SEO Yellow Pages as Yellow Book

Is SEO the new Yellow Pages?

Would you change the name of your business to improve the odds of it getting you on the first page of Google?

Kinda silly, isn’t it?

Or is it?

I still remember a piece of business/marketing advice from a couple of decades ago: “Name your business something that starts with an ‘A’ or a ‘Z’. That way, it stands out in the Yellow Pages.”

And sure enough, we still see the results of that advice in the countless “AAA Plumbers”, “AAA Car Rental”, “AAA Fencing”, etc.

Funny how the advertising medium shaped the mindset of business owners and marketers.

Is Search Engine Optimization (SEO) the new Yellow Pages?

If you followed the piece of advice to name your business something with an ‘A’ or a ‘Z’, and listed it on the Yellow Pages, because of either the primacy or recency effects, yes, it might work in your favor.

That is, unless, some big honcho bought the large double-wide display ad.

As I’ve written before :

it seems every conversation about marketing your business online includes the words ‘Search Engine Optimization’ or ‘SEO’ ”

Maybe it’s because I’m in the industry and have known about SEO for quite a while, but I’m definitely noticing an increased interest in SEO. The lure of this opportunity for “free” advertisement is too much to pass, so I find myself having to explain this to prospects and clients just about every single time we talk about internet marketing.




My sense is that small business owners (and non-profits, and clubs, etc…) are hoping for this one magic bullet that will once and for all answer the question of return on investment on online marketing. Like the name of the business influencing positioning in the Yellow Pages, the small business owner hopes a minimal investment in SEO will be the road to riches.

This mindset is understandable, but as I have written before, marketing online requires a shift in mind-set from the days of Yellow Page ads ruling the future of your business.

You see, just like one could lose the privileged placement in the yellow book, or more so, landing on the first page of Google can mean just as little, and lost way easier.

Don’t take my word for it

Sure, this may come across as a cop out. Maybe I don’t know SEO good enough to get you to the first page of Google.

Or I could just lie. Tell you everything’s all right. That there are no Penguins nor Pandas, and that I’ll happily take several thousand dollars from you to “guarantee” the first page of Google.

No, instead, I want you to read, learn, and understand.

Read from the pros at the Marketing Sherpa blog, and this article on SEO the author lists these “7 Signs That You’re Overvaluing Search Engine Optimization”:

  1. You focus on SEO, not reader value
  2. Even worse, you overlook conversion
  3. You think SEO is the only way to get a relevant audience from search marketing
  4. You ask people to link specific keywords to specific pages on your site
  5. If your business can only be profitable when traffic is “free,” you’re in a precarious position.
  6. If you create webpages for spiders, not people
  7. You don’t notice how little control you have

Heed these warning as you read about the consequences of not doing it right, from one of the most authoritative blogs on SEO, SEOmoz:

Are SEOs Destroying Small Businesses? A Penguin Story

The lessons are clear, SEO is:

  • no longer about tricks
  • no longer free (it’s a lot of work)
  • most definitely not a one-time project, but an ongoing effort

If not SEO or Yellow Pages, what is a small business do to?

Fear not, my friend, I’m not going to just rain on your SEO parade.

To be clear, SEO is very much an important part of a small business marketing mix. For that matter, even Yellow Pages still carry significant weight in some demographics.

The most important things one can do?

Stop. Think. Strategize.

Focus on strategy, not tactics,
Focus on offering value, not getting leads,
Focus on the people, not on customers.

Subscribe to my free email updates, and get notified when my next article comes out, as we explore the options for small business in this ever-expanding online marketing universe.

Until next time,

Nando Journeyman

Hi, I’m Nando Cabán-Méndez, the “Commerce Whisperer”, an entrepreneur with more than 25 years of experience in business and design, and more than 10 years in digital marketing and eCommerce. Here at AllyOne, I use my skills and experience to help online business owners grow their business with best-of-breed eCommerce solutions. In this blog, I share eCommerce, websites, and general digital marketing lessons from my career. Subscribe to updates for great resources.