Chris Silver-Smith wrote a well articulated piece about Internet Yellow Pages being Toast in 4 years that set off a bit of a fire storm among yellow pages advocates. I’ve also read a lot on the internet about the print yellow pages being dead. Even Bill Gates has gotten into the act… forecasting near 0 yellow page lookups in 5 years for most demographics. All this, while Click-Z reports staggering growth in the IYP sector.
What is a small business owner to make of all this? Nothing.
All of this is hogwash from the stand point of a small business owner.Â The local space is far to complicated for generalizations of this sort from where your sitting.Â These posts have considerable practical applications for large businesses and certainly for yellow page publishers but small business owners should pay no attention.
To show you what I mean I’m going to take an educated guess at some statistics here, I don’t think I will be far off, but if I am please correct me in the comments below.
There are over 2, 0000 categories in a yellow pages directory each with it’s own share of usage in print and online.Â I think it’s fair to assume that one mightÂ shop differently for a Pizza Parlor than a Roofer.Â And if I’m a roofer, I care only how people are shopping for this service and if lookups for Pizza have shifted it means little to me.Â And vice-versa. Generalizations cannot help either one of these business owners.
There are also more than 70,000 towns, cities etc. that will each have their own propensity for print and online usage. A person doing a local search in Manhattan may behave differently from one in Okay, Ok.Â When you consider the permutations of this many business types and this many locations it becomes far too complicated a matter for a small business owner to draw conclusions from generalizations.
So, what is a small business owner to do? Track the hell out their advertising.
I would begin by taking Matt McGee’s advice and use Google Analytics. Many small business owners have little idea what this can do, so in short: Google Analytics can track where the visitors to your site came from, what they typed in to get there and whether or not they converted online (email form etc.).
For offline conversions in a service industry… use a tracking number. This can be purchased through the local telephone company; they call it RCF (remote call forwarding). And although I’ve not tried it yet Ring Central has an offering that I think may be worth a look.
If I already had a business line I would start with Ring Central and purchase multiple telephone numbers.Â If I did not have a business I would buy at least one RCF number from my local telephone company and tell them I wanted a yp listing with that. That will give a link to my site in hundreds of local sites including G Maps, IYPs and a lot of the review sites.Â They won’t have seo value in the traditional sense, though I’ve not seen a business place top 3 in Google Maps without one, it will make your business far more visible and easier to review.
Both of these options are going to be in the $15-$30 per month range depending on how many numbers you buy. And all have additional charges after a certain amount of minutes are used.Â But they are worth it if you are investing in advertising already.
Please disregard articles that predict the future and focus on where the calls are coming from right now. Also, read almost any other post from Chris Silver-Smith who contributes often to the Natural Search Blog.