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Are the Yellow Pages Making a Comeback?

Posted by Casey Lewis on Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Topics: Yellow Pages

yellow-pages-making-comebackLike any good American, I do my best to avoid commercials as much as possible. Thanks to DVR, we’ve now been spoiled with the ability to record our favorite shows and fast forward through commercials with ease. But despite my best efforts, I still occasionally have to sit through some advertisements, and lately I’ve been seeing a major marketing push from YP. From paid spots on the Mike & Mike in the Morning show on ESPN Radio and ESPN2, to taking over the new scoreboards at the home of my beloved Oakland Athletics, I can’t seem to get away from the yellow pages.

All of this begs the question: are the yellow pages making a comeback?

Let me be as clear and unambiguous as the written format will allow: NO.

Unequivocally, the answer is no. I’m sorry if you’re holding out hope for the yellow pages to suddenly return to relevance, but it just isn’t going to happen. The yellow pages are destined to become one of those relics we recall wistfully as we reminisce with friends over cold drinks, like rotary telephones and the Super Nintendo.

So why are we seeing YP ads everywhere?

Think about it for a second. If a company is doing well, do they employ an all-out marketing blitz? Aggressive campaigns like the one YP is currently using are reserved for two types of situations: either a company is trying to transform its image, or it’s desperate. Unfortunately for YP, both of these things are true.

The yellow pages have been steadily losing market share for years, a fact we’ve documented on this blog numerous times. For decades, the yellow pages relied on ads in the print phone book for revenue, forcing clients to sign 12-month contracts for advertisements that came out only once per year. And because small businesses had basically no other affordable options, they gave in to the yellow pages’ demands. It was a monopoly that YP enjoyed for years – until the internet came around.

With the rise of the internet, and cost-effective marketing strategies like inbound marketing, small businesses could suddenly advertise their companies digitally without having to pay huge sums of money. And as companies began to drift away from the yellow pages, the print edition actually began to physically shrink as the ads dried up. This has been happening for years, resulting in a very slow and painful death of a thousand cuts for YP.

But they say they can help me with online marketing now. Is that worth a shot?

Allow me to answer this question with another question. If you’re a print-reliant company that is seeing countless customers abandon you for internet marketing, what would be a good way to try to stop that? Maybe telling them you can also help them with internet marketing?

This is just a last-ditch effort by YP to stay relevant in a world that’s left them behind. The truth is, YP’s online marketing efforts are going to help the company a lot more than they’re going to help you.

YP is offering an online directory service, which, quite frankly, is just not effective. By being a part of their directory, you can piggyback on their SEO so that maybe your directory listing shows up high in search results. But then the potential visitor has to visit YP’s site first before they get to your site. It’s a long-held maxim that the more clicks you require to complete a task, the less likely the person is to reach the end. With YP, you’re just adding extra clicks for your visitors, which means many of them won’t actually make it to your site.

Not to mention that if you embrace inbound marketing methods, you can start making your website rank highly in search results all on your own, without YP or anyone else’s help.

Don’t believe the marketing blitz. The age of the yellow pages is over. It’s a digital world now, and YP simply took too long to get going.

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