Search vs. Yellow Pages - 4 Secrets Why Search Engines Beat Yellow Pages in Local Advertising
Submitted July, 2004
I was recently looking for a phone number in my kitchen drawer. As usual the drawer was packed and I had to pull all the contents out to find the15 page school directory I was looking for. As I was trying to stuff the pile back in, I realized the source of the problem, the 4 inch thick yellow pages book. Although I don't use the yellow pages very often, I usually keep them and throw them out when the new edition comes.
I work with numerous law firms and I realized that many of my clients were spending a significant portion of their marketing budgets on the yellow pages. So I decided to do some research. Opening the 2,000+ page book, I was amazed to see that there were almost 100 pages of advertising just for lawyers. At about 15 pages into it I was overwhelmed - too much information and too many choices.
The yellow pages book in question wasn't from New York or Chicago, it was from Cincinnati. So why would anyone spend thousands of dollars a month to be part of this process? Well, I asked my clients, and the most popular answer was... because everyone else is doing it.
I didn't like that answer and I also don't like wasting money. I looked closer at the Yellow Pages vs. Search Engine models and identified four trends that will impact how local companies advertise.
- Ease of Use - People do what is easy. Access to the
Internet via work, home or any library have truly made getting online easy.
According to Jupiter Media, over 64% of people who are looking for information
online, use search engines. If I can type my problem or what I want into a
search engine and find what I need, I don't need to go through the 100 pages
of ads in the yellow pages. Search engines are getting more precise down to an
industry specialty and geographic focus, while also continuing to be easier to
- Cost Model of Yellow Pages vs. Search Engine - In reviewing these two models we need to compare the traits and cost basis of each media.
a. Printing Costs
b. Mailing/Distribution Costs
c. Sales rep Cost Model
d. Per click or Per Action Model
e. Commitment level
1 year None
f. Flexibility of Ad
Clearly, the Yellow Pages model is more expensive while also being significantly less flexible and scalable than online search engines.
- Differentiation vs. Directory - As a business owner, the
last thing I would do is give my prospects a detailed list of my competitors,
including addresses and phone numbers. But that is exactly what the Yellow
Pages do. Using search engines, you can differentiate yourself from everyone
else. So when the ideal client is looking for what you do, they find you, not
all your competitors.
The Yellow Pages industry is over 100 years old and according to the Direct Marketing Association is a 12 Billion plus market. It is not going away. Yellow Pages Online and many industry specific directories are now being aggressively marketed. In our studies, we have seen very little traffic or lead generation coming from these online directories. If you are approached to be in an online directory, ask if you can pay for it by the number of visitors and/or leads to your site. You won't get many takers on that offer.
- The Future Big Winner in Search ... Local Firms! The
traditional success model for winning online has been the ability to sell your
product or service nationally or internationally. However, local or regional
firms could not leverage the national and international traffic that search
engines brought because they were only licensed or had services available in a
specific city, state or region.
Good news ... the search engines now have the ability to determine where the search is coming from. What that means to you is you can target all the way down to a city, zip or area code. If you have a firm that has a defined geographic area, you have an incredible opportunity to be the top firm that comes up when people use a search engine for services in your area.
Wow! can this be true? If so, where do I begin? Based on these trends there are five things you need to do today to differentiate you from your competition. We suggest that you change your strategy and reallocate your budget as follows:
Look at your Yellow Page investment. What did it cost you last year and what business came directly from it? If the numbers work, keep doing it. However if the answer to this question is "I don't know", we have a suggestion. Keep the yellow pages ad, just make it smaller. Take the 50% you save on your budgeted yellow page fees and use it to directly drive online prospects to your firm. If you are satisfied with your results with yellow pages, take 20-30% of your current budget to be online. As phone books and directories continue to diminish in value, you will be ahead of the curve.
Have your own site - If you are in a directory and it has created a simple site for you, don't worry about tracking traffic, you probably aren't getting any. Make sure you have your site set up as your own, and that people can find you through normal search engines, not just through the directory. Also, remember that if clients find you through directories, you are introducing them to all your competitors. Be careful.
Measure - Look at your site. You should know how many people come to your site. If you are signed up with an online or directory service, get your numbers from them. You will probably be surprised with the low amount of visitors and leads you get. If the directory provider can't (or doesn't want to) get you your performance numbers, fire them!
Add Relevant Location Text to your Site - People today are using search engines to find what you do in your city. Make sure that the search engines can easily know your address, city, state, zip and area code. If you have areas that you specialize in, make sure location info are on those pages too.
Start Using the Online Model Now - If you want to see the six online steps a prospect goes through from typing in a request on a search engine to becoming your client, read this recent case study.
Realize that yellow page books and yellow page online directories do not differentiate you from everyone else. Make sure your site tells what you do, where you are located and invites the client to take action with your firm. Welcome to search, the killer application that is leapfrogging the current directory model. Search is the future: the question is - are you are going to be a player or a spectator? Good Selling.
About the Author: Phil Reifenberg is a partner with Improved Results, LLC. He has worked with hundreds of clients around the world, improving the profitability of their online initiatives. He can be reached by email or directly at 513-697-0871.
Copyright © 2004 Phil Reifenberg. All rights reserved. No portion of this article may be reproduced without the express written permission of the copyright holder, except as follows: You may link this article to your website, either directly or through an ExpertLaw Library index page, provided your link does not depict this article, its author, or expertlaw.com in a negative manner.