Earlier today, I received a copy of the yellow pages through the post and thought “how long will it last?” before popping it straight into the recycling bin. Later on this afternoon, whilst looking to see if my good friend JC had any more excellent copywriting tips, I stumbled across a tweet that alerted me to this picture below:
This actually made me quite sad as, although I don’t use the Yellow pages, I realised its demise would be one of those milestones that divides a generation and yet another thing that will make me sound old to my young daughter. I can imagine the blank stares already as I tell her “In my day, we never had the internet, we had YELLOW PAGES” which will seem to her like when my grandparents used to tell me they never had a TV and I just thought they were a bit odd, like the kid down the road called Ezekiel who was home schooled.
The beauty of the Yellow pages though, and why it will be around for a good few years to come I suspect is that both advertisers and users know exactly what they’re getting. The world wide web by its very name sometimes doesn’t feel very local and search engines haven’t quite got there with local search. People local to an area will scoff when they type ‘best local builder’ into Google and it pops up with aggregation sites with names like ‘my builder’, ‘findalocal’ and ‘problem solved’. They may be good results for web savvy, transient populations but the majority of localites will find them a bit useless.
It got me thinking, what do people search for around me and is Google really encroaching on Yellow pages turf? I live in a town in the Midlands and don’t really know the area very well as I work in London, have few family and friends in the area and spent my life going from barracks to ships to air stations before I settled here three years ago. Could I find out more about my area by looking at what people search for around me rather than using the Yellow pages? Do people use Google to look for local services?
The data I drew is basically the top 100 searches involving the word ‘Stourbridge’, made into a pretty and mathematically precise picture (mathematically precise because the word size is directly proportional to the volume of searche for that word i.e. The bigger the word, the more searches it receives) From doing some of these searches myself, I then discovered that we had a gay sauna in the town, an annual party in the park, a famous rugby club and an extremely well thought of college. Interesting stuff and probably not something I’d find in the Yellow pages unless I wanted to browse the whole directory.
I then took the word Stourbridge out of the equation and looked at the most popular words used around Stourbridge from the 3,000 search terms used last month to see if people looked for local tradesmen – one of YP’s strong points:
And here’s the thing. Loads of searches for roads, schools, property, weather and jobs etc (all the stuff we know Google does well and that outsiders are more likely to search for) but what about the plumbers, builders, take aways? All the stuff Yellow pages is good at? Maybe the good old YP has a place in our homes for a good while to come yet as it serves locals better. After all, can Google really tell us where we can order ‘fly fishing’ by J.R. Hartley? See for yourself. (If you’re too young to remember the advert or are feeling nostalgic, then watch it below)
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