The term Yellow Pages refers to a telephone directory of businesses, categorized according to the product or service provided. As the name suggests, such directories are usually printed on yellow paper, as opposed to white pages for non-commercial listings. The traditional term Yellow Pages is now also applied to online directories of businesses.
The name and concept of "Yellow Pages" came about in 1883, when a printer in Cheyenne, Wyoming working on a regular telephone directory ran out of white paper and used yellow paper instead. In 1886 Reuben H. Donnelley created the first official yellow pages directory, inventing an industry.
Today, the expression Yellow Pages is used globally, in both English-speaking and non-English speaking countries. In the United States, it refers to the category, while in some other countries it is a registered name and therefore a proper noun.
Yellow Pages directories are usually published annually, and distributed for free to all residences and businesses within a given coverage area. The majority of listings are plain and in small black text, usually in the Bell Gothic or Bell Centennial typefaces. The YP publishers generate profit by selling advertising space or listings under each heading. Advertising may be sold by a direct sales force or by approved agencies (CMR's). Available advertising space varies among publishers and ranges from bold names up to four color twin page ads ("double trucks"). Advertising rates typically increase every year regardless of distribution or usage fluctuations.
In some countries, the familiar "walking fingers" logo is not protected as a trademark and may be used by anyone. This logo is used in varying forms by almost every YP publisher; however, there are companies that use it to imitate mainstream publishers.
In Israel, the directory, although using the Yellow Pages logo, is called "The Golden Pages".
Business listings used for publication are obtained by several methods. Local phone companies that publish YP directories rely on their own customer lists and include business listings that are provided by phone service providers (CLEC's). Business owners that utilize phone services other than the local phone company (typically a Bell Company) should make certain that their information has been sent to the publisher for printing in upcoming directories.
Advertising in YP directories requires payment in full prior to printing or may be billed monthly over the life of the contract, which is usually 12 months. Typically, a sales representative will assist the customer in creating their ad design and provides a Proof Copy for review and approval. Advertisers should be aware that many contracts have automatic renewal clauses and require action on the part of the advertiser to end future billing.
Yellow Pages print usage is reported to be declining with both advertisers and shoppers increasingly turning to Internet search engines and online directories. According to a study by Knowledge Networks/SRI, in 2007, print Yellow Pages were referenced 13.4 billion times, while Internet Yellow Pages references increased to 3.8 billion, up from 2006’s 3.3 billion online searches. As a result most YP publishers have attempted to create online versions of their print directories. These online versions are referred to as IYP or Internet Yellow Pages. Independent ad agencies or Internet marketing consultants can assist business owners in determining sound opportunities for YP advertising and provide objective information on usage, possession and preferences.
IYP offers listings differently than standard search engines. Where search engines return results based on relevancy to the true search term, IYP returns results based on a geographic area.
Studies by independent companies such as Nielson and comScore have shown that Internet Yellow Pages have a very slim percentage of total Internet searches. That slim margin is further divided largely among eight key providers. comScore Releases IYP Share Data. The majority, over 85% of all Internet searches, occur on the major search engines Google, Yahoo and MSN.
Advertising on IYP is typically available with numerous a la carte choices. These choices become small "individual sales presentations" which makes it easier for sales reps to sell large advertising packages. Advertisers should closely monitor any IYP ad programs to measure their ROI. Advertisers frequently elect to hire an Internet Marketing agency to evaluate IYP choices, obtain objective information, and decide on cost effective programs rather than rely on the biased advice of IYP sales reps.
A newer version of IYPs are classified as Local Search directories which provide similar content with the added ability for customer reviews and comments for a listed business. The user advantage is that Local Search is not dominated by high paying corporate advertising. All services offer paid advertising options which typically offer preferred placement on search results pages. Social Media sites are not part of IYP or Local Search categories.
This kind of yellow page query is more and more being referred to as a local search. Local searches are a growing area where marketing dollars are being invested due to the targeted and focused customer base it develops to the Yellow Pages advertisers.
Voice recognition is also being used in the interfacing; the Canadian Yellow Pages Group has commercially been using a voice local search "Hello Yellow" (in 2007 renamed "YellowPages411") since 2005, enabling one to find local businesses using only one's voice.