yellow page advertising

Posted by under Marketing Tips.

Photo credit by How Can I Recycle This

Today Comscore Media Metrix released a report on the “Top 50 Web Rankings for March.” One highlight of the report was the list of the top gaining sites, which included the Yellow Book Network with 54 percent increase and an overall rank at #75.

Yellow Book hasn’t caught up to its two big competitors, (#26) and (#31), but it is gaining on them.

What does this mean to you as a small business owner? Well, the fact that all of the phone book directories are doing a huge push for their online services tells us that people don’t use phone books anymore to find service providers, they just Google it.

Even industries that historically have been heavy yellow page advertisers are now cutting back on expenditures because they aren’t getting the return they once did.

In an article for the World Chiropractic Organization titled “Quit Wasting Money on Yellow Page Advertising”,1   Peter Fernandez, D.C., author of “Yellow Page Advertising that Works for Chiropractic” and a business consultant for chiropractic offices, has completely changed his opinion on the medium:

Because of the poor performance of the Yellow Pages over the last 24 months, I have downsized the ads of over 90% of my clients. The low numbers of new patients generated didn’t warrant the cost of the ad(s).

In “When Yellow Pages Ads are NOT Worth the Price”2  Roger Eshaghian, DDS, provides a comprehensive overview of the pros and cons of Yellow Page advertising for the dental practitioner. He is a strong advocate of developing a marketing plan with a mix of mediums.

From my own experience, the flakiest inquiry calls I have received have been from people who have found my business through the phone book. While working with clients who track their customer sources, the consensus is that while the phone book ads do generate calls, for the most part there are a high percentage of tire-kickers and prospects are very price sensitive. There are always exceptions to this, but in general that is the case.

Should I Still Advertise in the Yellow Pages?

Here’s the thing, I can’t give you a blanket statement on whether or not yellow page advertising will work for your business. It really depends on your market niche, how effective your ad is, and the quality of the online presence of your competitors. As with any marketing effort, it is important to track incoming business to determine if you are getting enough return on your advertising dollar.

If you are in an area where very few of your competitors have a web site presence (for those of you who breathe blogs I know this is hard to believe, but it is true), you probably need to focus on your phone book ad.

However, if someone does a local search for a service provider and finds a few good options online, that three pound phone book probably won’t even be cracked open.

The Yellow Pages used to be what the internet is today, a compilation of information delivered to our door. However, the phone book is quickly becoming obsolete in an age of online directories, cell phones and 411, and PDA browsing.

What Not to Do

Don’t just get an ad because your competitor is doing it. Just because they’re doing it, it doesn’t mean that it is working for them.

Don’t just slap an ad together haphazardly. Make sure that it ties in with your other marketing efforts.

Don’t forget to include your web site domain.

Directory Ads That Work

Directory ads are much more effective if they are presented in the context of an existing relationship.

Location: One thing that annoys the heck out of me about the big online directory services is that the top results aren’t necessarily local, but who has paid the most to be listed. Also, if there are only two service providers in the area, they may be listed along with those in a completely different market area.

If there is an online business directory for your area, make sure that your business is listed.

Affiliation: I don’t use the phone book, but I do carry around the business directory for the Chamber of Commerce as well as a couple of other groups I am a member of. Sports leagues, civic groups, and neighborhood associations are also great places to promote your business. While they won’t all have actual directories, many have programs or some form of member listing available.

Google Business Center: Add your listing to the Google Business Center to be included in results on Google Search and Google Maps.

References Cited
  1. Peter Fernandez. “Quit Wasting Your Money on Yellow Page Advertising. World Chiropractic Organization. February 1997. Accessed April 15, 2008. []
  2. Roger Eshaghian. When Yellow Page Ads are Not Worth the Price. Dental Marketing Center. Accessed April 15, 2008. []

9 Responses to “Does Yellow Page Advertising Work?”

  1. Phil

    The interesting thing about the yellow page companies is that once people do pick up the phone book then the user intent is there and the conversion rate is high…the issue is becoming, how many folks are picking up that book and not using the internet…

  2. Carla Alvarez


    Phone Books,

    While I agree that if someone is looking through a phone book that they are most likely to make a purchase, the issue for many businesses is the quality of the prospect.

    Prior to the web, the yellow pages were the only place to get a directory of businesses. You either opened the phone book or asked a friend to find a service provider.

    That is not true today. People go to the internet to do their due diligence. While I think that it may still be effective for certain types of businesses, this is becoming increasingly less common.

    For myself, if someone is using the phone book to price shop, that really isn’t my ideal customer.

  3. Rick

    I have over 15 years of advertising sales experience and yellow pages is half of that. Yellow pages is not want it use to be. First, consider how much money you spend with these yellow page companies, thousands and thousands of dollar annually and you are luckly to break even sometimes depending on your goods and or services. If you turned around and took that same money and put it into search (internet marketing) you would make more money from the internet. Its all in how you market yourself and of course the company you chose. These are the facts: 1) Yellow page usage is declining rapidly, look at the companies sell off their yellow pages sections of the business or filing Chapter 11 or 12. 2) Opt-Out clause that is coming for many directories across the nation meaning customer/ indivduals can opt out of getting the directory entirely meaning less distribution at the same cost. 3) Congress is about to put the smack down on a lot of these publishers due to the landfills being congested with these unused and unwanted directories. 4) Why do you think all of these yellow page publishers are trying so hard to get a reliable internet product? Everything is going to the internet including newspaper, magazines, and of course yellow pages. Brady the cost per call is based on what you are spending on your advertising but what do you have to compare it with. There are thousands of successful internet marketing programs out there, don’t be brain-washed in thinking that this is your only advertising solution. It is actually costing advertisers more money with the ROI in question.

  4. Jill May

    Fact: Our Yellow Book avertising has created my success. Why: They don’t just make you pay for an ad in the book, you get, Direct Mail, Website creation, online video Commercials I paste in my facebook, and CALL AND CLICK TRACKING. Yellow Book shows me EXACTLY MY AD PERFORMANCE AND i CAN EVEN LISTEN TO CALLERS ANSWERED BY STAFF. Could I afford not having 23 booked prospects out of the 41 calls I got last month?? Could I afford Not to have the 347 clicks to my site last month Before you make the blanket statements: I suggest going to and sign up to get your free reports–Free listings can sign up there too—but you won’t get results like me unless you spend $3,000 and make $62,000 off of Tracked leads like me. This company has been my lifeline and I can hit Google, Yahoo, Direct Mail, Print, local online yp and they re-did my website and all the sudden my ranking on google improved. I get concerned when I see one media bash the other using facts from a couple of people.—without looking at the ad: Were they in back of heading, ad copy terrible, how did they track, —Article really needs more proof .

    • Carla Alvarez

      Carla Alvarez


      Considering your email address is, I kind of doubt the veracity of your statements. If you’re going to go around the internet making bogus comments, I’d have the sense to use a different email address.

      Even if what you are claiming is true, a business doesn’t need a YellowPage ad for lead generation or tracking their visitors, they can . . . and should be doing that themselves without being tied into a particular service vendor.

      I wrote this post two and half years ago. What I said then is even more true now, and even your biased comments proved my point. The printed phone book is dead. Even phone book companies are focusing on online services. And while you may be a fervent employee, I’m sorry but YellowPages does not offer the best value of online marketing for the money. It’s targeted towards people who don’t know that much about online marketing.

  5. Brian B

    I would like to ad a comment to the yellow page advertising question. I liquidate estates for a living and I have a unique opportunity to see what phone books are in peoples houses when they pass away or move. 10 years ago I would do a count to see where to advertise, but in the last couple years I have noticed that we rarely find a phone book anymore. everyone knows that the gen X people gave up phone books long ago, but we were all holding on for the baby boomers. but with the average age of my customers being in their 70s and 80s and still not having a phone book, I think its pretty evident that the demand has fallen off even for the elderly

    second thing about tracking numbers. I had a tracking number once for a feist directory and it went directly to my cell phone. feist proudly showed me that I was getting 100-200 calls per month, a number I could easily disprove, and most of the calls I did get were from other advertisers wanting me to advertise with them. the worst part of the tracking number is that after they took it back, that tracking number showed up in advertisements from other search engines because they copied the information from their directory and it took years for that number to go away

    the thing that I hate worse about the yellow pages is that I would continue to advertise with them if they would adjust their prices to fit what they are worth, instead of charging more than what they charged 10 years ago. Every other directory and newspaper has cut their print prices to reflect demand and just gets higher and higher(I currently spend more on YP. than every other online, print, website and email service AND advertising service combined and this is the last year I will use YP

    • Carla Alvarez

      Carla Alvarez


      Thanks for your insight. That’s interesting that even the generation that we think would be holdouts are dropping phone books.

      It sounds to me like even though YP’s market has changed, they still are operating with the same business practices. I was just looking this morning into Hibu after noticing a local business with one of their sites and discovered that Hibu is Yellowpages.

      This is one of the recent comments from a former customer:

      “Yellowbook is not a marketing/advertising company. They are a bunch of collection lawyers just waiting to get on you and squeeze you like you’d never imagine. If you are looking to spend money advertising your company… for your own sake, find a better way.” – Gary, Miami FL, 10-22-2014

      Carla Alvarez recently posted…Do You Need a Web Site Maintenance Service Plan?My Profile



  1.  Why Businesses Can't Rely on Facebook for Free Promotion | Legacy Marketing Services

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge