Yellow Pages: Is It Obsolete Yet?

yellow-pagesI have never advertised in the Yellow Pages. A couple of years ago, I flirted with the idea before I realized I would pay a couple hundred dollars a month for a fraction of the traffic I already got from other sources.

I am not allergic to spending on advertising, but I prefer to spend money where it gets the best results. I spend a lot of time writing a consumer law blog to help attract potential clients, and I spend money on search engine advertising through Google AdWords. I also spend liberally on coffee, lunch, and beer for good, old-fashioned networking.

The Yellow Pages has never seemed like a particularly good investment—for me, at least.

A colleague in a similar line of business–and therefore a good test case for the kind of clients I am after—does use the Yellow Pages, and reports getting only a couple of leads per month. In fact, I have not heard any Yellow Pages success stories in a very long time, except from the occasional criminal defense or personal injury lawyer with a full-page spread.

If you still use the Yellow Pages, why? Have you found it to be the most effective (or a cost-effective) marketing method for your practice? What else are you doing, and how does that compare?

If you do not use the Yellow Pages, why not? Have you considered it and rejected it? Are you a recovering Yellow Pages advertiser? What changed your mind?

(photo: Joanna Young)


  1. Avatar Clay says:


    We (a PI firm) are slowing getting out of the phone books. Our cost per client last year ran about $1500 per client out of the yellow pages. Thank god for referrals!

  2. Avatar Mike DeLuca says:

    Coming from someone who works for an On-Line Marketing company, you’d probably suspect i would be screaming that the YP is dead. While the struggles of some YP’s have been well documented, I think to broad stroke the entire industry as dead is a mistake. I think all companies need to plan for the future, continue to innovate and even be prepared to re-invent themselves. I just spent last week at the Kelsey conference in Orlando primarily for YP publishers and I can tell you first hand, the leaders of those companies are innovating and are looking extend their reach into different forms of media. What these companies possess is very valuable and what that is, is huge customer bases and large sales forces. The trick for these guys is to embrace change and to change the way they have traditionally gone to market. The value prop is that there are millions and millions of people searching for products and services through various different methods. As a YP, you need to have a complimentary set of offerings that give your customer the most targeted exposure at an affordable investment. Most importantly, it all needs to be tracked because if you are providing a great ROI, you need to be able to demonstrate it or forever be negotiating on “price” vs “roi”. In conclusion, there’s a ton of value in YP and I expect as the good ones re-invent themselves, they will continue to be major players for a long time.


  3. Avatar Joe Markowitz says:

    I showed my teenage kids the yellow pages, and they looked at it like, what is that for, and why would anyone use it? If it’s not online, they are not interested. That’s the future. They have also never used a card catalog, and they don’t have much experience with dictionaries or encyclopedias either.

  4. Avatar Boyd Butler says:

    As someone that works with a media tracking company and with law firms in the marketing arena I agree with the ROI message. Track your calls. Systematically.
    If you don’t then what’s the point of marketing anywhere. Incidentally, you can now track calls that come from online sources and then turn into calls. It’s called Dynamic numbers and the phone number changes on your site according to where someone clicked from. As 80% of transactions take place on the phone this is now great to really drill down on the value of Google Ads or email newsletters etc.

    As long at YP is successfully sending you profitable clients, use it.
    If not, drop it.
    And the profit depends on the number and quality of calls. So you really need to look at the best way of doing the ad that laser targets the prospect. This includes great headline, testimonials, info line recorded message, free guides, call to action etc.

  5. Avatar Dean Love says:

    Last year I spent AUS $60,000 on a full page spread in my city’s Yellow Pages (Perth, Western Australia) – including advertisement under Solicitors, Barristers & Debt Collection Agents. We also advertised in Country WA Yellow Pages – all regions.

    I cannot think of a single client that was brought in by this. No doubt we got some phone calls, but the conversion rate was very low. I tend to think that if people go to YP – then they are shopping around, and if that happens you have to come from behind to win the client.

    All of our success stories, came from other sources of work.

    I think clients are more computer savy these days – and the YP is overpriced & obsolete. Furthermore, online marketing levels the playing field. While Google and Facebook certainly have market share now – the market quickly changes as soon as these search engines/social networking sites become ‘old hat’ and the next ‘cool’ thing comes along.

    Dean R. Love & Associates
    Barristers & Solicitors

  6. Avatar Guy S. DiMartino says:

    I think the yellow pages are not worth the expense. A while back I was going to buy into a solo PI firm. The yellow pages ran just under 150K per year and the number of clients generated over the last few years went from 100 to 50 with the same placement and same books.

  7. Avatar Mike Stewart says:

    I have been in the “Yellow Pages” industry since I was 18. I am now 28 and work for a large YP publisher. This argument is one that is subject to personal beliefs and preferences. I personally do not use Yellow Pages, but can verify that it does “still” and always has worked when done properly with the right ad, placement, budget, and expectations.

    Although I believe that a significant amount of these leads have migrated online since the above average urban lifestyle consumer does not use print YP. Yet the suburban American still uses the product. A significant portion of the baby boom generation uses the product.

    Will GenX and later use it? No….. unfortunately for the industry they are doing very little to influence future shoppers. Do they advertise or support industries like Social Media, Video Gaming, etc? NOPE… the are ignoring the future of America by focusing on the Baby Boom Generation. Eventually the industries print product will die, unless they target the users….. not more and more advertisers. Quality before quantity. Make all clients uphold an ethical practice or you also lose users to bad experience. Many things need to be looked at, but as a 10 year young veteran in the industry, I am somewhat concerned for the industry.

    Mike Stewart
    The Local Search Engine Marketing Nut!
    @dallasseoguru on Twitter

  8. Avatar Andy Mergendahl says:

    I opened my solo practice 3 weeks ago; I will not place an ad in YP at this point. If I do, it will stand out from all the other generic lawyer ads. I think YP is dying, but not dead, as there are a lot of people who pick it up because that’s what they’ve always done. These folks use computers at work, because they have to, and they even surf the web to some degree, but if they need a good or a service, they act out of habit in reaching for YP. I did have lunch with a solo last week who was surprised I was not advertising in YP. He gets clients that way, for family law and bankruptcy in particular.

  9. I can’t help but giggle when I walk past the stack of un-opened YP books in my buildings lobby. And I am not a giggler by nature…

  10. The general rule is probably the general rule for a reason: we’re getting a vast majority of our business from referrals. We put a big ad when I joined for marketing, but we aren’t spending that type of money again for the low return we get. I think I’ve gotten more from blogging and that’s free.

  11. Avatar Lisha Fabris says:

    I hear this question often in my dealings with attorneys. Whether you choose to reach your consumer in print or online, you have to agree that “Local Advertising” is critical (thus the appeal of the YP book). While the YP does give you the “local” aspect, it is so saturated that in many legal categories, an attorney is one of MANY — how is a consumer to choose?

    With advertising moving to the “vast” internet, “local” remains as important as ever. Otherwise, an attorney ends up listed on a legal directory with pages and pages of other attorneys and things aren’t much better than they were in the YP book.

    Bottom line — when seeking advertising options (in print and online) — choose those that are targeted, that will make it easy for the consumer to FIND and CHOOSE you, that brings in the “eyeballs”, and that will be transparent about expectations.

  12. Avatar David McLeod says:

    For years, I had success with yellow pages. Times have changed. We once had one yellow pages in my area that was published by the monopoly phone company. We now have four. YP is a waste of good money. Further, you are stuck for a year paying for it.

    One medium that is shockingly inexpensive is cable TV. I have not used it yet but, am mulling it over. Check with your local cable operator and I think you will be really surprised at the rates.

  13. Sam Glover Sam G. says:

    If cable TV is affordable, keep an eye out for my low-budget lawyer ad! I am scripting it right now! (Not kidding.)

  14. Avatar Kevin Chern says:

    As one person once said aptly…Phone book delivery day has also become phone book recycling day. With my adress book that syncs to all of my computers and phones, internet access from almost anywhere and Google’s free 411, I really do not find a need to use the print version of the Yellow Pages, so why would my potential customers? Right now, online marketing schemes seem to be working well, such as pay-per-click services and Google adWords.

  15. Avatar Kevin Chern says:

    As one person once said aptly…Phone book delivery day has also become phone book recycling day. With my address book that syncs to all of my computers and phones, internet access from almost anywhere and Google’s free 411, I really do not find a need to use the print version of the Yellow Pages, so why would my potential customers? Right now, online marketing schemes seem to be working well, such as pay-per-click services and Google AdWords.

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