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Even if you’ve never used a phone book, chances are you’re familiar with the Yellow Pages. In fact, if you’re a long-time business owner, chances are, you’ve placed an ad (or many) in the Yellow Pages at one time or another. But in 2017, it’s not immediately obvious whether YP remains an effective marketing strategy. Do people still buy the print book? Is their online search engine productive? What is the ROI on either?
Our most recent blog post on Yellow Pages advertising was in 2013, and while we acknowledged that a handful of markets still benefitted from the traditional print book, the Blue Corona train had long departed the Yellow Pages station. We started to see many of our clients who remained in the Yellow Pages were paying too much for their ads and not seeing solid ROI all the way back in 2008. Worst of all, they felt stuck because YP provides call tracking (sometimes for free, making it all the more enticing), but can’t accurately qualify leads, and will cancel the number as soon as you cancel the ad. This leaves you and your customers with outdated Yellow Pages out in the dust with a non-working phone number.
Where Do We Stand Now?
Now, nearly four years later — where do we stand? A quick Google search of “do people still use the yellow pages” turns up surprisingly mixed results. A few sources are adamant that people, particularly older folks and those in more rural areas, still reach for the big yellow book. Most articles on the matter, however, treat the topic as complete nonsense, because, well, when’s the last time you even saw a Yellow Pages book? Have you been on the Yellow Pages site recently? No?
We thought so. While Yellow Pages’ website certainly has a place and could serve as a great search engine, it’s simply not where people think to look nowadays. Google is the predominant search engine globally, and is utilized for any and every query. Google may bring up something more relevant like Yelp, which has a similar premise to YP with the added bonus of reviews. YP online does have a review function, but as expected, they are not nearly as robust as what one can find on Yelp. Reviews have become so important that Google often places them in a rich snippet within your results so that searchers can easily see a business’s average rating and number of reviews. Surveys say as many as 92% of consumers read online reviews, and 40% of consumers form an opinion after reading just 1–3 reviews. Google, along with the rest of the world, has recognized how much research consumers do before making a choice in product, and, therefore, how much value a suite of positive reviews holds. Naturally, whichever result has the most thorough, helpful reviews will win.
When Could You Use Yellow Pages Ads?
According to the surveys that point to more popular use of the Yellow Pages, the primary audience is rather niche: elderly people in rural areas. Why elderly, and why rural? Those in rural areas are less likely to have reliable internet access, and older folks are more comfortable with (and more accustomed to) using the Yellow Pages directory to find a local service. If this sounds like your target audience, it may be worth putting out a few print ads. Be sure to measure their ROI by hiring a third-party provider like Blue Corona to track and tag the calls from the YP number. You can then rely on that data to decide if your business has a future with YP ads.
There is also the Yellow Pages website, which, as Local Fresh points out, is used much like the original print book. Users turn to it for local listings they have immediate intent to pursue. The YP online listings do tend to rank well because YP has high authority. Again, it is a matter of testing the service and tracking ROI to determine if this is a worthwhile avenue for your business.
When Blue Corona tested Yellow Pages online advertising on bottle water delivery company DrinkMore Water, we were sorely disappointed. DMW received 96 calls on the YP-specific phone number over the four tracked months on the service. Of those, the majority were spam, and only one became an actual sale. Was that worth $360/month on a one-year contract? Of course not — DMW cancelled the online Yellow Pages ad as soon as they saw the results.
Here’s where the word of caution comes in: Yellow Page print AND web ads are expensive. Internet is becoming increasingly available all around the world. And elderly people are becoming more proficient with technology, and they actually find it liberating. Print’s competition with web search is only going to increase as time goes on.
The future lies with digital, no doubt. While there are some exceptional cases which may benefit from Yellow Pages advertising, it is unlikely that those businesses will create better returns in print than they can on web. Our advice is to make sure your phone number is up-to-date in the Yellow Pages directory and direct the bulk of your efforts toward web advertising and marketing. If you’re ready to ramp up your digital strategy, contact Blue Corona today to get started.
About The Author: Maeve is a content marketing specialist at Blue Corona.
View more blogs by Maeve Ginsberg