You remember the Yellow Pages, right? The Yellow Pages, for a time, was America’s go-to source for information about local businesses. Its origins run all the way back to the 1800s, and because the name was never trademarked, other versions of the Yellow Pages eventually filled similar roles in upwards of 100 countries around the world. But this monopoly on contact information was not to last. 

It was that giant yellow book sitting in your kitchen with the contact information of every business in your city listed in alphabetical order. Maybe you used it to find a nearby tailor once. Maybe you saw a video clip of a muscle-man ripping one of these books in half at some point. This book is, of course, not to be confused with the Whitepages, which focuses solely on residential contact information.


What Happened To End The Yellow Pages’ Reign?  

The internet happened.

If you want to find the phone number of your local veterinarian (for example), where would you go? You’d probably go to Google. It’s faster, and you can find tons of information that, in the past, you might have needed to pick up the phone to find out, like prices and operating hours. The internet isn’t just a quicker way to find that local veterinarian’s phone number; in many cases, it actually eliminates the need to call them entirely.

The internet, in its earliest forms, has existed for quite a while, but it was not until the early 2000s that the public really began to rally around this new technology. At this point, average people began to choose search engines to find the contact information of local businesses, and it seemed that golden age of the Yellow Pages was coming to a close.

But the Yellow Pages were (and are) a business, just like any other, and businesses often need to adapt in order to survive. That is exactly what the Yellow Pages did. Survival of the fittest!

The New Yellow Pages

With the dawn of the Internet Age, traditional print mediums quickly began to be phased out, and the Yellow Pages scrambled to move their vast collections of contact information (along with their former clout) onto the web. You might not have known this, because you’ve been getting all of your information with simple Google searches for the past decade or so, but the management of the Yellow Pages has been working to reinvent and retool their brand to do business via the internet.

The digital identity of the Yellow Pages can be found here:

Yellow Pages currently has three main functions:

Function #1: Digital Business Listings

The first thing that Yellow Pages does is manage an enormous library of landing pages for businesses that have listings with them. These landing pages are more or less a digital adaptation of the thick yellow books that we depended on throughout the 20th century. These landing pages are similar to Google Business, showing basic contact information, an address, etc. The digital age has been challenging for Yellow Pages, but these listings are far from obsolete.

For digital marketers like us, Yellow Pages listings do still carry some importance. Informational congruency is a major facet of Inbound Marketing, and we at Horton Group often need to spend significant time managing and optimizing all the various citations and listings that are in play for our clients. We recently published a blog post about these services, entitled What Are Citations And Why Do They Matter? This would be a great resource to help you get a better understanding for why Yellow Page entries still matters for your business. 

For right now though, all you need to know is that this facet of what Yellow Pages is still important and useful.

We wish we could say the same for what’s coming next…

Function #2: Web Hosting + CMS

With their leap to the digital world, Yellow Pages also now offers a few different “web design” service packages. In buying these packages, businesses are essentially adopting Yellow Pages as a Content Management Platform (or CMS), much the same as WordPress or Squarespace… but with one major difference: clients don’t actually own their website or domains.

Instead of allowing clients to own the websites they buy, purchases are structured more like rentals. This means that, if you decide to discontinue your Yellow Pages services, you will lose your website. Entire articles like this one have been written on how to get your Yellow Pages site and domain back from Yellow Pages. Yellow Pages may hold these items as ransom, or flat-out refuse to give you control over your domain and website, forcing you to start from scratch elsewhere. Except that you may not be able to find an available domain, because Yellow Pages also makes a habit of buying up relevant and adjacent domains as a barrier to exit.

It should also be noted that, despite their claims of “custom web design,” Yellow Pages boats absurdly high numbers of websites launched per year, many done within within a single week. That is obviously not enough time to do a good job, which is why the main criticism of their work floating around the market place is that their sites are more “cookie-cutter” than they are custom when it comes to design. And the “custom content” they promise has been repeatedly proven to be sparse and unhelpful at best, which hurts clients in the areas of both content and SEO. Good custom web sites (like the ones that we build) take a lot of work and an intimate understanding of the client’s business, and Yellow Pages is not about to spend enough time on any client to make that happen.

Function #3: Digital Advertising

Yellow Pages also offers a slew of digital advertising services, including paid digital advertisements, “SEM” (which is a stands for search engine marketing, otherwise known as SEO), direct (physical) mail campaigns, print advertising, and management of listings and citations. First off, direct mail campaigns are seriously antiquated, universally despised, and terrible for the environment. Presently, print advertising is still semi-relevant, but it is quickly becoming obsolete. We would advise against purchasing these services in any form.

The SEM/SEO services offered by Yellow Pages are, by most accounts, satisfactory. Likewise, the digital advertising services offered by Yellow Pages are very standard, and are likely to drive traffic to your website. The problem is that, as we’ve discussed, with Yellow Pages, it’s not actually your website. Digital advertising services are generally only sold as add-ons to Yellow Pages websites. This is bad news.

Let’s take Yellow Pages’ SEM services as an example. Yellow Pages Account Managers will normally pitch a starting budget of $1,500 per month for SEM campaigns, but that money is going to direct traffic to a site that you do not actually own. Let’s say that you decide that your Yellow Pages team is not getting the results you need; you might want to hire a different marketing agency. Yellow Pages has the power to prevent you from taking your business elsewhere, because at the end of the day, they own your website. In extreme cases, Yellow Pages may even refuse to return control of a website to their client. If this happens, all that money you invested in creating your website, and then with subsequent SEM efforts, will have been a complete waste.  

The Optimal Role of Yellow Pages For Your Business

Yellow Pages is not without its merits. In fact, recently Search Engine Land reported that Yellow Pages actually beat out Google in local data accuracy, placing 2nd behind Superpages for the number one spot. The company itself has reported traffic nearing 70,000,000 monthly visitors. However, according to Local Fresh, these visitors are generally all looking for the same few things. These things are businesses for which local proximity is a big decision making factor. For example, most people will go to whatever supermarket or auto repair shop is closest to them. Inversely, Yellow Pages is not as important for businesses that do not sell physical products and are not dependent on geographic proximity to customers.

So, the bottom line is that if you run a business that depends on local proximity, Yellow Pages is one of the most important online profiles for businesses to manage… but that’s all. Steer clear of any additional services Yellow Pages sales representatives may try to pitch to you.

If your business does not depend on being close to its customers, Yellow Pages listings have proven to be almost irrelevant, except for the purposes of informational congruence, which is “best practices” for good SEO.

When it comes to websites, digital marketing, and everything else that Yellow Pages now claims to be an “authority” on, the internet is buzzing with scathing reviews, like these articles and cases studies from Blue Corona, Sales Lion, Out Care Your Competition, and Round Peg.

All things considered, it’s abundantly clear that Yellow Pages marketing is the wrong thing for your (or any other) business.

…so, then what’s the right way to approach marketing?
The answer is Inbound Marketing.

In recent years, Inbound Marketing has become the industry standard for one major reason: it works! If you’re not following best practices for Inbound Marketing, chances are good that you are falling behind. The Inbound Methodology was originally introduced by an organization called Hubspot, and has been dominating and developing ever since. We at Horton Group are an official HubSpot Partner Agency, so we’ll let you learn about Inbound Marketing straight from the gurus themselves. And if you’re still hungry for information, download our Beginner’s Guide To Inbound Marketing.

Inbound Methodology is complex and multifaceted. Digital advertising and “SEM,” which are the cornerstones of Yellow Pages marketing, are only small pieces of the puzzle. There’s a lot more that goes into creating long-term marketing success. One huge piece of the puzzle is content marketing. Great content is critical the success of an Inbound campaign, and Yellow Pages has a well-established track record of terrible work in that department. To learn more about how content fits into Inbound Marketing, check out our recent article, Content Marketing vs. Inbound Marketing.

Feeling A Little Overwhelmed?

Well, don’t worry. We’re here to help.

If you are looking jumpstart a comprehensive Inbound Marketing strategy for your business, and have it done the RIGHT way, all you have to do is get in touch with us. We’ve got your back.