Yahoo is expanding its Yahoo Local search service by providing a free web site to business owners that will automatically be integrated into Yahoo Local listings.
The new program is available to any U.S. business that has a physical presence and serves a local area. Yahoo is specifically targeting the estimated 50% of businesses in the U.S. that do not have a web site—more than 10 million in all, according to the Kelsey Group.
"This is a no-brainer opportunity for any business to sign up and get a web site for free," said Paul Levine, General Manager, Yahoo Local.
Free business sites are template-based, five-page sites with a unique business URL. Levine says that the process of creating a site is designed to take a maximum of ten minutes.
"A major focus is to make it as simple and easy as possible," said Levine. "Small businesses are notoriously busy and just want to stick to their business."
Yahoo's free business sites can include:
- Name, logo, text and links to other sites
- Contact information including address, phone, fax, web site and email addresses
- Service information such as hours of operation, accepted payment methods, services offered, and brands or products available for sale
Free business sites are similar to Yahoo Local enhanced business listings—with a key difference. With both basic (free) and enhanced ($9.95 per month) local listings, businesses submit information directly to Yahoo. This information is merged with other sources of information like maps, user reviews and so on, and is returned in Yahoo Local search results.
The new free business web sites, by contrast, are stand-alone destinations over which an owner has full control, and users can be sent directly to the site's URL. Yahoo will link to these sites in Local business listings, but perhaps more importantly, even though free business sites are hosted by Yahoo other search engines can crawl them, potentially broadening the scope of exposure for a business.
So, if you already are paying for an enhanced Local listing, should you stop and switch to a free web business web site? That depends on the type of traffic you're receiving. Enhanced business listings allow you to include additional content in your Yahoo local listing, such as photographs, promotional messaging, additional links and so on, and also provide reporting.
For most (if not all) businesses, taking advantage of the free business web site as well as paying the modest fee for the enhanced business listing will offer the maximum benefits.
To sign up for a free business web site, visit http://local.yahoo.com/freesite. If your business is already listed in Yahoo Local, information about your company will be pre-populated in the site wizard that leads you step-by-step through the site creation process. If not, you'll need to enter basic information about your company.
Next, select a template style and URL for your web site. The wizard makes suggestions for URLs, but you can also search to see if your preferred name is available.
The wizard then guides you through the remaining steps of creating the pages for your site, including a home page, About Us, What We Offer, Additional Links and Contact Us pages.
Once you've created your business web site, it goes through the same editorial review process that local listings receive, a process that can take up to a couple of weeks to complete. Once your site goes live, you can edit its contents at any time.
Levine says that Yahoo hopes that businesses that find the free web site program beneficial will eventually upgrade to paid advertising products or other small business services Yahoo offers, including hosting, domain products and ecommerce stores.