The end is nigh for Yellow Pages and Thomson Local

Many of my recent discussions have been about SEO Local Search. This in turn lead to my recent post about best practices when setting up Google Places for your business. But one of the more contentious and rapidly more talked about factors in local search is our lovely friends at the Yellow Pages and Thomson Local.Dont forget we’ve spoken about before.

Now before we begin, let me make clear a fair amount of what I am about to say are things that I have done, experienced or had permission from clients to talk about. I will not name those clients (past or present) but suffice to say it is their views I will convey and not just my own.

With local search being a growing market, given Google Places show up in search results more and more, their default mobile search page now has buttons to say “local restaurants” or “local businesses” etc the question may not be is the end now, but rather why they still exist. If the question is to be the latter, the answer is simply money – there are still people who don’t realise they can do more for free than using either the Yellow Pages or Thomson Local. But this post is about the former, outlining why Google Places is different and better than either the Yellow Pages or Thomson Local.

Before we go on, I do want to say that both the Yellow Pages and Thomson Local, as well as Google Places, offer different “things” for different markets – but we in this post are talking about Local Search, not PPC or their websites (as discussed previously, link above). Both of the “Google Competitors” will have something the other doesn’t, for example Thomson Local we know is some how linked with Bing Local Search, but so is yell – and if Bing coping Google search results is anything to go by Google Places will also be being copied to some extent. So lets say it’s a level playing field here … so why should you pay Yellow Pages or Thomson Local for something you can do yourself … for FREE!?

The answer is you shouldn’t.

Both of these companies are known for going through people who make free listings on their respective websites and offering to “enhance” or “guarantee” local search listings. The way more often than not, if you trip them up, they do this is via making you a free listing on Google Places (just as you can yourself) and then giving you a few clicks via PPC. It doesn’t take much to get either party to own up to this. Oh and don’t forget for your buck, they will also put you into their directory, which you can also do for free anyway – if you can stand a fair few phone calls from that company offering you a load of bull.

So I hear you now saying but Yellow Pages and Thomson Local are known to people in the UK. Well yes, they have a physical brand – but did you notice the shrinking of the size of the Yellow Pages over the past 5 years – ask why is this and you will soon see that it’s because no longer are those paper directories the default – ask why they offer you local listings on Google and you will understand that this is why the paper directory is dead, Google is now the default “go to” point for most people looking for a local shop or services.

An example of local results showing up on a search is a search for Piano Lessons in Glossop or Electrical Services in Manchester – and by the way this is probably the most common way of searching for a shop or service in an area … services / shop name IN area name.

The next question to pose is why do the Yellow Pages or Thomson Local claim to have a higher conversion rate? Well the simple fact is they have a smaller audience, it’s a target audience … people go to their sites to look for something specific will click on maybe 2 or 3 links to get what they want and bingo … conversion rates will always be higher here than on a search engine where the results are shown with contextual results – which are actually much better for some searches and what people want. So yes people may want to know what is close to them but they also want to know which is best, which is why Google Places conversions are always increasing as they have reviews of each location – supplied by real people both via Google itself and other websites like trustpilot or freeindex.

Another reason for this claim is of course that they want you to part with a few sheckles, and pay for inclusion. This is also why they are failing, because Google Places and Bing Local Search are actually free to register too, you get verified (which yell don’t do) and everything is free. Yellow Pages and Thomson Local want to make just a few more quid before their game is up … and boy is that time close.

Google Places (and Bing Local Search) offer far superior results to that of the Yellow Pages or Thomson Local, they even take into account what your friend like and don’t like, what others around you have done, are doing or are likely to do … Search engines are far far superior in so many ways… and they are free!

If you want further proof that the Yellow Pages and Thomson Local know they are in trouble, take into account that they no longer simply offer you a local listing on Google, they offer it in a bundle with PPC / adWords, why? well thats because in 2009 they stopped playing the game of charging for this alone, people realised it was free, and they now claim to “guarantee you a listing on Google” … its nothing of the kind – it is simply PPC and nothing else and they charge through the roof for it. Put simply they know the game is up, they have little worth in this rapidly changing world of online media, and with Google putting local search at the centre of their mobile search it really is a matter of time for the rip off merchants that are Yellow Pages and Thomson Local. Don’t get me wrong they may still be ok at “paper” and “ground” marketing in the real world but online and socially they are nothing … oh and just a tip the Royal Mail offer much better real world marketing than these too companies ever could.

Don’t forget you can set up your Google Places listing for free! and here are my 10 steps to success.

UPDATE: 15 / 8 / 13

We’ve already seen Yell Web Design rebrand as Hibu in an effort to move away from a dead brand (it hasn’t worked). Today we heard that Thomson Local have gone into administration and at least 170 jobs have been cut. The Guardian are now reporting that they will be bought by Corporate Media Partners, a uk company that is one of the data suppliers to 118 118 – the news comes as no surprising following a loss of more than £4.5m in the first siz months of the year. … maybe i was right then, they are not long for this world?

13 Comments on “The end is nigh for Yellow Pages and Thomson Local”

  1. I treat the Thomson Local as waste the moment it is put through the letterbox and dispose of it straight into the recycling bin.

  2. thomson local ahev been a right pain since i took one of their ‘free’ listings.. must have had 15 phonecalls from the over a week telling me i ‘must upgrade my listing to get the best benifit of online exposure’ etc etc.. i only did it as a citation for my website ( AND they got my details wrong and wont speak to me now i’ve askedem to take it my listing down again!

    1. Unfortunately Si thats an all to familiar feeling amongst free listers. That and a sudden up surge of spam cold callers from elsewhere.
      Little advice I can give is not to answer any calls from a number you know as them or an unknown number… if you’ve a smart phone there are a few app that could help – or if its a landline your provider maybe able to help if it gets too much.

  3. There seems to be a big flaw in your so called death of the directories story. If you click on your example Piano Lessons in Glossop, there is a Yell listing ranked 3rd in the SEO. Knowing that these companies both weight their paid listings to rank better than the free, then paying a small fee to get good SEO position will probably work out cheaper than paying an agency.
    What you forget/don’t mention is that both Yell and thomsonlocal have great page rank, and as such having a paid listing with them (which is not adding a Google Place) benefits an SME massively.

    Don’t believe me – Google ‘Plumbers in Watford’ or ‘Florists in Harrogate’

    The question is, how much would a company have to pay you to even get them on the first page of Google, let alone in the top three. Not including PPC of course.

    1. Hi Dave
      First I should point out the post is from 2011 and somewhat dated.

      Secondly your final question isn’t actually valid in any way, comparing SEO of a REAL website to that of a directory like yell which isn’t the same- Just because they rank well doesnt mean people click on yell (see below) and even if they do it doesnt mean that all (for example) 25 listings get a click each time. However let me point out “piano lessons in glossop” the two top listings are actual teacher/ tutor specific directories that offer much more information than yell does on it’s site – and hey they rank above yell. But they like yell are a directory, only they are specialist and it’s not a “free for all” – if you are looking for a specialist teach (for example) you’d rather go to experts than just a directory wouldn’t you? Or do you just open the yellow pages (book) close your eyes and choose somewhere on the page?

      So no a listing with Yell doesn’t help and SME really, other than a tiny bit of click through traffic. And if you are thinking of pointing out yell would pass pagerank, the truth is that in directories the pagerank passed (if any, afterall “paid” links don’t pass it anymore) it would be so small it wouldn’t affect SEO.

      One final point on your question, you can’t compare onions to oranges – yell ranks because its a huge brand but can be easily outsted by a good website with even the most basic of SEO – for example search for piano lessons in hyde, ranks top there then yell – the site is basic and has limited content but its still much better than yell which offers basically.

      So yeh my advice remains – get a free listing on yell and get the very odd click but get your site in shape, use the free tools google gives you (places, webmasters, analytics) and hope on social media – its all free and in most cases will see yell move out of place and you move up the rankings.

      Ok you want an answer to cost, really you do? it’s free, as long as someone can put in the effort it’s free. For those low on time though to have someone else help with SEO can wildly vary, it depends on the seo consultant/company and what market you are in (among about 50 other factors, including how quickly you want to rank). There are also those of us who for a small fee are happy to literally consult with you on a weekly or monthly basis and write the odd report so you know what needs doing and we’ll point you to a site (maybe like SEOAndy) that has info on how to do it. I don’t suppose you will count that as an answer though.

      Have a nice day

      1. Andy,
        If the post is “somewhat dated” why do you keep mentioning it on Twitter? Write a new version and boost your own SEO. Stop trying to gloat on facts that are complete lies.

        Perhaps that is where you are wrong. People obviously do click on Yell, as they turn over hundreds of millions of pounds each year, with digital becoming a fast growing part of their business model. We all no that printed directories are dying, 5 – 10 years left really whilst the last 20% of people without internet in the UK get connected. The thing is, Yell, and thomsonlocal to a lesser extent, are still well known names that people trust. Given the choice of three directories, two of which are unknown to people, I would guess that the majority would go to Yell first. – Remember also that the links don’t go through to SERP results but to unique landing pages where the customers can put in as much information as they wish. In fact they nowadays are like micro websites with the amount of information on them.

        No, I was not suggesting that directory sites pass on page rank to their customers. What I was saying is that Yell have a high page rank themselves and great authority, so their adverts naturally appear quite high. There is no harm in having your own website and work on the SEO, as well as have a paid directory listing and a Google Place listing. This way you could appear three times in the natural rankings.

        I have also found over my time with working with SME’s and Digital Marketing, that 95% of them either don’t have the time or the desire to carry out SEO or PPC. In fact well over half of them don’t understand it at all. This is why Yell help them, as it does produce great ROI. I agree that people should take up every free method available to them to improve their own sites, but with constant algorithm changes your average Joe doesn’t stand much of a chance.

        Perhaps if you were less smug about how good you are, you might realise that apart from marketers and large businesses most people don’t know or care about what to do with a website.

        “Have a nice day”

        1. I mentioned it once on twitter because i added an update about the going to in administration and out again of ThomsonLocal – i don’t keep mentioning it. And just for your own nice information you are now feeding the seo of this post by adding new fresh content to it, and it already was doing “ok” in rankings – thanks.
          I would read what Kate said if I were you about the fact she doesn’t use yell. Yes yell make money and you point out why (or one of the reasons), because they are a brand they are known and it feels like you should trust them, but you know what I tell people to think twice (im sure you know that though, as im sure you’ve left comments before Yell-man). I tell them to think twice because you are not going to give them an individual service, they are just a number to you and if they sign up for a free listing you annoy them to sign up with you for more and more, you tell them you can get them to the top of google – forgetting to mention its with adverts – at least thats my experience. People go to yell and thomson because they trust the brand, but they know its a dieing brand – if it wasnt they wouldnt re-brand, the yell brand is damaged.

          I also think you are wrong, I think if someone is looking for something in a niche they will go to a directory in that niche rather than yell usually if its a choice between them, they’d rather have specialist knowledge than the same old tat from yell or thomsonlocal. Hey lets face it, if you were so fantastic we wouldn’t be saying “Google It” would we it would be “yell it”, maybe you can change that but i think that ship has sailed somewhat.

          Please explain what you are declaring as an “advert” which appears naturally, do you mean a search listing? because an advert is google adwords which is PPC – are you confusing yourself there or purposely trying to confuse readers of your comments?

          Please do send me your research into that 95% – is suspect its a made up figure – but do send us a link to that research

          and to your final point, if that were the case why are we even having this discussion and why are yell sell stuff and why does the blog exist? should we just disappear?

          on very final point, i am not smug – though you clearly are – I just happen to know what my opinion is and experience is, and Im happy to share that if it means people spend their money wisely, whether with or without your help at yell.

  4. As a consumer when looking for tradespeople or services I don’t use Yell or Thomson, however high they come up on the Google searches. I’m looking for a combination of things such as user reviews and what else the company is up to, how proactive they are at marketing themselves. A simple Yell listing doesn’t give me enough and I don’t trust it.For a company like a Florist I’d expect them to have a website even if it is basic. I also look for Facebook pages and twitter accounts – places where I can see genuine interaction with customers.
    Yell and Thomson are outdated concepts which I no longer have any use for.

    1. Alas, I do feel that a large percentage of user Reviews online are fake. This includes sites like the Review Centre, Trustpilot, Thomson, Google and

  5. thomson local are so desperate now they offer the service to create fake places listings on google maps and basically spam the shit out of google to get their customers business,Locksmiths listings are rife with spam and inaccurate locations that thomson knowingly put out there.

  6. Its not just Thomson local! also create false locations for their clients which zoom right to top of the places listings!Google know this and turn a blind eye, reporting it is simply ignored.
    Google seem to have abandoned their moto which should be changed to Google = Evil

  7. Just created a new business with big dreams as do all entrepreneurs and added my business to Thomson Local and Yell and true to the point started getting the spam calls, so decides to “google it” to find out the ratio of ROI. This blog does make sense as does the general atmospere on the web about the dinosaurs in marketing trying to digitize but not getting the trend.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *