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Yellow Pages nears the pearly gates…

Web Bureau

05 December 2011 by Web Bureau

In 2007, Bill Gates famously said, “Yellow Page usage amongst people in their, say below 50, will drop to near zero over the next five years.” – Bill Gates (Seattle Times, 2007.)

So here we are five years later and willing to test that theory.

As an ‘under 50’ who hasn’t thought about a phonebook in over a year I would deem this a fairly accurate predication by Mr Gates.

Ten years ago the Yellow Pages was the first port of call for virtually everything.

Be it a pizza, glazier, chimney sweep or an engineer to fix a broken boiler on a snowy Christmas Eve, the Yellow Pages was never far from reach.

But is the Internet and its easy access through smart-phones and laptops to blame for triggering the looming extinction of the once trusty yellow book?

The Internet has certainly provided us with a quick way to locate a particular service in a medium that is most relevant to our 21st century lives.So if companies are no longer paying for a big splash in the Yellow Pages how are they being found on the internet?

Having a website is simply not enough and getting your company listed at the top of an Internet search is a lot trickier than paying a Yellow Pages subscription to be listed in the relevant industry/service category.

Unfortunately the Internet filing system isn’t quite as clean cut and straightforward as the Yellow Pages system, but it is something you can influence and have a certain degree of control over by putting Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) techniques into practice.

It pays to enlist the help of an SEO agency to implement and maintain the necessary measures to get you “found” in major search engines such as Google, Yahoo or Bing.

‘That’s just another cost for our company’…I hear you…but SEO is actually a measurable practice that allows you to track, monitor and even see its results, something you just can’t do with an advert in a phonebook.

In most cases the ROI on SEO outperforms paid phonebook listings, in publications such as the Yellow Pages, by up to 10 times.

In the current economic climate this is a statistic that cannot be ignored.

The Internet is continually developing and search specifically is showing strong signs of continuing to progress and improve. Unfortunately, phonebooks are not.

A telling sign of the impending fate of the Yellow Pages was the introduction of online counterpart Yell in 1996. But even this digital equivalent appears to be losing its battle against the bigger players such as Google and Yahoo.

Why pay for Yell when using SEO can propel your website higher on search listings?

Chances are your competitors are already applying SEO techniques. So the question is why aren’t you?

Here are some SEO pointers to consider the next time you upload a page to your website:

  • Name the page wisely. This is your opportunity to tell users what the page is about whilst encouraging them to click through and read more about it.
  • Add a description to your page. This can be done through HTML code or a Content Management System. This description is what the user will see on Search Engine Result Pages and can include a call to action for the visitor.
  • Link build. Basically this refers to other websites that feature a link to your website. This can be done through partner sites, client sites, supplier sites, blog sites. Quality content on your site will also result in web users linking to your site. Google reads these links and classifies your site as a reliable, quality resource increasing its ranking.
  • Monitor closely. Search is forever changing and updating itself therefore it is vital to keep a close eye on your positioning. Checking your ranking for various search terms will give you a good indication of how well your SEO efforts are performing.

While the Yellow Pages will undoubtedly remain for a few years yet to serve the minority without Internet access, its tortuous demise should be a valuable online lesson to all.

Paul Haslam is Director of The Web Bureau and can be contacted at

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