The Marketing Debate: SEO vs Yellow Pages

Once upon a time there was no better tool for marketing a business than a prominent ad in the Yellow Pages. But then, once upon a time, Pterodactyls were the kings of the sky. Times changes, tools and methods evolve and better ways of doing things emerge – a reality any business owner knows. Only a couple of decades ago a busy office could be identified by the staccato chatter of its typewriters while the heady scent of mimeograph ink filled the air.

The digital revolution, the emergence of the Internet and the dynamics of the information age have shuffled those quaint relics into the same room where buggy whips and spats are stored. The ubiquitous 1024px-Yellow_Pages_logo.svgYellow Pages, those weighty tomes whose sunshine-colored covers adorned every desk, could in the next few years find itself displayed in museums alongside stuffed Passenger Pigeons and dusty Velociraptor bones.

A recent survey of business users in Australia, when asked how frequently they used the printed Yellow Pages, reported that only 7.69 per cent of respondents actually used it on a regular basis, meaning once a week or more. Of the survey respondents 23.08 per cent used it once a month, 15.38 per cent cracked open the book only once a year while a whopping 53.85 per cent reported that they never used it! The same survey takers also said that when searching for a product or service Google would be put to the test 92.86 per cent of the time, while the traditional Yellow Pages was employed only 7.14 per cent of the time.

So, while the Yellow Pages still do exist, is there any value in having an ad within its pulpy covers? Well, in many ways it depends on the product being marketed and on the audience being targeted. It’s no real surprise that if the audience is older, or less tech savvy, then a Yellow Pages ad is much more likely to be read than marketing aimed at the under-30 demographic. Yellow Pages still have some features in their favor. They are portable, easy to access, reach a very local audience and there’s no battery required.

It’s no real surprise that if the audience is older, or less tech savvy, then a Yellow Pages ad is much more likely to be read than marketing aimed at the under-30 demographic

However on an ongoing basis Yellow Page advertising can be prohibitively expensive, especially for a newer business just testing the local waters. A Yellow Page ad is as unchanging as those Raptor bones mentioned above. There is no provision for making changes once they go to print, so don’t move your business or provide any pricing specials you want to promote during the next 12 months if all of your marketing mojo is bound up within its covers.

If your business has a web presence, and just about every business should have a web presence, then paying for professional Search Engine Optimization (SEO) makes much better fiscal sense than a display ad in the Yellow Pages. Perhaps the largest single reason SEO is replacing the Yellow Pages is that the effort provides quicker, simpler and more effective results for both the user and the business owner. SEO is the job of optimizing a website in a way that makes it easier for online user to find your site when they are using a search engine.

SEO tops the Yellow Pages as a business enhancer as it provides a targeted system that Google and its search tools employ. An optimized website will be on page one of a Google search, while an SEO neglected website could require flares and a team of bloodhounds to locate. Web users typically lack the persistence or patience to conduct a time-sapping search. A standard issue user wants it easily, wants it quickly and they want it on demand. You don’t want to find your business website located on page three or four of a web search, unless you’re enjoying your alone time.

Web users typically lack the persistence or patience to conduct a time-sapping search

SEO is the most effective way for Internet users to find you, but it is only one element of a fully rounded marketing campaign. It may be great that a user in Florida or Tokyo can find you, but if you are wanting to sell perishables to customers in Parksville or on Protection Island, an ad in the local paper, a 10 second voice spot on the local radio station, and yes, a placement in the Yellow Pages might ultimately put more money into your cash register.

While it’s clear SEO is something every small business should employ, effective advertising is not restricted to one medium alone. To reach the widest market, to put your information before the largest group of potential buyers, you have to get the word out using all the tools in your marketing tool kit including those sunshine-hued pages. If including a Yellow Pages ad in your promotional plans, ensure the ad is as small as you can get away with and that it does not contain information that’s going to be changing any time soon. These vivid Jurassic denizens are going to be clumping around our marketing world for a while yet, but each year their footfalls will be growing fainter until eventually they won’t be heard at all.