12 Billion Local Business Searches. Do Yellow Pages Still Matter?


Attorneys, plumbers, financial advisor’s, electricians, pizza parlors, cleaning services, snowplow drivers, caterers, insurance companies, and hardware stores alike ask us similar questions: “How does the Internet change things? Should we keep our Yellow Pages ad? How do we keep from being left behind”

At SES San Jose Stuart McKelvey, President and CEO TMP Directional Marketing presented research regarding the usage and value of online and offline local search usage (“A Study of the Usage and Value of Online and Offline Local Search Sources”). TPG is a fascinating company with over 38 years of Yellow Pages, online search and marketing experience. The study “combines 3,000 survey responses with actual observed online behavior.” In a nutshell online search dominates while traditional printed Yellow Pages perform surprisingly well.

Where Do Customers Search?

Local searchers tend to seek actionable business information including details such as company name phone numbers, products sold etc. TMP studied pizza restaurants, home services, moving, storage, banking, finance and other industries. As all advertising channels fold towards Internet delivery, it’s critical for local advertisers to understand and capitalize on customers’ local search patterns. This can include both offline and online sources like print Yellow Pages (YP), Internet (IYP), directory assistance, mobile search, newspaper, and major search engines.

Surprising Results

The results of the case study were surprising, particularly regarding the ongoing importance of print YP, which is still roughly equal to search engines comprising approximately 30% each of the local search spectrum. According to this study, mobile search and directory assistance only claim 2% each. Dedicated local search verticals tally a 13% share and IYP sites 17%. In what amounts to a bleak prognosis for the industry, newspaper and magazine usage for local search garners only a 3% piece of the total pie.

Different Channels for Different Uses

According to the TMP study users tend to reach for online and offline media sources with different intent in the local search sales cycle. Online search skews towards research. Thirty percent of users take advantage of the Internet for research only- not for buying. Reciprocally users tend to use offline search to find a particular business from which to buy a product or service that that they’ve researched and identified online.

Major engine searchers (Google, Yahoo, MSN) are less likely to have a specific local business name in mind than IYP users. IYP and vertical local search engine users are significantly more likely to be looking for services while major engine users are more inclined be seeking out products.

On Again Off Again

Two out of ten consumers cited that they prefer to speak with people offline before buying online. They sometimes hop back online to research price and consummate a transaction. Still 61% of those polled in the research went on to purchase from a local business, usually by visiting the physical store in person.

Location and Brand Buzz

Across all respondents the primary business selection factors were the business’s location and the customer’s familiarity with the company. The most common activities resulting from online and offline search activity alike were in-store visits or the initiation of contact via telephone.

Cast a Wide Net.

Overall, respondents considered between 1-5 businesses however the majority only contact one. This highlights the importance of having local content on all of sites mentioned in the study which include:

[note, links are not provided. These sites are easy enough to find and have enough inbound links without bloggers contributing more.]

Internet Yellow Pages Websites
SuperPages.com (Idearc)
Yahoo! Yellowpages
YellowPages.com (AT&T)
DexOnline.com /

Local Search Verticals
Google Local/Maps
Yahoo! Local
MSN Local (Live.com)
Ask City

Major Search Engines

Additional Resources:

5 Quick Ways To Optimize For Local Search

SES: Six Tips For Local Search Advertising

Local Search Marketing Tactics
Unofficial SEOBlog

LocalMN Blog

Mike the Internet Guy


Understanding Google Maps & Yahoo Local Search

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