March 31, 2010

Are Yellow Pages Ads Still Worth It?


Hostway Team

By Melissa J Luther

Your advertising budget is limited, and you want to be sure that you are making the best use of those funds. At one time, Yellow Pages ads were the gold standard in advertising. Most homes had a Yellow Pages book, and it was a reliable source of local business information. However, as Internet search engines have improved their local search results, have the Yellow Pages become irrelevant?


Yellow Page ads are expensive, and it’s difficult to calculate your return on investment. Of course, your Yellow Pages sales rep promises that the book is still relevant and an ad is worth the cost, the bigger the better, in fact. But you are not so sure, and you are right to be skeptical. A quick tour through advertising-related online forums suggests that even five years ago, business owners were finding that their Yellow Pages ads were more likely to attract additional advertisement solicitations, rather than paying customers.

The Move Online

Even Yellow Pages itself recognizes the move away from paper books. For several years, they have given their offline customers a free listing under their main category on the Web site. Today anyone can get a free basic listing. Unfortunately, it’s a very basic listing, without even a link back to your Web site, although it does link to a More Info page on the site. Placement within your category is based on how much business you do with them, unless you want to pay extra for guaranteed placement. You can also buy maps and extra information to place with your listing. In other words, all the things a Google Local Business Center listing gives you for free.

Google has, in fact, recently launched a test of a new service whereby businesses can pay for an enhanced business listing. For $25/month, your business is highlighted with a bright yellow tag when it shows up in a local search. That’s only $300/year -- a steal compared to a Yellow Pages ad, offline or online. The test is currently only in Texas and California, but it seems likely to expand.

A Yellow Pages ad might be worth it if you are in an area with low Internet penetration or without reliable broadband service. In those cases, people may be more likely to turn to the phone book to find what they need. Elsewhere, people are more likely to turn to their always-on Internet connection than to dig through a dusty phone book. If you do decide to buy an ad in the Yellow Pages book, at least include your Web site address in the ad. Even people doing an initial search offline might like to learn more about you before calling.

About the Author

Melissa J Luther, owner and founder of LookSee Information Solutions, LLC, helps small businesses create and maintain a strong Internet presence. She takes a multi-channel approach, with a well-optimized Web site as the center of an Internet presence that includes content creation, PPC advertising, linking and social media as appropriate.

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