Yellow page advertising in the 21st century is a subject sure to get attention good and bad. My intention here is not to endorse or denounce the efficacy of advertising in the yellow pages, but to educate and shed some light on the industry. I first wrote about phone book marketing about 2 years ago on my Inland Empire Attorney blog and I'll again disclose that I worked for a large YP publisher for about 4 years, but have not for the last 3 years. I have no current affiliation or vested interest in the yellow page industry.

Yellow page advertising in the past has been most effective if you're in a service or emergency based type of industry: 
plumber, electrician, veterinarian, dentist Etc. The Pew Research Center reported in June of 2013 that 56% of Americans own smartphones and adoption has been growing 10%+ every year since 2011. It can be concluded that, in general, Americans are increasingly moving their search activity more to mobile devices. Although I believe that running an ad in the local phone book could be beneficial, it will require research and testing on the business owner's behalf to decide if it's worth it.

Types of Yellow Pages - Telco vs. Non-Telco:

In the yellow page industry there are either telephone company directories (Telco), or independent publishers (Non-Telco - Yellowbook). Telco directories generally have higher advertising rates because they usually have more accurate records, usage & distribution. However, independent publishers sometimes have a wider distribution in a given geography, and some even target specific demographics, (Hispanic, Chinese, Korean, Etc). There's no right or wrong here, it's all about ROI.

Designing Your Ad:
If you decide to run an ad, the worst thing you can do is ask the sales rep to design it based off your competitor's ads. It's common practice, and frankly it's the lazy way out. If you're going to purchase an ad in the phone book, why would you want to look like every other competitor?

Utilize Call Tracking:
If you decide to run an ad in the phone book make sure to track the results with a call tracking telephone number. There's no use in paying for ANY ad if you can't justify the expense and calculate ROI. You should research first, but there are several options available including Google Voice (free), or CallRail (reasonably priced). 

Who Still Uses the Yellow Pages?
The Local Search Association, (formerly YPA), reported in 2010 that older demographics generally used "Search Engines" less to find a local business and relied more on phone books, and younger demographics relied on "Search Engines" more than phone books. Although you might think this is obvious, this is confirmation from the YP trade industry about people's behavior.

Things to Remember:

  • Not everyone has constant reliable access to the Internet. Many areas of the U.S. are still very rural with limited or no access to high-speed Internet. How do you reach that market online?
  • Use different media to target different demographics. For example, if you're a dentist you might consider running an ad for dentures in the phone book, and family or children's dentistry online. Each demographic consumes media differently.

Bradley SEO Marketing is an Inland Empire web design firm in Southern California. Please feel free to tweet or share this article!

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