Is Internet Yellow Page Advertising Worth It?
In geographic markets where fewer people are using the print Yellow Page books, many local advertisers are pulling back and shifting their precious advertising dollars to the web. Sensing this, the Yellow Page companies have started selling their own suite of online products. Are they worth it?
Written by Ben Landers
The future of marketing is online
Do you advertise on the Internet Yellow Pages websites? With the demise of their print products, Yellow Page sales reps are quickly shifting their focus to the Internet. Frequently, they use the business owner’s lack of understanding about the web to maximize their commission gains at the expense of the business owner’s profit.
One day Bob Perini from DrinkMore Water was having a conversation with a friend of his, the owner of another bottled water company in a different geographic market. They were talking about the decline in the performance of the print Yellow Pages. Bob’s friend mentioned that while the print books’ performance is rapidly declining, Internet Yellow Page advertising, specifically with Yellowpages.com, was his top marketing strategy. Even though Bob’s friend admitted that his feelings were based on purely anecdotal evidence, Bob was interested and immediately called a meeting with Yellowpages.com.
We created an ad just like Bob’s friend did (see Figure 1, below), but we overlaid the Blue Corona measurement and tracking system to accurately measure and track the results. Here’s a look:
Figure 1: Yellowpages.com search interface and the resulting DrinkMore Water ad
The importance of tracking and marketing analytics
Again, notice the specific phone number assigned to the ad. Blue Corona’s ad tracking system uses dynamic number replacement technology so this phone number follows the person viewing the ad regardless of whether they click on DrinkMore’s banner – which links to the main DMW website. They can call from the Yellowpages.com listing or they can click on the banner on Yellowpages.com, go to the DMW website and make an inquiry or a purchase. But no matter when the person picks up the phone (from Yellowpages.com or from Drinkmorewater.com), the call is tracked back to the original Yellowpages.com ad. This is an incredibly important feature of the Blue Corona tracking system (it’s called Dynamic Number Replacement). The phone number in the ad carries over to the website so that anyone who started by clicking the ad will only be able to call the phone number associated with that ad campaign. That is almost complete trackability.
No longer can the Yellowpages.com sales reps infer that because DMW’s website is generally a great marketing tool, the clicks sent to DMW’s website from Yellowpages.com always do something of value. Their line that people using the Yellowpages.com are there to buy is often times incorrect (see Figure 2).
Well, it was a little bit painful to show that data from Figure 2 to Bob Perini. DMW is paying $360.00 per month for that ad on a one year contract. As you can quickly surmise, DMW will be out of Yellowpages.com directory shortly. As a follow-up test, we created paid ads on all of the major Yellow Page websites – again, giving each one a specific tracking phone number (see Figure 3).
From June to October, 96 total calls were generated from DMW’s ads on the 3 major Internet Yellow Pages websites (see Figure 4). Of the 96 calls, 15 came from auto-dialers (robot calls), 25 from other sales reps and only one was a lead that became a sale. Considering the cost per month for each of these ads, our recommendation to Bob was to cancel them. Could they increase in value in the future? Maybe, but is there any chance that Yellowpages.com is ever going to be one of DMW’s top marketing strategies? Highly doubtful – just like their print products, if there is a way to oversell and under deliver, the Yellow Page sales reps will find a way to do it.
Figure 5 is a glimpse of the online activity for the same time period. Superpages.com sent 126 visitors to DMW’s website in 5 months (that’s less than one visit per day). Of these, one inquired about delivery service and none made an online purchase. Yellowboss.com sent 8 visitors – without a paid listing. This might be a place to test a paid ad in the future to see if we could get more visitors.
Figure 5: Website visits to DMW’s site from online Yellow Page Websites
Conclusion on Internet yellow page advertising
By accurately tracking every Yellow Page website – the phone calls and the online leads (independently – not using the Yellow Page’s in-house tracking) – Bob Perini from DrinkMore Water has focused the vast majority of his budget on SEO and PPC campaigns (not run by the Yellow Pages). While some Yellow Page websites may become more effective in the future, at present nearly all of them are over-priced for his business.
The takeaway is not that you shouldn’t run Yellow Page ads – print or online – for your plumbing, hvac, roofing, etc. company. It’s that accurate tracking is critically important and a requirement to make intelligent advertising decisions. To receive other case studies like this one, please sign up for our monthly email newsletter by putting your email address in the box on the right side-bar of this webiste (“Get Monthly Online Marketing Tips”). Alternatively, you can enter your website address in the box below and see how your site stacks up against the competition!
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