YP Contemplating Suicide by SEO.

As often as ‘Content is King’ is written by some it is disregarded by others and if the yellow pages industry doesn’t understand that… it WILL be the end of the medium. Let me explain.

Anyone who has worked in yellow pages or local search knows that the market is fragmented. Consumers have lots of choices when it comes to getting information about local businesses.  Not so long ago this wasn’t true,  the telephone company owned local.

What changed?

If you answered the Internet, you’re wrong. The Internet was just the medium.

The cause was a change to the law in the late nineties that forced telephone companies to sell their listing information for a reasonable price and within a reasonable time frame. That’s it. The information they owned was simply the name, address and phone number of every business.

That information was so valuable that it allowed the yellow pages to grow into a $15 Billion dollar a year business with margins that are still awesome. And maintain that for a hundred years with virtually no competition. That’s how valuable exclusive access to good content is.

Since, the law was passed, however, that information has become a commodity and the local advertising market has become fragmented.

The yellow pages are still a very powerful advertising medium because they have spent the last hundred years developing relationships with local business owners and turning that listing information into real content that consumers can use to make purchase decisions. And now the yellow page companies are considering taking all of that valuable information and handing it over to Google for free.

In fact, they are probably going to hire and train people to deliver it to Google on a silver platter in the form of search engine optimization.

Search engine optimization is the process of arranging the content of a website in a way that a spider or bot crawling the web can read the information and determine what the page is about algorithmically. The hope for the optimizer would be that the search engine would find the page, index it, and rank it on the first page when certain keywords are typed in.

They will do this in hope of adding another revenue source at a time when overall revenues are declining and stock prices are plummeting. But it’s shortsighted because it can never scale for them.

They may have as many as a hundred advertisers in a given category but Google only has 10 listings on the first page. So, they may be able to sell this service successfully to a small percentage of advertisers, but at the same time they will be making Google’s content better. And perhaps so much better that there is no longer any reason to use the yellow pages. So, they would the lose the majority of their advertisers.

The yellow pages has to remember now… more than ever… that content is King.

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27 Responses to YP Contemplating Suicide by SEO.

  1. Michael Dudley says:


    You made a big leap from sharing listings to sharing content. I don’t think YP has anywhere near the content to serve Google’s audience. Whatever content is the print edtion is also 3rd rate to whats available many other places. I can’t see Google ever using nthing but the best.

    Just my opinion, I’m in the content business so I watch it close.


  2. Chuck Ellis says:

    Content IS King, but the better example of the iYP’s missing that point is the LACK of any content beyond their old basic listing data. Surely Google is smart enough to know that quality content no longer starts or ends with the iYP’s.

  3. Thanks for stopping by Michael. We’re going to have to agree to disagree on this one. How ‘good’ content is is difficult to measure but if you use money to define it… the content in the yp generates $14.4 Billion/year. That’s pretty good don’t you think? Anyway, my point is that they should be protecting that asset rather than putting it in a format that makes it soooo easy for Google.

  4. Chuck your point is a good one and maybe the way they should go. They are in a position where they could create great content… all hand-edited. They could use images and video etc… with the added benefit that it isn’t spiderable.

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  6. K D Mains says:

    Interesting read!

    I have a real hard time getting my head round all that paper used by the Yellow Pages Offline Phone Books.

    So saying if you found somone who had 4 of the top 6 links on Google associated with them for the search term

    “Hire the best Google SEO writer”

    Would think Google has some hang on how to measure good content as well as the person with those search results on Page 1 Google SERPS?

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  8. Google was very lucky when the company just gave the information to them, for free. I guess everyone really trusted Google. Hope they were right with their decision.

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  11. radhika1 says:

    Hire the best Google SEO writer”

    Would think Google has some hang on how to measure good content as well as the person with those search results on Page 1 Google SERPS?

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  12. radhika1 says:

    Would think Google has some hang on how to measure good content as well as the person with those search results on Page 1 Google SERPS?


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