Authority, Trust and Yellow Pages Advertising

January 4th, 2009 by Will Scott

Trust: to have confidence or faith in
Authority: the power or right to give orders or make decisions
Yellow Pages: a telephone directory listing businesses by category

Often as Search Marketers we use words which have been redefined by our industry without thinking about how they’ll be understood by customers.

“Trust” however has the same meaning to marketers and customers. We just need to understand the differences in how trust is measured by our customers and the search engines.

When talking with clients I often slip into SEO-speak and use the term “authority” differently than above.

My use comes from the idea of “Authority Sites”, and “Hubs and Authorities” in the search algorithms.

But customers need an example, like: “The same phrase on YouTube has much higher likelihood to rank than on because YouTube is an authority site“.

Really though it’s about Trust. How much do the search engines trust your site? What are the signifiers of trust? Are they the same for search engines and humans?

As it turns out, they are. When trying to describe the concept of Authority I often use the analogy of personal referrals. “It’s one thing for me to tell you how cool I am, but if you hear it from 30 other people you’re more likely to believe it, right”?

It’s the same for the search engines. Ultimately they’re looking for indications of your trustworthiness. There’s a great point here relative to off-page SEO but for today let’s talk about the Yellow Pages and what we can learn about human behavior from 100 + years of experience.

New Haven directory, November, 1878.

New Haven directory, November, 1878.

For many years, the Yellow Pages ad design process has been directed by adherence to what are called the “RASCIL Factors”.

RASCIL is a way of distilling down the elements of an effective add to communicate many of the most pertinent decision making factors for a Yellow Pages shopper.

What might not be wholly intuitive, however, is that many of these factors speak directly to the idea of building trust.

I’m reminded of my friend Jerry Kennedy of KAMS Construction who’s tagline is

“At KAMS, the first thing we build is your trust”.

Yellow Pages - Fingers Walking

Yellow Pages - Fingers Walking

The RASCIL Factors

  • RELIABILITYTime in Business, Affiliations, Memberships and Certifications, Guarantees, Size of Firm
  • AUTHORIZATIONAuthorized brands (Maytag, Whirlpool, etc)
  • SPECIAL FEATURES AND/OR SECURITYCredit Cards and payment options, Hours of operation, Special Services
  • COMPLETENESS OF SERVICEProduct Types, Pickup and Delivery, Buy, Rent and Lease
  • ILLUSTRATIONHigh Impact Pictures and Headline
  • LOCATION Location or Locations, Areas Served

As you can see, a lot of this actually makes for good web design too. Or as Tim Coleman says, Local Seo Is Easy… Just Create A Good .

Hard at Work Thanks to The Yellow Pages

Hard at Work Thanks to The Yellow Pages

Authority and Trust in Website Promotion

It’s unfortunate that small businesses no longer have such ready access to that friendly and helpful Yellow Pages sales agent.The great news is that many who are marketing online have little experience with traditional media, including Yellow Pages advertising.

Additionally, most of your competition don’t know how to appear trustworthy to the search engines.

Just as your web site (or any ad) needs to instill trust in humans, your online behavior needs to instill trust in the search engines. And interestingly, there’s a pretty strong correlation to theRASCIL factors.

Below are just a few examples:

Reliability: Time in business (domain age), Affiliations (links from chambers of commerce, BBB, professional accrediting organizations), Mentions in regional / national press

Authorization : Authorized brands (links from manufacturer / distributor web sites)

Location: Do you deserve to show up on that map result?

Illustrations: Does your site look professional? Does it match the marketing message which brought the visitor

Unfortunately, there are some things which are harder to affect. You can’t reset your domain registration age. It may be possible to buy an old domain but the chances of buying one relevant to what you do are very slim.

Simply put: trust = links.

And authority matters. A link from the BBB is worth 100 from a free links directory. If you’re a real business though, most of those authoritative, trustworthy, links are easy to acquire…

… just ask.

A Happy Customer

A Happy Customer

And best of all, many of the steps you take to appear more trustworthy to the search engines are equally valuable offline — to the human beings with whom you want to do business.


  1. Introduction to Information RetrievalBy Christopher D. Manning, Prabhakar Raghavan & Hinrich SchuetzeWebsite:© 2008 Cambridge University Press
  2. Thanks to Kenyon Design Group Yellow Pages Ad Design site.