In the past years, Google has increased the focus on directory listings (yellow pages). OneBox is a product that combines links to paid content and ads with the usual information in the search results. The search is developed around the needs of the user, and are about to erase the distinction between promotional advertising and catalog. This challenges the established business models, and adding pressure on the industry.
Personalized view of relevant content
Google OneBox (pictured) provides a personalized view of relevant content of various types that match your query. The product is developed for several categories, including maps, travel and directory (Local businesses). In recent years, Google has entered into agreements with local directory publishers or players for access to quality content. This is packaged with content that is retrieved (or crawled) from many different sources on the web, in order to provide a richer search results for end users.
Local Business Ads increases opportunities for advertisers in the directory
The result of the Google directory is ideal for AdWords, the keyword-based advertising system that is the main source of income for the company. It gives advertisers the ability to link ads to place and industry (Local Business Ads). Most of the links from a OneBox result in directory leads to the map. The page is divided into two main modules; The map and a list of text-links that match the result. Int the list is a space for paid content (sponsored links). The paid content (ads) is placed both in the list and on the specific map, so that it receives exactly the same distribution and relevance as the rest of the content. In this way Google builds up a business for the directory listing that is identical to what they have in advertising in general.
The differences between the ads and other content erased
On January 13th Google launched a development of the Local Business Ads, so that it virtually is identical to the rest of the directory contents. This development is erasing the difference between traditional directory content, promotional ads and regular information. This also makes the end users look at the paid content as very relevant.
If you for example search for hotels all functionality in the map is now also available in hotels that have purchased placement. The difference between the paid content and the rest of the content is minimized – especially when the ad is built up with the same type of landing page as a directory entry (see Map). If you want to click on a hotel it opens up an “information bubble” that contains all the functionality that you are getting up if you click on a hotel that has not come through Adwords.
This makes it extremely attractive to advertisers, and also provides a good user experience for end users looking for a restaurant or a hotel.
As far as I see it, Google changes the rules for the catalog market by entering into local agreements on access to content and to develop products and services around it. Local Business Ads match this perfect and makes it difficult to compete for established directory services players.