Updated 2/18 with regional and urban data.
On January 20th, I completed a consumer survey (n=~2500) asking: Which of the following on-line sites have you used regularly to find local businesses? The obvious winner was Google with the YellowPages.com making a surprisingly strong showing.
In a recent article by Greg Sterling, YP.com noted that they were going to compete directly with Google and Yelp as a general purpose directory.
On the surface the results show that YP.com is a contender in people’s minds as a resource for local discovery, with marginally more mindshare than Yelp and roughly the equivalent of Bing & Yahoo combined. In this survey it would even appear that almost 1/4 of the US internet adult population, in choosing none of the listed sites, would possibly be possible targets for YP.com as well.
However when you dig into the details of the survey YP.com’s problems are much deeper than they appear on the surface. The headwinds that they face may make the goal of competing with Yelp and Google unrealistic.
The issues confronting YP.com all revolve around demographics.
Firstly there is the issue of Google’s share. On average it was 60.9%. However in the youngest cohort measured in the survey of adults 25 and older Google’s share was almost 80%. This survey did not cover 18-24 year olds but one can assume, based on previous research, even an greater skew there. Overcoming a market share lead like that amongst younger cohorts is a much more daunting task.
Yelp shows a similar age skew. Yelp does significantly better amongst younger cohorts and while tied in general is way ahead in the 25-34 year old bracket.
YP.com shows their greatest strengths in the over 65 market where their print products are also still popular. The reality is that YP.com has not yet found a way to attract younger readers. Or even middle aged ones for that matter.
What about that 25% that still hadn’t shown a preference that YP.com could target? Those that noted none of the above to the question of their preferred site for finding local businesses? Most of those readers (71%) are 55 and over with almost 40% over 65.
So while YP.com’s goal of competing directly with Google and Yelp is laudable they are facing the inertia of the Queen Mary when attempting to turn around their brand image. The reality seems to be that their their customers are dying off and they have yet to figure out a way to make their brand and site appealing to the younger age cohorts where they need to be successful in order to be successful in local search.
Dave asked if there were regional and/or differences by urbanicity. There were nearly indistinguishable differences for the search engines but for YP.com and Yelp.com there were some interesting patterns. YP.com is most popular in the midwest and rurually. While Yelp is favored by the urban set.
In the west, in younger age groups and in cities, Yelp does much better than elsewhere:
Younger, Urban vs suburban, older users:Which Sites Do Consumers Use to Find a Local Business? Why YP.com is Facing Headwinds by Mike Blumenthal