Welcome to Your Digital Path to Success

Are White/Yellow Pages Ineffective Now?

15 May

For the first time in… probably 10 years, I picked up the AT&T Yellow Pages book yesterday. The book had been sitting there since October of 2008 and I haven’t even opened it up yet. I’ll be honest, I tore it open because I was actually searching for clients to contact.

I was astounded by what I found within the massive book:

This was printed in 2007… why is it still referencing 1999? 1999, just when the Internet started to take off. 1999, just when the Y2K was about to destroy the world and we’re all over the Internet trying to figure out what’s going on. 1999, when 83 million adults were accessing the Internet and spending an average of 12.1 hours per week.

Reference: Media Awareness

Now, compare 1999 to 2008 when there’s over 220 million people using the Internet. That’s 72.5% of the entire United States’ population.

Reference: Internet World Stats

So why on earth, is at&t still referencing studies and statistics that is practically stone age? I mean, if more and more people are using the Yellow Pages, why aren’t there any new and updated information about such statistics? “Hmmmmn”, right?

So, honestly, are yellow pages print ads still effective or are yellow pages ineffective now?

Here’s another page I found in their book:

In my opinion (Kevin Lam, here), the statistics are a bit misleading.

In 1999, “66% of consumers reference the White Pages an average of 3.2 times per week.”

In 2005, “78% of consumers reference the White Pages an average of 2.5 times per week.”

Since I cannot find out how many “consumers” they actually used in their research (irrelevant in my point anyway), you know what this means to me? People who bought something through the White Pages had to have looked at the paper weight an average 130 times per year.

Now, I’m no Sherlock Holmes, but a little common sense tells me that this just doesn’t add up. Seriously, who needs to reference the White Pages THAT many times a week and per year?

Even if there are people doing that, just how many people could possibly be doing that? These statistics are absurd.

That’s not even my point though. I love the way it’s worded. The statistics are based on consumers ONLY, not the general public, which is what really matters for any business. Do you know how many doorsteps these books get dropped on and then just go straight to the trash or left on the porch until it is recycled? Too many to count.

I’ve walked down my street asking my neighbors for the phone books and every single one of them throw them out. Even a couple who are in their 70’s. I figured they’d be one of the people that would frequent it considering their age and exposure to it, but I was totally wrong. They hadn’t even looked in one for more than 3 years!

Here’s another good reference to read:

2005 Metered Ad Study

On page 6, you’ll see that the average annual calls for local display and ad space dropped from 885 to 784 between 1999 and 2004. That’s a drop of 11%. Not much… but that’s 2004! It’s 2009, folks! 5 years later when the calls are still declining and costs are increasing!

For the sake of argument, let’s just say each call had an average cost of $10. That means, it had to have cost $8,850 to advertise in 1999. Without the consideration of inflation, the cost per call is now $11.28. Doesn’t seem like much, but to reach the same 885 phone calls, that’s an additional $1,140.11.

Keep in mind that no where have we even begun to discuss conversions and sales value.

Are Yellow Pages Print Advertising Cost Effective?

So I ask you, how effective really is the Yellow Pages? Does spending upwards of $25,000 into a book that no one really looks at actually help increase your business?

I read a recent report by Blue Corona who conducted their own performance tracking to determine how well the Yellow Pages was doing. They soon realized that business had declined drastically while costs have skyrocketed. Shouldn’t it be the other way around? What kind of “business” is that? Might as well just give money out to charity!

Needless to say, after the results the client company refused to do business with them again unless the listing was free.

Reference: Blue Corona

Of course, this isn’t based on the at&t Yellow Pages (well, kind of since at&t bought Verizon’s yellow pages service), but it is a close indication of how their print advertising is performing. If you’re still using it, it’s best that you have a tracking system setup and determine whether it’s still worth your time and money. Not only that, I recommend you step into the new millennium (although it has already been 9 freak’n years!) and use Internet marketing to increase your business.

This article was written by Dallas’ rankaboveothers.com – Texas SEO is a Dallas-based web marketing and consulting company. We can help you improve your on-site and off-site optimization so that your website not only looks good to visitors but rank well for the keywords you need. Let us increase your business by first giving you a free analysis.

Kevin Lam

Kevin Lam is a self-taught internet marketer, web developer and traffic conversion expert that started since he was 17 in 2000. Even throughout his 5 years in the Navy, Kevin continued to hone his skills. Kevin now owns multiple digital companies including a Strategic, Digital Marketing Firm, a Sales Funnel Concierge Service, General Support Company and other digital products.


  1. Mark V Johnson | December 21, 2009 at 12:20 pm

    Very well written and researched article Kevin. You’re right about them using the old numbers, but if they used anything more recent it would not look good in print! The funny thing is while I was reading this I got a call for a print ad, not in the yellow pages, but still a print ad for the new year. I wonder if the same is true for say newspapers, though I guess more people still read them than go through the white/yellow pages.

    Good job!


  2. Kevin Lam | December 21, 2009 at 8:45 pm

    Thanks, Mark. I don’t think it’s the same with newspaper. People still pick up the newspaper more often than the yellow pages. I’m sure there are certain niches that could still be very effective in that medium. I guess I could do some digging on that as well, hehe.

  3. James V Jackson II | January 11, 2010 at 8:34 pm

    Your article was great however while internet yellowpages is slowly declining it still make up the bulk of revenue for this companies. The yellowpage industry is rapidly transitioning to convert online fully however there is still some money on the table in the print industry. Certain vertical still thrive in the print yellowpages for the moment. There is a very important statistic that is left out in your article. Superpages.com has about 25-30% of online search. Also advertisers who advertise in the book receive a free listing online with superpages.com and their 240 other affiliate sites. Also they offer search engine marketing campaigns as they staff 10 certified Google reps to build the campaign as well as Yahoo. So business owner are still getting a ROI when dealing with superpages at the end of the day. Look for Supermedia advertising to blanket the market this year as they look to take more market share in 2010.

  4. Kevin Lam | January 11, 2010 at 8:57 pm

    Ah, I like it when I get the attention of people who actually work at the places I write about. It’s been such a long time. This article is so old yet I remember it as if it were yesterday.

    Thanks fore responding, James. Glad to have you stop in and try to straighten a few things out for us… I mean me.

    So Superpages.com has about 25-30% of online search…. compared to who exactly? Where did you get your statistics?

    Doug Caverly of ComScore reported in November of 2009 that Google has a 65.4% of online search. Yahoo took 2nd with 18% and Bing at 9.9%. That’s a total of 93.3%. Either I’m doing my math wrong or there’s only 6.7% remaining for all other search engines.

    So how does Superpages.com have 25-30% of online search? Please do tell me. Perhaps I’m looking at it wrong. So I apologize if I am. Thanks in advance.

    Besides, I never talked about yellowpages as an online entity or marketing medium being in a down shift or declining. I’m talking about the printed format of yellowpages. The offline marketing medium. The door stopper. The baby booster seat. The straight-to-trash book.

    Believe me, I know about your inclusions of websites being included in the yellowpages.com and 240 other affiliate sites. So what? At the end of the day, it still comes down to being the top dog paying the most money. You know that!

    Let’s say me and you are in the same industry…. dog training. I’m paying a (pulling numbers out of my butt here) $5,000 premium while you pay a $500 premium. Do YOU think you’ll get more business than me? I highly doubt that. So don’t talk about ROI with me when there are dozens and hundreds of people in the same category that are lost and forgotten and NEVER get business out of it because they don’t pay enough.

    It doesn’t matter if you put their site on 1,000,000 affiliate sites. If they’re buried at the bottom, it’s no different than multiplying 1 million times zero. In the end, the result is still zero. And it’s not like all of your yellow pages category rank well in the search engines. Let’s not kid ourselves on this. There’s a few things you can do differently, but your company will have to pay me for consulting.

    The whole point of this article is to point out the fact that yellowpages PRINT advertising is in a huge decline. Why else is the statistics so out of date? But now that you mention it… yeah, putting money into yellow pages is a waste of money for most businesses. There are some businesses that will do great in the yellowpages, but there are more failing with yellowpages than not.

    Thank you for your time.

  5. Perry | January 12, 2010 at 12:15 am

    “If they’re buried at the bottom, it’s no different than multiplying 1 million times zero. In the end, the result is still zero.”

    Oh!! That’s why my affiliate marketing is doing so poorly!! Crap!! And here I thought having my site listed in a million useless directories would net me a million zeros! 0ºººººº

    Great article Kevin. I too would like to know how Superpages has 25-30% of all search. maybe search for Phone Numbers? (:P)


  6. Jeffrey Levesque | January 12, 2010 at 12:17 am

    Thanks Kevin!

    I’m glad you “said it” so I didn’t have to!

  7. Wendy Merritt | January 12, 2010 at 12:18 am

    I think the Yellow Pages are about as effective as print newspapers…not very much!

    Yellow Pages? What’s that? Oh, you mean the Yellow App on my iPhone! LOL

    The only time I ever look at the Yellow Pages is on my iPhone on their App. I can’t even tell you the last time I cracked a print copy of any phone book. The only thing print copies of phone books are good for is lining the cage of a pet or making myself feel better by recycling it for a neighborhood elementary school recycling fundraiser.

    For 16 years my husband and I ran a very successful custodian service that specialized in churches. We were convinced by their sales people that our yellow pages ad would produce results because the statistics they showed us said it would. Yet, year after year not one !!@#&^(* phone call. Wait! We did get one phone call that did yield one client…one client in 16 years of being listed. Now I don’t know about you, but to me those aren’t real good odds. I’m more likely to be struck by lightning then to be prosperous from a yellow pages ad. LOL

    Brutal reality: People are about profit and now.
    The yellow pages doesn’t yield enough results to make you profitable. Strike one!
    Going across my house to the bookshelf, thumbing through pages, getting lost in your pages alignment inconsistencies, being accosted by your ads…Strike two! ahhh! there it is…
    Crud that phone book is 3 years old! Strike three!
    You’re outta here!


  8. Thomas Richmond | January 12, 2010 at 12:19 pm

    Greetings my brother!

    Happy New Year first of all, hope you enjoyed our Christmas as well with your lovely family and friends out therin big horn country lol. So what is this? are we rehashing old stuff? or is it another marketing ploy to get the blood flowing in here again. As i see it gang when we have more alternatives coming at us like a bullett the ones that hae been with us for a long period of time such as yellow book and newspaper will eventually fade and be obsolete ,

    the future is in computers and will get better , the internet changes every 6 months so we are constantly changing along with it if we ever are going to keep the money flowing in our accounts, the old way will be nostalgic just like bellbottoms and vests with fringes so you can keep it with you and stay stagnet or not?

    your choice.

    On the other hand there still a lot of Ink to go around so this will get less and less as time progesses, same with paper money. Be prepared and always keep on gaurd to what you do for yourself, not everyone is the same but we all have the same purpose and focus.

    Thanks bro Kevin anyway for letting us state our opinions , griefs and examples.

    God_bless you my friend.
    – Best regards- Thomas

  9. Brad West | January 13, 2010 at 9:05 pm

    Statistics can be altered and made to look most anyway you want them. If the statistics are so poor that the white and yellow pages are advertising stats from as far back as what you have found Kevin they have been obsolete for a very long time.

    There is something to this advertising media still being used, it means people are still buying ads with them. When the day comes and there are no more white or yellow pages that means the majority of businesses have mead the switch to internet advertising and things may slow down a little for those people that are just breaking into local internet advertising. For those people that want to ride the wave the time is now!

    Just a little comment to Wendy ~ That is a sad story that you only had one new customer from the phone book I hope you at least got enough back from that customer to cover the money you put out. You are not the first person I have run into with the same results. I hope is all well now.
    Brad West ~ onomoney

  10. Kevin Lam | January 13, 2010 at 10:27 pm

    People don’t even know. This year, is the REAL year of the Internet boom. It is going to be a massive switch from offline marketing to online marketing through a huge variety of sources and mediums. I hope people are ready for it. I certainly am and I’ll be coming out with quite a few blockbusters to be certain that I will get a fair share of the market.

    There is a lot of money to be made. Be ready.

    Kevin Lam

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *