2009: Is The Glass Half Full Or Half Empty For the Yellow Pages Industry?

Challenges are certain, but we’ll prosper by focusing on strengths and available opportunities

The one thing that’s certain about 2009 is that it’s loaded with uncertainty. For local search providers, radical changes in the global marketplace present a whole new wave of issues, compounding the challenges already impacting a sector in transition. But, as the old saying goes: from change comes opportunity.

The Yellow Pages sector, perhaps more than any other local search player, is keenly aware of the enormous hurdles presented by changing global economic and social dynamics. Search is fragmenting, consumer habits are changing, and the platforms through which Yellow Pages publishers interact with advertisers and consumers are rapidly evolving. And everyone is touting themselves as a local search expert.

The Yellow Pages industry has great opportunity to win. We have core strengths and fundamental values that will continue to be relevant in this new environment including deep roots in the local marketplace, an expansive reach with advertisers and consumers, and 125+ years of insight into the psyche of local search.

I say opportunity to win, because despite these assets, success will not happen easily. In these times, every business in every industry will have to innovate to survive. Without exception. Here is a roadmap to leveraging our assets for new opportunities:

Be transparent about measurement

In business, results matter, and companies need to be able to demonstrate those results. Over the past 10 years, Yellow Pages publishers have invested more than $150 million in metered advertising testing to provide that hard data. This work enhances advertisers’ ROI and demonstrates the true value of our medium. In the days ahead be transparent about the importance of measurement by encouraging advertisers to keep an eye on your product and, ultimately, on their results.

Build and mine relationships with local businesses

More than three million local and national businesses relied on Yellow Pages last year. The challenge is to expand and increase those existing relationships. As segmentation and micro marketing techniques continue to evolve, deep relationships with local businesses and consumers will become a goldmine for years to come.

Find new ways of packaging and licensing data

Nothing delivers ready-to-buy customers like the Yellow Pages. We have information that people seek when they’re prepared to make a purchase. An area for growth is in the ability to harness the demand for user-generated, personalized content. For companies across the board, whether you are developing your own technologies, or building new alliances – offering data in more places at more times in more ways is the only way to stay on top of the market. Interactive features such as personalized maps and customer ratings and comments are some of the possible user-experience add-ons.

Let consumers voice their choice

Over the years, the Yellow Pages has grown its presence through a focus on accessibility – first at every doorstep, then by migrating online. Our focus has been on making sure content is delivered in ways it will reach users’ fingertips. Moving forward, the opportunity will be in giving consumers options: letting them choose whether they receive print directories, which ones, and how many.

Offer a new dimension to attract new buyers

Internet Yellow Pages have positioned us for the future with the ability to truly interact with consumers. As YouTube has shown, online video and audio are having greater influence on consumers. Video advertising and voice recognition-based search engines are rivaling traditional services. Appeal to the senses, and you will soon find yourself appealing to the masses.

Today’s environment provides plenty of challenges, from emerging technologies to budding competitors. The Yellow Pages Association feels its members are well-positioned in the search market, and we think it’s a good industry to be in. The need to search for goods and services at the local level is never going to disappear. Those who focus on their strengths and leverage them with an eye on new prospects will find the glass half full in 2009.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Local | Local Search Column


About The Author: is president of the Local Search Association, leading the best local search marketers who deliver cutting-edge solutions spanning digital, print, mobile and social media that help local businesses succeed. Follow @LocalSearchAssn on Twitter.

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  • traderruss

    Yes, 2009 is indeed a big year for local search as consumers look for better value and place more emphasis on trusted merchants. Our local directory click2connect.com is ready and primed to come out with some very innovative new social layers ontop of local search….


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