pages’ analyst firm and this event is a barometer of the market it was a real treat to go along, to listen and participate.

With participants from all over the world from both ‘traditional’ yellow pages type companies and from newer competitors it was sure to be an interesting event, and it did not disappoint.  There was a lot of talk about how the traditional companies needed to change their sales model to compete with the new competitors, indeed one presenter saw it as a need to ‘change the conversation’ during the sales process, from one of cost to return on investment – sounds like sales-speak to me.

Another spoke proudly of how their sales reps were now called Media Executives (wow, that’s going to make a BIG change to my small business – not).

As might be expected the subject of user contributions (like reviews, and the wiki approach that Brownbook.net has adopted) also came up, and you might imagine my surprise when a senior figure of one large very successful established company stated that user generated content and user contribution just were not important to them. Wow, that seemed very closed-minded.

If all that didn’t surprise me enough I was stunned by another speaker’s dismissive attitude to the newer online competitors, when he described the “10 to 15% of people who are self provisioning” – in normal-speak that means small business owners like you or me who are self-servicing our marketing campaigns online, without the pain of a face to face sales presentation from some jazzed up sales person – as “the lunatic fringe”.  What??? Is he joking, talk about not seeing the wood for the trees, does he not realise that as successive generations get more and more web savvy we’ll all go that route.

In the panel on which I was involved I spoke about one piece of research that was presented – the result of some Kelsey research into what consumers wanted from IYPs.  They’d run a workshop with a number of consumers who’d used several of the leading websites to complete a number of search-based tasks, then they compared this with the results of a survey which was directed at their advisory services clients – basically search and YP industry execs – then they compared those with the conclusions of nine of their own analysts.  When I looked at the comparison between user feedback and industry execs feedback I saw a very interesting mismatch:

Factors rated as important by industry execs
#1 Ability to get additional info on businesses
#2 Access to useful maps and directions
#3 Depth of information provided
#4 Relevance of advertising
#5 Availability of additional information
#6 Usefulness of ratings and reviews
#7 Quantity of ratings/reviews
#8 Ability to tell which results are sponsored

Factors rated as important by a user panel
#1 Ease of starting search
#2 Ease of navigating site
#3 Accuracy of results
#4 Overall layout/organization
#5 Ability to refine search
*** none of the above even featured in the industry list ***
#6 Ability to get additional info on businesses (rated #1 by industry figures)
#7 Access to useful maps and directions (rated #2 by industry figures)
#8 Ability to sort search results (did not feature in industry list)
#9 Depth of information provided (#3 for industry figures)
#10 Ability to tell which results are sponsored (#8 for industry figures)
#11 Quality of help function (did not feature in industry list)
#12 Availability of additional information (#5 for industry figures)
#13 Usefulness of ratings and reviews (#6 for industry figures)
#14 Relevance of advertising (#4 for industry figures)

Funny how not one the users’ top 5 wants even featured in the industry execs list.

Highlights for me were meeting some great people from the industry, many very forward thinking despite the stunners I have noted above.  Catching up face to face with some people I’d only spoken to by phone, email or Skype.  Also meeting the chaps at Kelsey, all extremely knowledgeable about their sector, seeing the great presentations from Kelsey and following some very well moderated panels.

All in all a GREAT event, informative, surprising in some ways, well attended and well put together.

Geo-tagging versus radiating search

September 5, 2008

I was asked the other day why we don’t do radiating search, and its a good question the answer to which is not immediately obvious.  I figured it may be useful to share the reasons why?

When we first designed Brownbook.net we set out to challenge all the established rules of how local business directories ’should’ work (coming from a big directory background as we do this was not always easy, but an exercise we def wanted to do).

With respect to radiating searches the more we questioned it and experimented with alternatives the more we saw that there was a better way, and we decided to junk the concept in favor of a more contemporary ‘tags-based’ method.

Now it’s not immediately obvious to someone brought up in traditional directory industry, so let me try to explain some of the logic here (it takes longer to explain it that to see the behavior it in action):

#The assumption that ‘closest’ is always what a user wants:
With traditional local directories there was very little value added info that allowed a user to select which suppliers that might use, thus ‘closest’ was pretty much all they had.  With richer information with listings users have more criteria by which they can decide which businesses to use.

#User self-selection:
Human behavior says that when looking for a business to use in a certain area a user will type in that area (by some definition, eg zip code, town, city, region, etc, etc).  If they don’t find results they want they tend to try a different area definition – either broader, narrower, or just different.  The user of ‘related tags’ facilitates this in a tags-based search, where the related tags offered are determined by the tagging that businesses and users have assigned to listings.

#Business self definition:
Tagging allows businesses to tag their listing according to where they *want* to do business.  This is especially important when you consider that different business types work over radically different geographic scopes; consider the geo scope of say a gardener versus the geo scope of a yacht broker.  The flip-side of this is user self-selection (the two work in concert); that when looking for a yacht broker a user may search for Europe, Florida Keys, or France (not Myville, or Localtown); and that when searching for a gardener they will naturally use a much more local definition.

#Evolution of tag-style searches in other web behaviors:
The use of tags to replace traditional ‘more scientific’ methods (tags versus hierarchical taxonomies/classification structures, and geo tags versus radiating search) is becoming more prevalent on the web and an accepted behavior that allows consumers and publishers (businesses in the case of business listings) to naturally reach a equilibrium of self regulation.  What I mean by this is that instead of maintaining a complex (and by definition rigid) taxonomy you use tags to allow that taxonomy to evolve naturally over time (some people may be familiar with the term folksonomy).  We see the same rules that apply to a hierarchical category taxonomy applying to a radiating geo search.

It’s not a short answer, but as with all simple concepts the wiring under the board is often more complex than you’d imagine.  But in short geo tags let users and busineses define what works best for them, without the arbitrary rules that the traditional directories had to enforce.

Thanks to you

August 28, 2008

Its always so rewarding when we get messages from people telling us how Brownbook.net has helped them out, and I wanted to share this one with everyone else.  This came in today from a new member.  Thanks ‘Chedders’ for the note, and for allowing us to pass it on here:

Would just like to congratulate your web site.  I posted my daughter’s site on there yesterday as you know.  Before close of play yesterday google had spidered her and if you search for nikcoll she is now in no. 1 slot on google.  Also if you search for beauty in bromsgrove she is on the first page.  That is totally down to [Brownbook.net] as I have done nothing to promote the site so far as I only wrote it this week.

The Brownbook.net listing is here: http://www.brownbook.net/business/30996431/nikcoll-beauty-therapy

Brownbook Mobile on New 3G Apple iPhone

July 11, 2008

Brownbook mobile on mobile emulatorI am VERY pleased to say that our mobile platform passed testing with FLYING COLORS today, and will go live at the end of our next development phase around 18th June. I see that Yellow Pages in the US has been getting some great PR about their new iPhone mobile interface – jeez, wait till they see our stuff. You can do practically everything on our mobile platform that you can do on the full site, with the exception of claiming a listing (we’re dependent upon sending you to PayPal for that, and I’m not so sure their UI is all that great on a mobile yet, but you can expect that to follow VERY soon.

One VERY cool thing, the ability to save any business listing straight to your phone’s address book. Its actually amazingly simple to program for (or so the dev guys tell me) and its equally simple in use.

Anyway, 18th June, or there abouts for Brownbook.net mobile, coming to an iPhone near you – and a Treo, Blackberry, Sony Ericsson, Motorolla, Samsung, Nokia,…you get the idea.

If you’d like to get a preview of our Brownbook Mobile, drop me a line at dave[at]brownbook.net, I’d be interested to hear more user feedback.

Cheers

D

Yell seems reluctant to face reality

May 22, 2008

Charting Yell’s demise - from Bloomberg.comYell, the UK-based Yellow Pages provider has suffered two precipitous falls in its share price over the last few days, falling 15% yesterday, and taking a whopping 26% dive the day before (the biggest drop since its shares first went public in 2003). Bloomberg.com reports here. It lost more than a quarter of its value in a single day… Read the rest of this entry »