‘Yellow Pages’ Has Greater Reach, More Trusted than Search for Local

The findings of the latest Local Media Tracking Study (conducted by Burke) on behalf of the Local Search Association are going to be hard for some people to accept. The bottom line is that the study found the brand “yellow pages” is more closely associated with local business information and more trusted than search engines. However search engines are used more often find local information.

The study also found that consumers use 2.2 sources “when looking for information to buy a product or service locally.”

The data come from a survey of consumers completed in May, using both an online panel and telephone survey. The study was conducted over a 12-month period an involved 8,000 consumers. However there are some meaningful demographic differences, by income, education, geography and ethnicity.

Source: Burke/LSA June, 2011 (n=8,000)

The study combines print and online yellow pages into a single category. If they’re uncoupled search engines become the top individual source for local information. Significantly “yellow pages” as a category remains more trusted and is perceived to be more accurate for local information than search.

Source: Burke/LSA June, 2011 (n=8,000)

Here are some of the demographic differences I alluded to:

  • Age: Those under 34 are more likely to use search most often to find local information. Those 25-34 are more likely to use IYP most often; those over 55 use print yellow pages and other traditional media (e.g., newspapers, coupons) more often than online.
  • Geography: Rural residents are more likely to use print yellow pages than suburban or urban consumers.
  • Gender: Men use search engines more than women
  • Education: Those with high school education (or less) are more likely to use print yellow pages; those with more education are more inclined to use search and/or online yellow pages.
  • Income: Those with higher incomes ($60K+) use search engines more often vs. those with lower incomes who tend to use print yellow pages and other traditional media more often.

The LSA provided some additional data along with the above findings about post-lookup/search activity:

  • Contact rate: After a print YP lookup 67% make a contact; after an IYP lookup 59% make a contact
  • Contact method: print YP: 78% by phone, 39% in person, 17% website, 6% email; online YP: 64% by phone, 39% in person, 35% website, 11% email;
  • Purchase activity: Of those who made a contact 78% made a local purchase

The aggregate data above will be met with skepticism by many. However if you look more closely the findings make sense. Lots of people still use print yellow pages; and media usage varies by income, education, geography and so on.

Social networks scored low as a local information source. LSA President Neg Norton and I discussed this. He suspected that the wording of the question might have been responsible for that outcome. I don’t recall the verbatim language at the moment; however had the question included the word “recommendations” — what sources do you turn to for local business recommendations? — we might have seen larger figures in the social networking category.

The LSA also reported that there were 11 billion print yellow pages “references” in 2010. ComScore found that online yellow pages generated 5.6 billion searches in 2010. By contrast, Google generates just over 2 billion local searches per month on the PC.

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15 Responses to “‘Yellow Pages’ Has Greater Reach, More Trusted than Search for Local”

  1. Mike Byrne says at


    Very interesting. I think the Yellow Pages are doing a good job of making the transition to an internet based platform, but I wonder about their long-term viability.

    I have two points that may be worth considering. First, this is a snapshot. I believe the trend is growing local search through the search engines and declining print YPs.

    The second point is that as local businesses become more savvy with their internet marketing efforts, search engine results will be richer and people will use them more. Many local search results come back with aggregator and review sites rather than actual local business sites. Google Places and similar offering through Yahoo and Bing are changing the game too. Those results are now pushing ahead of aggregators.

    I see the Yellow Pages print versions declining and the IYP facing growing and better competition. For now, it seems that a small business needs to consider both Yellow Pages and creating their own local search presence.

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  3. Steve Sherfy says at

    I think the study’s most interesting facet is the grouping of online and print yellow pages. If they are broken out, as the article references, the decline of print YP is much more evident. The trend for a few years now has revealed print YP are as much of a “dead medium walking” as print newspapers except even more so in the case of the YP. All of the most desireable consumer categories are switching to online as the venue for local information, a trend that will only continue and grow as mobile data packages continue decline in cost. While there are still many SMBs that subscribe to the idea of large ad spend in their local YPs, owners are starting to discover they can receive more bang for their ad buck with online efforts.

  4. Greg Sterling says at

    Of course you’re right: PYP will continue to decline in urban and suburban areas. However that decline may take a decade to fully play out. IYP and search will be used increasingly. IYP is overshadowed by search. SMB advertising is a different discussion altogether.

  5. Mike says at

    Your asked to believe a survey, bought and paid for by the industry its researching to come up with an unbiased result. Its like asking the oil and coal industry to do a survey on energy reliability. Do you think Solar and Wind would come on top.

    YP’s pricing schemes (extortion) are a big part of it. My customers could not wait to tell the YP reps to go-to-hell when Google became an alternative. In my 25 years of Marketing I have never seen a company more hated then even Microsoft

  6. Greg Sterling says at


    I wouldn’t dismiss these results on the grounds of bias. There may be some issues in the wording of the questions (as I indirectly discuss above), but the research is valid. If you look beneath the surface you see search is most used (vs. either PYP or IYP) and the demographics of usage vary quite a bit.

    People do use print yellow pages, though most people in the internet business no longer do — and so they assume nobody else does.

  7. Mike Byrne says at


    I’m not dismissing the results in any way, only that a snapshot is being reported. When analyzing any information, I’m looking for trending as well.

    There is no doubt that Yellow Pages continue to be used by many people. If YP ads are working, they should be continued. New businesses should carefully access YP value and ROI. As a strategy, any advertising / promotional method that meets internal ROI requirements should be used and continued.

    I have a client who told me he would use any method that increased leads to his agents, but he wanted to develop his own website to be a single source of leads. Most of the leads he gets are “shared” with other agencies.

    My approach is to use what works, but invest more toward where the trends and results are pointing.

    And, yes you’re right. I haven’t pick up a phone directory in years, but my Mother and brother have never searched for anything onine.


  8. Greg Sterling says at

    Any survey is a snapshot and I’m not trying to defend print yellow pages. The totality of research show that search engines are most used. But there are other data that are consistent with the above.

    It’s really an audience segmentation game now from an advertiser standpoint: where are you in the US, who are you trying to reach?

  9. Ola Ayeni says at

    The reality of this survey is that while many search professionals may dismiss this findings, local search is still favorable to yellow pages especially in the burb. Mature folks ( 55 year olds and above ) will continuel use yellow pages.

    Thanks for the info Greg.

  10. Greg Sterling says at


  11. Gregg Stewart says at

    All of your points are valid related to any survey being a snapshot in time and biases associated with question wording. After conducting 4 years of research with the 15miles/comScore Local Search Study; we see similar results – difference being that online outscores offline in the survey component of our study. The important factor to take away is not the #1 source alone, but an understanding of the multi-modality of consumers and the fact that a comprehensive media mix of online and offline elements is necessary to extract maximum lead flow for the local marketplace.

    The other Gregg

  12. Greg Sterling says at

    Gregg Stewart is absolutely correct re multiple sources and platforms now. SMBs must be in multiple places and databases for coverage and exposure.

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  14. Scott W. says at

    Traditional yellow pages have the highest return on investment of any advertising medium. Sorry to pop your Googlefatuation, but, look it up. However, it is not very glamourous or exciting, is it.. We do spend a lot of time on the internet, but we do not spend a lot of time on the internet buying from local businesses. We spend most of our time looking at e-mail, checking the weather, researching a trip, sports, entertainment, etc. Really, the only time we would ever pick up a yellow page directory is when we are ready and motivated to buy something or if we need a service performed by a local provider. By far, the largest users of the print yellow pages are between 35-65 years, homeowners, good credit with disposable income. A teenager or early twenty something who is an exclusive internet user, is not the type buyer that yellow page advertisers are focusing on. For a local business, the traditional yellow pages are, by far, the best bang for the buck. That said, it is wise to spread advertising dollars accross other mediums as well in order to attempt to capture any potential buyer, wherever they shop. Newspapers, magazines, direct mail, billboards and most forms of traditional media are not going anywhere. Declining and adapting, yes, but it’s here to stay. Haters be warned!

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    […] (there’s a webinar tomorrow with more). This is an annual study and follows release of the Burke study on yellow pages and online directory usage recently by the […]

  16. Don Moe says at

    Greg: I am an independent insurance agent. We have found over the last 3 years yellow page useage (without internet) has dropped 90%. The sad part about this is the YP Companies knew the utilization was declining and tried to move the marketing to the internet. They never informed the advertisers as to the decrease in utilization or distribution.

  17. Survey: 33% of Urbanites Only Use Print YP for Local Lookups says at

    […] demographic information from Market Authority, here’s some demographic usage information from a yellow pages study conducted in 2011 by Burke (on behalf of the Local Search Assn.): Those under 34 are more likely to use search most […]

  18. Monica says at

    Hi Greg,

    Thank you for the info. Do you have most recently information about print yellow pages directory usage?


    Thank you.

  19. Greg Sterling says at

    I don’t have any 2013 usage data. There is some in the Local Search study (for IYP) from comScore, 15 Miles and Neustar. There also may be some at the Local Search Assn site. In addition you can look at this and Market Authority http://www.prweb.com/releases/2012/11/prweb10153487.htm

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