Very last Yellow Pages to trigger spate of woeful websites

Posted on January 23, 2019

 

Who remembers the Yellow Pages directory being the size of a small family car? With the first issue being distributed to UK homes more than 50 years ago, the business phone book known as Yellow Pages used to be a substantial piece of advertising material. So much so, in fact, that strongmen would use the bulky book to convey their immense strength by ripping a copy in half with their bare hands.

Over recent years, however, something that was once the size you could use to crush a large rodent has instead shrunk to something that would ‘float’ down through your letterbox before landing gracefully on the hallway mat. The internet has pretty much killed Yellow Pages, with businesses choosing to spend their advertising budgets on more immediate channels such as websites, social media and search engines.

It wasn’t the fault of Yellow Pages as such, but more a change in the way we search for information. Now, instead of reaching for a physical phone book, if we need an emergency plumber, we pick up our smartphone and ask Google. Google then presents us with the local plumbers who have invested in their websites, online marketing and Google Business listings.

In order to survive the Google threat, Yellow Pages has long since gone ‘online’ with its directory service known as Yell.com. This is a paid listing service for businesses who pay a fee to Yell in order to be featured on the website. However, with the majority of searches occurring on Google, even this hasn’t managed to plug the sizable gap left by a dwindling client base.

This is why Yell also offers a ‘website design’ service to businesses, where Yell will set up and run websites for businesses for a recurring fee. The problem is that the websites are highly template-driven, and are very heavy from a code perspective, which means the code-to-content ratio is very high (i.e. there is more code in the website than actual content search engines would need to look at). This results in Yell websites not being particularly high-performing in Google searches.

Then again, Yell doesn’t really promote itself on being well placed within Google, because it wants to promote Yell.com anyway.

What does this mean for the businesses?

Many businesses that have a Yell website will find they don’t tend to get a lot from it, and any online marketing firm will tell you to avoid Yell because of the limitations with being able to promote and optimise them.

The real worry is that this month has seen the very last printed copy of Yellow Pages being sent out to UK homes. With the physical Yellow Pages no longer existing, Yell will be focusing 100% on its online offering. This means more businesses will be receiving cold calls offering deals on websites, and business listings on Yell.com, and the promise of lots of business via the platform.

We can expect to see even more templated websites cropping up, and we can expect to talk with more business owners who say things like ‘I’ve never had anything through my website’ or ‘I’m paying X amount each month and have had nothing’.

It’s not great for the web design and online marketing industry and, before you make a decision on where to get your next website, please have a watch of this video.

As a final note, who remembers the Yellow Pages advert where the elderly gentleman was scouring bookshops looking for a copy of ‘Fly Fishing’ by JR Hartley? After an unsuccessful quest, he finally opened a copy of Yellow Pages where he found a local book shop that had a copy.

As memorable as that advert was, things have moved on and the way we search for information has moved on. A simple Google search now for ‘Fly Fishing by JR Hartley’ shows the book is available from Amazon, and can be ordered with one click of your thumb using your smartphone.

The time of Yellow Pages is over, no matter what format it chooses to take.

Darren Jamieson

Technical Director at Engage Web
Darren is Technical Director at Engage Web, as well as being a co-founder of the company. He takes a hands-on approach to SEO and web design, helped by more than 15 years’ experience in these fields.

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