Sensis, the troubled owner of the Yellow and White Pages, has made a push into the online space with the acquisition of online business directory TrueLocal from News Corp.
The move comes as no surprise in many ways, with Sensis chief executive John Allan also having served as chief executive of TrueLocal from 2008 to 2011. The company is searching for ways to remain relevant in the digital era, and buying a significant directory of data is a good stepping stone.
Jim Stewart, chief executive of StewArt Media, says small businesses should keep an eye on the move, as their listings on TrueLocal play a large part in affecting Google rankings.
“Any TrueLocal signal is important for turning up in Google pages,” he says. “The fact that Sensis owns it now could actually strengthen signals over time.”
The move is also a relief for News. Under its leadership, TrueLocal was up against other business directories such as Yelp, which receives its information from Sensis’ Yellow Pages department.
Sensis’ move to bolster its suite of directories with TrueLocal will no doubt enhance its relationship with Yelp, and its online presence in general.
“TrueLocal has built a strong reputation in connecting consumers with businesses across the country, through its high quality local business listings,” Allan said in a statement.
“Consumers’ reliance on this type of content underlines why it’s important to make it accessible –
which drives more traffic to the Yellow Pages network and generates better leads for our customers.”
News said in a statement TrueLocal was no longer a priority for the company, having already invested in businesses like Foxtel and Business Spectator.
Sensis was contacted by SmartCompany for further comment, but said it would keep statements to a minimum due to the offer’s pending approval from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.
The acquisition is one of the first major moves conducted by John Allan, who joined the company in August of 2012. Allan faces a significant challenging in arresting the company’s fall into irrelevance.
Once one of the most important parts of the Telstra business, Sensis has been severely impacted by the rise of Google. Sales have fallen significantly, and the company even said last year that decline was happening “faster than we expected”.
The acquisition of TrueLocal is part of its strategy to focus on being an online marketing service. TrueLocal also serves as an important hub for businesses, as they can respond directly to reviews left by customers – and growing traffic numbers means more negative reviews are appearing.
Stewart says the strategy of combining both Yellow Pages and the TrueLocal service is a smart one.
“They want something that can help them sell services,” he says. “It could very well be what they’re trying to do.”