Some people – a lot of them – still use the Yellow Pages

It’s fairly easy to check that I work at the Yellow Pages® or that I am not their public spokesperson, so this is just my opinion, FWIW.

Being a search marketer, I use Google/Yahoo/Live much of my working day. I have Google and SocialMention alerts for “yellow pages” and “Sensis” to see what is happening or being said about my industry.

Most days, I get alerts about some American who feels the need to blog or tweet about receiving a stack of unwanted directories. They make the mental leap that just because *they* don’t use them, *everybody* must surely think the same way. Many take interesting photos of the directories and share them with the world. Here is the usual one about using them as a door stop. OK, a few US publishers are in strife, but Australia’s an exception.

I can’t justify a data plan on my Nokia N95 mobile, so I don’t just pull it out to Google something or tweet about my emotions while standing in line at Starbucks. OK, the work mobile has a data plan, but anyone who uses a Nokia 6120 to type a URL or SMS deserves a medal.

I frequently travel to the US through my volunteer activities and always look for the local Yellow Pages directory in my hotel room, as I’m looking for the nearest mall or restaurant. I’m not paying some crazy 24-hour wireless Internet fee to use a browser for five minutes! At home, we care for the environment and don’t have a PC left switched on 24/7, so the directory comes out when I can’t be bothered to walk to the other end of the house to turn on my PC.

Although I seem to use less than 50 pages in the directory, it seems that other Aussies are using other pages and enough advertisers clearly see an ROI. This might not be the case forever, but it’s working at the moment, so please don’t put me on the dole queue yet.

So what prompted me to write this?

Earlier last week, two ex-colleagues from another company were pitching their own PPC and SEO services in the news media while rubbishing the Yellow Pages. Now I know it’s a mistake to pull out of the Yellow Pages.

Next, another SEO tweeted:

Now google AU gives Sensis listings priority over LBC listings. What gives?

Sheesh. I’m trying hard not to wear a sales hat, but Yellow ads are retweeted, er, syndicated to Google Maps, so advertisers get found in Google Maps, Google Search via good old SEO, Google Mobile, Yellow Mobile, assorted city council pages, via other search engines etc.

Probably why advertisers still advertise in the Yellow Pages.

Then it was a tweet by a fellow Aussie (link added by me):

Sensis just won best new entrant in the corporate responsibilty awards – what? – they still pump out millions of hardcopy yellowpages!

Later, she tweeted (typo hers):

apperently 96% of yellowpages are recycled – this is good – but still why produce them in the first place…?

Er, because enough Aussies still use them and because enough advertisers think it is a good use of their money? And some of us hang on to them for a full year, use them, then recycle them.

On Thursday there was a tweet by someone else:

As seen in an email sig: “Sensis cares for the environment – think before you print.” Says the biggest paper spam company in Australia.

which was followed up by my colleague Jeremy Mawson:

it couldn’t possibly be anywhere near the paper wastage of

The OP didn’t give up:

@Synesso Salmat too, but no sig hypocrisy there. Also, many people DO read shop specials, a lot more than paper phone books I’d wager.

So I am working for a spammer?

Now the suburban newspapers I get are surely spam :^) (tongue firmly in cheek) because *I* don’t read them (yes, therefore nobody else does). Stacked up, I estimate at least one, perhaps two directory books’ worth turfed each month. Surely they will be extinct soon. But Rupert, another American, does not agree. Thank god for Rupert.

To opt out of the Sensis print directories, see this page.

Added: Here are links to later articles at other sites. I will keep adding below as I find them:

Ash Nallawalla

Search strategist experienced in large, complex websites. SEO consultant.

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  • Paul Hassing on 12 June 2009

    Nice post, Ash! You’ve given me some great info and insights. Thank you also for visiting my blog and leaving such a helpful comment. Best regards, Paul. 🙂

  • Scott Middleton on 30 June 2009

    I’m guilty of discounting the YellowPages because I don’t use it myself. I really see that the tech savvy of us discount it because we don’t use it ourselves.

    Luckily one very knowledgeable Account Manager has shown me the light and I plan on doing further research into it, to balance out the arguments for and against.

    Where is gets interest is – exactly how many people out there are searching for businesses on a daily basis? A lot of “searches” are just done through something like, “mate, where is a good place for lunch?”.

    I wonder then how much of a percentage of market share would all the different local search and search media have?

    P.S. Thanks for the link!

    • Ash on 1 July 2009

      When I see throwaway lines from planet savers who fail to offer an alternative, I wonder:

      Are they saying that Sensis should immediately sack a couple of thousand people involved with print operations? This would flow through a large number of lost jobs outside Sensis.
      Would it help mum-and-dad shareholders and the Future Fund, who bought TLS shares if Sensis dropped print production?
      Are Aussie business owners incapable of judging whether any of their enquiries come from the Yellow Pages, so are they crazy to continue advertising?
      Given the GFC, is this the best time to cut down our tall poppies?

      Then I quickly come back to reality. 🙂

      It’s hard to define a business search. We tend to be in research mode a lot but finally we make the purchase, not necessarily from the same place as the information.

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