, the open local business directory for small and large businesses

Thanks for the recognition from Local Search expert Chris Silver Smith

September 16, 2010

Always nice to get a little recognition:

Sept 13, 2010 - Chris Silver Smith: Who Will Own Local Data? Search Engines, Yellow Pages, Aggregators Or Social Media?

Thanks Chris, one day we MUST catch up for a chat.


Richer Business Profile Pages get more traffic and clicks [stats]

September 14, 2010

We did a little analysis this week, intended for some internal purposes but the results are so interesting that I thought I’d share them with you.

Business Pages with more content get more views and clicks – sounds obvious and we’ve been saying that for some time, but how about some real hard numbers to back that up.

It’s long been accepted that more rich content = better SEO (all other things being equal), and that’s good news for small businesses and local businesses trying to get found online.  But how much of a difference does more content make?

Well here you go, here is the actual answer within the Brownbook world (based on 30 days activity and a sample of 900 business listings that saw activity in that period):

The numbers:

views and links table


views and clicks analysis graph

Click to enlarge

What does %complete mean?
This is a measure by which we deem a Business Profile Page to be completed, and you can see how it gets to 100% in this snippet (You’ll find this near the top right of your Business Profile Page, you’ll need to be signed in when looking at your claimed business page to see this):

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

A few quick conclusions:

  • Getting your Business Profile Page more complete results in more views and clicks
  • The difference in views between 30% and 90% is about 10x (and 2x when you go from 80% to 90%)
  • We’re getting an astonishing click through ratio of close to 20% in most cases and often higher
  • There seems to be an odd result where businesses at 90% get on average more clicks than those on 100% (I wonder why that is, perhaps because more info presented removes some of the need for the viewer to click through to the business’s website?)
  • (I noticed another anomaly in clicks at 50% complete – I  will see if more analysis can reveal what’s happening here)

Brownbook hits 34million business listings [feature in Techcrunch]

March 18, 2010

We’re pleased to announce that Brownbook now lists  over 34 MILLION businesses in over 240 countries.  Founder Marc Lyne was recently interviewed by global tech news powerhouse TechCrunch about the site, you can read the whole story on TechCrunch right here:


Brownbook is the first business directory to support Google Street View

March 26, 2009

You can add Google Street View to your enhanced listing in Brownbook to show users exactly where your business is located, and Brownbook is the first business directory to provide this facility.

Read the rest of this entry »

The future

November 27, 2008

An interesting quote that i received by email today:

“The successful companies in the local space will have organic traffic, unique distribution, self-service products, direct access to merchant budgets and low-cost burn rates, she said. Meanwhile, companies that overly rely on search engine marketing, have high sales costs and churn rates, and require major rounds of funding will struggle.”

I’ve omitted the source to protect the innocent ;)

The long term life expectancy of the print Yellow Pages…

November 25, 2008

Kelsey Group (Kelsey Group is the leading provider of strategic research and analysis, data and competitive metrics on Yellow Pages, electronic directories, local search, SMB advertising and local media) run a group on


Linked In where I saw the following question today:
What is the long term life expectancy of the print Yellow Pages. Please state your opinion in years and facts that promted you to come up with that conclusion.
So I felt compelled to respond:

Two thoughts for the group:

1. I use Twitter ( and Tweet Beep ( to hear all the comments that are made about Yellow Pages. I would say that 95% of the comments are about the wastage they feel they are creating by taking the 4 thick directories that they have dropped on their door step each year and putting them straight in the bin. Irrespective of the fact the directory may be printed on recycled paper, they want to opt out and not receive them at all. The caveat on this comment being that Twitter users are heavily internet savvy, unlike other parts of the population. The ‘take out’ however is that this group is growing and they want choice.

2. When does advertising become information? And then at what point are people prepared to pay for advertising because it is information they want. This is a subtle twist in the new world we are living in. The old ways are no longer good enough, we all expect not to be sold to on a mass basis, we expect to seek, easily find, choose and then engage. Or alternatively to be targeted with products and services that meet our current requirements exactly eg the right brand, the right price, the right time, the right personal referral…

In conclusion what I am sure of is that Yellow Pages as they currently stand have no future unless they radically re-invent themselves. I am positive that there is still a place for a printed product, distributed to certain people promoting certain types of businesses in certain areas – almost on a personalized basis and possibly including additional types of information.

And regarding on-line, well I have to confess an interest here as I am one of the founders of, where we have turned the current ‘centrally produced, centrally sold’ YP model upside down – we encourage everyone to instantly edit our data, just like Wikipedia, and now we are rewarding people who contribute to Brownbook with 20% of the life time value of our customers. All our customers self-service and pay via Paypal. We have the benefit of no legacy cost model, no shareholders that are demanding a return to the halcyon days, no debt, and no highly profitable cash cow. We are pioneering a new way with really interactive, engaging and innovative products for businesses on a very low or no cost basis. This is where we see the future…

Online search tools gaining ground on phone directories

November 7, 2008

Brownbook continues to gather pace.  Out latest coverage in The Canadian Gazette is an interesting feature focusing on the demise of traditional phonebooks and the growing popularity of online local search alternatives like us – that offer consumers so much more.  To read the article click here.

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 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.

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 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], I’d be interested to hear more user feedback.



Developers use our OpenSearch API to deliver local business search and listings on your website

June 27, 2008

OpenSearch is a neat technology that lets you perform a search against our database and get the results returned to you as an XML feed.  Visit to get the background scoop.

This means you can add your own search to your website and receive a set of results in a feed that you can format to display any way you like, for example to match your website’s look and feel.
Here’s an example of a simple implementation by LocalMouth.  This was done in (literally) a few minutes.  Read their blog here.

You can go even further, say you wanted to restrict your search to just one area, like Colorado, or even more specifically Boulder?  How about to a specific business sector, like for example electricians, or painters?  Well, our OpenSearch interface will allow you to do that too.

It works by firing a specially formatted URL, which contains your specific search terms, at our server.  Our server sends back an atom XML feed that you can chop up to present the data in the format you wish.  You can use entry fields on your webpage, or even a drop down list, to construct the search terms into that URL, so you can make it as specific or as open as you wish for your users.

If you want to start using our OpenSearch API see here for more details, and drop us a line if you need any help.