A few months ago I wrote a post for SearchEngineJournal.com called “Why Yellow Pages Will Be Dead in Five Years” after a phone call I had with one of their sales representatives that wanted me to upgrade my account. You can read the full details of our conversation in that post, but the moral of the story is that it wasn’t going to be cheap and the benefits were pretty much nonexistent. It got me thinking about Yellow Pages—how does a company that dominates the offline space for years (decades even) fall so far so fast when it comes to online marketing. The answer is simple—they failed to adopt.
First and foremost, the search engines have completely revolutionized the way consumers were able to find information. How many times a day do you take to Google or Bing with a question? It could be something as simple as looking up an address or phone number for a local restaurant (which used to be the domain of Yellow Pages) or wanting to know more about the history of hydraulic fracturing. The Internet provides users with more information than they could consume in a lifetime and is constantly expanding, giving everyone with a computer access to the same knowledge. My issue with Yellow Pages is they have failed to adapt to a changing marketplace. Yellow Pages used to be the gatekeeper for all the information a consumer could want/need about their town—but not anymore. They were effectively elbowed out of their own industry and it feels like they didn’t put up much of a fight along the way.
What does all this have to do with your website? Don’t let your business become the next Yellow Pages! Just because you are the dominant force in your industry today, that doesn’t mean someone could come along tomorrow that does it better and faster than you. Even big, established brands have to be willing to grow and change to fit the ever-evolving world we live in. You also have to remember that just because you may have a powerful offline brand, that doesn’t mean that it automatically means your online brand is as well recognized.
I worked with a client that was an offline powerhouse in their industry. Their brand has been around for over 60 years and their products often set the standard that other companies tried to measure up to. However, when I took over their SEO their online brand was practically non-existent. Their site was being edged out of the SERPs by smaller, overseas competitors that they had never before seen as a threat. They didn’t understand that they needed to earn the respect on the online marketplace and the search engines, just like they had to earn it in the offline world. It took a while and a lot of work, but we eventually got their online brand to live up to the value of their offline brand.
I’m not saying that you have to completely revamp your brand or your business process overnight to adjust for every change that comes with our increasingly online world. But I am saying that you have to be ready to roll with the punches. Clinging to the past and refusing to see the way things are headed will end up ruining your business.