Why does Yellow Pages still call me?

First published 2013, updated 2023

Once upon an Era, Yellow Pages was king. That doorstopper of a Directory dropped on my parents’ doorstep once every few months, Trade vans prowled the streets with Find us in Yellow Pages’  on a bright yellow sticker on the back, semi obfuscated by ‘Watford for the cup’ and ‘Clean Me’ written into the grime.

Then a cat appeared on the scene. Thomson was his name, the cheeky upstart. The Virgin Atlantic to Yellow Pages’ British Airways. Always thinner, but somehow trendier and more useful.

Then Tim Berners-Lee gate-crashed the game. His Internetweb thingy seems to have caught on. ‘Google’ is now a recognised verb and no-one uses Yellow Pages any more.

Do they? Yellow Pages and Thomson are still around, but the tomes are thinner and – be honest – when did you last pick one up?

Update 2023 – I think they have almost given up and gone completely online, however I did receive a printed Yellow Pages Business Directory last week. Straight to recycling rather than cluttering the house.

Think – Do you ‘Yell’, ‘QXL’, ‘Bing’ or ‘Google’ something you are searching for. Go where the money is. Google is so dominant, any money paid elsewhere would need a phenomenal return to match the returns from Google.

I cannot see why they still have a team of Sales Consultants to sell advertising space. OK, so they both have websites to complement the  Directory, but why not drop the Directories and Sales Staff? You have to move with the times and as many a bookshop has found out, mainstream printed media is declining as fast as Google’s Tax bill.

Drop the hard copy and concentrate on online advertising – even then, competing against the Google juggernaut is uphill. You’ve missed that window. If Yellow Pages or Thomson had realised the power of the Internet, they could have made a great impact before Google came along and spoilt the party. Too late now.

What should we do? Get someone in your Business to advertise on every site going – but only for the free ads. Some sites have their SEO sorted and appear in Google, others don’t, but with so many out there (the ‘long tail’) there is no point finessing it with paid listings. Google has, what is it, 80% of the Search market? Pay someone to get you results in Google and, if appropriate, use Adwords (but use an expert to prevent too much money being wasted).

Everything else paid for is just a waste of time. Don’t believe me? What happened to QXL, the British equivalent of eBay? The number 2 auction site. Type it in. www.qxl.co.uk. It’s now Danish. Would you try and sell anything on QXL? Would you try and advertise anywhere but Google? If you’re thinking ‘yes’, then turn it around. When did you deliberately go to a non-google search engine to look for something? For ‘you’, read ‘your customers’.

Yellow Pages Call Centre Staff. Move on. No-one pays for advertising in your catalogue any more. Why should they?

Update 2023

I get approached by Businesses purporting to have exclusive connections to categories of Businesses – Schools, for instance. “Sign up to us and we’ll guarantee you exclusivity in your area”. Exclusivity to your website maybe, not to the Schools – who are free to pick and choose their suppliers. Don’t fall for it, it’s about £500 a year at the basic level and you could spend that marketing yourself directly to many Schools.

Every now and again a niche Directory of Services appears on a Facebook Group page (Drone Photographers, Health and Safety Trainers etc.). Someone has spent ages crafting a website displaying a list of providers. Very noble, and if there is a free basic listing, go for it. It might just help with your Google presence. Speaking of Google, however, realistically anyone looking for your Services will use Google. Don’t waste your money on premium niche Directories unless there is a tangible benefit that Google does not provide.

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