For the last several years, the demise of the yellow pages has been repeatedly predicted, but they will never die.
If you previously spent $1,000 a month on yellow pages ads, that same $1,000 spent online could yield a much greater return. If You Enjoyed This Post, Make Sure You Subscribe to My Free Newsletter to Get My Posts Delivered Straight to Your Email Inbox!
Once upon a time, whenever a consumer needed to find a local restaurant, dry cleaner, plumber, TV repairman, florist or pretty much anything, they lugged out the big yellow book. The Yellow Pages concept became so popular that as business began to shift online in recent years, so did the yellow pages solutions.
Just as consumers naturally turned to the big yellow book in print, they turned to the online version.
One of the things consumers often found frustrating about the Yellow Pages was its limited number of categories. Businesses, on the other hand, found the concept of search engines to be quite a bit more daunting than the much simpler Yellow Pages.
While getting a high ranking on Google for category keywords may be difficult, it is important to update a business’ online platform.
Having a social media presence across Google+, Facebook or Yelp is crucial for today’s local businesses, as customers want to feel connected and valued. The key to getting the most from these online services is providing good products, value and customer service. While many marketers have written off Internet Yellow Pages as dead, the recent Google Pigeon update may have made them relevant once more. The recent Google Pigeon update appears to have provided a bit of a traffic upswing for Internet Yellow Pages (IYPs) and other online business directories, at the cost of individual local businesses’ site rankings in many cases.
Search engines and the internet have put some serious dents in old local media powerhouses like yellow pages, newspapers, classifieds, etc.
As a number of us noted, the recent Pigeon update improved the ranking and visibility of IYPs and directories, and SEMrush and other competitive analytics services are already showing a real upswing in those sites’ visits as a result.
Top Internet Yellow Pages sites, and even some of the second-tier yellow pages sites, have seen increases in traffic over the past year, particularly after late spring and going into the summer.
It’s pretty simple math to figure out that in many business categories, if the local directory sites have risen some in rankings, then other stuff was equally displaced.
If you’re a business that lost its visibility when the tide shifted, then you need to seriously consider beefing up your presence and visibility within the directory sites where the consumers are now going. Even if your website or local pack listing did not lose its first-page-of-search-results placement, you should still consider strengthening your directory game in order to increase your visibility and maximize your presence where consumers are looking. First, do a few searches for your type of business in your area and then see which directory sites are ranking well in search results.
Once you have your list of local directory sites, visit the pages from them that are showing up for your keyword searches in order to assess what you may need to do with each. Questions you should ask are: Does my business listing appear on the first page of results from the directory webpage that is ranking for my local business keyword searches? In some cases, adjusting your listing might help it pop up onto Page 1 for free, but in many cases you may want to seriously consider advertising since ads are typically going to be in the upper portion of a directory page. Above all, for the directory page to benefit you, your business must appear on Page 1 of that directory site.
With many of these sites, simply purchasing the least-expensive ad option might be the minimum necessary to enable you to appear in the ad section of their first page of listings – so, that might be all you would need. IYPs may offer bundled advertising deals that would combine print with internet and mobile advertising – I think that in most cases you don’t need the print (there are undoubtedly exceptions to this – small towns and locations in the Midwest of the U.S.


I think the main goal for you will be to get on Page 1 of the directory page in question, and closer to the top of it.
In the past, there was some anecdotal evidence that IYP ads might provide actual SEO benefits – but, most of these links will be identified and discounted as ad links by search engines, or they’re nofollowed on those sites – so, this probably should not be considered to be an SEO stratagem.
A number of directory sites employ call tracking so that they can show more of their sites’ value to advertisers, but these numbers can be detrimental to the rankings of your business in local search, and if the tracking number displays a nonlocal area code, it might have an impact on your conversion rates when consumers are choosing a business.
Business listings pages from online directory sites are often a type of local search results pages. In most cases, you would likely have to file for a name change or apply for a “Doing Business As” name, and then supply the government approved paperwork to the directory to ask them to change how they list you.
In yet other cases, the businesses are displayed in order of proximity to the center of the search area – in order to optimize for this, you’d have to alter your address, which might not be worth it for the potential added exposure benefit. I’ve written about those before, although I was focusing more on search optimization benefits then.
Obviously, your overall customer service needs to be excellent already – if it is less than what it could be, beef it up by studying companies at the top of the customer service game, like Zappos. But, there are also things you can do to improve your presence in reviews sites online, such as encouraging happy customers to post reviews, responding capably to feedback, and more.
Be sure to connect your directory listings with your social media accounts wherever possible! I’ve also seen a lot of instances where businesses have made errors when adding their social media URLs to directory sites, so be sure to check all your links when you look at your listings and directory profile pages.
Did you know you can see how many visitors were referred from directory sites to your site’s pages in web analytics systems like Google Analytics?
Many businesses have hyper-focused on how they rank and appear in Google and Bing search results, and your presence in that top tier of search is definitely valuable and important. Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Chris Smith is President of Argent Media, and serves on advisory boards for Universal Business Listing and FindLaw. SMX Advanced, the only conference designed for experienced search marketers, returns to Seattle June 22-23. MarTech: The Marketing Tech Conference is for marketers responsible for selecting marketing technologies and developing marketing technologists. These new and improved directories allow advertisers to have a bigger presence, with more information about their firm, at lower cost.
Technology makes it easy to see which ad is working best, allowing you to adapt immediately instead of having to wait until next year’s print edition.
A small firm that had been limited to smaller ads in print directories can, with some marketing smarts, compete with firms with a bigger budget.
Known as the Yellow Pages, the big yellow book provided a complete listing, by category, of all of the businesses in the consumer’s local area.
Sometimes it was difficult to determine in exactly what category to search for a particular product or service, whereas with Google and other search engines, they could simply type in a few words and be taken to the right place. Once this is taken care of, it’s possible to augment this presence by purchasing advertising.
Particularly, small businesses can gain more valuable (and free) advertising through social media than through any paid source. While it might be cost-effective for some types of businesses, your primary focus should be on your online presence and customer interactions if you want to build long-term customer relationships.
I’ve frequently mentioned in the past how Google and other local search engines were edging out IYPs as the local business information provider-of-choice for consumers.


Local business reviews sites seem to have benefited in many cases, including Angie’s List, the Better Business Bureau (BBB), HomeAdvisor and probably Yelp (even though SEMrush shows a slight dip downwards for Yelp after June). It’s likely that some local businesses’ websites are not as visible in each of the search markets where this occurred. Determine whether you merely wish to optimize your business profiles there at their free levels, or whether you’ll wish to purchase advertising. And, if your listing is already on Page 1 there, is it ranking higher on the page – such as in the first half to first third of the page? It helps further for it to rank near the top, but that’s not as important as simply being there. I’ll say that in general, it may not be worthwhile to advertise in the print yellow pages books in many cases, but IYP and online directory sites often have much more cost-effective advertising options compared with the heyday of print. There can be other value-add options that you may want to consider, such as add-ons that would make the listing more visible and more attention-getting for consumers. If you choose to advertise, I recommend that you continue to avoid using call-tracking numbers for the sake of your overall local SEO healthiness.
As such, there are optimization techniques that can enable your business to rise up in their rankings, just as with the local results in the major search engines!
Businesses have actually done this to attempt to improve their rankings in search engines, so why not in directory sites, too?
There are frequently a number of elements of business directory profiles that may be optimized beyond merely checking to see if your name, address and phone number are correct: business categories, lists of products and services, written descriptions, hours of operations, website link, photos, logos, social media links, and more.
Your optimization in this instance should be more focused upon making you as visible and attractive within the directory site as possible. For business reviews sites, your promotional value is naturally going to be heavily affected by your overall reviews and ratings. I’m seeing many instances where a business’s Facebook page is ranking well in the new search results, and consumers may like businesses that appear more open to interacting with them online, so enhance the chances of this happening. I recommend that you compare these referrals before and after you’ve performed optimizations on your listings — if you were successful in your efforts, I would imagine you’ll likely see the referral numbers rise! However, using these tips can further optimize your presence in the second tier of search,  thereby increasing your potential customer referrals and associated sales. Smart attorneys (and other advertisers) are taking advantage of these changes by creating better web sites (and more of them), optimizing their sites to improve search engine ranking, and promoting their sites through social media. You can increase or decrease your advertising investment with a click or two and you can just as easily change your headlines and copy and offers, making the same dollars bring in even more business.
And some will see a void in the market left by the disappearance of their competitors and make a killing in the next frontier. Attorneys today must understand that advertising online is just one facet of an integrated marketing plan and they must be prepared to continually acquire the knowledge and resources needed to stay competitive. Customer review sites such as Yelp can make or break a business, so when a Yelp page is managed carefully, it can be invaluable to a local business. So, there is potential you could apply these in order to pop up into the first page of the directory site without incurring advertising or membership fees, if you’re not already there. But, as more and more advertisers shift dollars from online to offline, the effectiveness of that advertising will decline and advertisers will shift yet again back to the Internet or to the next big thing.



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