Yellow Pages V's SEO - A Comparison Of ROI

OK, today I wanted to discuss a question I get from clients and new business owners wanting to come on board all too often.

Here's the question:

"The Yellow Pages have rung me and promised me this and that… should I invest into this media or invest/continue investing into SEO?"

So in this article, I'll outline both the pros and cons of the Yellow Pages and SEO so you can make an educated decision which way to move when you get a phone call from the Yellow Pages sales rep or the sales rep from any other online media outlet eg. TrueLocal, Start Local, Service Seeking, etc.

OK so let's get into it.

First a quick backstory on my background with the Yellow Pages.

Direct Response Yellow Pages Ad
example of a great lead generation Yellow Pages ad

If you've been following me for any amount of time you'd know that I first cut my teeth on Direct Response marketing back in the summer of 07'.

Back then I was helping business owners with their offline marketing, building their lists, getting a better response from their ads and yes you guessed it… making their ads stand out above the rest of the competition in the Yellow Pages.

Even back then, getting a small ad would set a business back a few hundred bucks and up to a few grand depending on the geo circulation.

A full-page ad on the other hand… depending if it was for a big city circulation or a small region could cost anywhere up to 30K (maybe more, but that was the highest we were quoted).

So you can understand our clients wanted to make sure they got maximum ROI from their investment.

As you can imagine I made it a priority to become pretty good at working out what works, what makes one ad more attention-grabbing than the next one and what makes people take action, pick up the phone and call the business.

Now as you can also imagine the Internet became more and more popular during this time - which is when I decided to apply the same strategies that were working offline - online.

But while our SEO Campaigns were getting results like gangbusters, our client's Yellow Page ads became less and less effective.

First, some clients saw a boost in the ads working as other competitors abandoned the media, but eventually, over the years the offline version of the Yellow Pages just wasn't a viable option for many of our clients anymore.

Our SEO services were literally crushing the ROI from the Yellow Pages.

And it was at this stage that the Yellow Pages finally reacted and realised that they too had to give their customers an online presence.

And Ta-Da.

Yellow Pages Online was born.

It's not like the Yellow Pages didn't have a website, they launched their first online directly website back in 1994 however it was in 2011 where they realised they had to become more competitive online to survive.

So here's what happened

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Yellow Pages Online Marketing History

source: https://www.sensis.com.au/about/our-history

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This is when Google more or less started their love relationship with the Yellow Pages (and who can blame them when another company is willing to invest millions of dollars every year into their ad platform).

So what you can see in the Google landscape is that the Yellow Pages is in fact getting a fair few rankings for several local keyword searches around Australia. (example below)

Yellow Pages SEO Ranking

So with that outlined and out of the way, let's discuss the question you really want to be answered:

Is Investing In The Yellow Pages Going To Give You A Greater ROI Than What A SEO Campaign For Your Website Will Give You?

To answer that let's look at the pros and cons of each Media.


Yes, SEO requires time and ongoing investment for several months, however, once you're on the first page you're only 1 click away from getting a new potential customer to your website, and you're only competing against 9 other listings (organically) and once a customer does click on your website you have their undivided attention and can sell them on all your benefits without any distractions.

The Yellow Pages also requires a significant investment, however, while they are found on the first page of Google for many local commercial terms you're still competing against 9 other listings same as SEO - but the big drawback is… once a potential new customer clicks on a Yellow Pages listing they don't just land on your business result… you're up against 10's many times 100's of other business listings that you need to compete against. And many times unless you're paying the most money you're nowhere near the top 3-5 listings which is where all the clicks are going if someone does find a Yellow Pages link on Google.

So unlike with your own website where you pretty much have 9 competitors and really it's only the first 3 listings you're competing against for the majority of the clicks, once you win this fight for that first click with a Yellow Pages listings you still have to compete with hundreds of other businesses before you even get a chance of a click to your actual Yellow Pages listing.

Your chances of getting traffic and a decent ROI from a Yellow Pages listings are therefore dramatically reduced compared to that of an SEO campaign.

IMPORTANT: this is my opinion and it's based on research we have conducted with client's Yellow Pages ads compared to getting their website found through an SEO campaign. There are other opinions out there obviously, however, this is what we see as the true pros & cons.

OK so here's…

The Detailed Pros & Cons We Have Found For a Yellow Pages Listing & Getting Your Site Found On Google Through A SEO Campaign

Yellow Pages Pros:
  • Big Brand
  • Instant Presence On Google through their category listings.
  • Already existing Traffic direct to Yellow Pages Website.
  • Invests into Google Adwords on advertisers behalf.
  • Gets found for many searches across Australia
  • Gives you a spot in their offline publication.
SEO Campaign Pros:
  • It's YOUR asset forever
  • You get to say and put on the page whatever you want, however you want.
  • You can retarget visitors with other traffic strategies (re-targeting ads).
  • Your website gets found on Google, not a 3rd party representative of you.
  • You're only competing against 10 other business listings on the first page of Google.
  • You get a FREE Yellow Pages listing as part of a campaign. - You get a wider Social Media Reach (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc) - Results are long term and FREE after reaching the spot you're happy with on the first page.
Yellow Pages Cons:
  • Big Yearly Investment
  • Once you stop paying results disappear.
  • You're not just competing on the first page of Google, you're also competing against hundreds of other business listings within Yellow Pages.
  • You've got limited space and media to convey your benefits.
  • You're predominantly competing on price.
  • You're attracting bargain hunters & price shoppers.
  • You can't take advantage of other traffic strategies (eg. retargeting or list building) to get the most ROI.
SEO Campaign Cons:
  • Takes time and effort to get ROI.
  • Costs for local campaigns start at $500/month, big city campaigns start at $1,500/month.
  • Need to stay up to date with Google's constant changes.

So there you have it.

And I want to make one thing clear.

While I personally think SEO is a Yellow Pages KILLER I know that people do still get a good ROI from the Yellow Pages.

It really comes down to the industry, the competitiveness of the market and what you're willing/prepared to pay to get to the top of the Yellow Pages listings page.

Geographical reach also comes into play. So it's important to see if SEO will work in the area that you are in. While we see great results for SEO in the major cities like Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide & Perth we're also seeing great results in regional areas like the Sunshine Coast & Gold Coast and for some businesses all that's required is a hyper local campaign to get a good ROI.

And while I have compared the Yellow Pages to SEO here in this article… it's really an unfair comparison.

The Yellow Pages are trying to play in an arena (Google search) that requires so much more to really work.

For any SEO campaign to work we give our clients not just a presence on Google, we set up their content syndication system to distribute their message across numerous platforms across the web. We ensure they have a presence on YouTube with video marketing. And of course, we tap into the power of Social Media like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, etc.

This is what it takes to get results and first-page rankings these days.

And that's why our clients get so much more value than just a first-page ranking… but rather a complete online presence on different online media channels that drive traffic on their own.

This is just not included with Yellow Pages listings because all you get is your online and offline listing.

So with that being said, if you'd like more information on any of our SEO campaigns simply visit our SEO Services Page or give us a call direct on 1300 188 662.