Make An Informed Decision About Local Advertising

A lot of fuss has been made over the Yellow Pages. Is print still viable or not? Many online-focused search engine marketing experts will say no, but there’s significant research to show that the print directory is still a healthy marketing tool, especially in certain geographies, with certain age groups, and among consumers who are ready to buy.

That’s why the answer to the question “is the print Yellow Pages dead” isn’t exactly what the online-only players will have you believe.

It’s critical to dig into Yellow Pages usage—whether it’s the print directory, Internet Yellow Pages sites, mobile apps, or other local search tools driven by Yellow Pages—because local businesses are looking for the best ways to attract new customers in a very tough economy. Increasingly, these business owners are asking questions about how today’s rapidly changing media environment is affecting their traditional advertising with Yellow Pages.

In order to make an informed decision, however, local businesses need to be up-to-speed with current usage patterns as they relate to both traditional and new digital advertising options. They also should be aware of how Yellow Pages companies are integrating new platforms into their portfolios in order to deliver a hybrid model that maximizes consumer reach and drives business results. In some cases, one’s perception about how people are searching for business information and the services that Yellow Pages partners provide is different than the reality.

In March, The Yellow Pages Association released the first annual Local Media Tracking Study from independent research firm Burke which examines how consumers searched for local business information in 2009. The study provides a wide-ranging look at media usage, trust levels and consumer actions regarding local business search based on more than 8,000 interviews—80% of which were conducted through online panels and 20% though offline phone interviews.

Here are results from the study based on the following categories:

Consumer reach

Consumers were asked what sources they used in the last month to look up information to find a local business, or to look for a product or service in their local area.

In answer to that question, 65% said they used print and/or Internet Yellow Pages—more than any of the other sources. When analyzed individually, print Yellow Pages was 54% and Internet Yellow Pages was 33%.

Search engines scored 58%, followed by flyers/coupons, newspapers and magazines. Because Yellow Pages companies have formed partnerships with search engines, it’s fair to say the Yellow Pages reach is quite high across a number of platforms.


Trust has always been a major advantage of Yellow Pages advertising, and the data show why.

More than two-thirds of consumers (67%) said that print or Internet Yellow Pages are the source they trust most for finding local business information, compared to 33% for search engines.

When polled on accuracy of local business information, print and Internet Yellow Pages scored highest with 68%, compared to search engines with 32%.

Total references

In total, consumers referenced print and Internet Yellow Pages 16.9 billion times in 2009.

Separate research from comScore found that Internet Yellow Pages continued to chart growth, increasing from 4.6 billion searches in 2008 to 4.9 billion in 2009. Burke found that print Yellow Pages received 12 billion references in 2009.

With strong reach and total annual references, I’d say that the print Yellow Pages is far from dead, but we do know that online and mobile search is growing, where print directory usage is not.

Another key consideration for advertisers is that while many media deliver a large number of eyeballs, it’s most important to attract consumers ready to make a purchase. Yellow Pages perform well on that front, too. Even among 18-24-year-old consumers, where print directory reach is less significant than those in their 30s, 40s and 50s, we still see strong usage and know that it’s hitting a segment that wants to purchase a product.

As the local online search space continues to evolve, you’ll continue to see Yellow Pages companies come to advertisers with integrated media campaigns. Yellow Pages companies including SuperMedia, Dex One, AT&T, Yellow Pages Group and The Berry Company have launched a variety of new local search services, acquired popular online directories and vertical sites, partnered with emerging local search sites and added new social search sites to compete directly with other digital media. Additionally, Yellow Pages companies have entered into agreements with major search engines such Google and Bing to provide sponsored business listings for their local customers.

So don’t count the print Yellow Pages out anytime soon. Instead view it as an essential component of a robust marketing toolkit that is designed to deliver qualified sales leads to businesses.

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: brings nearly three decades of Yellow Pages and local search experience, as Director of Research for the Yellow Pages Association (YPA). Larry spearheads and advises on all association-driven research activities for the industry, as well as blogs about the industry on the InsideYP blog.

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  • links4legends

    I agree, YellowPages should be a strong focus for any marketer. Great post!

  • JohnCaldwell

    Hi Larry,

    Great article,

    In Ireland we have the Golden pages and they are seeing an increase in demand both for their printed copy and their on-line versions especially since the recession hit ….. all the best john

  • johnsontrawls

    Problem is, most local, small business don’t have time to “look into” whether or not yellow pages works for them or not. I’m not saying they shouldn’t do that, but where to begin? They have so much on their plate to begin with. Most of these decisions are made on the fly. They should start asking their customers ALL the time: “Where are you finding us? Do you use Yellow Pages “the book” or are you finding us online?”. Get a strong enough sample and make an informed decision based on the feedback you get.

  • todd430

    I find that even when businesses ask where people are coming from, it gets a little ambiguous on where REALLY consumers are finding them. What I mean is if the customer says “I found you on the internet,” the customer could have found their website from offline content. I was reading that 44% of people who use yellow pages then go to that customer’s website. So really the customer found their yellow pages ad first but attributed their website for the transaction. Yellow pages has many different purposes for businesses and the only way to get a good feel of knowing is placing a tracking phone number and a ghost URL (a tracking website address in your yellow pages ad) to see all the places their customers are turning.


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