Is Google really the end of the Yellow Pages® Directory?

Newt Barret explained an important shift in his blog post today, “Real World Experiment Explains Impending Demise of Yellow Pages”

Talking about the Yellow Pages® he says, “Their old slogan, ‘Let your fingers do the walking,’ was all about how easy it was to use the print directory compared to wandering around downtown looking for a store, a lawyer or a doctor.  Unfortunately, Google, Yahoo, MSN, and all the rest of the search engines are letting our fingers do the walking today.”

Newt’s statement perfectly explains the biggest challenge for the Yellow Pages® today. For many years the Yellow Pages® was the only way to find things easily. Those days are long gone.

Here in Australia, the Yellow Pages® is run by a former government monopoly called Sensis (part of Telstra), and it appears from Newt’s review that our Yellow Pages® does a much better job than the local Yellow Pages® in Florida.

According to Sensis, the Yellow Pages® book in Australia yields around AUD$1 billion of advertising annually and the Yellow Pages® Online a further $100 million.

Access is the key to Yellow Pages® success.

The Yellow Pages® Book 2The Yellow Pages® is actually a massive repository of content. In the information age, what will make or break it is access to its content. Traditionally it could only be done through the book or the website directly.

A company of this size is typically slow at responding to market trends, however there’s too much at stake for them not to take action fast.

Yellow Pages® in Australia have responded to the challenge of access with initiatives like:

  • Yellow in the Car – A small directory for use in the car
  • Yellow Mobile – Online Yellow Pages® for mobile phones
  • Go Stay® accommodation guide
  • Yellow at Home portal website
  • Choice buyers guides on the Yellow Pages® online
  • Partnership with NineMSN and

They’re making some good moves.

For what it’s worth, here’s what I’d do to make the Yellow Pages® Australia into a $2 billion guide and to massively increase the value that it delivers to its customers:

The Yellow Pages® Book 11. Open up the category pages to Google

Imagine if the Yellow Pages® category pages came up number one in Google.

For example, search in Google on “Restaurants Melbourne.” Yellow pages are nowhere to be found.

Would you be interested in advertising in the Yellow Pages® if it was number one in Google?

A quick review of the Yellow Pages® robots.txt file shows that they do not allow any search engine indexing of their content. This seems to be a legacy of pre-information age thinking about content (keep it all to yourself).

What if they simply created search engine friendly pages of content for each of their categories? They don’t have to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

2. Optimise the Yellow Pages® websites for conversion

The current Yellow Pages® online listings are set out very poorly for lead generation. Smart application of simple conversion techniques could massively increase the number of leads generated, and overall change the perceived benefit of the Yellow Pages® online from cost to investment.

One Melbourne business that we deal with gets over 400 leads from its website each month compared with 20 or 30 from the Yellow Pages®. However, this would be very different if the Yellow Pages® took these ideas on board.

It will be interesting to see if the Yellow Pages® can catch up to the massive market shift that happened when Google became the dominant search engine in early 2000.

What I do know is that you’ll see the Yellow Pages® around for many years to come. It’s a question of what form it will be in. Just don’t expect it to be in the form of A-K and L-Z.


About Brett Gilbertson

If you are looking for help in your online lead generation strategies, then give Bitemark a call on 03 9012 6600. Bitemark specialises in lead generation websites and driving targeted traffic through search engine optimisation (seo).


  1. Charles Cuninghame says:

    My problem with the Yellow Pages is that it’s usually more efficient to find a number in the book than it is on the website. (Not that I use the book anymore either – it will go straight into the recycling bin – along with the 3 others they delivered to my block of flats.) The online listing are so clogged with premium and out-of-area listings it’s hard to find what I’m looking for (ususally someone local). Their alphabetical search is also very dodgy.
    I’ve heard that 40% of searches on Google are for local businesses. This has to be hurting YP. For that reason your first suggestion is an excellent one. I know other online directories are using this strategy. Your second suggetion would be a giant leap in the right direction too!

  2. Hi Charles,

    Bruce Akhurst, CEO of Sensis recently acknowledged that there had been a decline in print. However, they still seem to be able to grow their revenue as seen here:

    It’s interesting to note that the Book still accounts for 70% of the YP revenue.

    You’re definitely right though, the website needs help. Compare the YP’s heavy and slow home page with Google’s simple, super fast search alone.

    Bruce, if you’re reading this call me ASAP.

    - Brett

  3. Vishal harma says:

    You might want to read this to get more inisights how this landscape needs a change

  4. This Yellow Pages In The Car is a joke…. surely?
    pick any scenario, and there is just no merit in using a book as opposed to a) Telstra 1234, b) SatNav, c) Internet on Phone, d) Phoning a friend.

    Here is the full argument against: and the article repeated on my website

    An absolutely ridiculous idea… considering the majority of the population uses either SatNav or have a mobile phone, the idea of pulling out a book to find your way is so redundant. Okay, you don’t get a full business listing, but seriously, when in doubt, most people will call a friend, or ask 1234 for that information anyway.

  5. The Center for Media Research has released a study by Vertical Response that shows just where many of these ‘Main Street’ players are going with their online dollars. The big winners: e-mail and social media. With only 3.8% of small business folks NOT planning on using e-mail marketing and with social media carrying the perception of being free (which they so rudely discover it is far from free) this should make some in the banner and search crowd a little wary.

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