.tel: the Social, Local, Mobile solution for Yellow Pages
In the seven plus years we have published YP Talk articles we have looked at hundreds of new products and services being introduced to the Yellow Pages industry. Each in their own way, have had something they could contribute to the industry. However, none of them could have the impact that the introduction of the .tel domain will.
Simply put a .tel domain provides a single, unique, simple location to host personal or corporate contact information which can then be universally accessible from any mobile device, PC, tablet or any device which is web enabled. Everything can be stored in one place – telephone numbers, physical mail addresses, email addresses, Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, and more. .tel isn't just a new website extension, it's far more than that:
- Make it easy for customers to find you and make contact
- Share all your contact details in one place on the internet
- A single place to update your information quickly, easily and instantly
- Improve your online visibility by linking with your web site and directory listing to to enhance SEO
- Create an effective mobile presence that is quick and cheap to use
In effect it can be a simplified online contact hub for people or businesses where you only need to remember one name to reach someone, regardless of how often their specific information is changed or updated. Kind of like a Yellow Pages on steroids.
To understand more about the potential for this new service we spent some time with Justin Hayward, Business Development Director and Ian Bowen-Morris the Chief Marketing Officer of Telnic Limited to discuss how this powerful new tool could be used by the Yellow Page industry.
YP Talk (YPT): With so many potential ways this new domain name can be used, where is Telnic focused?
Justin Hayward (JH): Our focus primarily is talking to those organizations that can bring the potential of this new medium to businesses as well as business professionals. This product is targeted to be used by every individual and business connected to the internet and every way they can be reached — that is a massive opportunity. People have begun using the domain as an opportunity to connect with more customers through the internet regardless of the device that accesses it. For directory publishers we have been focused on demonstrating how integrating .tel can enhance their customer value propositions either by simply bundling with print ads to accelerate new media growth or as a logical extension of their online visibility packages for customers.
Ian Bowen-Morris (IB-M): Everybody is aware that user behavior when searching for local products and business services has changed over the past 10 years. Print is still important but internet local search often now in a social media context has become increasingly more relevant and important for publishers. We all have a lot of different kinds of information to keep organized. Now add mobile devices, which have really come into their own over the past couple of years. So with all of those different devices you have to target customers in different places and formats. At the end of the day trying to market your own personal or professional skills or your products and services that have to be delivered to potential customers has become very complex as more and more communication channels emerge.
JH: So to have the ability to update all of that info is a powerful thing. As the Registry, we can't go directly to those customers so we work through a channel that is engaged with those groups. This is where the huge opportunity for internet based Yellow Pages companies, local search, directory assistance, or online marketing services can come in because they are engaged with an audience that many of our existing channel partners – domain name registrars – are not really working with; mainstream customers that understand the value of on line presence and being discoverable.
IB-M: With the low cost of delivery for .tel domains and the ability to integrate all of those services within the price of that domain, it's a very appealing product for potentially upselling to those customers which might only have free listings within the online and off line yellow pages. It can also be an incremental step to the benefits of a domain fully under their control, with potential for more value added services and then onto a more traditional website product at a later date. It is instantly accessible to mobile devises. It is a very valuable add-on to a customer that already has invested quite a bit in their traditional websites and simply wants an optimized mobile version too. It's a very credible and compelling sales pitch that sales folks seem to get straight away.
YPT: How will you be promoting the new domain in the US, as it is not widely known at this time?
IB-M: Right now our model is to work with our partners so that any advertising spent is really targeted towards deliverables. As we can't sell direct, just pointing people back to our website is simply not a very good use of advertising dollars. We are more inclined at this point of time to work with our partners and our distribution channels to do more marketing outreach. For example, last year we worked with Network Solutions to run some television ads and with Bloomberg television again focusing on the business-orientated side of the market. We are always assessing the market and looking at those opportunities. What we're really trying to doing is to establish a channel to provide a great offering to those SMBs to make the maximum noise. Yellow Pages companies know their markets very well, have strong established brands and are trusted marketing advisors to their SMB customers. We believe they are best positioned to promote .tel domains as part of their ad offerings and establish.tel in the minds of users by including it in listing details. The mental shorthand we want users to have when encountering the domain in business listings is that .tel = a reliable source for all of that merchant's contact information. We will actively support partners with dollar investments in this kind of widespread and committed sales and marketing activity.
YPT: Is this platform open to any abuse such as someone registering a name while pretending to be someone else, and then leaving bogus contact details such as premium phone rate numbers??
JH: Two things on that: Cyber-squatting is a domain name industry issue and has an industry response to it. If a company has a trademark then there is a standard process called the Uniform Domain-Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDLP), which is administered by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). If they find that somebody has registered a name that is effectively being used like that, the organization can take their case to WIPO for resolution. Second, if you do click on the number and find it is something like a premium number, you can report them to the domain owner to have it taken down, prior to resorting to the normal legal recourse for false advertising.
YPT: Which publishers are currently marketing .tel??
IB-M: We are test marketing with most of the leading yellow pages publishers around the world, providing their product and sales teams the opportunity to familiarize with the product and figure out how best to integrate it. Those that have been quick to seize the opportunity include Directel Macau Yellow Pages, the Philippines Directory Publishing Co., and Al Wahda Express Group, which publishes yellow pages in United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Palestine. HC 360 International which is based in China, is a business to business portal provider which has already registered some 50,000 .tel domains/customers in one week in January of this year.
In the US, so far we have signed up Universal Business Listings and WebVisible, both of whom are integrating .tel's into their product and service offerings. We have active trials working with several groups in the US and Europe that we can't talk about just yet.
YPT: How do you support publishers?
IB-M: There are two ways of working with publishers – 1. When a publisher includes this in their product offers, typically bundling it as part of an online visibility package, there are no huge development or set up costs because we provide all of the hosting, it's practically a turn-key solution. To offer a .tel domain to its customers, it only requires that publishers register the domain name on their behalf and then feeds the contact and information details from its customer content database. This can be done manually or automatically by interacting with our ready available API technology. Volume executions enable us to provide additional support; for example we can make available our .tel domain hosting platform so publishers can manage everything directly. We can also make certain changes to the design of the .tel page to include dual-languaging and publisher-consistent color and branding. This is important as yellow pages publishers typically want users and advertisers to feel that .tel information is authoritative and from a source they can trust and it looks and feels like that. It is also an excellent way of increasing brand exposure as fully bundled it can effectively double a publisher's exposure in search engine results pages.
JH: In terms of being able to source the unique .tel domain, a publisher could either work directly with existing ICANN-accredited registrars. This is the fastest way that publishers can get up and running and testing the market, many already have approved domain vendors that probably offer .tel. Alternatively, a publisher can apply to become an ICANN-accredited registrar themselves. It takes about 6-8 weeks and a couple of thousand dollars. It is a very simple application process.
IB-M: This really would not be a challenge for many publishers as they recognize the critical value of managing a merchant's contact information and they are already helping small businesses establish their main web presence. So it would be no more difficult for them to do than simply asking their registrar to add .tel to the list of domains so they could actually register on behalf of their customers and quickly and efficiently populate them with quality content..
JH: But in terms of support, we are ready, willing, and able to help in any way we can. There are a number of other levels below what you simply see through a search engine, or by typing .tel into a mobile or PC browser. Those additional layers of functionality could include the delivery of coupons – daily deals or even hourly deals, and other types of targeted advertising delivery. There are many opportunities above and beyond just seeing it as a landing page for customers. There is already a proof of concept trial running on Twitter at the moment where you could potentially text a short code number to say "look up such and such a domain" and it will send the top 3 pieces of contact information back to you. There are a number of different ways for people to access the information and the ultimate vision is that with critical mass, we can enable people to actually dial .tel domains directly from their cell phones.
YPT: How much does it cost to register a .tel domain?
IB-M: That really depends on the registrar, but we've seen rates anywhere from $9.99 up to $35 per annum, with higher pricing also including other services. Pricing is extremely competitive between registrars, but we can help publishers negotiate with registrars especially when there are looking at volume orders. Typically when included in the price of an average print, online or combined bundle for a customer, the unit cost of a .tel for the publisher is negligible given the the added value. Publishers can simply choose to reflect that cost in adjusted rates or absorb it and take the revenue upside from increased renewal rates as customers are perhaps more likely to renew a proposition that includes their unique business domain storing all their contact details.
JH: It is no better or worse than a .com, but when you consider the effort it takes to be able to get .tel to rank highly within search results and consistently across search engines, then I believe .tel is the winner because there is effectively no coding involved, no fiddling around with the HTML code or tags. A .tel domain is set up with micro formats supported already. For this format Google takes a look at it and says "I understand this is contact information" and because they are very light weight and optimized to resolve very quickly within a browser, we're actually following very much best practices of search engine optimization. Obviously, the only difficult element of following good SEO is the longevity of the domain, how long has it been around. But what we are seeing from tests is that .tel domains are not only getting indexed very quickly, they're actually providing some very good optimization rankings at this point in time. Of course, we all understand that search engines can change their algorithms whenever they like.
IB-M: One of the things .tel can help you do for a directory publisher is to link their listings with the customer's existing website. That provides the power of three sources of information that are underneath your control. .tel is, as far as we can gather from unofficial conversations that we have had with contacts in Google, not considered to be duplicate content. We've seen with some of the tests that we've done .tel domains and Yellow Pages listings appear on the same page in close proximity and depending on what the content is, sometimes the .tel is higher and sometimes the YP listing is higher. Hence, getting those listing together gives you a great bang for your buck, and provides more opportunities for someone looking for information about new customers to actually click on one of those two links.
YPT: You also recently announced the launch of short (2-character) and numeric .tel names starting June 1st? Is this a big addition?
JH: Well, it opens up many different kinds of opportunities. Now we can start talking about directory assistant type services where someone will phone and would like to contact with the XYZ Company. That gives the directory assistance provider the opportunity to send back in a very short message all of the ways that customer can get in touch with XYZ. The simple way is to provide the customer with the number.tel which they can click to see all of the ways you can contact that company. It is very lightweight, very accessible on a mobile device, and very quick to deliver that information clearly and cleanly.
YPT: Will you be attending the upcoming YPA conference in Las Vegas?
IB-M: Yes, Justin and I are looking forward to it. I'll be hosting a talk on Tuesday morning and we will both be available at the Strategic Sessions on Sunday and Monday.