Income Up On Keyword Initiatives As Group Profits Tank has lost four percent of its web advertisers and nearly a tenth of its users in the last year – but has gained revenue despite this.

Yell credits “our intentional focus on acquiring more relevant searches for our advertisers, at the expense of volume”. The average income per online advertiser, in the nine months to December 31, rose 7.7 percent from last year to £816.

That’s because has used keyword search marketing and offering free advertiser web pages to attract “quality sales leads, not so much a focus on driving traffic just for the sake of it“, a spokesperson told me.

The measures took Yell’s UK internet earnings up 8.3 percent to £132.4 million, and online rose from 24 percent to 30 percent of total UK sales.

But this wasn’t enough to offset the already-declining printed Yellow Pages business, which, walloped further by the advertising downturn, lost 13.9 percent of its advertisers and, hence, 19.1 percent of its sales. And overall Yell Group profit is down a horrid 61.9 percent. But at least the revenue fall wasn’t as bad as the 16 percent forecast.

Yell’s problem – many residential recipients would probably happily stop receiving that massive yellow tome on their doorstep, but the printed version makes up two third of Yell’s income, and online is only growing at half the rate of print’s decline. Yell tells us that recipients can opt out of receiving the book, but opt-out rates are “miniscule”.

CEO John Condron says Yell is continuing to invest: “While the economic pressures remain, we continue to see early signs that the rate of revenue decline is stabilising and this quarter has again delivered revenue slightly above guidance … We are beginning to see some confidence return in our current sales canvasses” – but January-to-March sales are expected to be down by 16 percent.

The company had to raise £559 million through a November share placing to pay extended loans.