Note: This is part of a multi-part post about advertising. See “All About Advertising” for the start of the series, and for links to the other parts.

Type 1: “Yellow Pages” Advertising

This is for customers who are actively looking to buy; maybe not right this second, but they’re in buying mode and are looking at options. In the past, they would have grabbed the Yellow Pages, or looked in the classified ads, or gone to specialist stores; these days, the first stop is usually Google.


Google is seen as a very successful advertising company and, by any economic measure, that is certainly the case. But do they actually do advertising well?

When Google entered the search arena, they didn’t know how they were going to monetise their search results. Eventually, with their acquisition of AdWords, they figured out how to provide relevant ads next to customers’ searches. These were non-intrusive enough for customers who were just doing general web searches but, at the same time, helpful enough for people who where looking for something to “buy.” Advertisers liked that they only paid for ads that were clicked on, and not for each display. The combination of these aspects made everyone happy, and it made Google very rich.

That was 10 years ago. The world has moved on; competitors offer the same benefits to customers and advertisers alike. However, the model hasn’t progressed. Google (and Bing, Yahoo, Baidu, etc.) still specialise in providing links to other sites, rather than satisfying the customer’s wants. But other sites do a much better job: Kayak, for example, tries to provide customers with relevant information for them to actually buy what they’re looking for. There are, in fact, many travel-related sites that do a very good job of providing relevant results complete with: prices, availability, close alternatives, descriptions, photos, customer reviews and, importantly, the opportunity to actually purchase their selection from within the site. See also:,,, etc.

It’s interesting to note that all these examples have their own smartphone apps. Customers are learning that, instead of doing a generalised search on Google, they can go directly to these apps and get the actual results they want and an easy way to purchase their chosen result.

Similar sites exist in all sorts of categories: Amazon for books, DVDs, music, and much more; iTunes for music, TV shows, movies and apps; for cars; and so on.

If a customer is an infrequent buyer, they can go to Google and find out which site(s) provide the information they want, and then get there by a link from Google. If they are a more-frequent buyer, they often learn to go directly to the relevant site(s)/app(s).