The business directory has come a long way since its humble hard copy beginnings to the online, full-featured dLook directory that we use today. This story involves developments like the Yellow Pages, newspaper classifieds, search engines, search engine advertising and vertical search. Read on to learn about these developments and also a thing or two about marketing in general.

The business directory far outdates the web and even computers, so it is no surprise that they were printed on paper. The oldest predecessor of dLook would have to be newspaper classifieds. These are the advertisements printed in a dedicated section of the newspaper, and like a directory, they are classified into categories based on their type. (You probably know this though because they are still in newspapers today).


The allotment of the classifieds into their own section represents a crucial trend in the history of the business directory and of marketing itself. This is the shift from push to pull marketing. Traditional ads, including the ones interspersed among newspaper articles are a form of ‘push marketing’, where the advertisement seeks out the viewer and implores them to: ‘BUY A MATTRESS ON IMPULSE BUY 10 GET ONE FREE BUY IT BUY IT BUY IT YOU FOOL’. Here, the viewer wasn’t looking for a mattress before they saw the ad. Conversely, ‘pull marketing’ (the domain of dLook) involves advertisements that the viewer seeks out on their own volition because they genuinely demand what is being advertised, or the content of the ad. The classifieds section is a form of pull advertising, because the reader already wants a mattress, so they go and look it up in the furniture section themselves and this saves a lot of readers from having a mattress shoved in their face.

In the 1890’s, the first true business directories emerged. These are the Yellow Pages – full book-sized directories of business names and their telephone listings. These represent an even further shift towards pull marketing because the only reason why a person browses this highly specialised book is to find a business listing. Another step in the right direction is that it features a higher proportion of simple name+number listings than the flashy Sea Monkeys advertisements of the classifieds. The Yellow Pages are still in print today, however their usage is declining because nowadays there are easier ways to find businesses than to ‘let your fingers do the walking’.

In the 1990s computer engineers and various wizards came from outer space and diced up, typed out and indexed all the books in the world into the web search engine – now the cornerstone of internet browsing. Web search is the single greatest evolution in business directories, allowing readers to ‘Find it Fast’ [shameless direct plug of dLook’s slogan]. However there is still a significant difference between web search engines and dLook. Google displays all kinds of listings among its business listings, it is not a true business directory. Also, search engine advertisements like Adwords are still push advertisements, even though they are tailored to the user. For instance, no one actually searches for: for ‘Looks 30, is actually 45. Dermatologists hate him!’


The most modern true business directories like dLook are what are known as ‘vertical search engines’. Vertical search engines focus on searching a specific segment of web content. This enables them to specialise in one type or segment of web content more than a general search engine like Google can. In dLook’s case, it is a vertical search engine for business directory listings which it stores in its database. Hence it functions like a traditional Yellow Pages book – with all the businesses collated and listed in one place, but with the convenience of search functionality. Furthermore, there aren’t the size restrictions of a bound book, so dLook’s directory lists over 1.7 million businesses. Also, many businesses on dLook have their own landing pages and even entire websites, conveniently hyperlinked so that businesses can provide viewers with more info on themselves as another consumer touchpoint.


The history of the business directory is not only fascinating in itself, but as an illustration of how far online business directories like dLook have come. The other take-home from this article is the advantages of pull marketing over push marketing. Pull marketing is less obnoxious, more likely to be received favourably, more relevant to the viewers and also generally cheaper than push marketing. You should consider it for your business’s next marketing campaign; it’s the way of the future.

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