WhitePages Expanding Services, Features
WhitePages.com will soon allow people to edit information in their listings in the online directory to help attract more registered users. The initiative is among a series of steps the company is taking to refresh its online presence and expand its services beyond basic listings.
WhitePages.com relaunched in June with a cleaner, simplified home page, upgraded features like address and area code mapping and the ability to send text messages and email to other registered users. For advertisers, the site's less cluttered look means fewer, larger ad units intended to better showcase campaigns.
That includes offering non-IAB standard options such as "pushdown" units, which expand from the top of the page to cover nearly the entire screen before rolling back up, and "peelback" ads that invite interaction by only revealing a glimpse of the ad in a corner of the Web page.
"Advertisers now have room to breathe on the Web site," said WhitePages founder and CEO Alex Algard in discussing changes to the site, which boasts a database of 200 million Americans. He added that the makeover has already yielded results in the form of 6% higher revenue in July than the prior month. Last year, the privately held company reported revenue of $66 million.
McDonald's, Ford, Goodyear, Wal-Mart and Continental Airlines are among the blue-chip advertisers on site. Despite the improvements, traffic to WhitePages in July was down almost 20% from a year ago at 15.4 million unique visitors. The company says the comScore figures show an opposite trend from their internal data that indicates traffic rising this year past 20 million monthly visitors.
Building up registered users on WhitePages is also a key company goal. The site has 1 million members to date, and Algard expects to more than double that total by year's end. Members have the option of listing their cell phone numbers and email addresses as well as the ability to view the expanded listings of other registered users. Starting next month, they will also be able to fully edit entries, removing items like their age range or phone number if they choose.
Looking ahead, the company also plans to give users the option to add their photos and contact information via social networks such as Facebook and LinkedIn. But Algard assures that the company has no interest in competing with social networks by letting people create similar content-loaded profiles. "We want to be broad but shallow," he said.
In the meantime, WhitePages on Wednesday will soft-launch a service that lets people look up the popularity of names and name searches in the U.S. WhitePages Names will kick off by highlighting the most popular and most searched names in 25 of America's best small towns according to CNNMoney.
"This is one of many ways that you'll see us getting creative with using our contact database of over 90% of U.S. adults to drive new features that meet the interest of consumers as well as advertisers," said Algard.
Eliminating any remaining competition from print White Pages phone books is also part of the company's growth plan. It recently launched a site called banthephonebook.org that asks people to support an online petition to make traditional phone books available on an opt-in basis only.
The site frames the effort in environmental terms, telling visitors that more than 5 million trees are cut down each year to create White Pages phone books, which cost taxpayers $17 million each year to have recycled. So far, 4,900 people have signed on to the petition.