Yellow Pages to “Scale Back” Home Delivery – What does that mean for SEO?

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image2993 A recent article in the Globe and Mail explained how will change the way it distributes its directories throughout Canada.

Essentially, only certain areas will continue to receive the well-known paper directories, while others will not receive the directories unless requested.

It is really no surprise that they’ve come to this decision.  I’m just surprised it took so long.  Yellow Pages profits have been declining for years, since the wider adoption of websites and Search engine Optimization made it much more cost effective for businesses to advertise and attract visitors to their site.

In reality, it is search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo that killed the Yellow Pages.  This is because they made it not only more convenient, but easier to find businesses to help solve problems.  That is because search engines are more intuitive than the Yellow Pages.

After all, if you want a Chiropractor, you can go to Google and type “chiropractor” and get a list of chiropractors near you.

But how do you find one in the yellow pages?  They aren’t necessarily alphabetical.  And in some cases the business is classified as something else and not at all easy to find.

Plus, the yellow pages, being a private for-profit company , made it difficult for smaller businesses to compete with larger companies that have large advertising budgets.  If you’ve ever used the yellow pages you know what I mean – the best pizza places in your town aren’t the ones with the biggest ads.  In most cases the real jewels are the single line printed listings found with everyone else, and not the bigger full page ad complete with a menu.

This has always been the real downfall of the Yellow Pages – you have to pay to play.  There is no editorial process – no way for average business owners to get the exposure that others can.

But technology also did have a hand in their demise.  Search has become so prevalent in our lifestyle that one can find what they want within seconds of determining they want something.

For example, if I want to order pizza I grab my tablet, speak into the microphone and within a split second I’m presented with a couple dozen options (between local results and organic results).

If I didn’t have my tablet or phone and instead had to rely on yellowpages, I’d still be looking for the big yellow book!  By the time I’ve placed my order online, I’ve just found the “pizza” section in the yellow pages and begun looking at the few menus that are on there, provided by the larger chains.

When I order online my pizza is already in the oven while with yellowpages I’m still trying to figure out who to order from.

Chances are pretty good that, by the time I’ve called a few places I found in the yellow pages to see if they have thin, whole-wheat crust, my pizza that I ordered online is already coming out of the oven and being placed in a box ready to deliver.

So not only are Google and the others much better options for finding a place to order, the presence of the pizza place’s websites have helped me refine my choices, find the pizza I want, with the crust, sauce and toppings I want and even allowed me to provide special instructions such as how to slice my pie.

In a fraction of the time it would have taken me to find the yellow pages, browse some listings, call a few places to see if they could make what I wanted, I’ve used Google to find the place I want to order from, browsed their menu, ordered online, gotten the total I will pay and am back in front of my TV eagerly awaiting my delivery.

Am I surprised that Yellow Pages is doing this?  Not at all.  It was bound to happen.  While some of us still can use the Yellow Pages on occasion, have you watched anyone under 30 try to find a business in the yellow pages?  Half of them don’t even know what the yellow pages are, forget about trying find something in them.

I’m surprised it took this long.

“But Yellow Pages has an online presence so it’s still worth advertising there right?”  The short answer is no.

I mean sure, you could go to yellow pages and search for a business there, but again you’d have to first get people there. People aren’t going to take the extra step to type in “yellow pages” in the search engine search box, and then type in the search they want on the yellow pages site.  And even if they did do that the business model is the same – they are presented with a bunch of advertisers who paid to be at the top.  These types of listings frustrate users because they can’t find what they want because they aren’t presented the results in an unbiased way.

Whereas a search on Google is considered more trustworthy because people feel the results aren’t impacted by advertising as much (if at all).  Sure there are the paid ads at the top but many people don’t even look at those.   Plus there’s the added benefit of the average searcher believing that if your site is at the top then it’s earned its place there and is therefore more trustworthy, and probably better than the competition.

So what does this mean for SEO?  Well if Yellow Pages become harder to find (and use) then more people will turn to online sources to find businesses to help them solve their problem.  And as I mentioned above, they will feel that if your business is at the top then it earned it’s spot.

So why not let SEO help you “earn” that spot?

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