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INTERNET YELLOW PAGE ADS ARE THEY WORTH A TRY?By Neil Street, Co-Founder, Small Business Online, Wilton, CTMost small businesses do not yet advertise on the internet. But with the undeniable growth in internet traffic, its only a matter of time before many businesses will need to consider online advertising.Everyone is familiar with the traditional Yellow Pages phone book. Less familiar is the internet extension of the print book the hodgepodge of advertising options that can loosely be termed Internet Yellow Pages (IYP). A range of companies are jumping on the IYP bandwagon, all chasing the elusive, and thus far unmaterialized, local advertising dollars. Companies like Verizon, with their SuperPages directory, or like Yahoo!, with their Yahoo! Get Local directory, and assorted publishers of print telephone directories, are all players in the IYP field. Basically, they all offer variations on a basic theme: the structured, directory-like indexing of information on the internet, with added features unknown in the print books, such as mapping, keyword searching, and website links. The most compelling reason for a website owner to advertise on IYP is the increasing consumer usage of the internet for finding local products and services. Actual figures vary widely, but well-known analysts such as the Kelsey Group have noted the growing boom in local search. Given this growth, IYP becomes an advertising opportunity worthy of consideration.Where does a local business begin? The best place to start is with your local phone company investigating what online options are available from the print yellow pages companies. In many regions, the local phone company yellow book will not be the only player in town one or several print yellow page books may serve an area. All are worth checking out for their options and pricing. In addition to local phone or yellow page companies, a business can consider some of the biggest names in the world of directories and information. Yahoo! Get Local, Verizon SuperPages, SmartPages.com, Switchboard.com, and YellowPages.com are some of the major players, and can be contacted by a business directly. Be forewarned they each have their own unique systems, and figuring it all out takes some time. My own experience with Verizon SuperPages, for example, indicates that they are rushing to market with their online advertiser sign up to date, I have been unable to get their program to work as it is supposed to, and customer service doesnt seem to know how to help.One of the best aspects of IYP at this time is that it can be accessed in a relatively inexpensive way by many small businesses. So its feasible for even the smallest business to check out the various IYP options, and try them out for a while to see which works best. A business can buy into several programs, because IYP plans come in a variety of configurations, from national to very local. At the present time, much about the phenomenon of local search is new, and relatively untested. But given that online browsing and shopping by consumers is growing, it is clear that some channels of local online promotion will turn out to be winners. Business owners seeking to stay abreast of developments in this fast-changing field should give adequate consideration to the IYPs.Neil Street is co-founder of Small Business Online, based in Wilton, CT., a website design, management, and promotion company dedicated to the Internet needs of the small business. His website is at http://www.smallbusinessonline.net Send email to [email protected] He can also be reached at (203)761-7992.