By |Published On: November 18, 2014|

As a local search marketing company, we provide a mix of print advertising and digital marketing solutions. That’s because—when deciding what to buy and where to buy it—consumers use both.

Which is why the misconceptions surrounding Yellow Page advertising are especially disturbing.

Many business owners have become convinced that “nobody uses the Yellow Pages anymore” and that “the Internet is all I need.” If that’s you, here are 7 myths about Yellow Page advertising that are hindering your business.

1. Nobody Uses the Yellow Pages Anymore

Digital marketing firms are fond of saying, “long gone are the days of phone books, print ads and direct mailers.”

That’s because these companies are their direct competitors. There’s only so much marketing budget to go around, so of course they say this. It’s known as unselling another’s solution.

The Inconvenient Truth about Yellow Pages Advertising

It’s easy to claim “Yellow Pages is dead,” but actual independent marketing studies say otherwise:

  • Media research firm Burke Inc. surveyed over 8,000 individuals in a 12-month period. Forty-five (45%) percent of respondents said print Yellow Page is “the source I go to first for finding local business information.”
  • Other surveys show that Yellow Page usage remains high in rural and suburban markets. One study found that 69 percent of San Francisco Bay Area residents “still” use print directories. That includes tech-savvy Silicon Valley cities like Freemont, Heyward, Oakland, Palo Alto, San Jose, San Mateo, and Sunnyvale.

2. Yellow Page Advertising is Expensive

The perception that Yellow Page companies “charge high rates” is a myth left over from the 80s, when companies like AT&T had a monopoly.

Today, independent Yellow Page companies comprise 40 percent of the industry. The competition has forced the utility directories to lower their rates. A decent display ad program today costs less than $1,500 a year.

3. Yellow Page Advertising Cannot be Tracked

The advantage online advertising has over Yellow Pages is every click can be measured, so you can track exactly what results your advertising is producing. So say the digital marketing firms.

They must not know about call tracking. Oh, wait, they do. It’s the same technology they use for digital advertising.

How Call Tracking Works

Call tracking involves placing a unique phone number in an online or print ad. When someone calls that number, a proprietary system forwards it to the actual number. This allows the software to monitor and track all incoming calls.

Call tracking tell us exactly how many phone calls our Yellow Page ads generate. Here’s a small sampling of the hundreds of statics from our call tracking database:

  • A pizza shop received 2,790 phone calls in 13 months, for an average of 215 calls a month
  • Four attorneys received a total 1,944 calls in 4 months, for an average of 486 calls a month
  • An insurance company received 102 calls in 4-1/2 months, for an average of 23 calls a month
  • An electrolysis company received 230 calls in 5 months, for an average of 46 calls a month

Another myth bites the dust.

4. The Internet is all You Need

Google software engineer and spokesperson Matt Cutts says businesses should focus on more than just ranking well in search results:

And I am all for having eggs in lots of different baskets, right? Because if your website goes down, then you could always have a brick and mortar business. If your ranking on Google is not as good, then you could have other channels that you can use, from print media advertising to billboards to Twitter to Facebook.

So you should always have a very well-rounded portfolio of ways to get leads, whether it be people walking through your door, or Yellow Pages, or whatever it is, because you can’t count on any one channel always working out perfectly.

Media research firm Burke Inc. found that “Yellow Pages and search engines are firmly established as the go-to sources for consumers shopping locally.” Their Local Media Tracking Study showed that consumers use a combination of both Yellow Pages (74%) and search engines (76%) to find local businesses.

Rather than replacing print, digital media has increased audience fragmentation:

While years ago, a local business could put an ad in a Yellow Pages book and be confident they were going to hit a big percent of its market, today local marketers have to cobble together media buys across multiple channels to get the same audience.

5. Online Marketing Produces Better Results

The truth is both online and offline marketing have single-digit response rates:

  • Direct mail yields response rates of 1.1 to 1.4 percent
  • Internet display ads have a 0.04 response rate
  • Pay-per-click advertising gets 0.22 percent

Yet another reason to put your marketing eggs in lots of different baskets.

6. Online Marketing is Cheaper

I said earlier that you can get a decent display ad program for less than $1,500 a year. Compare that to pay-per-click advertising, where most digital firms won’t even talk to you unless you’re willing to spend $500 a month for at least 3 months.

Likewise, search engine optimization services can cost several hundred dollars a month. And if you’re in a competitive industry in a saturated market (say, personal injury attorney in Los Angeles), expect to pay even more.

Besides, “cheaper” is a relative term. The real measurement of how “cheap” your advertising is should never be “cost per month.” Instead, it must be a results-based measurement, such as cost-per-sale and return on investment.

7. The Only Reason Companies Buy Yellow Page Ads is because a Slick Sales Person Talked Them Into It

Well, part of this myth is true. Yellow Page sales people are among the best in the industry. But the slickest sales person can’t talk someone into buying a product that doesn’t work. At least not year after year after year.

This assumes business owners are easily manipulated. On the contrary, we find that our advertisers demand results—and require us to prove we’re producing them. Otherwise, they cancel. That’s why we continually measure our advertising through call tracking, website analytics, and more.

That wraps up the 7 Myths about Yellow Page Advertising. Still not convinced? No worries. There are plenty of other myths for you to believe. Like how print Yellow Pages is destroying the environment.


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