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Yellow Pages Directory

Though 2009 was a tough year for some Yellow Pages directory publishers, the industry is entering 2010 with “fresh optimism,” according to Neg Norton, president of the Yellow Pages Association (YPA), who noted that small businesses are beginning to show signs of recovery and growth.  At the same time, publishers are diversifying their business models to incorporate more online offerings and more interactive capabilities.

In a blog post on Search Engine Land, Norton recently shared his top-four market trend predictions that will likely affect small businesses looking to harness local search.

The top local search predictions for 2010:

1. Mobile will drive local search growth: Last year, BIA/Kelsey predicted that mobile local search ad revenues will grow to $130 million by 2013, and that mobile local searches will increase to 35% of all searches by 2013. Amid this growth, the Yellow Pages industry is seeing significant innovation on the mobile front, from new Yellow Pages iPhone apps to mapping technologies that deliver relevant local information to users on the go.

Norton added that in 2010, advertisers will be faced with a growing set of options, and many will have limited knowledge of how to break through. The providers that will do well will be the ones who can make sense of this quickly changing platform and deliver programs that offer quality sales leads to advertisers.

2. Local search providers will vie for social: Though no one yet “owns” social local search, all of the major players in the space have their eye on this prize. This is because, according to Nielsen, ad spending at top social media sites increased 119% over the last year, and the share of social media ad spending to total online spending doubled to 15% in 2009.

Because of the significant trust that exists within online social communities and the fact that social networks have become a crucial way in which consumers relate to one another, players in the local search industry will seek to find ways to tap into those networks to serve local business information to consumers in search of it.

3. Local print advertising will decline but won’t disappear: Though many industry watchers have been predicting the death of print media for a long time, Norton doesn’t think it will disappear anytime soon. Instead, he points to the fact that usage is changing. Media fragmentation is causing a gradual decline in the quantity of print Yellow Pages references, for example, although the quality of those references is still very high. Norton added that the “perception of  usage decline in the printed Yellow Pages far exceeds the reality of what is actually happening.”

“For advertisers, this shift in usage means taking a close look at advertising spending and evaluating investment in print,” Norton said. “Those who are too quick to abandon it may see a reduction in qualified sales leads, while those who aren’t open  newer platforms might be missing opportunity.”

4. A hybrid marketing approach will win: A good deal of Yellow Pages industry discussion this year has focused on the hybrid model that has been deployed in many sales teams. Yellow Pages sales representatives, for example, are now armed with portfolios of options ranging from owned products to partner products. In this way, the reps are positioned as advertising consultants to small businesses.

To take advantage of such resources, advertisers need to devote some time to thinking through their options and devising a strategy that spans the appropriate media for the business. “It’s more important than ever to consider a hybrid approach because today’s consumers get information for a multitude of places before making a purchasing decision,”  Norton said, adding that this fragmentation will only continue to grow in 2010 and beyond.

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