Finding Answers: What does Sensis have over Google?

Written on 01 January, 2006 by Netregistry
Categories Search Engine Optimisation

John Cussen, Group Manager Sensis Large Screen Search, talks to Netregistry

In an exclusive interview with Netregistry, we find out what Sensis is offering small business in Australia.

Sensis has a lot of brands like Sensis search, Yellowpages & Whitepages. What kind of user experience can we expect from the integration of these portals and when will these changes occur?

A: From a content perspective, we have taken some significant steps towards integrating our products. For example, when you use today, you will find Yellow Pages, White Pages, CitySearch and Whereis mapping information folded into the results. As a result, the information Australians can access from a search engine has changed dramatically. It allows us to deliver an experience that goes way beyond simple web links – particularly if you’re searching for Australian people, products, places or businesses.

Another example is the way in which we have integrated Whereis mapping content in the Yellow Pages OnLine directory. Using Yellow Pages Map Based Search, you can call up a map of your selected area and plot different types of businesses on the map. It’s a great tool for people trying to locate businesses – anyone from shoppers to sales reps.

We’re pulling the capabilities of our services together so people can experience the depth of what Sensis has to offer from a range of entry points. We’ll continue to offer services through our different properties, such as Yellow Pages, White Pages and so on. Each does a great job of satisfying particular types of searches and user needs. We will, however, be enabling access to other Sensis properties when that helps a person complete the search they’re conducting or take their search to the next level of detail.

Our goal is to help people find the information they want anytime, anywhere anyhow. To achieve that we’re giving Australians some clear and instantly recognisable choices for particular search types coupled with seamless navigation of the range of offerings in the Sensis network of websites.

Q: What does Sensis offer that Google and Yahoo don’t?

A: Two things; choice and the quality of the answers we provide. Choice comes from the multitude of products and channels we offer – our network – and it is a fundamental difference between Sensis and its competitors. We offer directories (White Pages and Yellow Pages), classifieds (Trading Post), mapping (Whereis), local city information (CitySearch) and search ( and Sensis 1234). We offer services in print, online, voice, mobile and even in-car.

We think our focus on choice is working. Well over 12 million Australians use one of our services every month. Furthermore, according to independent research undertaken by TNS, 78% of Australians nominate a Sensis service as what they would use most often when looking for information about products and services.

While we’re talking numbers, it’s worth putting one other thing in perspective. While there is so much focus on the web today (and it’s a rapidly growing part of our business), the reality is that more Australian adults use the Yellow Pages or White Pages print directories in a month than use the web in a year.

The other important difference is the quality of the results. Because we offer so many different services, people can choose the service that best meets their needs. Imagine looking for, say, a florist in Richmond. You could use a traditional search engine and get thousands of web links to search through. Alternatively, you can go to the Yellow Pages online directory or the Sensis 1234 telephone search service and not only locate florists in Richmond but find one that sells roses, is open until 9pm and takes AMEX.

As far as search engines themselves go, returning high quality, relevant answers is the ‘holy grail’. People aren’t looking for a million results – they’re looking for an answer. They may need one result or they may need 10 – what they don’t need is millions of results especially if most of those answers are only relevant to someone living in Boise, Idaho or Coventry England. We are doing an enormous amount in our search engine to achieve this. You will see the results of this work over the coming months as we release a very significant program of new enhancements. We also put a lot of effort into Australian language and phrasing. For example, the word ‘football’ in means AFL, not gridiron. is a search engine for Australians. One final comment on the competitive front. We offer, as I have said, a very wide range of services and every one of them has competitors. There is no-one, however, who has yet stepped up to match Sensis on either the choice or the quality of the answers we offer Australian shoppers.

Q: How can small business get involved in promoting their company on Sensis and how much does it cost?

A: There are a multitude of ways in which advertisers can use the Sensis Advertising Network. They can access an enormous range of different ad sizes and priority solutions right across our network. Some of the new solutions we have offered recently include:

  • Priority text in Sensis 1234, which lets advertisers add messages, or maybe a special offer, to the bottom of the SMS used to provide their details to callers
  • The ability to advertise individual products to thousands of buyers every week in the Trading Post.

Another critical benefit of this network is the way in which Sensis is increasingly syndicating content, as I mentioned above. For example, a Yellow Pages print display advertiser will increasingly find their ad content in Yellow Pages online,, Sensis 1234 and Whereis in-car at no extra cost. This delivers a fantastic leap in the value of a Yellow Pages print directory ad. The cost to advertise across our network of services varies enormously depending on the product or product bundle, the size of the advertisement and the priority. In other words, advertisers have real choice when it comes to their level of expenditure.

Q: What will syndication of advertising content mean for the advertiser?

Our syndication model is highly important because it adds value to your ad, as mentioned, and it takes the complication out of managing advertising with Sensis. As technology further fragments the advertising landscape (e.g. as wireless and iTV further commercialise), it will become increasingly difficult for small businesses to manage many advertisements across many channels. Sensis has placed enormous effort into building the capability to ‘collect content once and publish it many times’. This means that an advertiser can take one ad (including images) and have that ad content re-formatted for, and published in, a wide range of products across many channels. In this way, the advertiser only has to manage one ad.

Q: What reporting features are available to small business so they can evaluate their return on investment advertising on the Sensis network?

A: Pay for Performance (PFP), provided by the BidSmart service, lets our customers bid for keywords on They bid on a ‘per click’ basis – that is, they pay the bid amount for every time their listing is clicked on. By doing this, we are able to essentially ‘lock in’ ROI by tying cost back to performance. At the same time, we acknowledge that advertising ROI isn’t just about clicks to your web site or the number of people who read a directory. It is about how many customers you can get through your door. To that end, we regularly survey the usage of our products by buyers. This research asks buyers about the last time they used certain search products and whether or not they contacted a supplier as a result. From this research we can tell you, for example, that 92% of surveyed capital city adults using the Yellow Pages print directory or Yellow Pages online directory contacted a business as a result of their using the products. At the same time, we advocate that our advertisers look at ways of surveying their customers to find out how they were found. This can be done in a number of ways – in-store surveys, competitions or offers attached to ads etc. In this way, the business can answer the big ROI question – how many customers does my advertising result in?

Thank you to John Cussen and Sensis for this interview. As a further resource, Sensis produces the small business lifestyle tv program Bread that looks at the highs, lows, opportunities and challenges of operating a small business and includes tips, mentoring, case studies and competitions. You can check Bread out on Network Ten at 8am on Sundays or Thursday nights.

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