What Is Internet Yellow Pages’ Role in Local Search?

As the Web revolutionized marketing, search has revolutionized Web marketing. Specifically, paid search has enabled more precise targeting of ads based on users’ own self-selection. Coupled with pay-for-performance pricing, detailed reporting and ROI calculation, this is the foundation for Google’s rise and the still-growing search marketplace.

While Google has rightfully gained its share of attention, it is Internet Yellow Pages that represent the most compelling and accessible advancement in the development of targeted marketing.

According to The Kelsey Group, 22 million small- and medium-sized businesses spend 46 percent of their advertising budgets on Yellow Pages marketing and put only 3 percent into search engine keywords. These companies are not only the backbone of the U.S. economy, they also have helped make the traditional Yellow Pages into a $26 billion industry worldwide. And most of them don’t have a Web site, so they are beholden to and more familiar with

a directory-style model that drives phone traffic, not just Web traffic. This is where the bulk of new business in local search will come from in the next five years.

IYPs benefit from a “feet-on-the-street” sales force. While search engine attempts to localize content are extremely impressive – and are increasingly regarded as simply part of the directory industry – their models are patterned after the Yellow Pages, with one key difference. Search engines offer Yellow Pages-type content/results and often link to online Yellow Pages directories in their most relevant results, thanks to the kind of structured search that is a key differentiator for IYPs. It is this structure search that drives better, more precise results to user queries online. In other words, Yellow Pages content is still the gold standard for local search.

That’s the benefit to consumers. But to marketers, IYPs focus the benefits of search through more precise targeting at the local level and a more qualified audience of ready-to-buy consumers who arrive on IYPs specifically to purchase products and services.

This precision is one of the reasons behind IYPs’ cost-effectiveness for marketers, which is supported by current research from leading data providers. According to Kelsey, the cost per contact generated by a print Yellow Pages reference is just over $1. Recent data gathered by Piper Jaffray puts the same figure for a paid search listing at 43 cents. But the cost per lead for IYP listings, according to Kelsey, is estimated at 14 cents.

One way IYPs can deliver leads so efficiently is through programs that enable national and franchised marketers to target their ads locally with more precision. To create a better local search experience, local search will become a hybrid of Yellow Pages and search engines, combining the strengths of content and distribution.

For the many users conducting more of their local searches on IYPs, the structured data of an IYP search usually makes their local search take less time than it would on any other medium. It also makes these results show up in more precise search queries on the major engines. At the same time, to a local advertiser who is paying for clicks, IYPs make the most sense because only users who have sought listings within a given region will click on this advertiser’s listing. There are no mistaken clicks or wasted dollars.

Perhaps best of all, buying an ad such as this on an IYP requires none of the difficulty some users encounter with self-serve sites. All a marketer need do is pick up the telephone.

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