YP Advertising’s Efficacy: Case Study

At Mockingbird we pride ourselves on the ability to push aside bias and focus on what works. Our hubris lies solely in being successful for our clients no matter which channel we use to find that success. This sort of flexibility along with our ability to track the efficacy of marketing spends requires us to constantly experiment with new channels. Our most recent marketing channel adventure is as follows…

A few months ago we were approached by Yellow Pages to try their new(ish) advertising platform called ypSearch Marketplace. We figured, why not? The economical theory makes sense – buy PPC traffic cheaper than you can in the ultra-competitive Google AdWords marketplace. After some sales pitches and onboarding calls we were off and running with our first 4 clients. We started with small investments to test the waters – a couple hundred dollars a month per client. I was told these budgets would not be enough to last an entire month, to which I replied, “Great I’m always happy to be wrong!” (Stole that line from my boss.)

However, I was not wrong. We started with a $300/month spend for one of my clients. It’s now been almost 3 months and we’ve spent a total of $335.21. There are many different reasons for this: infrastructure issues, credit card application mishaps, and lengthy on-boardings. Even after these infrastructure issues were solved, they didn’t seem to have the volume we needed to spend the money we had put aside for this test.

We’ll get back to that discussion a bit later, for now let’s look solely at the math. This is my favorite part because although it’s pre-algebra, not many people take the time to break it down.

(Numbers at time of report)

Client 1: Family Law, NY

  • Total spend: $331.66
  • Total clicks: 69 clicks
  • Cost per Click: $4.81
  • Total calls: 23 (4 of which were over 2 min)
  • Avg. duration – 264 seconds or 4.4 min (remove the outliers and you get an average of only 37 seconds!)
  • Total prospects: 0
  • Total clients: 0

Client 2: Personal Injury, FL

  • Total spend: $92.60
  • Total clicks: 11 clicks
  • Cost per Click: $8.42
  • Total calls: 9
  • Avg. duration – 42.61 seconds
  • Total prospects: 0
  • Total clients: 0

The math tells us the click-to-call ratio was 43% — or 4 of 10 people that clicked on the advertisement actually called the firm. That’s an absurdly high number (usually we see closer to 10-15%).

Now if you listen to the majority of the PPC experts and Online Advertising Guru’s out there you’ll be saying TAAAAKE MY MONEY! The KPI’s are through the roof; the click-thru-rate is insane, the cost-per-click couldn’t be lower, and the conversion rate is, well, unheard of. Seriously I’ve never heard of a 43% conversion rate. Let’s dig deeper because this is too good to be true.

How many of these leads turned into a prospect or client?

A total of 32 people called our 2 law firms and of these leads not a single one turned into a client or even a prospect. If you’re curious, we typically qualify a lead as a “prospect” once an appointment is made. I tend to avoid speculation, but if I had to guess, I would say the majority of these 32 calls came from PPC sales people trolling the directories for leads.

Final conclusion to the YP efficacy discussion…

Zero Prospects

Zero Clients

Zero Energy left to keep trying.

If your goal is to purchase traffic to your site, then maybe you should include YP’s advertising platform into your marketing mix. The cost-per-click numbers are comparable to Facebook and other cheap channels. However, if your objective is to drive leads, then maybe this isn’t the best channel for you.

Now, it’s important to note that we spent 20+ hours setting up a total of 4 small budget campaigns. This is atypical – but YP’s entire process was a disaster. Their billing was arduous, the user interface was a mess and the report was downright inane. There were problems at every step of the way. So if we now incorporate the overhead costs into our YP experiment, this was a huge financial quagmire. Again, let’s do that math on that. In order to get a 6x return for my family law client, we would need the cost-per-client to be roughly $500. Insert the classic advertising line, “If you get just one client it will be worth it!” but even that cliché marketing BS isn’t true in this case. We would need at least 5 clients at $500 cost-per-client to cover our labor costs alone (I wish I could tell you I’ve seen 5 solid leads…). When we brought up this issue with the reps from YP, their solution was to try more of a shotgun approach to keyword bidding. This may have solved our lack in volume and spend issue, but may very well lead to the same number of prospects and clients (0).

Simply put, the work isn’t worth the potential return.

We track all of our clients’ marketing spend pedantically, but our sample size was admittedly small. If you’ve had a different experience with ypSearch Marketplace, please let us know.

We’re always happy to be wrong 😉


  1. says

    Great article. My firm quit using online Yellow Page directory listings years ago after I examined some spreadsheets of click and call volume, length of call, and location of caller. We were getting nothing but out-of-state calls inquiring about legal practice areas that we don’t even handle.

    • admin says

      So I cited this study at a recent conference…. one attendee reinforced that in their market, the printed Yellow Pages were still an effective marketing tool. I find this pattern to be true in much smaller cities/tertiary markets.