Over at Search Engine Land, in a blog post titled “Yellow Pages Will Be Toast In Four Years”, Chris “Silver” Smith (who used to work at Superpages) predicts the demise of online directory sites based on his analysis of specific keyword searches in Google Trends. He extrapolates that, based on current trends, searches for the words “yellow pages” might wither down to nothing by 2011.
He concludes: “I think that classic Yellow Pages sites are going to decline, but the companies behind those sites may evolve and merge with other players so that they will survive in new incarnations.”
If Google Trends was a reliable and trusted data source (it’s not! It’s like Alexa IMHO), I think the only thing you could conclude is that consumers search patterns are evolving and they are using these specific keywords less often. They might in fact be doing more precise local searches (plumbers new york, restaurants chicago, etc.) instead of generic ones. But you absolutely cannot predict the evolution of a whole industry based on that limited information.
In that case, I have to ask, why pick such an alarmist title?
Update: Donna Bogatin offers an explanation: “It is not surprising that Search Engine Land would go the route of sensationalist Yellow Pages extinction headlining, on the eve of its “Local” conference. After all, the conference Danny Sullivan hopes to compete against–The Kelsey Group–addressed “Why Yellow Pages Still Matter” just last week.”
Update2: Chris clarifies some of his thoughts on his blog.