I wrote this article a while back but thought it was worth repeating here. As far as I know, nothing has changed. I recently had a client who got burned by these guys and literally hated them because the experience was so bad. So here you go…
I was doing a little research the other day checking out YellowPages.com and some of their services.
Since the only way to get pricing information for a custom website was to call a sales rep I decided to do a little online searching. The results were very interesting…
I ended up on ComplaintsBoard.com, and many others, viewing hundreds of complaints about deceptive sales practices, horrible customer service, hidden auto-renewal clauses, and non-performance of contract in regard to advertising results.
The complaints that really stuck out were the ones from former sales reps who talked about their deceptive sales tactics. They inflate the numbers and downplay the contract. In other words, anything goes to get you to sign on the dotted line. And why not? The sales reps get paid big bonus money for reaching sales goals.
Of course, the program can’t be all bad. If it was completely ineffective the service would be devoid of advertisers. To be fair, I found reports showing the quality of visitors from bigger online directories like yellowpages.com (YPC) are much more engaged — they stick around your website longer.
But the real problem for most small business owners is not knowing the Return-On-Investment (ROI). With YPC you have to sign a long-term contract (12 months) without the benefit of testing performance. This has always been a thorn in the side for advertisers in the print Yellow Pages too. You have to pay no matter how well the ad does. Not doing well… too bad for you.
It looks like they’ve taken this same business model and transferred it to the online program. This makes no sense because unlike the print edition they can remove your ad anytime they want. And worse, their advertising isn’t performance based like Google where you only pay when a person clicks on an ad. You pay a flat rate no matter how many times your ad is shown. And if your click-through-rate (CTR) sucks, too bad.
Another glaring number is search traffic. YPC says they provide exposure to 125 million searches per month. This is peanuts compared to Google with a whopping 2.7 billion! And don’t forget, with Google you can look up keyword traffic numbers for yourself right online. Not so, with online directories like Yellowpages.com — you have to depend on them to provide these numbers. This is where a slick salesperson can take advantage of you. They can manipulate numbers to show more impressions and higher CTR’s to get you salivating. Anything to get you signed up…
By now you probably get my position on all this. I wouldn’t sign any long-term contract without some performance guarantee. That’s just common sense. If they don’t agree to this in writing, or downplay the enforcement of the contract, forget it.
When it comes to online directories like YPC the best thing to do is grab a FREE listing and watch your traffic sources. If you’re getting traffic and it’s converting into sales then you may have something to work with. Look at the numbers and figure out what you can pay for the results. If they are charging too much, either negotiate a better deal or walk away. You have plenty of other advertising options online.
I always recommend my clients use Google Adwords to test and optimize their sales funnel before rolling out to other options. It’s cost-effective, accountable, and provides valuable marketing and SEO information. You can start and stop a campaign anytime you like, control your budget, and track everything with Google analytics. It’s not the pig in a poke offered by some of these online directories.Mike Leach