For years, people have predicted that the Internet would be the demise of the Yellow Pages in print, but not everyone has agreed. Yet as we continue to move forward in our Internet-driven world, we can ‘t argue with the facts: the Internet IS the new Yellow Pages.

Google Trends shows a sharp decline in the number of searches for “yellow pages,” and there has been a significant reduction in the number of books printed. The younger demographics, ages 18-34, are the ones most likely to use local searches, and we can expect this trend to continue as users look more to sites independent of the Yellow Pages.

Also consider that more than half of Americans get their information from the web compared to newspapers, TV reporting, phone books or word-of-mouth. Chances are, it ‘s the same for you. If you ‘re looking for a reliable auto body shop in the area, are you more likely to dig through the pages of the phone book or bring up local searches on your mobile phone?

As a business, you must accept the fact that your own leads are coming in through the Internet. Therefore, it ‘s important that you leverage online tools to bring you the leads that the previous phone book would have done. This is especially significant for small mom-and-pop shops that have depended on local advertisements in phone books and newspapers instead of emerging technologies.

Here are a few tips for generating leads online:

  • Build Your Own Domain. Having a website is key, yet so many companies fail to have one. Also make sure that your site is ‘alive, ‘ meaning that it has social widgets that allow users to share your updates on social media sites.

  • Have an Optimized Mobile Site. In addition to having a website, you also need a mobile site. You want to be found by local customers, and a mobile site will help you reach this goal. Make sure that the site is not just mobile-ready but mobile-optimized with simple text, fast response times and immediate contact info.

  • Create Local Profiles. Whether you use Google Places, Facebook Nearby or Yelp!, creating and updating local profiles is one of the most effective ways to build your presence. Users can also read reviews and learn more about your business from these profiles.

  • Use Keywords to Attract Local Customers. The best way to attract customers in your area is by using location-centered keywords, such as “best ice cream shop in Brielle, New Jersey” or “ice cream flavors in Brielle, NJ.”

  • Turn Visitors into Customers. This can be done, in part, by having local profiles. When you have positive reviews and updated information, visitors are more likely to trust your company. You may also want to add an incentive such as a coupon, discount or free item for these customers.

Even if you have a sweet spot for the traditional phone book, the future lies in local searches and search profiles. These types of resources show users that your business is a real entity with real customers. This is much more powerful than a standard print advertisement, and you’ll find that an increasing number of leads will be coming to you from local searches, just as we did years ago with the Yellow Pages.