Four Key Reasons To Reconsider Today’s Yellow Pages For Local Marketing

Last week in this column, Chris Silver Smith shared a thoughtful take on the state of Yellow Pages print and online offerings and whether they are worth the investment to local businesses. I applaud Chris for providing an in-depth overview of trends in the industry, and want to offer some additional thoughts and context for readers to consider when making a decision about using Yellow Pages products.

Without a doubt, the Yellow Pages space is in a state of transformation. Research has found that fewer people are using print directories in both numbers and frequency than they have previously, and a multitude of new platforms ranging from the Web and mobile directories to iPhone and iPad apps and daily deals offerings are fragmenting the way consumers make purchasing decisions.

Where it used to be easy to reach your intended consumer through a small number of media channels, there are now many options for a small business advertiser. Yellow Pages players have responded by introducing new offerings that leverage these areas of growth, while also working to preserve and enhance print and other existing offerings that have and continue to drive leads for millions of businesses across the country.

Inspired by Chris’ column, I propose four key reasons advertisers should think twice about abandoning their Yellow Pages relationship.

1.  Yellow Pages Providers Now Offer More Than Just Print Directories

Many have also launched Yellow Pages-branded websites, mobile apps, SEO and search services – and more innovations are on the way.

Yellow Pages providers have completely changed their playbooks. Company names and business strategies have changed to reflect a new era in which they use their experience in the local advertising space to deliver a full-spectrum of local marketing services to neighborhood businesses.

Many people would be surprised to learn that the same companies that deliver their phonebooks also provide them with the local business information they find online or access via apps on their mobile device, or the daily deals they purchase through links shared on social networks like Facebook and Twitter.

Local businesses might be intrigued to hear that the company that publishes their local directory also offers advice on areas like SEO, paid search, online advertising, online reputation and social media. Yellow Pages providers are often behind vertical websites dedicated to selling cars or wedding planning.

As BIA/Kelsey’s recent update of its Global Yellow Pages report indicated, newer Yellow Pages offerings like websites, video, social, mobile and search engine marketing will be their primary growth drivers in the coming years. And by 2015, an estimated 53% of global Yellow Pages revenues will be digital, compared with 29% in 2011. Yellow Pages providers should be judged on everything they are doing and will be doing in the near future to drive growth.

2. Yellow Pages Have Long-term Relationships With Local Businesses

This puts them in a unique position to offer advertisers personal advice and service, relative to start-ups with little history or local team members.

There are many interesting and innovative local search companies out there, but something has to be said for the close bonds that this Yellow Pages’ vast sales force enjoys with its local business advertisers and its deep understanding of their individual objectives and challenges.

Yellow Pages representatives have been working with these businesses for years and have gained their trust by delivering results that have positively impacted their bottom lines. Today’s Yellow Pages representative can counsel a client how understand and implement effective digital strategies.

If you’re a small business advertiser, take time to talk to your Yellow Pages representative and see what they might be able to do for you beyond your print or Internet Yellow Pages ad. When it comes down to it, where else can a local business go for one-stop access to all the various local advertising options now available to them – from the same companies they have worked with for years?

One of the biggest problems I see for small and local business owners is they don’t have the time to research and understand their advertising options. That’s a real need that Yellow Pages providers are equipped to address.

3.  YP Providers Are Partnering Behind The Scenes With The Search Engines

Advertising with one of these companies rarely means that a business’ listing is confined to one Internet Yellow Pages website. Many of these companies now enjoy relationships with competitors such as search engines and other popular local sites that allow them to cross-promote advertising and resell their products.

Data that fuels popular local search sites is often provided by a Yellow Pages provider because they maintain the most comprehensive and accurate listings, which is key to delivering the local search experience advertisers want and consumers expect.

Companies like AT&T and Yellow Pages Group are investing in building relationships with developers through APIs and supportive resources, resulting in the creation of dozens of new web and mobile apps that leverage their business listings. There is no doubt that these efforts will continue to grow and deliver valuable results for participating local businesses.


4.  Print Is Not Dead

It’s also not an either or proposition. Advertisers should study closely when an investment in print advertising would make sense.

In an era when a growing number of consumers DVR programming and view video content online, is there a general consensus that TV advertising is on the outs? Because less people read the newspaper today, have major advertisers simply stopped running full-page ads?

We live in a fragmented media landscape where consumers of all demographics are picking up information in a multitude of places new and old.

Our research conducted with Burke finds that nearly 8 out of 10 of print Yellow Pages searches resulted in a purchase or purchase intent. How many new local search offerings can claim such high exposure and drive so many leads?

Local businesses advertising with print Yellow Pages should take advantage of tools developed to demonstrate the value of their investment. Pay-per-call is one way; Co-Op advertising is available in many categories; surveying customers is another.

Like anything, assumptions can be made about who uses what medium more. But the real question is what the data shows, and it varies not just from industry to industry, but business to business and even as specific as product to product.

For example, a construction company owner profiled in a recent Bloomberg Businessweek story on the industry said that while print ads don’t help the customer-home building side of his business, they drive the “reactionary and spontaneous” lines of his work, such as emergency repairs and insurance-funded restorations.

As long as a print Yellow Pages investment returns more than it costs for an individual local business, it is worth their expense.

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 an award-winning print and online Yellow Pages executive with broad domestic and international experience, and is the Local Search Association vice president of communications. She also blogs about the industry on the Local Search Insider blog. Follow @localsearchassn on Twitter.

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  • Takeshi Young

    “8 out of 10 of print Yellow Pages searches resulted in a purchase or purchase intent”

    How do you even measure such a metric?  What counts a print Yellow Page “search”?

  • websoulsurfer

    What a crock. Yellow Page providers straight up lie about stats they cant measure. Dex goes as far as registering domains similar to yours and then rerouting traffic through it.

  • cathydunham

    Not only is the data regarding local search stats outdated, it’s not even close to the numbers found on highly reputable, well respected web sources. Perhaps your demographics for the study were people without smartphones or computers huh? All my web clients’ web analytics show 2 or less inbound referrals per month from any yp souce!! No way I can swallow this info as credible. If the big yellow is offering seo advice, please consider their experience in that arena before handing over your marketing dollars…

  • Robbie Hodge

    Reading the title of this article made me think “Only someone who worked for Yellow Pages could really write this article.” Scroll to bottom of the post/bio. Yep. Works for Yellow Pages.

    This does not deserve to be on Search Engine Land. Obvious wrong information and self promotion. 

  • Randazzzler

    Funny how they always do stuff like this…..posting something that is extremely old and such.

    If they are doing so good and their products are so wonderful…… this article.

  • Kasey Hughes

    Interesting article; AT&T to sell it’s majority stake in it’s directory service for $1.5 billion. Sounds like a hefty price tag for a “dead business”.  And how surprising, a company like AT&T- a business conglomerate that changes it’s structure more often than I change my socks- is yet again selling part of it’s interest in one of it’s numerous businesses. YP is around for LOCAL BUSINESS and delivers results for LOCAL BUSINESS.  It’s not sexy but it’s a solid return on investment for local businesses. Here’s an idea: try cutting all your YP budget and using it on Facebook for a year and see your ROI then.  Everyone’s looking for the quick, pie in the sky, next-big-thing in advertising and ignoring what is tried and true. Any advertising professional will tell you the same thing your financial advisor will: DIVERSIFY. But don’t neglect the “bonds” of your advertising portfolio: YP and it’s many forms, print, online, search, reputation management, etc.

  • Jacob Puhl

    Very odd that Search Engine Land would post this or allow this to be posted.  
    This data is extremely disputable if not downright false.  Much of the data that comes for the YP industry is gathered through questionable methods that an ethical statistician would laugh at. Even with old data that is completely irrelevant, even in 2010 that 78% percent of people have used the print yellow pages in the past year – Really? How can a trusted news source like SEL post that? Doesn’t SEL have some type of obligation to data integrity?  Can you really sleep at night as editor of this news source, one of the top digital marketing news sources on the interent (which we all love), with that kind of statistic?Very very disappointed that Search Engine Land has posted this. 

  • Adam Zilko

    Sounds like a YP employee… Fact is, is all call tracking and analytics my clients have done has only proven that the ROI on YP is terrible when compared to that of nearly every online source (even those I don’t represent like Groupon). Sure AT&T is in “talks” to sell off something. That tells me 2 things… One, they don’t want it, and two, they haven’t sold it (no one has given them a cent for it). So whats it worth? Well, whatever someone is willing to pay for it. AT&T & literally every other YP company in the nation has been on a ridiculous decline, and have been bleeding money. Most have been in and out of bankruptcy and trying to reform their business model to keep up. The issue, is that they, in all cases I have seen, came to the table too late and still don’t get it. Their products are awful, and provide little value to their advisers (like Thus, their digital churn rate is through the roof.

    IF yellow pages where where ROI was it, SMB’s wouldn’t be running from them. And the reason that ROI is down, is that very few people use them anymore. It’s pretty easy to see.

    I have another idea, put your YP money towards good SEO and PPC for a year while all your competitors stayed in the yellow pages. Then lets compare our ROI and continue to compare it over the next 5 years as that ROI will only continue to blow away YP.

  • elisabeth osmeloski

    Jacob - 

    Appreciate your feedback, but let me clarify a couple things from an editorial perspective: 

    - Columns posted by contributors are not considered ‘news’, they are considered opinion pieces, as clearly stated in the disclaimer at the end of every column. That said, as an editor I should have noticed the 2010 research & questioned it as being out of date/asked for updated evidence in a review of the content. I can only tell you mistakes like that happen on occasion, and we do our best to correct them as appropriate. 

    - As other contributors so frequently talk about IYP data & usage, and often in a negative light – it seems only ‘fair and balanced’ to allow a rep from YPA present their POV, experience and findings in their own defense. What they choose to present for data is their choice of course, and susceptible to criticism by readers just like any other contributor. It is up to YPA to defend their research & methodology here in the comments and future pieces. 

    I can also  tell you, on both sides (SEL & YPA) we’ve been keenly aware of trying to present their point of view without it being too self-promotional; clearly, we have some work to do there. 

    - I do think it’s fair of readers to point out problems or inaccuracies of statements, etc – again, up to YPA to respond to those. 

    Moving on to my personal opinion – often, I think online marketers suffer from tunnel vision – just because we work on the web, and are highly connected, sophisticated users – we do often assume (falsely) that everyone else must be just like us.  

    Yes, smartphone usage is on the rise,( – but there’s still a significant number of users – particularly those in rural areas, and older generations (think: your parents & grandparents) who default to the print books before searching online (and that’s IF they even have a computer)  

    As Kasey Hughes pointed out above, yellow pages use -online or off – remains a LOCAL marketing mainstay, even if it’s not as sexy as Google places or local SERPs. But at least yp advertisers can start pushing their website address to attempt to convert users that way, but I find it highly unlikely someone needing emergency plumbing services is going to go bookmark that service website for future reference, they’ll pull the book out from the drawer again. 

  • ZPeddicord

    If the yellow pages are dead, why do local businesses continue to advertise in the yellow pages? Particularly attorneys, roofers, plumbers, and general contractors…Answer: because they get calls. Particularly in my part of the country (Southeast), yellow pages advertisers DO see a great ROI. My family has owned a local business for over 20 years, and the tracking numbers don’t lie. It makes us money.

    However, we do more forms of advertising other than YP: online listings, online YP, SEM/SEO, direct mailings, radio, and even yard signs. As mentioned above, it’s great to diversify your advertising, and it’s paid big dividends for us both in the past and in the present.

    The yellow pages aren’t for every business, but it works for us.

  • Jacob Puhl


    Thank you for your response.  Somehow the yellow pages always seems to sparked up a good ol’ healthy debate :)  I think it drums up a lot of emotions for business owners and other folks that have been close to the industry for many years like myself.  

    I’m ALL about letting both sides speak and the YP industry certainly deserves their voice, but I also think data integrity is important. The reason this article in particular might cause some backlash is because that data is old, collected by questionably biased organizations, and when given the ‘gut check’ test – is seemingly wildly inaccurate. 

  • Marc Ensign

    All I know is that the day the Yellow Book shows up at my office there are 100 of them in the dumpster by the end of the day.  I’m sure it works OK for some businesses, but I can’t help but think that if they took that budget and geared it towards a solid SEO or PPC campaign they do much better.

  • Stephanie Hobbs


    Thanks for the lively response.  For those who read this
    column regularly, you know that I write about a variety of topics, including
    how to leverage Google+ and mobile in local marketing. Print Yellow Pages
    providers are active players in the local search space and should be discussed openly
    and equally with other forms of advertising in this Local Search column.


    The 2010 Burke data released in June 2011 is the most recent data
    publicly available.  That said, the Burke data has shown growth in search
    engines and declines in print Yellow Pages (Chris Silver Smith used this data
    in his chart showing those declines), but we still think many articles and
    columns are misleading advertisers into thinking that print and digital ads are
    an either-or proposition.  Our own metered ad studies, and the data we
    make available to our members, show that both can work — and that a well
    thought through plan tailored for the business, its market, its message, and
    its target consumer are important.


    As an aside, the Burke methodology is pretty rock solid — 80%
    online and 20% telephone interviews across age groups and geography.  More
    details on the methodology can be found on our blog:


  • Annett

    Many businesses I have talk with over the past months have been burned by YP. Sure they want to jump on the band wagon but as so many do not deliver the results or the local sales rep. overpromise. So, I am hesitant to trust the stats nor their current efforts.

  • Kasey Hughes

    Great suggestion on PPC and SEO.  You might also mention that AT&T Advertising Solutions dba YP offers that as well, as yet another part of a business’ marketing mix…market fragmentation is alive and well and there is no one best way.

  • Vic Perz

    what “gut check” all you’ve done here Jacob is make generic statements that hold ZERO value. Don’t speak unless you are going to bring value to the conversation… ;) No one posting against this article has offered up a single iota of measurable data to contradict Elisabeth’s information. 

  • Jacob Puhl

    Vic – In the ultimate twist of irony, we need look no further than this very blog for exact documentation on why we should question the stats. 

    Chris Silver Smith lays out in his Search Engine Land column “Yellow Page Usage Stats are Likely Wrong” the exact reason we should question the methodology used and the ridiculous outputs.  Its a good read.

    He also says, “Just as a ‘common-sense’ check, I might try to work out how much those overall figures relate to real people using the yellow pages over the year. ”  ’Common-sense’ check = ‘gut check’.
    Now, I’ll admit this article is from 2008 but apparently we’re allowed to reference very old information and pass it as current fact in this column :) Kidding… kind of

    Link here:

  • Alex Seigfried

    I agree with websoulsurfer, this is a crock.  My intern gets better results from his PPC campaign than Yellow Pages, they do the bare minimum, route you through their domains and ads, give you no SEO lovin’ and charge you an arm and a leg.  Point #2 I had a long relationship with my girlfriend but we didn’t work out in the end so I broke up with her.  Point #4  Print IS dead, i can lend you a defibrillator but even if you get the heart pumping again it’s going to be a cabbage.

  • Stephanie Hobbs


    Jacob, the column you’re
    linking to refers to an older study that is no longer used.  The study we
    use now comes from the independent research firm Burke, uses a different
    methodology, and measures the broad local search landscape — not just Yellow
    Pages.  Interviews are conducted 80% online and 20% by telephone across
    age groups and geography. More information on the methodology can be found
    Additionally, as I note in my comment below, the 2010 annual Burke data was
    released in June 2011 and is the most recent data publicly available. The 2011
    data will be released on our blog at after
    it’s provided to Local Search Association members. 


  • Stephanie Hobbs


    Jacob, the column you’re
    linking to refers to an older study that is no longer used.  The study we
    use now comes from the independent research firm Burke, uses a different
    methodology, and measures the broad local search landscape — not just Yellow
    Pages.  Interviews are conducted 80% online and 20% by telephone across
    age groups and geography. More information on the methodology can be found
    Additionally, as I note in my comment below, the 2010 annual Burke data was
    released in June 2011 and is the most recent data publicly available. The 2011
    data will be released on our blog at after
    it’s provided to Local Search Association members. 


  • Troy Peterson

    I have to take real exception to  “2. Yellow Pages Have Long-term Relationships With Local Businesses”.  Most small businesses we talk to complain about the revolving door and inexperience of the yp sales person of the day. Seems like they are stuck thinking its 1985…

  • Mike Wing

     You are a crock     websoulsurfer.   Yellow pages works!   The data is through the association of directory publishers    ADP


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