Is Yellowpages Online Advertising Worth It?

In the last couple of years doing web design, local SEO, and digital marketing several clients I worked with were locked into Yellow Pages contracts. We reviewed our client's Yellowpages contracts, invoices, and the few analytics reports their customer service rep would provide to see if they were getting their money's worth.

The short answer is absolutely not. I reviewed the contracts and stats of grocery stores, building supplies companies, landscaping companies, accountants, as well as our own tests with web design companies on Yellowpages. The one common thread between them all was little to no activity and for the clients that were spending big dollar figures their total cost for customer conversions were astronomical. The costs per click sometimes worked out to over $20 per click in non-competitive industries and for search terms that they could easily rank for organically with some basic SEO on their existing website. I told a couple of our clients that had local businesses they would be better off filling a buckets with a thousands of business cards, attach a dollar to each one, and literally throw the money at people during local community events. At least you would get people talking about your business and the money you are throwing away is going back to the community.

Does Yellowpages gain you "Net New" customers?

This is an important question to ask yourself when considering how to spend advertising dollars. There is no need to spend money on YP ads, Google Ads, or Facebook Ads on customers that are already searching for your brand. If Yellowpages is going to boast about how many people have installed their app to search for local businesses, odds are that people using the app are simply using it as a phone book and searching specifically for businesses by name. Let's be honest, most people searching for Web Designers in Edmonton are going to just search that phrase in Google rather than opening an app or taking the type to go to the Yellowpages website. This is why they push their customers to have them run their AdWords campaign, because they know this is likely the only way they can generate actual leads or conversions (I believe they take 25% commission off the top of the businesses AdWords budget).

If you don't believe me that people aren't searching for YP's website, I have attached a graph from Google Trends website showing the brand search for "Yellowpages" or "Yellow Pages" in Canada from 2007 until present day. You will notice there is a dramatic drop and a continual trend downward, you can check this yourself by going to the Google Trends website. By contrast, TownPost is a small Alberta based company and it has more brand searches than this publicly traded company.

Yellowpages Websites vs Custom Web Design

To be fair the prices of their web design seemed fairly reasonable, but this seemed to be what they used to get businesses hooked on the service so they can upsell your company into print ads, web ads, and expensive AdWords campaigns. My company charges on average $85 per month for a small business website vs about $100 to $150 for Yellowpages basic website package. The difference with a custom web design is that they can be much easier to upgrade with custom features, less cookie cutter design, and much easier to update. The clients we spoke to found it very difficult and frustrating to deal with simple website change requests, poorly written sentences with obvious grammar mistakes, and problems with poor quality images or the wrong pictures displayed on several pages within the website. When you hire a local web developer or freelancer it's usually easier to communicate changes and get a response when you need website changes immediately. Of course when you are dealing with a freelance web designer or local shop you can just as easily run into someone that is flaky or hard to get a hold of so you should always ask them for a list of recent clients to get references.

Yellowpages Web Advertising

Honestly, I would love to hear from anyone that has had success with YP web ads. In the cases where I was able to gain access to the Analytics or do just basic searches as if I was a prospective customer it was shockingly unimpressive. Even BBB listings, which are quite terrible in most niches, seemed to at least generate a prospective customer or two every blue moon compared to Yellowpages web ads. Perhaps in very competitive areas like towing or locksmiths these ads generate some ROI since the people searching are from outside the area.

Their Contract Sham

I'm not going to say too much about Yellowpages contracts because you can easily find thousands of complaints online or check out this article to see a fantastic breakdown of this issue. Suffice it to say that businesses sign up for what they think is a monthly advertising budget only to find that they are locked into a year contract that auto renews every year until they squeeze every last drop of life blood from your business. In some cases I worked on they even moved the date by 1 month after relentlessly trying talk our client out of canceling.

Full disclosure, I do have a bias since I am a freelance web developer, SEO, and work in digital advertising. However, I encourage businesses to seek out any serious web design agency in their own town or city. Beware of Google reviews since some of these companies pay for fake reviews and use shady tactics to get ranked in Google. My best advice is to seek out businesses in your field that seem to have effective websites and rank fairly high, contact these businesses directly and ask them if they would recommend their developer to someone else. You could easily do the same with Yellowpages ads, look for businesses in your niche that are paying to be listed ad the top or in the highlighted areas. Contact those businesses and ask them if they are getting a decent return on investment for the ad dollars they are spending, if they can't answer then take that as a "no" and keep looking.

If your businesses is located in Alberta make sure to submit a listing on TownPost. If you have any questions or would like some free advice on Yellowpages or Custom Web Design feel free to