iBegin Source is an interesting concept, and aims to make local business data both more accurate and cheaper than ever before.
I hesitated initially in accepting this paid review, because I wasn’t sure I was capable in giving it the level of in-depth coverage I normally give reviews, mainly because I have never really got involved with local search in the US – the Altantic Ocean is quite a large separator. iBegin Source do plan however to offer European data soon, so it might become more relevant for my own use.
I can remember a while back listening to a charity teleconference held by a large number of internet marketing gurus. If I recall it was raising money for disaster relief after the hurricanes hit the southern United States pretty bad.
Frank Kern was one of the presenters, and as a special bonus for those listening in live, he had offered a free download of a special keyword generator he used to great success, that included every US town and city, in every state.
Unfortunately the keyword tool wasn’t available to those listening in to the recording afterwards, just a few hours later, so I was out of luck. I am prety sure someone released something similar at a later date.
If you can target search terms down to the geographic area, you are really targeting the long-tail of search, though of course keyword competition changes over time, and search technologies improve. Google I am sure would prefer to offer up results for local businesses, and not 100 different business directories in the first 100 results for a particular phrase.
All Mashed Up
Not even a couple of years later we are in the era of “Web 2.0″ and database generated sites are now called mashups. They typically provide a little bit more data and generally also offer some level of user interaction in providing reviews.
If you stick together some business data, a mapping API fed by GEO-Targeting, maybe some Photos that were also GEO-Targeted, and possibly the location of the end user, you can get some useful websites, even though they are largely made up of duplicate content.
For unique content you have to include some kind of social network twist.
iBegin Source Provides a Mashup Backbone
They currently provide around 10 million addresses, and all of them are GEO-Coded so the data is ideal for local search, mapping and location based social network mashups.
I haven’t checked out the competition in the sector, but iBegin Source claim that they are the only company providing the GEO-Code along with their business data. If that is true it is a fairly unique selling point for their target audience.
Potentially More Accurate
iBegin Source is potentially more accurate data, because they allow a business to supply their own data, and they also have an interface so their customers can also provide updates, so currently I wouldn’t be too worried about any holes in their dataset.
As an example, only Montana (22620) has less businesses registered than Delaware (31901). With Delaware having some favourable business conditions, it seems to me that that figure is a lot on the low side compared to California (1,322,000).
Maybe the business data is about where a company trades from, and not where they are registered.
iBegin Source claim they are cheaper than any other source, with a charge of $1000 per state or $40,000 for the whole USA. If you are a funded start-up, that might be attractive, and they also offer a free version for non-commercial use. They really mean no adverts at all – if you are not making a profit yet, but have ads, you are still commercial. The free version is without telephone numbers and geocoding.
Apparently other companies charge $500,000+ for this kind of data.
Maybe Google should buy them and provide the data for free, though I would expect Google have a fair amount of their own data already.
You also only pay one flat fee, rather than recurring billing, or fees based on traffic.
iBegin Source provide their data in pipe delimited format “|”, thus here is an example they give for Alaska.
1|12th & L Bed & Breakfast|1001 W 12th Ave|Anchorage|99501|9072761225|0|Bed & Breakfast Accommodations|http://www.anchorage-lodging.com||1169576311|1169576311|61.210458|-149.901819|12th Ave W & L St
The data is fairly easy to use, but it also seems you don’t get access to the reviews or tagging data from the main site, or just a company description The data is categorised, but that isn’t very granular.
If you search for “sushi” in “Vegas” in their own search box, you don’t get a result, thus the data on its own won’t make a complete website. Actually Burger King doesn’t come up with a result either, even though their fast food listing for Las Vegas shows lots of Burger Kings.
For your own sites you would use your own search engine, but you would certainly have to provide it with more data to give your users better results.
If I am doing a paid review, it comes with the good and bad aspects. So lets get our hands dirty.
- Contact information – they have got a live chat, but there is absolutely no way I am going to drop $1000, or even $40,000 for some data without real company details
- License – hire a lawyer – seriously the license definitely wasn’t written by a lawyer, no company name, no jurisdiction to name just obvious things.
- One Domain – You buy the data to use on one domain. Does that cover subdomains? What happens if you want to assign a top level domain for branding or SEO purposes to a subdomain?
Maybe you would want to target both horizontal and vertical niches with the data, with 100,000 different domain names. That would probably cover state x business category, plus major cities.
You could manage that from one very large database cluster.
On a smaller scale, if you are in the wedding niche and wanted USA-wide listings, you would have to pay $40,000 – that isn’t within most niche marketers budgets.
- RSS XML Print – you are not even allowed to provide a printer friendly copy of the data, let alone have RSS or XML feeds that use the data.
In many ways you wouldn’t be able to use this dataset as a backbone, but as a supplement to your existing database, because of these restrictions.
- Widgets – as a continuation, you might have problems with widget design if you can’t export the data.
- Franchises – IBegin Source make a big thing about the size of their franchise database, but many local directories are themselves setup in some way like a franchise, with the rights to a location being purchased by an editor. This clause might cause such a site some problems:-
Rerent the information or otherwise permit any use of the information by or for the benefit of any party other than Buyer;
There are a host of other complications.
The free version will be great for businesses to use internally as a supplement to their existing data, though it wouldn’t for instance be usable by a company running trade shows who would subsequently provide data to exhibitors about attendees.
Students would have fun with the data, as there are some simple code samples to use with it.
Until such time as the legal paperwork is cleared up, and maybe a little more flexibility is provided in using the data, I am not sure I would be happy using it as a backbone for a startup that had any funding. You could use the free version until you have funding, and then scout around the marketplace. By that time the data might be less restricted.
Would I pay $1000 if they provided datasets in vertical niches? Possibly, though in many cases in niche marketing you would generally prefer to provide affiliate links.
Large corporations might grab this as a cheap set of data, but I am sure they would look to have more up-front legal and contact information.
I look for contact information when I buy a $40 ebook, so for $1000 to $40,000 purchases, it really is a requirement.
You can find additional information about iBegin Source in these bullet points which I believe were written by one of the developers.
I am not sure about whether it is done better, or just different. One point raised was about a lack of sales process. I am not convinced that is a benefit.
Update – We have Sushi
Ahmed Farooq contacted me regarding the search problems I had.
The ‘problem’ is that there are multiple Las Vegases in the US. If you
tried ‘Las Vegas, NV’ or ‘Las Vegas, Nevada’ instead – it would work 100%.
It should however be noted that that search seems to be based on having the word in the company name and it seems the category names is also used. There would still be a need for tag and description data.