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. []