Just since the turn of the calendar year to 2014 three short weeks ago, we have fielded no fewer than a dozen calls from prospective new clients and many more from existing clients asking some familiar questions: Should I re-up with the Yellow Pages (or Superpages, or Yellow Book, etc.)? Should I consider spending money on pay-per-click ads? Should I invest in inbound marketing programs?
Our answers to each of those questions has historically been "It depends", but we can say with certainty that in most cases, unless the service or product you provide is super-local, it's not a wise investment to purchase display ads in phone directories.
This is especially true in 2014, when online usage continues to expand, including in huge leaps among the demographic most likely to use phone directories: older Americans. With increased usage by the phone book's core audience (43% of senior citizens and increasing daily, according to Pew Internet Research), online searches will become more important, and, conversely, yellow pages will be used less and less.
Most importantly, determining your return on investment, or ROI, for your yellow pages ads can be difficult, whereas it is easy to calculate your exact costs and earnings from online marketing. Forbes discusses the reasons why it suggests that only select local businesses should expect good ROI from yellow pages, and why it's likely that your business would benefit more from investing in online marketing and pay-per-click advertising.
So, here are the Top 4 Reasons why Eternity Web's clients should invest in inbound marketing, not the yellow pages:
1. Yellow Pages Ads Are Much More Expensive Than Online Marketing
Our clients who do advertise in print phone directories spend an average of $6,000 per year for their display ads. Indeed, we are regularly pitched by the various yellow page providers to advertise Eternity Web. But Our clients find us almost solely through Google search or word-of-mouth, or both, and we hear similar ratios from local businesses. So, if your potential customers are online, and you are online why advertise in an offline vehicle? True, most providers will bundle "clicks" with their ads, but you still must decide if the investment is really worth it.
Out advice this year, as in the previous 2 or 3 years, is to divert that $6,000 to online marketing. Or, potentially, invest that money in a new website that is SEO-friendly, responsive ( so it works on mobile devices) and up-to-date with respect o design, and you will boost your "organic" or free search rankings.
2. Never pay to be listed in a phone book or online directory.
Nearly every directory offers a free listing. In our experience, the only clicks worth paying for online are through Google or potentially display ad networks. It would be difficult to even justify the effort to get you manually listed in all the relevant directories, when pay-per-click is typically inexpensive and completely trackable.
3. What about SEO? Don't phone directories boost search engine traffic?
Certainly listings in online directories can increase clicks, but they can also hurt the performance of your own website, ranking directories for critical results above your own site. In other words, your listings in online phone directories can hurt your overall search engine performance. You probably receive numerous emails and phone calls form "online marketers" saying you need to build backlinks to increase traffic -- and that was true for years, but not really relevant in the new Google milieu.
You want your site to be the authority on your industry, product, or service in your geographic area, and earning that position is no longer a product of the number of times your site is listed on other websites. Rather, solid online marketing techniques mixed with authoritative, expert content updated regularly is what will boost your rankings and increase your traffic.
In short, your "SEO" company or your web agency should help you make your site as effective from a marketing standpoints as possible, and should also help create an inbound marketing strategy that relies on best practices for solid ROI, not to prop up a business model that is struggling to survive in the 21st Century.