Traditionally, a Yellow Pages print ad was a no-brainer; if you had a local company, part of your advertising budget was set aside to purchase an ad in the phone book. If you were aggressive, you would purchase a half-page ad or larger. On average, a half-page ad costs over $15,000.
But in 2008, a major shift happened. According to ComScore, this was the year that Internet search surpassed the yellow pages in terms of consumer usage. In 2008, 31% of all local search enquiries for a commercial business originated online.
If you run a business, this is not news. You’ve probably reduced your print budget to focus on more modern forms of advertising, like Internet marketing. You are not alone. Wells Fargo/Wachovia forecasts almost a 40% drop in print and online spending on yellow pages over the next 4 years.
Your Yellow Pages sales representative knows this too. That’s why their latest sales pitch includes an online directory and vague guarantees that placement in the Yellow Pages will help your website be found on the search engines. Even more telling is that the cost of Yellow Pages print ads has decreased significantly as demand falls.
We polled all of our employees at here at Alter Imaging to see if any of them had used the Yellow Pages in the past year. Only our lead designer had…and he used it as a doorstop.
Given the trends, you need to start moving your advertising budget away from costly and ineffective print marketing and towards online.
Let’s revisit the amount mentioned in the first paragraph. $15,000 is also close to the average yearly spend for Alter Imaging’s Internet marketing clients (actual amount will vary with industry and competition levels). We also have lower (and higher) priced options (just like the yellow pages).
But that is where the similarity ends. Let’s look at the major differences:
- Global exposure vs. local – Yellow page ads are only distributed in a local municipality whereas Google, Yahoo, and Bing have a global presence. They (especially Bing) advertise their search interface more extensively than Yellow Pages, too.
- Better tracking – Web stat programs like Google Analytics will show you exactly where each visitor came from. If they came from the search engines, you will even know what keywords they typed in to find your listing. If they came from a search engine and purchased something from your site, we can determine the value of each keyphrase and adjust our strategy.
- Longevity of campaign – Once your year is up at the yellow pages, your advertisement is gone unless you purchase it again. Internet marketing campaigns will continue to have long-lasting effects (i.e. your site doesn’t disappear from the search engines if you stop paying for Internet marketing services).
- Yellow Pages won’t fit in your pocket. Search engine results are available anywhere you have a computer or web-enabled mobile phone (or iPod). You can even access Google’s search results via voice by dialing 1-800-GOOG-411.
- Usage patterns and audience – how often do you use the Yellow Pages? Search engines? If your use of the yellow pages is in decline, you are part of the global trend as shown from trends.google.com:
To summarize, search engine marketing has supplanted the Yellow Pages for gaining the most exposure to your business. It gives you more exposure, can be better tracked, and the effects will last much longer than an advertisement on Yellow Pages.
If you are thinking about shifting your budget away from the Yellow Pages and towards Internet marketing, please contact Alter Imaging. We can provide references and case studies of successful and happy clients…and not one of them is running a Yellow Pages ad.
Addition: The day that this article was published, there was a similar article in the Wall Street Journal.