The Internet Yellow Pages (IYPs) play an important role in Local Search. After all, they were the original way to search for nearby businesses.

As people move online many continue to look to the Yellow Pages in their digital form to search for information about businesses within specific geographic locations.  So, the IYP’s can definitely be a good source of referrals for many local enterprises.

Generally speaking, the Internet Yellow Pages are also trusted sources of business data for Google, Bing and Yahoo, so I recommend that all local businesses get listed in the major IYP directories, if they are not already there. It can help a bit in ranking in both Google Maps and in Google Web Search.

However (you knew this was coming), the Internet Yellow Pages can also cause you a BIG problem and the root of that problem is their call tracking.

The IYP’s want to publish a phone number other than the true business phone number in their digital directory. When that number is called, it is routed through a system that tracks the call as coming from an Internet Yellow Pages ad. This is good because it allows you to see what kind of “action” your advertising dollars are bringing you. It is bad because it confuses the Search Engines, which can greatly harm your rankings for local searches.

Why? I won’t go into all the details here, but a prominent factor in the Google ranking algorithm for local businesses is the trust the Search Engine has in the name, address and phone number of a business.  When Google is unsure of the accuracy of that data, it can adversely affect your rankings. The less sure Google  is, the worse it can hurt you.

As previously stated, the IYPs are trusted sources of business data. So when they publish a phone number, Google places quite a bit of credence in that information. But it isn’t the same phone number that Google associates with the business since it sees your “real” phone number on your website, on your Google Places page and in other trusted places on across the web. The result is considerable confusion about your business data.

The problem is then magnified when the IYP pushes that call tracking number out across their network and it’s magnified again when other directories scrape it and republish it on their own pages. Then there’s even more confusion coming from more places, which can be extremely time-consuming to correct.

Not all call tracking is bad. There are ways to do it that will not harm your rankings, but the IYPs either don’t know it’s a problem or don’t care enough to change. If the Internet Yellow Pages are publishing a call tracking number for your business, stop it ASAP. Tell them to use the same local phone number that you publish on your website, instead.

The IYP reps are charged with selling advertising and they are very good at it, but just talk to one of them on the phone for a few minutes and you’ll see that they don’t understand Search at all. Until they realize how much harm they are doing to the businesses that pay them and change to a Local Search-friendly way of tracking calls from their network, just say NO! to call tracking numbers in the Internet Yellow Pages, no matter what your sales rep tells you.