Why you should run away from Yell
Running a small business is fraught with risk. If it’s not your suppliers letting you down at short notice, never seeing your family or friends, customers backing out at the last second or your accountant taking your profits it’s something else. In this case, it’s a ruthless company which systematically charges extortionate amounts for filling in website templates and strapping clients into super expensive recurring monthly contracts for a minimum of 12 months.
We know all too well, that a poor online experience for your customers can have disastrous affects for your business and if you’re tied into a Yell contract, your customers are tied into the same poor experience for just as long.
In this article, we look at the website design offerings from Yell.com and in particular, the problems that often make Yell a poor choice for small business websites.
A bit of background to Yell
If we rewind a few years, perhaps a couple of decades, you would see Yell as a leader in the business directory space with Yellow Pages being the first place a lot of individuals would go to if they needed a service from a business. Yell made it simple to track down a business through the delivery of a large, physical book called the Yellow Pages and it was delivered to the majority of homes in the UK.
Using this delivery mechanism, the Yellow Pages became synonymous with discovering businesses and because of this, businesses had the opportunity to increase their page presence by purchasing an ad that would help them stand out from the competition.
Fast forward 30 years and things have changed an incredible amount. The internet came along and transformed the advertising world and Yell (like a number of other businesses) had to change their strategy to keep up with the new world. With the introduction of the internet, everyone transitioned from flicking through pages to searching on search engines or discovering businesses through social media – gone were the days of needing a physical book to discover the right business. They were all just a click away.
For Yell, this was a hard transition evident in the Yellow Pages book becoming more of a pamphlet before finally being disbanded in the last 2000’s. In 2017, they decided to stop printing them all together. Yellow Pages was finally sent to the farm next door.
Yellow Pages was big business for Yell and is even ranked in the FTSE list of the top 100 UK companies. The challenge they experienced transitioning over to the new world, from print to digital, has seen the company plummet. In 2013, with a debt of over £2.3bn (that’s with a b) and a pre-tax loss of £2bn the company was seized and taken over by its lenders.
What was the main focus on the lenders? Customer experience? Creating a world leading online experience? Revolutionizing the online directory space? Nope. It was to recoup their losses which they achieved by establishing a free online directory and hiring a sales team to upsell all of the businesses listed with advertisement space and add on marketing services. Rather aggressively.
It’s no real secret that a business is founded with one goal – to make profit. Profit is at the center of all businesses but the most successful ones don’t make this their number 1 priority. The most successful businesses strive to create excellent services that help their clients achieve goals and make their lives easier.
It’s difficult to see Yell as anything other than a debt recovery vehicle for its lenders as this is how it was reborn in 2017. With operations spread over the globe, presumably to keep the operational costs down, there is a significant disconnect between the promises made by the sales team and the actual realities of the services delivered.
The Yell directory is a native product of Yell. They also sell PPC services via Google Ads, Microsoft Bing and an assortment of other 3rd party platforms but this introduces yet another issue. If Yell sell adverts for their Yell directory, the margins are extremely high compared to the margins they would receive through Google Ads and as the business is driven by the previous lenders of the business, the question over bias is alive and kicking – after all, if you could generate more profit from selling adverts on your own directory or a fraction of those profits reselling Google Ads, which would you suggest your customers use? The main issue here isn’t necessarily the bias but the potential results of paying for an Ad on the Yell directory vs Google Ads or Microsoft Bing – they just don’t compare.
There are problems here from the sales tactics to the services they promote and it’s resulted in large volumes of unsatisfied customers.
Yell Website Design – Issues
We talk to small businesses day in and day out. We onboard clients from well-known and established businesses and less well-known independent businesses. One of the questions we always have on our lips is ‘what is the reason you wish to move away from your existing provider?”.
With Yell customers, there are typically 5 reasons they find another marketing provider.
1. Sales people
Good and bad businesses employ sales people, after all if they didn’t exist who would help you purchase the products and services you need? The trouble is that the sales team over at Yell often over promise and under deliver. What really seems to happen is that the sale reps will visit business owners at their premises or homes and use high-pressure sales tactics to get the contract signed before they leave.
There are many reports online of small business owners regretting signing up within just minutes of signing the contract. A common problem seems to be that Yell make many verbal promises regarding the results but none of this is reflected in the contract itself so there is little you can do once you sign up.
Any Yell service which you sign up for is connected with a 12-month minimum term contract. Marketing, especially digital marketing, is all about trial and error. Running a campaign and measuring its outcome and if it doesn’t provide a positive return, you try something else. With a 12-month contract, if your campaign doesn’t provide a return then you’re tied into another few months of disappointing results – which you’ll have to continue to pay for, regardless.
In a recent review on Trustpilot, a customer states that he is having to shut down his business due to the fees from Yell. In another review, the salesperson had a customer tick a box without stating it was a 12-month contract. Not nice.
Yell have a reputation for being an affordable place to receive marketing services from. In reality, they are anything but. The websites start from £499 but in practice, the price we tend to hear about are for a 15-page website to result in a £4000 price tag.
The real way the price is bumped up is with the additional monthly fees for hosting (£96 per month), premium listings on Yell.com and advertising services. One client we have recently helped paid nearly £5000 for a site and then was paying around £1200 a month for various services which were failing to deliver results. Another client was paying up to £7000 per month for just advertising services only to have the results obfuscated in the monthly report because there hadn’t been any.
4. Poor Website Design
Try googling the following term
“web design by yell” builder
A long list of websites will appear in the search results. All of them built using the same template. All of them with the same layout. Most including extremely similar content. As with the Yell directory, the templates they use for their website designs look like their based off the same categories e.g. Builders will use the same template, Conservatory specialists will use the same layout, Accountants will use the same layouts.
It would be easy to look at a few of these and become confused between them as none of them stand out.
5. You don’t own any of it
Now, if you think that building a website and owning a website are the same thing get ready for your world to be shaken. When you work with yell to build a site for you, they only license it back to you for you to use. If your 12-month contract expires, you can say goodbye to your website. If you want to move away from Yell, you can say goodbye to your website. These sorts of contracts are typically invoked for those offering sub-par services and represents a big warning light.
6. Hosting fees are overpriced
Hosting comes in at about £96 per month including VAT. So that’s £1,152 per year. That’s expensive. That’s, like, real expensive. You could get hosting for free in some places (Netlify, we’re looking at you) or on average for about £20 per year (iONOS, we’re looking at you). You may say that at £96 per month, it’s daylight robbery.
Hosting is important. It ensures your website is available and fast for everyone who comes across it. It also plays a valuable part of Search Engine Optimization, as slow websites tend to be shuffled to the bottom of the search results. The best in class hosting would probably cost £30 per month which would result in a per annum cost of £360.
Finally, as your website isn’t portable e.g. You can’t move it anywhere else, you’re somewhat held hostage and simply have to pay the £96 to continue having an online presence. Ludicrous.
Getting real and true metrics from your online activities is crucial in deducing if what you’re doing is positively impacting your marketing results. With poor metrics, it’s impossible to tell if your marketing is working. The base tool used for measuring activities on a website is Google Analytics. To use this tool, you need to copy and paste a sentence of code onto the website. With one client we had worked with, it took 3 months to get the code pasted onto the client’s website. 3 months for 1-minute task.
It’s also extremely difficult to setup any conversion tracking and there is no support for Google Tag Manager. The promise of digital marketing is that it is far easier to understand where your leads are coming from. Yet, the weak analytical environment means much of that is undermined.
Yell tries to sell you PPC and other traffic and lead generation services but without showing you the result they generate, it’s impossible to take these services seriously.
Oh dear. Call centers are all over the world: UK, Spain, India, Philippines, Colombia and Peru are all places we’ve seen mentioned. In practice, getting support is a nightmare.
Examples here include the three months it took us to get our Google Analytics code pasted in and we’ve heard others who had a wrong telephone number on their website for 3 years – that’s T-H-R-E-E years.
A quick trip to the reviews for yell on Trustpilot will give you an insight into the general feeling towards support (it’s not great).
9. Yell Marketing Services.
The last issue here is that once you have a Yell website you are more likely to use the other services on offer. These include sponsored listings on Yell.com, Google Ads PPC management, Social media advertising and even the Connect product that masquerades as some form of small business SEO service.
One client we are working with was spending around £1,200 per month on what we will loosely call marketing. With no analytics, it was hard to tell what was or was not working. The breakdown was something like this.
- £40 per month – Connect (masquerades as affordable SEO)
- £80 per month – Website Hosting
- £265 per month – Sponsored listing on Yell.com position #1
- £82.34 per month – Local VIP (another Yell.com sponsored listing bill)
- £47.67 per month – Heavyweight prominence (yet another Yell.com sponsored listing bill)
- £500 per month – PPC + maintenance
- £200 per month – Display + maintenance
Reviewing the list, we can see there is around £700 or so for PPC management, £400 for sponsored listings on Yell.com, and then £40 per month for the pseudo local SEO & reputation management Connect product.
Reviews – What do Yell clients think of their services?
In the best-case scenario, Yell clients walk away with an okay website that is overpriced. The worst case is where you limp away with a shoddy website that you don’t own but rent and hosting that costs a small fortune alongside a marketing campaign that you never know the results of.
“DISHONEST, RUBBISH, WASTE OF MONEY! APPALLING SERVICE – DO NOT SUBSCRIBE!”
“Utter waste of money for the online services.”
“DON’T DO IT! Avoid.”
“Absolutely awful service done nothing that was promised tied me up for 12 months was a complete waste of money”
“It appears that I am not alone in being duped by Yell and then unable to talk to anyone about this.”
“My advice to anyone contemplating buying from Yell is simple – Don’t.”
“Worst business decision I have ever made!!”
“The only thing consistent with them is their incompetence.”
“Aggressive untrustworthy company non-regulated untrusted complaints process”
If you’re looking for a way to upgrade your online marketing, we can help. We’ve helped 1000’s of small businesses launch unique, modern websites and intelligent Google Ads campaigns which are ROI focused.