Why Yellow Pages Will Be Dead in Five Years

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Let me start of by saying that I do have a Yellow Pages listing for my SEO company, Brick Marketing. It costs me about $50 a month for the profile on the Yellow Pages website. It’s a good way to help with my local link building, get a FEW additional local visitors and YP.com is a very trusted domain, so that helps uphold the value of my link portfolio. A few months ago, I got a phone call from a Yellow Pages representative asking me if I was interested in upgrading my account. Was I super interested? Not really, but I thought I should hear the representative out and see if I get could a few more links and visitors in more regions for a little extra money each month. The numbers I heard had me floored—and not in a good way.

In order to upgrade from just a city listing to a county listing, I would need to hand over $1,500 per county (Massachusetts has 14 counties) per month. That’s $21,000 a year just to have my business listed for all of Massachusetts. If I wanted to do a national campaign, I could snag the great discount price of $4,900 a month (which is $58,800 a year for those keeping track). Here’s the kicker—for my money my listing could see a staggering 60 searches a month. Not leads, not visitors, searches. That’s $25 per search! If I told a prospective SEO client that I was going to charge them $25 per search, they would hang up immediately and I would be out of business real quick. Think about it–even a local business like a restaurant is more likely to advertise on Yelp or the radio than spend that kind of money on a Yellow Pages placement.

I politely told the Yellow Pages representative I wasn’t interested in upgrading my account at this time.

So, what does my encounter with Yellow Pages have to do with SEO? First off, I truly believe that Yellow Pages are not long for this world. While the brand and consumer trust factor are still there, the company has failed to adapt to a changing marketplace. How people find, gather and sort information has radically evolved in the last few years and is constantly changing. Any business, not just Yellow Pages, that fails to recognize the online world is changing is going to get left behind. Steadfastly clinging to the way things used to be will not help your online business grow and be successful.

No matter if you are white hat, grey hat or black hat, part of being successful in SEO means learning to roll with the punches. Search engines are constantly rolling out updates to the ranking algorithms and various factors are being given more or less importance all the time. Social media has completely revamped the search atmosphere and mobile is poised to do the same in coming years. Google has 200 factors and some of them are out of our control, so we have to make the most of what we can for ourselves and our SEO clients to help them succeed. Sticking to an SEO model/process that is no longer effective isn’t helping anyone.

In the past 13 years (that I have worked in SEO and web marketing), I have not heard the online Yellow Page profiles or advertising actually generating any business for at least the past 6+ years. I would love to hear actual success stories from anyone that has gotten a lead (or even a client!) from their Yellow Pages listing in 2011. Was it a onetime fluke or can you really make a living with that listing? In my experience, it just isn’t worth the money but I would love to hear from anyone who could prove me wrong!

Nick Stamoulis
Nick Stamoulis is the President of Brick Marketing, a full service Boston SEO firm. With nearly 13 years of experience in the Internet Marketing industry, Nick Stamoulis shares his B2B SEO knowledge by contributing to the Brick Marketing Blog and publishing the Brick Marketing SEO Newsletter, read by over 160,000 opt-in subscribers.
Nick Stamoulis
Nick Stamoulis
Nick Stamoulis

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  • Dan Ferrznolo

    Advertising was very different 15 years ago, and you had to be in Yellow Pages, they knew that and they exploited it by charging ridiculous amounts of money….

    Hurrah for the internet changing that!

  • http://www.mikecoday.com Mike

    Our listing with Verizon’s SuperPages.com back in ’06 did generate traffic and trackable sales when I managed a website that sold imported scooters. The ROI was the lowest of all traffic sources, but the link was valuable not only because of the authority, but also because it was regularly scraped and republished by spammers.

  • http://www.agileinternetmarketing.com Kevin Burke

    Yp is pretty much dead……even the site is painful to use and is geared to selling ads and not serving the user. I find other online directories going the same way. They simply do not add value over Google or Bing so why will the live on? Only an agressive salesforce keeps these paper dinasours around for now.

  • http://www.benefitmanagement.com.au/ Jim

    Hey Nick,

    Believe it or not I actually did receive a lead from our Yellow Pages listing in 2011. Each time we receive a new inquiry we ask how we heard of them, and yes quite surprisingly they confirmed that they found us on Yellow Pages. However if we look at the pasts year on our ROI of being on Yellow Pages, each year it goes lower and lower..

  • http://www.garagedoortemecula.com Adam

    In 2011 we finally got what was called yp connect along with our existing yp.com and full page ads in a few counties. We monitored it closely it had broke even the first month and went down hill from there. Along with At&T yp connect failing the full page book ads are showing almost no ROI at this time.yp.com is ok but they can shove the rest of there programs where the sun don’t shine.

  • http://www.webseoservices.in Shashank Gupta

    Gotta agree with you Nick. Even or business apart form one of fluke customer has not received any business from our yellow pages listing. Yellow pages is becoming redundant at a fast pace; however right now even we have a Yellow pages listing and recommend the same to all our clients for local listing ūüôā

  • http://apexcarpentryinc.com Craig

    I have had a yellow page listing for years and the results go down every year. Online yellow pages are way over priced. Most of my leads come from my website now.

  • http://smbseo.com Mike Stewart “Dallas SEO Guru”

    I secretly call tracked a clients add using my agencies call tracking vendor’s CLEC numbers and discovered that Both print and online ads from my previous employer (Verizon Information Services) SuperMedia is providing false statistical information to advertisers. This is something more folks need to track. Visit

  • Lisa Burtner

    What are people doing now? Presently I am in (3) yellow page books and get charged for every “county” for each book…which boils down to a lot of money spent in advertising every year for me.

  • http://www.websites4accountants.com Norm

    It wasn’t long ago they were so important, that people where naming their small local companies with AAA just to appear first in their category. It’s hard to believe that level of power is still supporting their overinflated view of themselves in 2012.

  • http://www.totallocal.com Edward Shotwell

    Ok, I’ll bite. I am a local yellow page publisher serving 45 small communities in Michigan. Yellow pages are alive and well in our communities and the future looks very promising. That being said, I am sure glad I’m not publishing one of those large metro books with their vastly inflated prices and useless online offerings. We deal with mostly very small mom and pop service businesses; plumbers, builders, hair salons, funeral homes, accountants, insurance agents, well drillers, and more. In very small towns like ours there is a strong emphasis on shopping locally. Our business base tends to not even have a website, and if they do it is just the very basic type. What we can offer is a small, easy to use community resource guide to locally owned service businesses in the area. Unlike traditional large phonebooks, we don’t charge prohibitively high rates and we don’t charge anything at all for their online ad with us because the online usage just isn’t there. The business model for small town directories is vastly different from the big guys and Google really hasn’t found a good way to penetrate the market. What we have found is that much of the online databases used by the big online publishers is just plain wrong or outdated and falls way short of the mark when it comes to providing the small town local consumer with the information necessary to make an informed buying decision. Utility company directories have been over-priced cash cows for decades and they don’t seem to have changed their ways.

    • http://www.kukbaldwin.com Tom Baldwin

      Congrats, Ed for telling the positive Yellow Pages story from a Publisher’s point of view.
      Any review of the recent Yellow Pages Usage study will show that even with some
      drop in usage, the print YP still has substantial value. It also provides
      meaningful, measurable ROI for its advertisers.
      Print YP will be around for a long time.
      Tom Baldwin
      Kuk-Baldwin & Associates

      • Jimmy

        lmfao….Please, Tom. You guys don’t know how ridiculous you come across as. Learn to use a smartphone and tell us if small town USA really needs something as archaic as the yellow pages. Truth be told, the only people who still use the yellow pages are people who refuse to use modern day technology. That’s probably less than 2% of the country. The pages are worth less than 2% of their prices to top it off.

    • http://www.business-internet-and-media.com Brian Hower

      This is fascinating everyone. Great comments all around. I, too, sold YP for 2 of the “big boys”. What could have been a great job offering a great value was a totally frustrating rip-off for both me as an employee and more importantly for the customers. What a shame.

      Needless to say, once I saw the writing on that wall, I made a change to go into business for myself and to provide more real value for the customer. he Internet affords us that fantastic opportunity!

      Ed, great view point on smaller towns and the high value your publications provide there.
      I think I spoke with your company at one point so I have a good idea of what you have to offer.

      The US small business is hurting. It’s the backbone of the country. We need to be of higher value and true support to American small business owners.

  • http://wiggles-n-wags.com Susan

    HATE this time of year when the YP, YellowBook, and myriads of small local “pages” salespeople inundate my business trying to tell me how people still use their books….puh-leeze. We track where we get our customers…website, word-of-mouth, and local veterinarians are where our referrals come from. I do usually take the smallest listing in YP and YB just to get the online link to my website.

  • http://www.brickmarketing.com/ Nick Stamoulis

    Thanks everyone for reading and sharing your thoughts and viewpoints! ūüôā

    Take Care,

  • http://360.yellowpages.ca/en/ David B

    Yellow Pages as a business is transforming at an unprecedented rate and with further enhancements to technology the more we as any other business will need to adapt. This is no different than the constant changes that a reputable SEO company needs to make when Google changes their Places, or there’s a Panda update. There’s been more enhancement in technology in the past 5 years, than there’s been in the past 5000 years.
    This article is based purely on opinion and not that of fact; having a survey of one is misleading to say the least. Yellow Pages print directories do work and they still provide a great return on our client’s investment, and there are call measurement studies after call measurement studies to back this up. Do the phone books work as well as they once did? The answer is no, and there will continue to be an erosion in our Phone Books, but not our client base.
    By diversifying into SEO, Adwords Management, Mobile Apps & Placement, having close to 10 Million unique visitors to our online directory in Canada, producing websites, HD video commercials, and strategies on how to market these video’s and websites when they’re produced make Yellow Pages companies like Yellow Pages Group fierce competitors in the on-line world; there is not other company out there that can offer the directive reach and diversification as Yellow Pages Group. From print directories to detailed analytics on our online products, there is no other media company that can do what we do and have all of the product offerings that we have.

  • http://danrippon.com.au Dan Rippon

    YP has very noticeably shifted its focus here in Australia this last 12 months or so, and the emphasis is no longer on them being a book publisher, more a one-stop shop for web design & online marketing. (Although you can only upgrade your online profile to include a link if you take out a book entry as well, at inflated prices, naturally).

    Unfortunately, they’re also the #1 provider of info to Google Places here (despite their dodgy tactics shown by Mike Blumenthal recently), so if you don’t have ’em it just make it all that bit harder…

  • Ralph Angelori

    After owning an CMR for 10 years and dealing with the publishers, I found that my clients in the rural areas were still seeing result from the print media. We also did online marketing and advertising…totally over-rated and expensive!!!! The Yellowpages industry discovered after spending billions of dollars with the online scam they had to force advertisers and agencies to use there online products or penalized them on the print side!!

    Hats off to the independent companies!….they have niched out a living off the rural areas….but for how long??

    I grew up in the Yellowpages Industry with over 25 years in all facets of the game especially Marketing and analytics. What a great way to destroy a product and brand in record time that could prove its worth or not to each business!! What idiots!!

  • http://www.localsearchassociation.org S Hobbs

    Given the fragmented media market, it makes sense for businesses to consider a combination of print, Internet and mobile advertising, along with SEO and social media. The advantage of Yellow Pages products (both print and online) is how local they are and the type of user they attract. No other media offer the same access to trusted local information in every community, large and small, across the country. So when a consumer is ready to make a local purchase, they are very likely to use a Yellow Pages product. This is why Yellow Pages typically deliver some of the highest-quality leads and deliver a solid ROI. Yellow Pages advertisers can use tools like our metered lines to measure effectiveness of their ads.

    There is certainly no data that suggests Yellow Pages will be gone in 5 years. In fact, studies from Burke show that the majority of Americans consult a directory, although there are regional and demographic differences in usage. Full disclosure, I work for the Local Search Association and more information is available at

    • Jimmy

      This is the most ludicrous comment ever. Yellow Pages are dead, my man. The only person who pays for more than a listing is flushing his money down the toilet.

  • James Mansfield

    I’m a local plumber advertising on

    • http://localwebpartner.com Guido Muller

      Hi James

      that’s absolutely great that you get a good ROI with YP., you are one of a view offline businesses which are making actually a profit with their advertising.

      Point is, do you know what you COULD make if you had a good web presence with a lead capture system in place against what you get now?

      Maybe you could get twice as much leads for half the price¹

      Just some you should maybe try to find out because it’s crucial to make the most ROI possible with your marketing investment.


  • http://www.mediatrax.com Mike Freedman

    Nick…although I understand your frustration, I support the comments made by Edward, David, Dan, S. Hobbs and James.

    In recent years we have seen most Yellow Page companies increasingly shift resources from print to online marketing.

    Recently the Yellow Pages Association changed its name to the Local Search Association. I’ve worked in recent years to help directory publishers better produce and manage online marketing campaigns.

    BIA/Kelsey estimates global print and online Yellow Page revenues at $23.4 billion in 2011 and projects that in by 2015 revenues will decline just 1.5% to $22 billion. See

  • http://www.sastrugimarketing.com Karl Kelman

    The problem with the online Yellow Pages model is that it always requires an extra click, an extra page to read, more typing. It assumes that the potential customer doesn’t find what they are looking for in Google, Yahoo!, Bing, and is willing to restart their search on a new domain. The general trend is for Search Engines to become better at search, so their are less and less customers who turn to a Yellow Pages after failing to find what they want in Google.

  • Breen Harlan

    Just curious, but for those of you who do pay to use yellow pages or yellow book: if you could pay a one time fee of say $1,000 and that secures your online Ad for LIFE and you were guaranteed that everytime someone clicked on your industry tab, call it ;plumber” or “electrician” your ad would be on the first page, would that interest you as a business owner?

    • Walt Richey

      We would not take advantage of such an offer because “for LIFE’ in the Internet world could mean 2 months or 20 years. E-Commerce is not known for reliable longevity.

  • David

    What is the best way for a small law firm specializing in bankruptcy or business law to market themselves in the print media.

    There is so much competition in the online format most law firms get lost in the digital space unless they rank super high in organic search result.

    Any thoughts or recommendations?

    • http://localwebpartner.com Guido Muller

      Hello David

      Very specific keyword research to decide your local Internet Marketing would be my recommendation to you.

      Another possibility is to include video marketing into your Internet Marketing efforts to outrank your competition.

      Just my 2 cts. tough.


    • Walt Richey

      Hire an SEO specialist with a provable track record to get yourselves positioned as best possible.

  • Walt Richey

    We serve a rural area in northern California about the size of New Hampshire with a population of less than 150,000. In this area there are THREE printed telephone directories, all with yellow pages and none of them offering any great deals. We used to advertise in two of them. It always made me angry that there are three directories in such a limited area. When I balked at renewing two years ago, one of the companies offered us a dedicated phone number in their yellow pages to measure and monitor our yellow pages traffic. As I suspected, the results were disappointing. We averaged 9.1 calls per month from three display ad categories. We primarily serve the business and government sectors, and of these 9.1 calls, 3 were from business or government phone numbers. This meant that calls generated from the yellow pages from our target market were costing us close to $100 each! I demanded significant rate cuts with no change in our display ads to renew. The yellow pages representatives refused, so we cancelled all of our advertising except for the free listing that comes with a business line. With our newly revised website, we have increased our business by 15% since terminating our yellow pages advertising.

    • Jimmy

      Now here is an accurate story. A story that’s replicated across the country. As a former YB sales rep for YellowBook aka hibu, I can confirm this story. In NYC, my territory was Manhattan. The sophisticated advertiser tracked their calls. Very few, if any, came from the yellow pages. And when they did, it was a rush of older people looking to negotiate.

      Small town USA receives the same dead results. The notion yp is still a viable way to advertise is a total and complete lie.

  • http://www.onlinetutorialsonline.com Hussain

    Good article Nick and i don’t found yellow pages to be a better marketing option their are many other way to do internet marketing and get some very good results.

  • http://www.searchboostmarketing.com Joseph Lane

    We do get leads from our yellow pages ad for one of our older personal service businesses. The cost of our ad has been reduced over the years as the quantity of leads has been reduced. We have taken the advertising dollars saved and put that money into improving our website and seo. This has increased our business and now accounts for 34% of new customer revenues. The yellow page ad now accounts for less then 1% of new customer revenues. It just makes sense to adjust your ad spend and put the dollars where the money is and for us that means investing in our own company website not yellow pages or yellow pages webpage/site.

  • Ronald

    P.S. The thin yellow pages does make a great starter fire for the fire place {shrugs}

  • http://markets.cbsnews.com/cbsnews/news/read/23025140/stockton_handyman_service_by_fremont_plaza_ace_hardware_successfully_completes_one_hundred_projects_within_first_year_of_operation Kandi Greer

    You’ve made some good points there.

  • Gokhan Dilek

    Hi Nick,

    First off, I will be forwarding this article to a potential client of mine to read it.

    He currently spends approximately $3000 per a month on yellow pages. I have no idea how this ridiculous amount of money can really be spent on yellow pages.

    Anyways… What you said about Yellow pages regarding creating leads is absolutely true!

    I think it is not only Yellow pages but most of the third party -yellow page like websites (business directories etc) do not send a single customer!

    As a web designer, I have also signed up for a couple of paid business directories and job finders, I have never actually gained anything from them.

    I would also like to know if anyone has had experience with yellow pages SEO.