Internet Yellow Pages Become Pulse Of Local Search

Consumers are turning to the Internet to search local listings on branded yellow page sites for businesses, products and services more often, according to a study by the Yellow Pages Association (YPA) industry trade group.

The research shows that local Internet search grew 58% last year, reaching 15.7 billion searches. The industry group, which contracts with comScore to conduct the research, had suspected that local search increased dramatically, but didn't know how the trend related to core search practices by consumers.

Overall, core searches in the U.S. grew much less -- 21%, or nearly 137 billion searches in 2008, according to the study. Local search is 12% of core searches on the top five search portals. Internet Yellow Page (IYP) companies such as and, as well as other locally focused online business directories, also saw double-digit growth in the same period, totaling 4.6 billion searches in 2008, compared with 3.8 billion in 2007. Nearly 45% of searches result in sales.

The study aims to prove that IYP remains a viable product with solid return on investments (ROI) for advertisers, according to Larry Smith, director of research at the YPA. "We wanted to make sure we could back up our qualitative information with quantitative information," he said.

Smith had not expected the percentage of local search to far outgrow overall search. Nor did he expect that 75% of the top 100 keywords searched on IYP sites were not branded. "That's important because both the Internet and paper Yellow Pages are used mostly by people who search on a variety of generic words, as opposed to one specific name like Home Depot," he said.

Users access IYP and local online business directories several ways and for numerous reasons. Some visit related sites through search engines, directly typing in the URL, bookmark, Google Maps, Yahoo Local, and CitySearch. The increase in use has also seen a 50% rise in sponsored links to 353 million in December 2008. Smith said this demonstrates the need by consumers for local information.

The biggest challenge that Smith noticed from the study is that IYPs don't get the credit for connecting the consumer with the product and the sale. In one-on-one focus groups, consumers searching online for products and services typically started their search at Google, Microsoft, Yahoo or AOL and clicked through to an IYP site that led them to the product. But when asked how they found the product or service, the consumer noted through the search engine such as Google.

The comScore study measured real-life Internet browsing, buying and transactional activity of approximately one million U.S. Internet users who provided permission to be monitored from December 2007 to December 2008.

4 comments about "Internet Yellow Pages Become Pulse Of Local Search ".
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  1. Fred Jorgensen from Crosby Marketing Communications, March 27, 2009 at 8:47 a.m.

    No doubt the legacy of the Yellow Pages makes IYPs a no-brainer. But as a whole, they have got to get away from the fixed pricing model. The Ingenio/ model is a start, but it doesn't scale on a local level like Google yet. YellowBook and Superpages online models have a long way to go. Look forward to hearing about other experiences.

  2. Buzz Park from TruePresence, March 27, 2009 at 1:30 p.m.

    While IYP has benefited from the demise of its printed counterpart, I think it's important to point out that IYP still accounts for less than 5% of online searches. According to the article, even the majority of those searches that DID get to the IYP listing actually originated at Google, Yahoo, or MSN. One implication from this data that searchers only go to an IYP listing when they can't find what they're looking for with other search results. We already know from abundant data that most American's don't crack the printed version until they've exhausted the search engines. While our company only has several hundred SEM clients, I haven't spoken to a single one that felt their IYP listings provided worthwhile ROI, especially considering the price they paid for the listing. I agree with Fred's comment above that the fixed-price model for IYP's doesn't make sense. Personally, I would go farther and say that a paid IYP listing should be one of the lesser priorities in a well-rounded SEM strategy.

  3. Richard L from LW, March 27, 2009 at 2:52 p.m.

    @ Buzz
    Sorry if these questions come across the wrong way. I'm not trying to be a d!ck.

    -if IYP is 5% of online search and local search is about 12% of online search, that means about 42% of LOCAL search ends up being IYP search - doesn't it? 42% is pretty good share especially if you believe that 45% end up being converted to sales.
    -if the majority of searches that get to IYP come via search engines, doesn't that mean that IYP are an effective means of SEO?
    -"felt their IYP listings provided worthwhile ROI, especially considering the price they paid for the listing" - how would you do an ROI calculation without considering the price paid?
    -Are you crapping on IYP because you really believe it is ineffective or because they to a certain extent represent your competition? ie. The more you talk businesses out of using IYP the more they need your help to generate online leads.

  4. George Ramos from Guias Local Inc., March 27, 2009 at 4:21 p.m.

    With the local search market changing and many new non-yellow page competitors such as my new bilingual local search startup, Guias Local, I strongly believe it will be difficult times for the Yellow Page industry both print and online. Guias Local is targeting the interest of Gen Y who does not bother with the Yellow Page books or their internet sites. There too many YP companies with the same data and content. I agree with you Fred, they have to think differently and remove the 'fixed' pricing they have (like what we are doing with Guias Local). With companies like Twitter and Facebook, bringing forth social search, YP companies need to think outside the box - or outside their books. I applaud CitySearch who at least took the time and effort to change according to the times. Granted they still use YP feed, they don't 'feel' like a YP. This article reads like the head of YP wants to make himself believe they have a pulse in local search today. What they should do is look around at the changes we are facing with technology/economy and find out what the Internet community wants - what is their 'pulse'.

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