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Yellow Pages Online Directories - should you pay to be in them?

I have a unique perspective as someone who grew up in the family (traditional) small business and still helps my father with handling his advertising, and someone who has online businesses of her own.  Because of the latter, I have an understanding of how links work, and what kind of links are helpful and which kind are virtually worthless.

One of the areas I help dad's small business with is yellow pages advertising.  I design display ads and small text ads for the multiple print directories he advertises in, and I handle the sales people and make sure we get our ads in to the directories each year, since sales people sometimes drop the ball or they switch companies, etc. and don't bother to make sure we renew the next year.  Invariably, when I'm talking to the sales reps of big yellow page directory companies, they try to sell me a package that includes their online yellow pages. 

I refuse to pay to be included in online yellow pages.  Why? A) Because you can be listed in them for free, for what it's worth which B) isn't worth much, because people looking for a business online will search Google, not the online yellowpages and C) you want links that help your site rank, and the listings in these yellow pages don't help.  They are not static links.  They only show up on results pages if someone happens to search that site... and I doubt much of your local client base will be there searching for your goods or services.

One time a sales person tried to tell me that paying for an ad in the online yellowpages would get me on page one of Google, because their directory is in the top 10 results on Google for the search term "online yellow pages" or somesuch.  I said I would buy on ad if they would give me a static link on their own home page.  That was a short conversation.

I just offer this as a word to the wise. Maybe as a small business person, you don't have a son or daughter experienced in web design or who understands how ranking on the internet works.  Consider me your surrogate family member who just wants to help small business owners avoid being tricked into buying worthless online advertising.

That is not to say you should never pay for online advertising, however.  You just have to choose the right kind.  More on that soon.


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