Dex Media Search Engine Marketing - An In-Depth Report
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If you are a company serving a local area, especially a small business, and you're considering working with Dex Media (formerly SuperMedia and Superpages) to help increase your online visibility, read this blog before signing up for their services, particularly their "Search Engine Marketing" (SEM) services, which utilize Google AdWords. Google AdWords is Pay-Per-Click (PPC) marketing, but Dex Media may call it something else since PPC tends to have a negative connotation. Generally if you're paying more than a couple $100's a month with Dex Media, you're probably in a Pay-Per-Click program.

I've written other blogs about Dex Media and Pay-Per-Click, but this blog includes some new enlightening information and more details that may help you make a more educated decision on whether you want to work with Dex Media.

About eight months ago a client came to me saying he had signed up with Dex Media's Search Engine Marketing program. He was already getting fantastic results from organic (not paid for) rankings we had set up for him, but he wanted an extra boost for the coming spring season, and the Dex Media sales reps were very persuasive. He signed up for a one-year contract (even though he had specifically asked for only 6 months), and said although it was extremely expensive, he was getting more phone calls, but couldn't be sure if it was due to Dex Media, since my client had just entered their busy season anyway. I decided to research his Google Analytics statistics to see how many website visits were actually coming from the new Dex Media ads. I was delighted to see that visits to his website had more than doubled overnight, but then logic set in and I recalled the old adage, "If it seems too good to be true…". So I spent some time in his Google Analytics account researching his website visits, sources and referring sites for those visits, cities and countries where visitors were coming from, etc. I found that the extra visits were coming from one city in one state far away in which my client had never done business. Literally over 700 visits were from ONE city nowhere near his company. I dug a little deeper and found that for every visitor from this one city, the visitors' "Network Domain" (Internet Service Provider, or ISP) was supermedia.com. Network domains include ISP's such as Comcast, Verizon, and NetCarrier, as well as large companies that have their own in-house ISP, such as Bank of America, Microsoft, and of course, SuperMedia.

About a month ago another client called me to tell me that he had also signed up with Dex Media. After a few months his monthly cost went through the roof, so he decided to do some Google Analytics investigations of his own. He called to ask my advice because he couldn't believe what he found. This time, the extra visits weren't coming from another state in the U.S., they were coming from West Bengal, INDIA! Once again, the Network Domain for all of these visits was supermedia.com.

Why are these suspicious visits so important, and how can they hurt you if they are "fake" visits?

  1. The most obvious issue is, of course, that Dex Media charges you for each click to your website from a version of your domain name that they alter so they can track the clicks. The more clicks, the higher the cost. If you have 480 visits in one month from West Bengal, India, and Dex is charging you $1 per click, that's $480 that Dex Media gets from you.
  2. These visits hurt your organic ranking. Because of the high bounce rate (the visitors jump onto your site and immediately jump off), search engines may start dropping your site in their rankings in favor of your competitors' websites that have lower bounce rates, because a high overall bounce rate signals search engines that your website has some issues that make visitors want to quickly leave the site (even if that's not actually the case). It can take a long time for your website's search engine ranking to return to normal after it's suffered from high bounce rates, and some sites never fully recover.

    But why would these suspicious visitors leave so quickly? If someone is truly interested in your services, they'll stick around for a minute or so, read what you have to offer and visit some of your other pages. But if someone is getting paid to visit websites, then the more sites they visit, the more they get paid. In fact, there are tons of services where you can pay someone as little as $5 to drive thousands of visitors to a website within just a few days! These services use a huge network of workers from countries like India and China to continually jump on and off websites. Think of how much money a company can make by paying someone $5 to drive 1,000 visitors to your website, while charging you $1 for EACH of those visits. That's a 20,000% profit!

Of course I'm not accusing Dex Media of anything, and it would be libelous for me to say that they are guilty of charging customers for fake clicks or engaging in any type of scam or fraud. I'm simply presenting facts and statistics from Google Analytics reports and leaving it up to you to draw your own conclusions. And to help you with that, I've even included some screen shots of my client's Google Analytics results.

Screen #1

Google Analytics

Screen #1 above is my client's Google Analytics results for a one-month period showing the countries that visitors came from. The United States visitors are from people who are interested in what my client is selling. This is obvious from the normal looking Bounce Rate of 46.38%, pages per session of 2.79 (visitors looked at 2 to 3 pages on the site), and average session duration of 2:13 (visitors stayed on site for an average of 2 minutes and 13 seconds). Compare this to the India visits, with a bounce rate of 99.79% (almost 100% of the visitors jumped on the site and immediately jumped off), only 1 page per session (the home page), and less than one second on the site. Also, look at the overall Bounce Rate of 78.50%, which has been jacked up by those high India bounce rates (anything more than 50% is too high); it's this overall number that can hurt your search engine rankings (see paragraph #2 above on how high bounce rates can hurt your search engine ranking).

Screen #2

Google Analytics

As I drilled down to the individual cities in India in Screen #2 above, we see that almost all of the India visits came from the Network Domain of "SuperMedia". Also note the overall bounce rate of 99.79% for those India visits!

Screen #3

Google Analytics

And just for fun, we can see in Screen #3 above that only 6 of the visits in that one month period were actual clicks to the Google Ad, from people located in the states in which the client does business. Actually, make that 5, since it appears that the PA visit was someone who probably clicked the ad by mistake (see the 100% bounce rate and 0 visit duration?). My client paid about $1,000 in this particular month. For 5 clicks. That's $200 per click, and with no way of knowing if those 5 people even called the client or purchased their services!


SUMMARY

In summary, when thinking about working with a company, do your homework. Search the company name and then add "scam" or "fraud" or "reviews" at the end of it; i.e. Company ABC scam. For instance, http://www.ripoffreport.com/reports/directory/dex-media has reviews from consumers about their experiences with Dex Media/ SuperMedia. Those are a lot of complaints!

When you're paying any third party company for pay-per-click ads, you should know exactly what you're paying for. Never rely on the company's own statistics. Always have Google Analytics installed on your website, and don't give the third party company the password, as they will then have the ability to alter your Google Analytics reports to filter out information they don't want you to see. Pay-per-click is tricky, and I don't recommend it, but you can set it up through Google AdWords yourself directly and cut out the Dex Media middleman. Maintaining a Pay-Per-Click campaign on your own is complicated and time-consuming, however, and it's very easy to check the wrong box and end up paying too much. Please read my other blog about Pay-Per-Click ads and why it's not a good solution for most companies.


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