I read with interest a recent post by Jennifer Osborne on Search Engine People regarding how Millennials fundamentally search for products and services differently as compared with those 30 years old and older. One of the fundamental differences Osborne points out:
Millennial Brains do not have the same neural networks that ours do.
That’s a fancy way of saying that they haven’t been trained to use category search. Young people no longer use the Dewey Decimal system and paper Yellow Pages (headings). If they want to find something they go to a computer terminal and look up exactly what they’re looking for. And with a few refined searches, they usually find it.
Our neural networks (those 30+) have been programmed to do category type searches. But the average 16 to 24 yr old doesn’t know how to do category level searches. If a 21 yr old has a leaky sink, they’re going to search under “leaky sink” not “plumbers.”
At The Kelsey Group, we are often asked about print product innovation from a product orientation view, but of late we have been examining how the print product can and should fundamentally change from a usage and navigational standpoint. Taking Osborne’s points a bit further, perhaps the way to fundamentally change the Yellow Pages is not a another product or specialty section but rather it is the core navigation of the product that needs to change.
One idea some major U.S. publishers have privately discussed is the notion of introducing a keyword version of the Yellow Pages that takes the most used keyword searches (natural search terms and widely used category terms) and creates a new directory that is “search” friendly. Some publishers have subtly begun experimenting with this with the introduction of new categories and “referral headings” that guide people to where they can find the information they are seeking.
Publishers have access to the most popular keywords both from their own IYP properties as well as from their SEM efforts that should provide enough insight into the new way people search for local business information. Creating a new way of navigating the product would mean breaking apart a 100-year-old paradigm, but the fact remains that the product needs to fundamentally change if it can hope to hold off the decline of usage in the under-30 segment of the marketplace. Introducing a keyword version of the Yellow Pages would allow users to select the version that best suits their needs — category search or natural search.
The goal of local advertisers is to be found and contacted; changing to a form of natural search in print seems like, well, a natural step for publishers to explore to help push more leads and address the search needs of a growing segment.