Is Yellow Pages Worth It!

For many of us Yellow pages was traditionally one marketing decision that was pretty much a given.  You had to get your phone number out there, and Yellow Pages offered a print ad that would reach every home with a phone and would have a year’s shelf life.  How things have changed!  The advent of the internet and the explosion of smartphones and hand held devices in the last twenty years has given all of us the ability to search and find information at our fingertips anytime, anywhere.  The result has been crippling for Yellow Pages print versions.  Fewer and fewer companies are willing to spend vast sums of money to be listed in a book that is quickly going the way of the Do Do bird.

In response to this shifting paradigm, Yellow Pages has reinvented itself as an online search engine directory and web presence provider with a print media offering for the traditionalist.

So now when your local YP Sales Executive comes calling, the sales pitch will have taken on a new slant. Instead of  “ You need a bigger and better print ad in the book this year and perhaps we should add color to keep you competitive “ you might hear something along the lines of : “ Ok let’s get you set up with an adequate print ad , but what you really need is a prime listing on Yellow Pages. CA or COM. Without it folks are simply not going to find you on the internet.  Let’s get you set up with a top listing which will guarantee great search results. If you don’t have a website, no problem we can provide one and the very best part your customers will be able to submit reviews so other people will see how great your service is.”  Your Sales Rep. will be very convincing spouting all kinds of internet lingo SERP’s Page Views, Impressions, number of people using YP apps, dwell time, etc. etc.


But is Yellow Pages Still a Good Use of Your Marketing Dollars?

Let’s break it down.

First of all is the print aspect. According to Forbes Magazine “multiple studies indicate that 80% of  consumers report using the internet first when they need a new product or service and printed Yellow Pages only second or third (about 50% of the time).”

When thinking about your print ad, consider the demographic of your area and the target market you are looking to reach.  The older that demographic you are trying to reach becomes a factor contributing to the size of your print ad.  A lot of businesses have embarked on a program of shrinking their print ad year over year leading towards eventual elimination of print ads. It’s always worthwhile to keep the last couple of years Yellow Pages books on hand to get a feel for where your competition is heading with their ads. In this day and age, buying a Yellow Pages print ad that is twice the size of your competition is not a good use of your marketing dollars.

But what about Yellow Pages internet offers?

First we need to understand exactly what it is they are selling.  Depending upon what part of the country in which you are located Yellow Pages has up to three online offers:

  • The Listing service at Yellow Pages .CA or COM
  • Basic Websites
  • Local Search and SEO for your Website

The listing service is essentially a listing on their Yellow Pages .COM/CA site.  The site is a well-constructed and highly searchable database, which in some respects functions like the print book. You can look up a business by topic, geographic location, or phone number. Depending on the quality of the listing you purchase, your listing will vary in size, graphics, links to your website and most importantly where you will appear in their search results!  The more expensive the package you purchase, the higher you will be ranked in search results. As part these packages, Yellow Pages has also rolled out a mobile app which allows users to access the same database and search from their smartphones offering direct dialing and geo location attributes.

One question that comes immediately to mind is “why would the internet user or cell user just not Google the business, topic or location to retrieve your business phone number and contact information, rather than going to the Yellow Pages site first?” That is exactly the problem Yellow Pages does not like to talk about!  Google Trends shows a steadily declining curve for the search term Yellow Pages over the last 10 years. Most savvy internet users simply bypass the middle man.

To combat this trend Yellow Pages spends millions every year promoting their site and mobile app.  They promote not only convenience – simplicity of the site and app, but also the added features such as customer reviews and mapping.

So the Question remains is it worthwhile to be listed on Yellow Pages CA/COM?

Let’s look at the good, the bad, and the ugly to help you arrive at a decision.

The Good

  1. Yellow pages spend millions each and every year to attract visitors and traffic to their site and mobile app
  2. Being listed will definitely drive traffic to your website which improves website SERP rankings for Google. Bing and Yahoo.
  3. Internet traffic is highly trackable and Yellow Pages can provide you with analytics, on call geo locations, and referral traffic.

The Bad

  1. Most internet and mobile users simply Google the information they are looking for bypassing Yellow Pages
  2. Although referrals and click thru to your website are trackable, calls that originate from the YP site are not unless you purchase, at additional cost, a separate tracking phone number.
  3. The service can be expensive for a Type A listing


The Ugly:   REVIEWS!

Expect your sales executive to be all ahoy about the review feature, encouraging you to actively seek them. The reality is that there are numerous other places where your customers can review your business: Yelp, Trip Advisor, and Google Places to name just three.  Your customers will not submit a review on Yellow Pages unless you actively encourage it and promote it. Even then, the reviews are not going to be all that helpful because they will only be seen for the most part, by people using the Yellow Pages search term.

If you don’t promote reviews you then run the risk of having one or two disgruntled customers use the Yellow Pages site to air a grievance.  If you have no or limited, positive reviews it can lead to your business having an undeserved negative image.  Negative reviews also tend to be difficult to get rid of.  We have nothing against reviews. On the contrary we encourage our clients to seek reviews and testimonials.  However if this is not your thing then you should not have to be paying Yellow Pages for a review tool that you do not want!  And do not use!

Our Recommendations

  • Purchase the smallest print ad for your area and demographic target market. Remember that older folks will use the print book more often than millennials. Pay attention to your competitor’s ad size year over year.
  • Negotiate to bundle your print ad to your internet package.
  • In terms of the internet packages; choose a package that will rank you near the top of the search results, you do not have to have the number one position.
  • If your website is currently well optimized for local search you can afford a lower to mid-range YP package.
  • If your web presence is weak then you might want to consider an upper mid-range or A listing option, depending on your budget.

Whichever option you choose, make sure your marketing team has the tools in place to track traffic and referrals from Yellow pages. This data will be invaluable to you in future years to evaluate your Yellow Pages buy and ROI