Author: Shammi Farook 

Every year, a huge stack of Yellow Page phonebooks is probably delivered to your doorstep. (If you’re clever, you’ve opted out, but few people are aware that option even exists.) If you’re like most people, the most practical use for your phonebook is a makeshift booster seat for your kids or a bulky, somewhat effective doorstopper. What’s the relevance of a phonebook in a world dominated by Google and Facebook? Let’s face it—the age of print ads is on life support.

The Phonebook - A Retirement Home for Doomed Marketing Techniques - Small Business Website Design, SEO, and Online Marketing Blog | High Level Marketing  - AA043612
Snapshot of an ER waiting room with phonebooks collecting dust instead of calls. 
 
Back in the 20th century, when cell phones were the size of briefcases, the only convenient way to find a business or service was to scour these enormous phone books. As a business owner, the only choice you had was to place an ad that ran for a year and wait patiently until the phone rang.
 
In this millennium, however, studies confirm that consumers use the Internet first (80% of the time) when they are searching for a product or service, and resort to printed ads in the Yellow Pages second or third (about 50% of the time). So why do we still get phonebooks delivered to us every year despite the fact that less than a third of Americans use them?
 
The Phonebook - A Retirement Home for Doomed Marketing Techniques - Small Business Website Design, SEO, and Online Marketing Blog | High Level Marketing  - 346216318_91a95fc1f4_z
Here's what your local dumpster looks like the day after phonebook delivery. About 650,000 tons of phonebooks are thrown away or recycled every year, costing municipalities anywhere between $45-62 million dollars. (Photo credit: Tim Welch) 
 
Because the phonebook is a business disguised as a directory. People pay big bucks to be advertised in the phonebook—and large phonebook companies like Dex Media, Verizon, and AT&T base ad rates off the number of phonebooks distributed, not actual phonebook usage. These companies continuously fight efforts to reduce phonebook distribution, such as an opt-out system, because they fear the grim possibility of a much less profitable fate: an opt-in system.
 
So, should you invest in Yellow Page ads? No. You’re better off using the phonebook to start a bonfire than using it as a marketing tool. This ancient technology takes your money away from more cost-effective digital marketing tools, like Google, while delivering fewer results every year. Sites like Google, Bing, and Yahoo! offer substantially more information within seconds, and is constantly updated with newer information. The accuracy of your Yellow Page ad decays the moment it comes off the press.
 
There’s also no concrete way to track leads generated by a Yellow Page ad. The “set it and forget it” mindset is no longer effective or fiscally responsible in today’s economy and the ever-changing industry. It is absolutely necessary to monitor and evaluate how strong your ROI is, and that ROI is harder to predict every year you decide to run your ad.
 
There’s a reason declining revenues of top phonebook companies over the last four years have caused several of them to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Yellow Page advertisements are overpriced, outdated, and underachieving, and that’s why loyal users leave the market every year.
 
It’s time to join the revolution. Keep a simple line listing in the phonebook to make sure you reach the elderly population and make better use of your budget by creating a beautiful website that informs and engages your potential customers. By maintaining a functional, mobile-friendly website, combined with effective SEO strategies, you can offer information tailored to prospects who need your services.
 
Join us next week when we discuss the consumer’s local search behavior and how it relates to the importance of offering users a responsive site.