Yellow Pages, Search Engines or Social Media, Who Do You Trust?

A recent survey suggests users trust The Yellow Pages more than any other source when searching for local goods and services, why would this be?

Yellow Pages, Search Engines or Social Media, Who Do You Trust?

A recent survey suggests users trust The Yellow Pages more than any other source when searching for local goods and services, why would this be?

Yell, Google, Bing, Facebook and Twitter
Who do you trust when searching for local businesses?

I read an interesting article today that claims that people trust The Yellow Pages more than they do search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo. It is a US based survey but it claims that 84% of those who took part in the survey used The Yellow Pages to find a local business in the last year against 76% who used a search engine. Only 32% said that they used a social network such as Facebook and Twitter.

So why would this be? I think a lot of it might come down to The Yellow Pages being a longer established brand. If we are honest if you were looking for something back in the mid nineties then pretty much your only option was to use The Yellow Pages. Search engines were still a relatively new idea and it was relatively easy to manipulate their results. Add to that many local businesses did not have a web presence in those days so you had little option but to go for The Yellow Pages.

As time has passed then search engine algorithms have become more sophisticated and so their results are more relevant. Local businesses are all waking up to the fact that having a website, even in its most basic form, is a requirement nowadays. The Yellow Pages have not been idle though and they now have a strong online presence through

The statistics quoted earlier are for both online and print versions of The Yellow Pages so that perhaps skews the figures slightly as you cannot get a paper version of Google or Bing. I think that it is a valid figure though as I have to confess that last year I needed a tree surgeon and I had already picked up The Yellow Pages and was thumbing through it before I thought to myself “Why am I not looking for this online?”

I should hang my head in shame at the reason I did not go online initially to conduct my search. My thought pattern was that I probably wouldn’t find a small business online and a quicker option would probably be to use The Yellow Pages. The point I am trying to make is that even though I work in new media and deal with local businesses every day, help to promote their businesses online every day I still thought I would have a greater choice out of The Yellow Pages. Oh, and it was the paper copy of The Yellow Pages, not the website that I was using. I did put my copy down and start to search online instead, with a good result I might add.

This shows how much we are creatures of habit. I used the paper copy because that is what I have always done. I had never even thought about searching on line for a local company prior to that. I do now always search online when looking for goods and services, but if it has taken me this long to get round to using the web how long will it take more casual internet users?

One other thought I had on these figures was that of trust. Figures are constantly being bandied about that only about a third of users will click on the paid for ads on a search engine result page (SERP). Yet The Yellow Pages is full of nothing but ads. The Yellow Pages do not do anything to check or endorse companies it is simply a directory and the company pays for their ad and chooses which section they want to be listed in. We all know that when we use The Yellow Pages we tend to choose the companies whose ads stand out the most. This is no objective way of choosing a company, Company A have a more eye catching ad than Company B and therefore Company A must be better than Company B. I wonder if over time people will start to trust paid for ads on SERP’s? One comment I heard a few weeks ago was from somebody who only clicks on the ads and their rationale was that if a company is prepared to pay for me to click on their link then they must be serious about wanting to do business with me.

Perhaps this sort of view is going to become more prevalent in the coming years and it may very well be worth local businesses start to consider using services like Google Adwords or Microsoft adCenter for Bing. The advantage for advertisers is that you can choose which search terms you want your ad to appear under, meaning really targeted advertising.

Only 32% said that they used social media to search for a local company. I believe that this is primarily because social media is where search engines where ten years ago. People know that they exist, they use them, but they do not yet trust their search results enough to go to these sites first when looking for goods and services. People are still more interested in being sociable with their friends rather than with brands or businesses. It will be up to businesses to offer something in return for liking their Facebook page or following their Twitter account. It is also fait to say that while most household names are on one or both of the major social networks many smaller businesses have not yet moved into the social space.

The growth of mobile may spur the development of local searches on line. Often when you are searching for a local product you are searching for a telephone number to speak to somebody and so it follows that having your telephone number in a clickable format on your ad or webpage is likely to help contact rates from prospective customers. They can find your business via a search engine and then being able to click on the telephone number will be easier than keying it in. Of course can also provide this functionality via their website too.

I have been so intrigued by the results of this survey that I have set up my own on my home page. You will find it half way down the page, please do answer the single question and let’s see if our results are the same here in the UK.