Why the yellow pages will be dead in five years

Let me start by saying that I have a yellow page listing for my SEO company, Brick Marketing. It costs me about $ 50 per month for the profile on the Yellow Pages website. It’s a good way to help build local links, get LITTLE additional local visitors and YP.com is a very trusted domain which helps maintain the value of my link portfolio. A few months ago, I received a phone call from a Yellow Pages representative asking if I was interested in upgrading my account. Was I super interested? Not really, but I figured I should hear from the rep and see if I can get a few more links and visitors to more regions for a little extra money each month. The numbers I heard overwhelmed me, and not in a good way.

In order to go from a simple city list to a county list, I would have to donate $ 1,500 per county (Massachusetts has 14 counties) per month. It’s $ 21,000 a year just to get my business listed for all of Massachusetts. If I wanted to do a national campaign, I could snag the discounted price of $ 4,900 per month (which is $ 58,800 per year for those following). Here’s the kicker – for my money my list might see a mind boggling 60 searches per month. No leads, no visitors, no research. It’s $ 25 per search! If I told a potential SEO client that I was going to charge them $ 25 per search, they would immediately hang up and I would quickly file for bankruptcy. Think about it, even a local business like a restaurant is more likely to advertise on Yelp or on the radio than spend that kind of money on a yellow page placement.

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I politely told the Yellow Pages representative that I was not interested in upgrading my account at this time.

So what does my encounter with the yellow pages have to do with SEO? First of all, I truly believe that the yellow pages are not long for this world. While the brand and consumer confidence factor are still there, the company has failed to adapt to a changing market. The way people find, collect and sort information has changed dramatically over the past few years and is constantly changing. Any business, not just the Yellow Pages, that doesn’t recognize that the online world is changing will be left behind. Holding on tight to the way it used to be won’t help your online business grow and be successful.

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It doesn’t matter whether you are a white hat, a gray hat, or a black hat, being successful in SEO means learning to roll with the punches. Search engines are constantly rolling out ranking algorithm updates and various factors are getting more or less importance all the time. Social media has completely revamped the search atmosphere, and mobile is poised to do the same in the years to come. Google has 200 factors and some of them are beyond our control, so we need to make the most of what we can for ourselves and our SEO clients to help them be successful. Sticking to an SEO model / process that is no longer effective doesn’t help anyone.

In the past 13 years (that I have worked in SEO and web marketing), I haven’t heard of any yellow page profiles or online ads actually generating business for at least 6+ years. I would love to hear success stories from anyone who got a lead (or even a client!) Off their Yellow Pages list in 2011. Was it luck or can you really make a living with this list? In my experience, it’s just not worth it, but I’d love to hear from someone who could prove me wrong!


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Marvin M. Moreno

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