As a small business, your website is often the most important component of your digital marketing. Your website is the modern-day shop window.
If your website does not look the part and perform, then all other digital marketing efforts will suffer.
Who you work with to build and market your website is a key decision that can be the difference between success or failure in the hypercompetitive online landscape.
We also cover why we believe that some of Yell’s business practices make choosing Yell to build and host your website is a terrible decision.
Note: if you get Yell to build your website you will not own it – this is the key takeaway from this article so if you read no further, know that.
Your website is the foundation of your digital marketing so it is important to choose wisely – we would strongly recommend you take ten minutes to read the whole article, but if you are time-challenged then you can quickly navigate the article using the links below.
If you have been in business for any time you will remember the Yellow Pages. Those big yellow books were an important part of local small business marketing for many years.
The books were pricey, but people used them. It was expensive, but it delivered results.
Sadly, 30 or so years on from the heyday of the Yellow Pages, and Yell.com is a poor replacement for the once-powerful books.
In 2022 everyone has access to the world’s information in their pocket.
Search Engines are the new Yellow Pages.
For Yell, this meant that the books, once used as a display of strength by strongmen to tear them in half, got got thinner every year.
Then they got smaller. In the end, they were practically a leaflet.
Finally, in 2017, the decision was made to stop printing them all together.
So, it’s safe to say that in 2022 the Yellow Pages is well and truly dead.
In its prime, the Yellow Pages was a huge business and ranked in the FTSE list of top 100 UK companies. But, the failure to transition customers from print to digital offering has seen the company face hard times. And in 2013, with a debt of over £2.3bn and a pre-tax loss of £2bn for 12 months of trading, the company was seized and taken over by lenders.
Suffice to say, Yell needed to regroup and recoup losses. So, they have become ever more aggressive on the digital front ever since.
Free listings in the Yell.com directory provide the Yell sales team with a stream of businesses to target with aggressive sales techniques and god awful contracts.
A key problem with Yell is that they have a core product being the directory.
If they sell PPC via Google Adwords then most of that money goes to Google. If they sell paid exposure on Yell.com then this goes straight to Yell.
Suffice to say, there are problems here across the sales tactics to the actual products promoted and sold by the Yell team.
We have experience with Yell from a few different angles. We have customers who have had sites with Yell and were not happy and we have customers with active sites with Yell that we have helped with the marketing.
So, we have looked at this from a few different angles over the years. The following details the most common problems that we see and hear from existing and ex Yell customers specifically in relation to Yell websites.
Yell have a sales team. And as is the way with sales, they will often make promises that the service can’t deliver on. What seems to happen is that the sales reps will visit business owners at their premises or homes and use sales tactics to get the contract signed before they leave.
There are many reports online of small business owners regretting signing up within 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 on the contract itself so there is little you can do once you are signed up.
Any service with Yell comes with a 12-month contract. And as with all marketing, it can be hard to know what is best till you do some experimentation. So, if what you sign up for is not working after a few months… well, you are stuck with it. Sorry.
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 cool.
Yell present themselves as cheap. In reality, they are anything but. Websites start from £499, but in practice, the price we tend to see for a 15-page site with a reasonable design tends to be £4000 and above.
But the real way the price is bumped up is with the additional monthly fees for hosting (£96), 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.
Poor Design & Templated Sites
It’s safe to say that design is not really Yell’s strong suit. But the issues here tend to go beyond that and the majority of sites in a given business category seem to be based off a similar template.
So, with a templated approach where the designer is just filling boxes, you can be left with a site that is very similar to many other sites and certainly does not really best represent your business.
As an example, you can conduct a search in double quotes for the following to see accounting sites designed by Yell:
Looking at these sites, you will see the same few designs customised for many different websites. There is a variation in colours and small text changes, but they are essentially the same site.
You Don’t Own the Site You Pay For
Now, this is the real kicker. Have Yell build a site for you and it’s not yours. They build it, you pay for the build, but then you effectively rent it. So, whilst your contract may expire after 12 months, if you want to move away then you need to build a new site. So, this is a non-contractual lock-in of sorts. Clever, in a nasty way to keep you tied to Yell marketing and in the Yell ecosystem.
£4,294.80 for the site. £96 per month hosting. Can’t even download the logo from the site to use as it belongs to Yell.com. Can’t move the site. There is no good technical reason for this. There are other cloud-based systems where you can’t move your site, but sites can be built here for a 10th of the price.
This is an aggressive business tactic to make moving away from Yell difficult and is the primary reason why we would never recommend any business to use Yell for web design.
If you want a cost-effective site that you own and that is 100% portable, drop us a line and if we can’t help we will point you in the right direction.
Hosting Fees Are Overpriced and Deliver Little Value
Hosting comes in at about £96 per month for the website (inc VAT). So, £1152 per year. And whilst it is not awful, you could get similar priced hosting for £30 per year or £2.60 per month. So, we could say that the hosting is around 30 times more expensive than it should be. Not a great start.
Hosting is important. Your website needs to be fast and optimised for search. But best-of-class WordPress hosting can be had for around £250 a year. So, even this kind of world-class hosting that far exceeds what Yell delivers is only a fraction of the price. In fact, we even offer best-of-class WordPress hosting here, so you can see the benefits compared to Yell’s hosting.
And with Yell’s hosting, as your site is not portable, then you have no choice here as a consumer to move your site to more affordable or powerful hosting.
Analytics is another problem area. And getting Google Analytics installed can be tough enough. And it is certainly not done by default. With one client we were working with, Yell support installed the wrong analytics code and it took us 3 months to get that resolved. A five-minute job. 3 months.
It is also difficult to set up 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.
Given that Yell then tries to sell you PPC and other traffic and lead generation services, I fail to see how they can even do the job properly without solid analytics in place.
Support is woeful. Call centres are all over the world: UK, US, Spain, India, Philippines, Colombia, and Peru are all places I have seen mentioned. And in practice, getting support is a nightmare.
Examples here include the three months it took to get Google Analytics installed and a client who had spent two years with the wrong phone number on their website.
A quick trip to the reviews for Yell on Trustpilot will give you an insight into the general feeling towards support (hint – it’s not good).
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 AdWords PPC management, social media advertising, and even the Connect product that masquerades as some form of small business SEO service.
We have talked about some of these other services in previous posts (Yell PPC, Yell Advertising, Yell Digital Marketing) but they have the same general problems as the websites. Aggressive sales, 12-month contracts, lacklustre results.
One client we are working with was spending around £1200 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:
£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
So here we have £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.
This was all pulled with the exception of the hosting and… nothing changed. Then, a far smaller budget was invested directly into Google Adwords PPC (disclosure – with us managing). With half the budget we were able to generate many more leads. Spend less. Improve results. A happy customer.
If you want to work with an agency that really cares and has your best intentions at heart then drop us a line.
So, there are at least nine key points why using Yell for your website design is not a great idea. In the best case scenario, it is an okay website that is overpriced. Worst case then we have a shoddy website that you rent but do not own, overpriced hosting, and duff analytics. It’s just not a smart move for small businesses where marketing spend needs to be ROI focused.
But, we don’t want you to take our word for this. Yell have many reviews over on Trustpilot from clients. The below is a selection of comments taken from reviews posted – these are not cherry-picked and are all from reviews posted in the week prior to the writing of this article.
“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”
But don’t take our word for it – pop over to Trustpilot and check out the reviews yourself:
There are many options for building a small business website. But only independent experts (like ourselves) can give you truly unbiased advice. And what is right for you will depend very much on your budget and objectives.
For many small businesses, a well-built site using WordPress is the way to go. If budget is tight then a site on a cloud-based system like Wix can be a good option, although SEO and analytics are not as strong with this kind of system.
It is important to remember that your website is a marketing tool. So, you should be looking to work with a web design company that understands small business marketing. And SEO, in particular, is important for small businesses to ensure visibility on search engines.
If you are unsure where to turn, there are a few ways we can help:
1. Get in Touch
Give us an overview of your situation and budget and we can give you some advice on the best way forward. You can call our office on 0121 314 2001 if you are in the UK or you can drop us a line via our contact page. And if for any reason we can’t help – we will certainly point you in the right direction. No hard sell. No sales pitch. Just advice. And if we can help, we will.
2. Website Planning Guide
We have a comprehensive website planning guide that covers everything from choosing the right domain name to hosting your site. This is a really good way to ensure you understand all the moving parts and make an informed decision on your next site.
You can read the guide online or download a PDF:
Any questions – get in touch.
3. Drop a Comment Below
Or simply drop a comment below this post and we will do whatever we can to help. If you need some advice give us a shout. We are only too happy to help.
Yell Is Small Business Marketing Hell
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