Yellow Pages… Better Results Than Google?

I’ve been reading a lot lately about the death of the yellow pages, however, much of what I read is anecdotal. There is little doubt that yp usage is slipping but the reports I read would have you believe that it is already buried. Usage is down less than 15% in the past 8 years… the year it was originally predicted to die (the year that the always-on internet tipped). And if you look at the top headings the ROI is about the same as 8 years ago, according to Dr Fromholzer, whose evidence is based on metered lines, thousand of them.

Most recently the bell was rung by Chris Silver Smith a person with considerable knowledge of the industry, in fact when he left Superpages a few years ago they came up first in Google for the term yellow pages, and they haven’t since his departure. He was careful to limit his prediction to 10 years from now… but is that what people will read and re-tell? Or will they just read the word dying… I think the latter.

To be successful, small business owners need to focus on the here and now and right now the yp is still a powerful tool. In fact, the small business that just hired me gets 50% of their business from yp and 15% from the internet. My job is to get that number to 25%… (a wonderful assignment). In my heart of hearts I believe I’ll do a bit better but this is a very good example of how powerful the yp still are.

And often, the results are often sooooo much better than you find in Google in large measure due to spam, check out these reults where Google goes 0 for 10, that’s right out of 10 in the local one box not one listing is helpful as a single spammer has overwhelmed the results:

Garage Door Repair Closter NJ

Garage Door Repair Closter NJ

There are thousands of results for this locksmith across all of North Jersey. Most of which are pointing at a single website… which I’ll let you find for yourself, I won’t link to it even with “no-follow”, sorry. I will tell you this though, the website is written in Latin, which one would think, Google could easily detect as spam.

David Mihm has recently written about filtering urls that are obviously spamming and in this case his solution would have gone a long way to solving the problem. Mike Blumenthal has written a ton about cleaning up results like these but Google has left us with only confusing instructions.

One could easily envision a searcher abandon their search for a garage door repairman and grab a yellow pages given the above results, don’t you think? Maybe in 10 years, Google will have it worked out and Chris Silver Smith will be right… but until then Small Business Owners: You need to maximize both media.

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6 Responses to Yellow Pages… Better Results Than Google?

  1. SPK says:

    You know, I’m always skeptical when people utilize statistics to show results when their paycheck comes from the same company. Figures lie and liars figure, I think we can all agree on that. That being said, keyed ads are basically worthless unless they have been audited by an independent third party. Now, don’t get me wrong – the yellow pages works, no doubt. As a matter of fact, I spent $20k with a contractor we found in the YP (after a search online and a referral).

    The only true test is the market. The market sets the value of a product and definitively decides it’s fate. Western Union doesn’t do telegrams any more. Ahh, the market!

    What the YP has in it’s corner is that it isn’t muddy. Internet searches are muddy and annoying to wade through. The QCP in the Easton Yellow pages? Easy to see, lets call them.

    Last thought, iPhone. Let me be the first to say that the iPhone is a HUGE game changer. Have you seen it? The web tool has great graphics, it’s fast, and a lot of people have one. Who ever nails a local search product for the iPhone will nail the yellow pages’ coffin closed rather quickly.

  2. SPK, I agree with you about the iphone, mobile search will be huge, right now, most business owners are thinking, nobody will look for my type of business on a cell; boy, doesn’t that sound familiar? But my Mother would not know an iphone if she were hit in the head with one.

    Local is fragmented, no easy solution like in years past.

    And muddy is one thing, 0-for-10 is a brick wall. Google has to do better.

    You’re point about liars (people with a vested interest) is well-taken. I am in the unique situation that I can make money by selling Yellow Pages & Internet Yellow Pages -any publisher, SEM & SEO and will make about the same amount of money from each… my only motivation is keeping the client, which I will do by providing the best results. Multimedia will almost always be the most effective solution.

    Small business needs to be in the place people are looking for them… the closer to the need the better.

    footnote: QCP is yp talk for a 1/16th page ad in the yellow pages.

  3. David Mihm says:

    Tim, I totally agree with you that small businesses need to be wherever their customers are. However, right now, a client of mine in an expensive YP service industry is about to cancel 1/2 of his YP budget because his ROI on internet spend (including my consulting time) vs YP spend is about 1:10. Even if he gets fewer customers as a result of more spending exclusively online, he’s still going to be running a more efficient business.

    But by all means if a business is still seeing economic value from advertising in the YP’s, then by all means they should continue to do so. Additionally, (as you know, but some of your readers may not) YP data from InfoUSA and Acxiom often winds up online, which can boost that business’s presence in Local SE’s like Google and Yahoo if those listings are attributed properly.

  4. David, I wonder if that business has someone managing their yp whose as knowledgeable as the guy managing his online program :)

    Great point about Acxiom and Infousa.

  5. SPK says:


    If the YP is working – and paying for itself, he should not consider canceling them just because the ROI is low. YP after all, is expensive – so by comparison, the ROI will generally be less.

    Now, assuming he only has a finite amount to spend on marketing – he could move the YP money to another medium doing better, but just because the ROI is low shouldn’t be the only reason.

  6. Barbara63 says:

    It is known to the chemist that the same group of atoms can unite in more than one way to form a molecule. ,