Not long ago WhitePages.com quietly introduced its own local business search. The site, the original “people search” engine, has always offered “yellow pages” listings but now the company has built its own database in the background. Accordingly, WhitePages claims its data are more accurate than you’ll find on search engines and Google in particular.
For example, if someone was using Google to look up contact information for Target in the Seattle area, more than 6,000 results will be returned. Of those 6,000 results, only four of the first ten results are for an actual Target store — with Target Training, Trend Target and Target Darts appearing in the results. With the new WhitePages Store Locator, relevant and accurate contact information for 16 specific neighborhood Target stores in Seattle appear with the most relevant contact information being on top.
Unlike traditional search engines, WhitePages has built its extensive back-end database of business listings from the ground up to not only capture the most accurate local information, but to surface it in a way that makes it easy for consumers to locate and connect with businesses all in one place.
Many people don’t realize how successful WhitePages is; it’s something of a cash cow and has been profitable since its inception. The company took no VC money and is privately held. The company also powers “2 billion searches on over 1,500 partner sites.” It’s also a top 50 comScore website. And its mobile apps have done extremely well too.
In one sense WhitePages is an example of doing a narrow range of things extremely well. People use the site today chiefly to do name, address and phone lookups for individuals and businesses. Business search on WhitePages.com used to be provided by yellow pages publishers, which are still delivering ads to the site.
The company has recently enhanced and improved its search functionality and some of the features around its listings data. But the “marquee” feature being promoted with the new local business search launch is a store locator.
There is save, share and “get directions” functionality around each of these listings as well as store hours. However there’s limited “depth” to the content.
Along those lines I asked whether WhitePages was going to further enhance the types of content that it shows with the basic listings information. CEO Alex Algard emphasized that right now, on the business search side, the most common use case is a “name in mind” search. However he added that over time the company does plan to further enhance content, especially in selected verticals.
Mobile is also an area where WhitePages may do more interesting things. Right now the company offers iPhone, Android and BlackBerry apps. But there are a range of other ideas in the works.