I look at this a couple of ways.
What will the website do for you?
Who are you connecting with?
A web site will connect you with the customer. answers both questions.
However how does the customer find you????
This is where the rankings help. But figure there are multiple companies wanting to be number one and only one can be there. So what are you getting when a web developer says they can put you at number one (they all say this)...........
After the first year and 2 grand into it I figured I made 5 times what I paid off of the web site.
This wasn't good enough for me as I figured at least 10 times cost to be made.
So when they asked me to renew I told them if they could do what they had been doing for 500 or less a year I was in. No go. I was left in a bind doing much research. Asked around to different companies seeing what they did.
We ended up doing YOLO.com not saying this is the best but at 150 a year 100+ 5 other domains at 10 each.
Use craigslist for free and we are getting as many hits with just a few more hours a month, which we are on the net any ways.
I agree in the times were in the phone book or anything else compares to being on the web, but combine the web, craigslist, business cards, postcards and facebook and you can grow rather quickly with a pretty low cost.
What ever I do I must do it right!