Are Internet Yellow Pages Websites Growing?

Help me understand this report from the Yellow Pages Association Blog:

Although the absolute number of General Web Searchers (167 million) and Local Web Searchers (160 million) was larger than the number of IYP/Local Web Searchers (88 million) in December 2008, the actual percent increase year over year for IYP searchers was 21%. This exceeded both the increase for general web searchers (16%) and local web searchers (20%).

This is a strong indication that IYPs are not just holding their own in the local search space, but actually growing their user base at a faster rate than its more-hyped competitors.

Are Internet Yellow Pages (IYP) growing at 21%? Here’s a look at how a few are doing according to Compete.com:

I’m not sure who they consider to be their “more-hyped competitors” but Yelp and Craigslist seem like two places where people can connect with local businesses without paying for Internet Yellow Pages ads, which would make them competitors at some level:

I’m having a hard time understanding how one can conclude that IYP is growing faster than other sources of local business information on the web. That’s not to discount that yellow pages companies provide data to sites like Bing, but being a data provider is a significantly different business than being a direct source of data – especially when you’re looking at monetization opportunities.

It’s interesting to watch the Yellow Pages Association’s, Larry Small, put his best spin possible on 3rd party data. I’m not suggesting that the data isn’t accurate, but it’s not clear what data is being used or how the conclusions Mr. Small describes were derived from the data.

One popular way to support positions on the web these days is to include links to supporting data. A link to the ComScore report, fields used, sites compared, etc. would be nice. In fact, in conversations I’ve had with data vendors like ComScore, they’ve requested this as well so their reporting isn’t called into question (vs the interpretation of their data).

Somewhat related: I’m cranking out a weekly post on real estate web marketing for those who find that sort of thing interesting.

6 thoughts on “Are Internet Yellow Pages Websites Growing?”

  1. Before you can evaluate online YP numbers, you have to determine how much of that is traffic driven to them by other search engines like Google. Google’s given the online YPs decent pageranks. Yellowpages.com is a 7, Dex is a 6. Not huge numbers, but good enough that I believe Google is driving a lot of that traffic increase. Googling a client, I see that two out of three paid search results are to online YP sites, as is their 4th non-paid result. With that kind of ad buy, it’s hard to see how YP online numbers could help but go up.

    It’s almost inconceivable that people would rely on online yellow pages when these “services” aren’t trustworthy. I see that Dex and YP have stopped prioritizing advertisers (so far as I could tell), but now rank businesses by user reviews. Given the tiny user review numbers involved, it would appear that online YP sites have gone from gaming the system on behalf of their users to letting users game the system directly. I think this speaks to yellow pages vision incompetence more than anything else.

    Frankly, if they wanted to jack up their numbers, they should rank search findings based on click thru rates with businesses listed alphabetically or randomly when there aren’t enough click thrus for ranking purposes. I suggest this knowing that I have at least one client who would sit and click on his listing repeatedly trying to jack up his placement. My point being that the yellow pages don’t even know how to run a crooked game well.

    Another grossly overpaid industry fallen prey to their own greed. Had Dex etc. gotten serious about search engines back in the ’90s, they might have kept us locked into their system. Now they just prey on advertisers too stupid to understand how things work. Citysearch and other specialized search engines have stolen the yellow pages market while the YP folks were busy giving themselves a round of bonuses.

  2. Eddie:

    You are slipping. If you had taken the time to accurately read the release instead of your rush to criticize anything and everything that comes out from the industry you would have seen that the research didn’t say that IYP was growing 21%, it said that the number of IYP — SEARCHERS — had grown 21%.

    Details, details, details.

  3. kenc, show me the light. How does one search without visiting?

    Mark, yp companies are doing a lot of ad buying on Google. Presumably to make up for the shortcomings in local search traffic on their IYP sites.

  4. @Ed

    Maybe the ads are bringing more searchers to IYP?

    @kenc

    If searchers are up 21% it would seem natural to assume that the number of searches would go up by the same percentage unless the new SEARCHERS are MORE OR LESS active utilizers than the baseline group. Do you have data that suggests that the 21% increase has brought in more avid users? That would certainly illustrate your point.

  5. But Matt, that is the original point…the report brags of searchers increasing 21%…however unique visitors was flat.

    So where is the logic behind the claim? Who are these 21% more searchers that are doing searches when they are not arriving from unique IP addresses? Library computers, job sharers, school computers, old folks homes, cemeteries, marketing imaginationland?

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