Choosing Print or Online Directories

Barbara Weltman You have only so many dollars each year to spend on a listing in the telephone book or other directory. How can you maximize the effectiveness of your listing dollars?

  • Decide whether any listing is necessary.
  • Choose a listing venue best suited for your business.
  • Make your listings pack a wallop.

    Should you be listed>
    How do customers find businesses such as yours? Are you local, regional, nationwide or international? How much money can you afford to spend on listings? Answer these questions and you can start to zero in on your listing options.

    Business types that list.If you peruse the yellow pages of your local telephone book, you’ll notice that certain types of businesses have most of the expanded ads (advertising over and above the perfunctory listing that every business telephone is entitled to). Some of the most popular ads include those for trades (e.g., electricians and plumbers), restaurants and professionals (e.g., doctors, dentists and attorneys). The reason: Consumers are attuned to looking for these businesses in the telephone book. They do not necessarily look here for retail stores or theaters, for example – probably because they are familiar with their own neighborhood offerings.

    Local to international.Local telephone directories are best suited for businesses that are local in nature, while certain online listings may be better for national or international businesses. Moreover, if your business is operated from a home office rather than commercial office space or a store, online listings may be preferable.

    Your ad budgetIf your budget is large enough, you may be able to post listings in more than one venue. Keep in mind that you’re charged an annual fee for the listing, although you can usually arrange to pay a part of it each month.

    Track the effectiveness of your listings so that you can make an informed decision on future listings – cutting back on venues that do not produce while putting more money into venues that have had a good return for you.

    Print directories
    The primary directory is the Yellow Pages published by the regional Baby Bells. However, there are numerous other directories, including Yellow Book (published in 42 states) and various local directories (e.g., local directories for Spanish-speaking businesses).

    Telephone number listings in the Yellow Pages and Yellow Book are automatic and free for all business numbers. However, any listing upgrade or ad is an additional charge. Ad prices can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars annually, depending on the size of the ad, number of placements (your ad can be under several headings – the more headings, the more cost).

    Note:Print directories are published annually, so the ad you choose is the ad you’re stuck with for the entire year.

    Be sure to inquire whether your ad entitles you to a listing in the print directory’s online version, such as Yellow Pages’ (

    Online directories
    Consumers are increasingly turning to the Web for all their buying needs. You may want to spend some advertising dollars on these online search engines.

    In addition to the free listing in the online Yellow Pages for businesses telephone numbers, you can also pay for advertising that will provide more details about your business and can be linked to your Web site.

    Online information portal.Can’t afford to pay per click or use search engine optimization? Is your business purely local? Now there’s a new way for small businesses to be represented on the Web. makes it affordable for small businesses to gain a substantial online presence. According to Alan Gordon, owner of (, this new site, launched nationwide in January, lets small businesses be listed in their cities according to their business type – residential services (for locksmiths, for example), food and dining, automotive and more. The cost per listing runs from about $200 to $2,000 annually, depending on your city and type of business. New features soon to be readily available, such as images, coupons and a video clip, add to your annual cost.

    Caution:While listings can be nationwide, the likelihood that yours will be viewed depends on your city. Sarasota, for example, which has been running for more than two years, is very extensive and businesses there have good exposure – with consumers encouraged to return again and again via treasure hunts and other promotions.

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    Category: Publishing
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