How not to go the way of the Yellow Pages

10 Aug How not to go the way of the Yellow Pages

Not that long ago many merchants believed that Yellow Pages were the “best sellers.” Despite prodigious efforts to combat this perception by local media companies like yours, Yellow Pages stood strong as the best lead generation tool available to small businesses.

Now almost nobody uses Yellow Pages. In fact, according to the 2016 Call Intelligence Index published last week by Invoca, digital channels drove 92% of calls to businesses last year, up from 84% in 2014.

The survey analyzed more than 58 million calls across 40 industries, and with a sample size that large, the findings should have some merit. Among the highlights are:

  • 63% of people complete a purchase offline after conducting an online search
  • 48% of phone calls to businesses come from mobile devices
  • 65% of people prefer to contact a business by phone versus 24% that prefer a web form
  • 70% of people have used the “click to call” function from a search ad


Display Advertising Is Great, But not for Search

Display advertising — print, online, on-air — remains the most powerful tool businesses have to move merchandise off the shelves, cars off the lot or houses off the market. Unfortunately, display advertising is virtually useless when it comes to search.

That’s because search is more like the new Yellow Pages than anything else. Back in the day, when you had a problem — say a leaky faucet —you picked up Yellow Pages, found the category for plumbers, perused the ads for “the leaky faucet specialist” and started making calls.

Today you type “leaky faucet” directly into your search engine of choice. Search becomes the lifeblood of Leaky Faucetsmall local businesses.

The results from just such a search in Charleston are shown here. Do you notice something odd about the returns for this search?

The organic returns are ALL about how to fix a leaky faucet yourself. This is true for the first THREE pages of the search, save for one reference to a band named Leaky Faucet. The only plumbers that come up at all are paid ads. Great for Google, but not so good for you.

What to do?

What if you go out to your local plumber and sell her a sponsored content series in which the first installment is:

What You Need to Know About Fixing Your Leaky Faucet? 

The list might include:

  1. Before you start, send your kids to the neighbors. Otherwise they will learn new vocabulary words you’d just as soon they not know
  2. Watch this how-to on YouTube (but remember what looks easy may not be as easy for you)
  3. Make sure your home and medical insurance is in good order
  4. Check your car to make sure you have enough gas for multiple trips to Home Depot
  5. Beware of counterfeit parts that solve the problem initially, but fail shortly thereafter
  6. Some repairs require special tools so if you don’t have a seat wrench, you may soon own one
  7. You can forget meeting up with friends later on – it’s going to take longer as you think

I’m just making this up, of course, but hopefully your story makes people smile at some of the truths they recognize from their own do-it-yourself experiences. Get your plumber to offer a low-priced leaky faucet special with same-day service because once a homeowner finds a good plumber, they will not be tempted to stray when they have the next problem.

Google, Bing and the other search engines value and reward:

  • Local content
  • Original content
  • Helpful, useful, entertaining content
  • Content that is presented by a trusted source like yours

Therefore, it is highly likely that your plumber’s content would show up pretty high in an organic search return. Local media companies cannot out Google Google in the search game, but they can understand how search works and use it to the advantage of their advertisers.

One thing is sure. If we don’t find new ways to generate premium digital revenue, we will go the way of Yellow Pages. We need to fund local journalism or we end up like this: