Today I have a cool interview with Sander Daniels of Thumbtack.com. I just recently learned about this directory and thought you would appreciate learning a little bit more about them.

Q. Tell us a little about your Thumbtack.com. How long have you been around?
A. Thumbtack is an online marketplace for local services. You can find and book most types of local services on our site.  We try to do two things:

  1. Help small businesses and independent professionals easily market themselves online. We create a nice-looking profile for anyone who signs up on our site, and we centralize all of the easiest tools that small businesses can use to make themselves seen online.
  2. Be a trusted destination for consumers who seek to book local services of all kinds – plumbers, wedding photographers, math tutors, magicians… anything.

We launched the site in December of 2009 and are based in San Francisco. 150,000 small businesses have now listed themselves on our site.

Q. Is Thumbtack.com national or regional?
A. Thumbtack is a national site – anyone from any state can sign up.

Q. I looked up my city Augusta, GA and there were not alot of businesses listed- why is that?
A. The small businesses that sign up on our site are located all across the country. The biggest proportion of our members are in big cities, and a smaller proportion in smaller towns and cities.

Our signups mirror a population density graph of the U.S. For example, 2.7% of the U.S. population lives in New York City – which would mean that about 4,000 New Yorkers have signed up to use our site.  It looks like about 100-150 small businesses in the Augusta metro area have signed up on Thumbtack, which sounds about right.

It’s clear that we have a lot of work to do to get people all across the country to sign up and become active users – but that’s part of the fun of building a small business!

Q. How does a business get added to your website?
A. We have tried to simplify the signup process as much as possible. Most people find the signup process pretty straightforward.

First, you enter basic information about your business. Then you can enhance your listing, like add photos, video, or audio to your account, connect your account to Facebook or Twitter, and answer some interview questions about your business.

The signup link is here: http://www.thumbtack.com/welcome

Q. Are there any costs involved?
A. Most of our services are free.

For example, we have a tool that allows you to easily post a nice-looking ad on Craiglist. Lots of people use Thumbtack just to use this free service. We also optimize your post for search engines, and we send you any jobs we find on Craigslist that we think might work for you. Those are free too.

We offer an opt-in leads program, which costs money. Every time we get a job lead on our site, we email you about it. If you’d like to respond, you have two choices. You can either pay a flat fee to respond (currently $4). Or you can pay nothing to respond, but you agree to pay a commission if you get the job. The commission amount is currently 8%.

Q. Are you similar to Angie’s List?
A. We are similar to Angie’s List in that both sites are a useful tool to find local service professionals.

We are a younger site than Angie’s List, so we don’t yet have as many customer reviews as Angie’s List does.

However, we cater to professionals of all kinds, not just home service contractors and doctors. Audio/video professionals, limousine services, calligraphers, and most anything else you can imagine have listed themselves on our site.

You can also post a job, receive bids, and book a service all through our site. We’re aware of only one or two other companies that provide these transactional features.

Q. Why should a small business list on your website?
A. You get a nice looking listing, you get some good ways to market yourself online, and you potentially get some good leads that turn into long-term clients.

Q. Is your website searchable by Google, etc. What sort of SEO do you do for the businesses?
A. We try to get your Thumbtack listing on Google as high as possible and as quickly as possible. We’re seeing some success with this. Thumbtack listings appear at the top of Google’s listings for many different search queries (like “portland house cleaning”, “henna tattoo omaha ne”, or “iphone repair wichita ks”). We want to boost your listing as high as it can go in Google.

We believe that small businesses should not need to learn the complex nuances of SEO. Rather, they should leave the heavy SEO lifting to other companies who have invested significant resources in learning about it.

Q. Are the future plans for the site?
A. In the future, we hope to provide complete back-end support to local service professionals. This includes customer relationship management, appointment management, email marketing, and invoicing services. We want to make it as easy as possible to manage the logistics and marketing of your business, so you can focus on your work with clients.

Q. Where do you see local search marketing moving to in the future?
A. Over the last decade, local search moved from the offline Yellow Pages to online directories, like Yelp, Angie’s List, and Google. We see this changing in the future to be focused on the transaction itself – where can a consumer go to receive 3-5 bids on their job within 24 hours? Where can a small business go to pay only for jobs they receive, rather than for blanket advertising with an uncertain return?

A number of companies are seeking to become the transactional platform where consumers can find and book trustworthy professionals – the “Amazon for local services.” We hope to become the one that stands out from the rest.

Thanks for your time Sander and good luck with the site/service.