Mike Blumenthal has some nice LocalSEOGuide bait today on print yellow pages usage trends by advertisers entitled “Annual Print YP Death Watch”:

“In many categories the ads are for national players. In florists for example there are 2.5 pages and only 1/8 of one page covers truly local florists….The print YP are no longer a local advertising medium catering to local business. It is clear that what is left of the print yellow pages has been taken over by regional and national advertisers. One has to wonder though if they ever bother to calculate their returns or they are doing this out of habit.”

I wonder if this is a symptom of the “Big Box Store” effect on many local businesses, where bigger players are able to come into a market and push out smaller guys who can’t compete at the same scale?  I don’t know about florists, but it feels like many of the lawyers in my city are part of a multi-location regional company.  I am seeing this across my client base as well.  A lot fewer single locations over the years.  This may be a self-selection issue as smaller businesses are less likely to hire a fancy pants SEO guy like myself.

This post is begging for a rebuttal by The YP Commando.

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13 Response Comments

  • Jennifer Teply  March 27, 2013 at 9:21 am

    Florists is the only heading that I have come across as of recent where national accounts are “taking over”. Local Florists either have to make a decision to go bigger in the print or find ways of being listed with an in-column ad hoping their name begins with A, B or C. Other than Florists, I have not seen this in other headings in the print. Yellow pages is still being used against popular belief, but the digital world continues to grow as well. Yellowbook offers all advertisers complete transparency to review their results through call forwarding #’s and proven value with impressions & clicks through yellowbook.com. Being a certified reseller of Google for SEM/SEO, this is of urgent importance to help theses businesses with online presence. A strong well built website that is linked across the web, is a have to!

    • Andrew Shotland  March 27, 2013 at 10:21 am

      Thanks for stopping by Jennifer. Curious what you guys do to support the “proven value with impressions & clicks”? How do you report/do you report ROI? Or does the advertiser have to figure it out themselves?

  • Terry Reeves  March 27, 2013 at 9:51 am

    I think it is because the local small business owner knows those directories are useless. I don’t get many phone calls from people saying their YP listing has stopped working for them anymore. I do get phone calls saying my Google Local Page has moved and I need it back where it was!

  • Ken Clark  March 28, 2013 at 6:37 am

    If no one uses these books than how would you explain YOY call tracking volumes being up 15+% last year??

    Even if you want to believe that usage in a metro area is as low as say 25%, does local newspaper or TV or direct mail or even the much cherished internet reach that level 24 by 7 by 365 (and we’re not talking about surfing the net or posting on Facebook — we’re talking local buying), at the same cost levels for a small business??? I think not.

  • Andrew Shotland  March 28, 2013 at 7:06 am

    Nice to see you here Ken. Are you seeing the trend towards more national/regional advertisers in the print YP? Or are we Internet types just smoking something that does not have an official YP heading (yet)?

  • Ken Clark  March 28, 2013 at 7:37 am

    In more traditional “Telco” books you are seeing more national as they close local sales offices/lay off local premise sales people and go more to an outbound telephone-sales model. True local independent publishers (as in the guys who live in your communities, coach the kids soccer teams, sit across from you at church, shop in the same stores you do) are the ones still working with local small businesses, and getting them placed in PYP, especially in more rural areas. Those more rural small business people want to see you, talk with you, bump into you at the Chamber meeting or the 5K charity run, not get a phone call from some 800 number in some big city. I think the popular term is a “relationship”.

    If you’ve traveled into many of these small markets you would also see that cell service is spotty or limited. Internet access can be a rare thing – for example in Oxford, MS, home of U of Mississippi, I could only find two reliable public wi-fi spots in town – the McDonalds and the local burger place. That was it. Example 2 – in Santa Fe, NM, if you are 2 minutes away from the city, there is no cell signal. None, zip, nada – so I don’t care what kind of device you have, you’re not going to be able to get to all these gee-whiz things we have.

    No doubt over time, as more and more migrates to online/mobile, usage of PYP should go down, especially in bigger metro areas. But go away? Not likely. It is often still quicker to find something, provides better information context (as in size of ad vs. others), and more cost efficient for the advertiser, even in a reduced usage level (what’s the click thru rate on a Facebook ad??).

    And most importantly those local sales people will be the ones helping those SMB’s sorting thru all of those digital and print options, when they and their buyers are good and ready.

    Hence it isn’t print OR digital. It’s print AND digital.

  • John Allen  March 28, 2013 at 12:02 pm

    I would have to disagree with Ken Clark. We routinely research YP related referrals and the traffic numbers they phone company reports just don’t jive with numbers in analytics.
    The real kicker is, even given the benefit of the doubt (using YPs numbers), the cost per click from the meager traffic YP delivers is much higher than PPC.

  • Ken Clark  March 28, 2013 at 2:41 pm

    @John: the numbers I’m referencing are straight from the call tracking provider, not the publishers, so I’m not sure why yours are off.

  • Nick  April 1, 2013 at 2:44 am

    It seems that we have an environment where the bigger players are also making it difficult for the little guys – sometimes, I’m surprised we still have “local” businesses at all. The big players (nationwide brands etc) have huge marketing budgets that they splash on all the available advertising that is available. It’s the scatter approach but it can work with enough muscle. Meanwhile, the small Florist has to be selective on the advertising that they do.

    At least this is a situation where they can have some kind of advantage with Google+ Local. Although, Domain Authority is still a massive factor and the big brands will probably be superior on that!!

    • Andrew Shotland  April 1, 2013 at 10:12 am

      Local businesses that make the investment can run rings around the big brands for most G+ Local searches. That said, most never will.

  • Brian Coryat  April 2, 2013 at 8:26 am

    I think we’re also witnessing another trend here. More and more local businesses are franchises. With the Rising entry level cost of starting a small business, the need for internet access, the need for cell phone, legal costs, marketing materials, etc. More and more entrepreneurs are opting for the franchise route rather than starting from scratch.
    Mom & Pop are now franchisees!

    • Andrew Shotland  April 2, 2013 at 8:29 am

      While I wouldn’t be surprised that the number of franchise businesses are growing Brian, is there any data to support that it’s a significant trend for “Mom & Pops”?

  • Mike Stewart  April 11, 2013 at 11:15 am


    I think you are just catching wind of the trend for metro areas. Telco publishers managed to push out smaller advertisers because of questionable pricing tactics for revenue retention. New Issue > Present Issue rules and size and seniority pricing with exceptions for New Accounts that get larger ads at the back of the book for fractions of the price the 1st few pages pay.

    Other than the overall decline of print in these markets (ducks before Dick or Ken throw shoes) as compared to more rural areas, I think the reputation of the larger “former telco” publishers and “Yellow book” are to blame. Sales reps are new blood (cheaper salaries) and most of the talent in the industry has moved on.

    Why are smaller businesses not in the book? Good question. I do know that the larger brands with marketshare and the franchises with funding can afford to be everywhere. This has always been the case. They also don’t want to lose positioning.

    Small businesses build businesses on profit. Big companies (Corporatism) builds a business on debt and capital. The sleazy overselling of print during the “hay days” of old put many of the smaller companies in a financial bind, they purchased wants vs needs and when the economy tanked their account went to the credit and collections teams.

    Considering that the larger guys are facing 15+% year over year revenue declines, I thing we are seeing a reversal of the industry fragmentation. I just hope that the more honest independent publishers can continue to offer a better localized product. Too bad the national CMRs don’t have the same budgets they used to, I see independents getting the bulk of the Preference and Usage studies today.

    /end rant/