Should You Advertise in the Internet Yellow Pages?

Online Phone Book

As the yellow pages slowly die off, phone book companies are increasingly pushing the Internet versions of their books – both to searchers and to small business ad buyers. Which, for a small business, begs the question: is it worth buying advertising in the Internet Yellow Pages (IYP)?

Consumers & Internet Yellow Pages

A recent study released by the Local Search Association (which is a group of phone book publishers) indicates that people are rapidly moving towards online and mobile sources for local business information, which I don’t think will surprise most people.

The study also contains this interesting chart:

Reason for Choosing Search Site ChartAs you can see, people are using the online yellow pages because of the brand recognition/reputation that these sites have. Other websites (such as Google search) may have different attractive attributes, and be more convenient, but presumably do not have the same reputation for local information.

The study also suggests that people running local web searches are often earlier in the buying phase, while those using internet yellow pages may be more actively looking for business contact information.

I think this makes sense, as the general search engines have not historically done well with local business information – the phone book’s reputation for reliability makes people turn to their online version. I would suggest the Google’s of the world are improving in this respect, but that won’t immediately register with all users.

Traffic Numbers

One thing the above-mentioned study does not discuss is relative traffic numbers. They say that “IYPs and local search sites exhibited strong growth with 5.6 billion local searches in 2010, a 15% increase over 2009″ but do not discuss the number of IYP searches versus the number at local search sites.

So let’s get some estimates. Compete.com and Quantcast.com both provide traffic estimates for websites around the world. You’ll notice their numbers are different – which goes to show they are estimates, but the numbers are in a similar ballpark:

Unique Visitors Last Month (in Millions)

CompeteQuantcast
Yellowpages.com2716
Superpages.com157
Yellowbook.com73
Dexknows.com52
Yelp.com1715

 

These are substantial numbers, something in the 50 million range total, depending on which source you look at and whether Yelp is included. Yelp.com isn’t a IYP per-se, but it’s awfully similar.

These websites are being visited by more than 1/5th of all adults in the US, which is less than but similar to the 36% number cited in a prior study (which was criticized as biased by some because again, it was sponsored by the Local Search Association).

50 million is significant, especially considering these people are all looking for local companies. This is one of the challenges involved in local marketing today – no single source is going to hit close to 100% of the population.

Also, interestingly, Compete shows solid growth for these sites pretty much across the board:

Internet Yellow Pages Visitor Growth Graph

Yellowbook, Superpages, and Yellowpages Over The Past Year

The growth should be taken with a grain of salt, as Quantcast makes things look much more erratic.

Regardless of the trend, internet yellow pages are visited by a large number of people, and are definitely not in a rapid decline.

Conclusion

Looking at these numbers, it’s clear that a company wanting to cover every source has to advertise in the IYP. For smaller businesses, that just need to find the most efficient place, that’s a more nuanced question, requiring a look at the advertising rates as well.

Anecdotally, some companies do derive significant traffic from these sources, but the advertising programs can be expensive. If a high % of users use these sites specifically for finding contact info, the numbers may be under-reported due to poor call/visit tracking as well. Regardless of the effectiveness, you can, at a minimum, claim your free business listing.

If you are considering buying an ad, my suggestion would be to look at your traffic stats (you are collecting data, right?) – if some of these sites send traffic already, look at your listing there. You know people in your city must be searching the site for your industry on that site. Would a paid ad make you a lot more visible? If so, sign up, and keep careful track of the ROI.

The profusion of lead sources due to the internet can be a headache. But it also provides you with an opportunity to get a leg-up on the competition by intelligently placing using your ad dollars and time.

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About Chris Piepho

Chris is the founder of Small Business Shift. You can learn more about him here. If you would like to work with Chris, please get in touch.

11 Responses to “Should You Advertise in the Internet Yellow Pages?”

  1. LetsBhonest July 26, 2011 at 10:25 pm #

    Let me go ahead and get this out of the way…I work for Super Media (ie: Super Yellow Pages, Superpages.com, and Super Pages Direct) so take my opinion as you will. I come from an internet background and spend most of my time reading Search Engine Land, Search Engine Watch, TechCruch, etc, so I’m not your old print yellow page guy saying Google is a scam and the yellow pages will never go away. I value my integrity and won’t offer advertising to a business owner unless I think it is the right thing for their business, goals, and situation.

    First regarding the “bias” of the local search association, it always frustrates me when people dismiss their studies. Did you know that Google joined the Local Search Association? Do you think that they would create false or misleading reports with that elephant in the room? Even Greg Sterling (Founder of Sterling Market Intelligence and frequent contributor on Search Engine Land) vouched for the survey http://www.screenwerk.com/2011/06/13/yellow-pages-has-greater-reach-more-trusted-than-search-for-local/. Read his take on it and I recommend reading the comment thread as well.

    Second regarding the traffic numbers you used, Compete and Quantcast are useful but comScore is the gold standard for a reason. Some companies (like SuperMedia) have therefore chosen only to allow comScore’s tracking tools to be installed which are necessary for accurate tracking. Compete and Quantcast are providing estimates based only on the information they can gather and do not take into account Superpages.com’s network of wholly owned sites (localsearch.com, etc) that are included in the larger Superpages Network.

    Third, the other consideration that is often overlooked is the value of having a paid listing with a major IYP like Superpages or even Yelp (although not technically an IYP) and its effects on a business’ LOCAL seo. Not to say a smb can’t claim or create free listings on the 100′s of online directories, but the convenience of having a quality profile with uniform NAP (name, address, phone number) across an array of national and local online directories is often an afforadable and effective way of building citations/links for your site. See David Mihm’s “Local Search Ranking Factors” and refer to the list of “Most Important 3rd Party Providers/IYP’s” at the bottom of the survey. http://www.davidmihm.com/local-search-ranking-factors.shtml

    Finally, having worked directly with small business owners (HVAC, Plumbing, Pizza shops, to Architectural Firms, Attorneys, Medical Practices, National Franchises) the common concern is that they simply “don’t have time” (or knowledge) to figure out what to do, where to do it, or who to trust. Most of them aren’t even tracking (in any substantial way) how their marketing is working for them now. So a paid advertisement with an IYP (as long as it is a leader that you can find on comScore’s Media Metrix Top 50) is a great value!

    Sorry so long, but I hope someone finds this helpful. Thanks for the article and for providing the platform for discussion like this to happen.

    • Chris Piepho July 26, 2011 at 10:53 pm #

      Thanks for the comment. That’s a lot to respond to:

      - In regards to the Local Search Association and bias, frankly, I believe their studies. But every time I’ve mentioned one on here I get a bunch of people telling me how they’re biased and the surveys are worthless, so my hope is to cut off the complaints before they start.

      - In general, Comscore is just providing estimates as well. It looks like their most recent report shows the “Superpages Network” at 30 million, which is higher than the numbers quoted here – but it really doesn’t change the overall point of the article. I also have no idea if this includes Superpages partner sites? Or just those under the Supermedia brand? Or all owned by the company? You might be able to shed some light on this.

      - I totally agree that having lots of local listings is helpful, that’s discussed all over this site. Paying for an ad in Superpages is certainly one way of getting some, although by no means the cheapest.

      - And you’re right, many business owners don’t have the time to deal properly with online marketing. That’s exactly who I’m trying to help out with this blog. For those willing to pay Superpage’s Ad rates, this article suggested they try it. But I don’t believe it’s the best thing to do first for those that are savvy enough to understand all the options.

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  3. Kamini Prajapati July 4, 2012 at 5:14 am #

    Yes, Online Yellow Pages are still the best way to advertise, especially for new businesses. people to be able to find on internet easily. Many people still look in the Yellow Pages when they want to find a business. By Yellow Pages, so we can promote Business easily.

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    Yellow pages are the best example of this i think. In the same way 20 years ago you would think “i need a plumber, better look in the yellow pages” we (at least I) think now “i better look at yell.com”

  7. Shane August 10, 2013 at 2:38 pm #

    for new businesses its probably good to be listed in the yellow pages. but its pretty expensive and i think a good Seo-Campaigne could get you better returns.

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