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The Fall of the Yellow Pages Empire

I know exactly where my yellow pages book is at home: in the back of the cabinet under the TV, under the boxes for my toaster and coffee maker. The last time my yellow pages book saw the light of day was when I swapped the new edition for the old one.

In case you hadn't realized, the print yellow pages empire is declining fast, and it's no surprise. With search engines specializing in local business searches, the yellow pages are quickly becoming an aged advertising, marketing, and business tool. Instead, millions of Americans are turning towards the internet to find local businesses instead of flipping pages in an oversized book. There are a few reasons to WHY this is taking place; In fact, this type of decline has been predicted for years.

Yellow Pages in the Trash

Who Still Uses the Yellow Pages?

According to a recent comScore study, yellow pages usage has significantly decreased in recent years. In fact, local search websites account for over 40% of business searches and 5% explicitly characterize their behavior as shop online and purchase offline. The Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) released a 2010 report stating 68.5% of Americans use the internet anywhere - at home, on telephone, or elsewhere. It's really just the elderly and a declining percentage of Baby Boomers who are apt to turn to the yellow pages because this is what they grew up doing. The majority of Americans are connected to the internet every second of the day, either at home, on their cell phone, or even through their GPS system in their cars. On the go, finding a business online has never been so simple, and so immediate.

Yellow Pages' Revival Attempt

The yellow pages acknowledged that their popular books have fallen wayside to the internet. In order to change this, the yellow pages have changed their structure to include a listing in their oversized book, as well as online. Unfortunately, this does not necessarily work as well as yellow pages had hoped. Going through the yellow pages, there are additional costs that many do not think of when listing their business and advertising. The yellow pages include printing, mailing and distribution costs, as well as a long commitment level and less flexibility for the listing and advertisement. Businesses who choose to go the print yellow pages route forget these added costs and flexibility issues. On the other hand, getting your business listed online has no print, mailing or distribution costs. Need to update your account? Pick up the phone and call to update your listing or log into their website. The yellow pages are also attempting another route for a facelift - literally. The yellow pages are releasing new books which are produced in smaller, more compact versions. The new versions will be 5 cm shorter and 4 cm narrower and will be released in June, 2010. The smaller book is a good start for yellow pages, but it simply cannot keep up with the complexity, popularity and capabilities of the internet.

Companies are Shifting Marketing Efforts

The yellow pages serve as a marketing source for businesses to get listed with their contact information. Back before the internet became a household, or even handheld, item, the yellow pages flourished and was a staple marketing effort for all businesses. With the advances in technology, business listings have evolved as well. Today, branding is an important factor in a business's marketing efforts. Putting a listing in the yellow pages simply is not enough. Branding can be done through local searches by giving your business listing its own unique profile. A complete profile with pictures and an insight to your business will give your business the brand it needs, and will establish a way to connect your listing to images of the business. A yellow pages listing, at the very most, will give the same information that you could find online, but for a much higher cost and with a slim chance of other seeing the listing.

Additionally, marketing campaigns today are focused on retaining loyal customers by building relationships. A yellow pages listing is not going to build the relationship that businesses need. Instead, getting listed on a local search engine gives businesses the ability to be found online and builds relationships through an interactive listing. Providing print-out coupons and a place for customers to review your business gives visitors to your listing a way to interact with your business. Reviews allow customers to leave their comments on your business, and also help you build a more robust profile to give your business more attention. Furthermore, incorporate your business logo, utilize keyword rich-content, upload multiple pictures, and encourage positive reviews from your customer base. These are just some of the things you could do to increase placement within search engines and IYP's.

Budget Woes

Small businesses just don't have the money to spend frivolously, especially on marketing campaigns that do not work. This is typically the case for small businesses. A business who advertises with the yellow pages typically does not get their money's worth. To find out how your business fares, ask your customers how they found you and keep track of the results. Chances are they were directed to your business through a search engine, referred by others, or through word of mouth. Many businesses have taken note of this change and have channeled a larger portion of their budget towards getting listed online. The internet has a plethora of options for finding small businesses online. Toss your yellow pages in the recycling, use it as a booster seat, or substitute for firewood, and claim and take control of your business listing today!