For a long time, the yellow pages were the final word on local businesses and services, including recycling information. Need to find a copy shop, a pizza or how to recycle old tires? It was all in the yellow pages. But in the past decade or so, the internet has become a major player in nearly every aspect of daily life. Meanwhile, the phone books dropped on our doorsteps have grown thinner and thinner. Old habits die hard, though, both for businesses that buy ads and for the public who use phone book directories. So in the era of the internet, what’s the role of the yellow pages?

As it turns out, the marketing punditry enjoys this topic. We searched the internet high and low, and everyone — from Forbes.com to marketing professionals to a Reddit thread — agrees that print yellow pages have ceded their dominance to online search (including internet yellow pages). Marketing analysts take data seriously; here’s a slice of what they had to say:

  • In 2011, a Forbes.com columnist reported that up to 80 percent of the time, consumers use an internet search first when looking for a new product or service. And that was five years ago.

However, this doesn’t mean that the yellow pages are totally, completely, shot-to-the-heart dead. For certain demographics, primarily the rural elderly, a good old-fashioned phone book might still work. But unless your business specifically caters to that population — offering a personal transportation service, for example — you’re unlikely to get much bang for your buck.

To get the full story, we decided to let the publishers speak for themselves. When we contacted the Yellow Pages company to ask about listing a mini recycling guide in the directory for a mid-sized California county, the sales rep quoted almost $2,000 per annum for a quarter-page ad. And then to our surprise, he said that even though his job was to sell yellow pages ads, he wanted to be transparent with us: He didn’t think the ad would be worth it.

If and when people still use the yellow pages, they are often seeking a very specific service. If you’re a plumber who offers on-call help in emergency situations, then you might well receive calls from people who found you in the yellow pages. But people tend not to browse the yellow pages anymore, the sales rep said. Instead, they use the internet: searches for local services, products, news and information are all increasingly taking place online.

The bottom line? The print yellow pages are no longer the right place to advertise recycling information. If you’re determined to have some sort of listing, go no further than a name and a URL (i.e., My Town’s Municipal Waste & Recycling Department, mytownrecycles.com). The internet yellow pages may or may not be worth it for local business advertising, but they don’t make sense for local recycling information. Your best bet is a great website, a strong search engine optimization (SEO) strategy and targeted, effective outreach that finds your residents where they already are — online.

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