The Yellow Pages are Dead

Perhaps a better title for this post would be “should I advertise in the Yellow Pages“.  For those of born before 1980, I think this is best demonstrated by asking the question, “do you know anyone under 25 with a land line?”.

Yellow PagesIf that question doesn’t mean anything to you, I’ll explain. The phone company produced a directory of everyone who owned a land line. In the front of the book were white-pages where individuals were listed. In the back of the book was a section printed on yellow paper for business owners. In larger markets, these “yellow pages” were broken out into a separate book.

This directory listed name, address and phone numbers and was “public information”and perhaps most important, it was distributed to every home that had a land line (…know anyone under 25 with a land line?).

The phone company no longer has a lock on this information. The listings, business and residential, are now readily available through numerous websites. And while one could argue that aging land line users might be inclined to visit these sites, a phone call is no longer the  primary means for remote research and communication. People looking for products and services are more interested in the detailed information that is readily available through search or on a company’s website than what is contained in a phone listing.

I am tempted to go into a rant about the exorbitant fees the phone company charged for print ads in these books, when it had a virtual lock on this business, but to be fair there were real costs associated with the ink and paper required to produce the book. However, the phone company has tried to extend this pricing model to the Internet, but I don’t think the return justifies the price they are asking for these listings.

Similar money will buy significant exposure for your business in Google AdWords where there is far more people searching for good and services. And unlike the phone companies flat monthly rate for a directory listing, with AdWords  there is a direct relationship between what you pay and the amount of traffic you receive; you can readily identify the number of people who actually saw your ad, visited you site as a result; and the number of visits resulting in a sale.

If you are considering advertising in the Yellow Pages (on-line or print), I suggest you consider what a 2011 Yelp survey revealed  about how business owners feel about yellow pages in the digital age.

Only 24% of our 3,500+ respondents said “Yes” to the question, “Are yellow page phone books still relevant?”

That’s quite a find. Here are some others:

1) Most business owners don’t think yellow page phone books are useful to them:

“Yellow page phone books are useful to me as a business owner.”

  • Agree – 11%
  • Somewhat Agree – 17%
  • Somewhat Disagree – 19%
  • Disagree – 52%

2) Only about 10% of business owners use yellow page phone books more than once per month; 3 out of 4 don’t use it at all:

How many times per month do you rely on a yellow page phone book to find a local business?

  • “Zero” – 75%
  • “Once” – 14%
  • “Between two and four times” – 8%
  • “Five or more times” – 3%

3) Very few business owners believe customers find them using a yellow page phone book.

Estimated percentage of customers who find me using a yellow page phone book.

  • “0%” – 43%
  • “1-25%” – 47%
  • “26-50%” – 5%
  • “51-75%” – 3%
  • “76-99%” – 1%
  • “100%” – 0.1%

The conclusion:  Business owners have clearly observed the shrinking relevance of yellow page phone books.

Is there a place for directories? Sure, some businesses will never have a website and for these businesses on-line directories such as Yelp and Google Places are essential.