Why Not To Use Yell Advertising

Now I’m not usually one to shout out and cause issues regarding the service of another business. But what I can’t allow happening is small businesses being robbed of their hard earned cash while trying to make a better living for themselves, by a company that by and large seems not to care. They simply want your money.

Yell.com offer a range of marketing related services to small/medium sized businesses. Here is a little breakdown just so you understand:

Google Ads/Adwords – These are the ads you see at the top of Google search results. They can work wonders for small businesses and most marketing agencies will offer a PPC service, so you don’t have to get Yell to manage it.

Yell sponsored listings – These are listings that show at the top of Yell search results. They let the free listings sit and the bottom while all of the sponsored listings sit and the top. They can work ok, but they tend to be very expensive.

Website design – We have taken on one or two new customers in the past who have had sites built with Yell. Their feedback suggested that they always wanted money to make changes and that the platform to manage the website was not very good. Our very own Marcus Miller has created a post about the main reasons on why you should avoid Yell web design.

SEO – I hesitate to call what Yell offer SEO but they do have services that at least profess to be a cost-effective way to improve your rankings.

True Story

We have recently taken on a new client who is an owner of a small roofing company in Birmingham. This business had been using Yell for their online advertising for a total of £600 per month on a 12-month contract.

What Yell doesn’t explain to you as a customer, is how they divvy up that £600:

£500 – Yell sponsored listing & Google Adwords (PPC) management
£100 – Google Adwords budget

So for any of you that have never done PPC before, a £100 monthly budget is simply not enough. Not only that, but Yell had also set it up so the ads would show for all sorts of irrelevant searches. Here are some examples

“Roofer training courses”
“Roofing jobs“
“Roofer got shot in the corner shop”
“Roofer should not have chosen Yell”

When you have a £100 a month budget (£3 a day) and some clicks are costing up to £2.10, your daily budget could very quickly vanish in one or two wasted clicks by people searching for jobs, training courses or anything else that is completely irrelevant.

All in all, it was awfully set up and truly wasted the money of the business owner. So what did Yell say when he called up to complain that he wasn’t getting enough calls…’Give us more money’.


The Figures

Six months with Yell:

Over the final six months of his time with Yell, their marketing had generated millions of impressions, just over 1000 clicks and around 30 phone calls (around one per week).

£600 x 6 months = £3600
£3600 ÷ 30 (calls) = 120
£120 for each phone call

One month with Bowler Hat:

We took the client on for a £100 management fee and started from scratch with the campaign. Within an hour or two, his campaign was up and running (correctly this time) and below are the results from his first month with us.

£100 management fee + £132 spent in Adwords = £232
£232 ÷ 23 enquiries = 10
£10 per enquiry

So as you can see, one month at Bowler Hat has generated nearly just as many enquiries as Yell did in 6 months. And all for £3368 less. We have continued to optimise the account and the client is now spending around £6 per enquiry, £114 less than what it cost with Yell.


Our Simple Solution

Well, I don’t think you’ll need me to tell you after the above, but simply ditch Yell.com. It’s still good to be listed on their free directory, but don’t bother paying for the sponsored listing or for Adwords. Then with the £600 that Yell usually charge, have a think about how you should best spend it. Here are some ideas:

Spend £300 on an AdWords campaign and save £300
Spend £600 on an AdWords campaign and really go at it
Spend £300 with an agency for SEO & PPC and put £300 into AdWords clicks

I have an obvious bias towards #3, as a marketing agency can help you set-up and manage your AdWords PPC professionally to get the best results. They can then also look at organic SEO, local SEO, conversion optimisation, and reputation signals like reviews to ensure you are getting the best possible return on your spend.

#3 really is the perfect combination for a small business. Not only will your ads show at the top of Google, but your agency can then gradually work on your SEO. With the goal that you will be dominating the search results in 3-6 months.


Half Your Spend, Double Your Results

There is another option. Here at Bowler Hat, we offer a range of small business packages for PPC, SEO, social media and web design. Our PPC management starts from £100 per month and our small business SEO packages start from £150 per month.

Ultimately, we hate to see small businesses being stung by companies like Yell. Trying to find affordable and quality marketing for a small business can be extremely difficult, but that’s where we like to help.

If you currently use Yell to manage your advertising or are considering using them in the future, feel free to give us a call or send us an email and we will be more than happy to give you some advice and see how we can reduce your costs and improve your results.


32 Responses

  1. I agree with everything in this post… except this is the internet, and I have to find one thing to moan about 😉

    A Google Partner is a company that has over $10k in ad word billings over 90 days – that doesn’t mean that a smaller agency (or startup) lacks the certification and wouldn’t do just as well as the big boys. You might even find they work harder as they’ve got more to prove.

  2. Yell are Googles longest standing Premier Partner in the UK, your statement to not use Yell and use a Google partner now becomes redundant. What information do you have to back up claims of what keywords Yell use to bring in business for people?

    1. Hey Micheal,

      The proof is in the pudding. Many people come away unhappy with their experience with Yell, but most of them blame AdWords instead of Yell. Adwords is a super powerful tool if used well. Unfortunately, many of these small businesses don’t feel the same way. If you have a look around, there are tonnes of articles and threads of people who are unhappy with the service they have received from Yell.

  3. This is very true, we are in a nightmare situation with yell, they sold us on the premise they are “experts” in generating high value leads on google adwords. Since we signed up, we have seen a massive drop in business while paying MORE for our adwords marketing. Now we are locked in a contract and the option we may have to take is to pay off yell and then invest more money on top into our own adwords campaign which we successfully ran before signing up with yell. Esentially we will have to pay off yell’s contract and then resume our adwords campaign.

    Issues with yell:
    – Less specific targeting, paying more Cost Per Click than the campaign we started with the help from google support over the phone
    – Less traffic and clicks
    – Yell take 33% of your budget for their “management fees” – the 67% left is spent very ineffectively
    – No interest in your business after you have signed the contract and takes days and days to resolve issues.
    – When issues arise, you can’t fix them directly as you can when you control your own AdWords campaign.

    As a small business this may well be enough to end us, where we saw a steady growth before signing up to yell, now it’s gone back to the level of enquiries we had 2 years ago meanwhile we have higher business costs.

    This may be a very bad experiance compared so some others, because we do not sell generic products, Yet i highly doubt their AdWords services will be better than what you can do spending a couple of hours reading up, a few youtube videos and a convocation with AdWords google team to understand how it all works.

    I really hope someone reads this and takes the warning what we did not manage to get ourselves before signing the contract. This is literally killing our business amd the only way for us to get out of it is to pay off the contract while resuming the usual marketing spend on our own adwords account.

    1. Hey,

      Really sorry to hear of your bad experience with Yell. It’s disgusting that they can do this sort of thing to small businesses. As you know, it’s impossible to get out of their contract, but you might be able to do a few things to help in the meantime. If you give the office a call and ask for Ryan Scollon, I can talk you through it.

  4. I’ve sat a read the post…and now I’ve went from disappointed to utterly annoyed at yell…I’ve just takin on a yell ad and found myself in wrong listing point and have had one call in 3 weeks ..yes it paid the ad and fuel for job but that’s no use at all…i need at least 4x a day to be working …am I in the deep end here??? Do I switch and if so to who and then cost…am just starting out and money is tight so we’re do I go here

    HELP !!!!!

    1. Hey Richard,

      I’m sorry to hear that you are not having a great experience with Yell. I’ll ping you an email now and see if we can help.

  5. BE VERY WEARY WITH YELL!!!! I’ve been ‘badly stung’ by Yell as I was lured into agreeing to advertising via a 2 1/2 hour phone-call from their @advertising dogs@. Initially I told them that I did not need or want any more Yell than I already have (app. £200 a year). The advertising agent got talking how important my business is, and showed me figures on my PC screen…. Long story short, he got me to sign up online for stuff I didn’t need, without disclosing that the figures are now on a monthly rolling basis…. summing up to £1200 a year… which is almost a months salary (being a Sole Trader). And of course the several small contracts are all 12 months binding.

    I have tried everything! Citizen Advice confirmed I have no rights in terms of cancelling, There is no cooling off period and no 14 day statutory rights for business owners. I am still waiting on the promised phone call from Trading Standards, where I have to proof that they did wrong. This is absolute appalling and gut wrenching, and I guess that’s what Yell is banking on – an opportunistic extortionist. If you ask me that is the worst business practice I have come across in 20 years. Shame on Yell. I’m out and gone as soon as I am able, to never turn back.

    So yes, there are many other ways to advertise!

    1. Hey,

      Thanks for sharing your experience, I am sorry to hear that you have been yet another victim of Yell’s horrible tactics to win new business. If you do need any advice on marketing, feel free to give us a shout and we will be more than happy to help.

  6. I’m glad I found your post Ryan, because I work for Yell and I will passing on this URL to our legal dept. Why? Because you have made false claims and all you are doing is trying promote your company by lying about Yell. And before you reply saying ‘Well he works for Yell, what would you expect’, I KNOW for a fact what you have said are lies. Yell does NOT take £400 out of a £500 PPC budget for fees. YOU are the one people need to be wary of, not Yell. Isn’t the Internet great? You can spread whatever you want without having to back it up with facts.

    To everyone else complaining on here, try calling our CS team. If the complaint is valid it will be looked into.

    1. I also meant to add, Yell do not charge to make changes to our websites. This is another lie. Plus the sponsored listing costs vary depending on multiple criteria. And of course our products work. However can you explain tenure badges of customers on Yell.com stating they have been with Yell 15 years+? How long have you been in business?

      1. Hey Jon. As detailed in the previous comments these are reports passed to us by unhappy Yell customers. We are happy to reveal our sources here.

        What we have found since writing this is that in many cases a customer does not own the website that Yell builds for them. It is not portable. It is a way of locking people into Yell. And not terribly affordable in the first instance. Again, we have sources here and would be happy to share them with your legal team.

        Bowler Hat

    2. Hey John. Thanks for your comment. Ultimately, we are just reporting the facts as we see them. And we are happy to name our sources here as they came to us upset with what was happening over at Yell. Let me just apply some clarification to the points above.

      £400/£500 – the point was not that Yell took £400 from the £500 for fees but rather this was the money spent on a sponsored Yell listing as apposed to the PPC budget with AdWords. The client was spending a lot of money and not getting results from the sponsored listings.

      We have also reviewed many AdWords PPC accounts created by Yell and they are pretty absymal. A single advert. Broad match keywords. No negatives. Really awful. And unfortunately, sponsored listings on Yell don’t work great for every customer. No marketing does. But the combination of yearly contracts and poor service when it comes to your advertising products seems to rub a lot of people up the wrong way or we would not get so many phonecalls with customers complaining about your business practices.

      Unfortunately, this whole post came about due to the number of calls we get from businesses who are unhappy with Yell. We are not making this up, rather we are reporting the facts as they are relayed to us.

      We are not doing anything here other than relaying the facts. If your legal team want to get in touch please direct them to the contact form and we will be happy to talk to them. Likewise, we will be happy to contact our sources and see if they are happy to be named here.

      Bowler Hat

  7. What a surprise, my comments didn’t get posted. So you can dish it out, but when it comes to someone pointing out YOUR lies and deceit, seems you aren’t so happy. As I said, tomorrow I WILL be passing this web link to our legal team along with your businesses URL.

    1. Hey Jon

      We are a small business and as such review comments every few days or so – apologies if you were waiting for a response. Certainly, we have nothing to hide here and are not the ones making threats. In fact, this aggressive and threatening attitude only serves to confirm what we hear every day from upset Yell customers who call us up.

      I really wish no harm to Yell and surely the best use of Yells resources here would be doing better work for your customers rather than throwing legal money at and trying to hurt another small business.

      For small businesses marketing money is often severely limited, and all marketing, be it Google AdWords, Yell Sponsored Listings or anything else needs to be reviewed to ensure it is a good fit. We have looked at many Yell PPC accounts and they are truly not set up with best practices or the best interest of the business in mind. Maybe this is not representative of the whole but certainly, these issues are there in the cases we have been made aware of.

      Yell represents many small businesses so my sincere wish here would be that these comments are taken on board and used to improve the service for your small business customers in these somewhat difficult times.

      Take care!
      Bowler Hat

      1. As a digital marketer having experienced good service with Yell, and working with them and our mutual clients effectively, I have to say something in response to this article and the comments posted and I hope my post is published.

        This article is a strategic marketing move by you, Bowler Hate, using the fresh content of dissatisfied customers (which company that services 10s of 1000s doesn’t have churn and some unhappy customers?) to gain SEO prominence and free advertising using a slanderous defamation off the back of Yell related search terms. I do not blame Jon for taking his stance as I would be acting the same, if not worse, if you were doing this to my business. Slating other companies for your own gain is not a good look, at all. That is real poor taste, albeit very crafty and somewhat intelligent. All the more shame on you.

        All companies are made up of real people like you and I trying to do well by their customers, and this kind of article in any business vertical is a wrong – you are not a neutral source, instead scraping leads from people’s poor experience with the largest digital marketing company in the UK (I think).

        ‘Who can we slate to bring in the most leads? Yell, yes that’s a great idea. Get the intern to write a blog post stat.’

        I wouldn’t be surprised if you encourage your customers do the same towards the giants in their verticals, too. Despicable behavior.

        1. Hey Jo

          Thanks for your comment.

          To some degree, I agree with your points here. I don’t really think that throwing mud is a great strategy. We try to spend our time putting out helpful or positive content. This is certainly not typical of the content you will find on the site.

          However, we have just had so many horror stories from folks working with Yell. Accounts we have picked up have been in a terrible mess. From a single PPC advert with broad match keywords to one last week where the PPC has never targeted the client’s main keyword for over two years. In particular, I find the policy in relation to customers not owning their own website abhorrent. So, given the size of Yell, the pushy sales tactics, support issues and certain policies I felt we should report on it. Ultimately, the story came to us, we did not seek it out.

          We work with lots of small businesses. We are not a big boy like Yell. But we try and help folks. And I believe this content is still helpful when it comes to choosing a provider to help with digital marketing. A big faceless company with long contracts is not always the best choice. What I would like to happen here is Yell takes this feedback on board and improves their products and services. And ensures some folks don’t get a bad service.

          And of course. You can’t keep everyone happy. There are always those customers that are unrealistic or campaigns that don’t work out. However, the issues we have reported on here have all related to problems where Yell has clearly been at fault. Again, it is not our desire to throw mud – but an open discourse is essential for consumers to be able to make a choice.

          As a side note, we did quickly lookup the IP that the comment was made from and it showed as a belonging to Yell. So, there may be a little bias here on your part. That’s fine of course. I don’t for a second think all the team at Yell are bad. It’s just that as an organisation it seems that some small businesses get a rough ride.

          Maybe only seeing a small sample of users – the unhappy minority so don’t take our word for this, Yell has a trustpilot page you can review for a broader overview of customer satisfaction.


          Take care.

          P.S. I have to admit I did chuckle at “Bowler Hate”.

  8. Love this!! Nice one bowler hat everything here is so true, such bad targeting and overpriced awful service

    I am a web designer and had to listen in (with permission) to my clients phone call with them for over 2 hours while he was being told that our services were awful and that he should use them instead to build their website that you have to pay monthly for for the rest of time. He ripped our company to pieces until the client showed him sites we had built and then he was lost for words, and suddenly seemed to say it looked like he was in good hands with us once he saw he couldn’t possibly find fault with our sites. They had already persuaded him to fork out £200 a year though on a sponsored listing and it has had 5 users click through to the website in the last 11 months. When he asks them why it gets no traffic they tell him the bulk of his website traffic comes from yell. They are plain liars, they have no grounds to even state this and his analytics account says otherwise! The target small business owners who they think lack knowledge and they also use some heavy tactics to gain web design jobs, you should have heard what this guy was saying about our company! It was hilarious though, especially when he started stuttering after seeing our sites…

    1. Hey,

      Pleased you like the post. It really can be frustrating when these Yell sales team just outright lie about things. We have a client who was once told that WordPress is awful and that it is much better to use Yell’s ‘custom’ website platform.

  9. I recently engaged Yell to build an elite website for me. Once it was built I asked if they would send me the icon they designed for me on my instruction and at my expense but they refused claiming that they own all the copyright for the site’s design. This means that I am effectively renting the site from them. I have to pay a futher £96 a month for them to host it and if at the end of the year’s contract I want to move elsewhere then I lose the website that I paid £4000 for. I believe that I was misled by the salesperson but there is nothing I can do about it other than warn others not to make the same mistake I have. My advice to anyone considering doing business with Yell – don’t!

    1. Hey Anthony.

      Sadly, this is not the first time we have heard this and we have rebuilt many sites for people who have had a website built but then find they don’t own what has been built. Ultimately, when you have a site built it should be yours and it should be portable. Using a popular and marketing friendly platform like WordPress is a good option here as there is just so much support out there.

      Likewise, with hosting at £100 per month that is far from cheap. Bog standard hosting can come in at more like £10 per month and for £100 per month you can have something with some measure of SEO, security, HTTPS and a range of other marketing features and benefits built in.

      Ultimately, the way Yell works with contracts for marketing, impressions and clicks on the Yell.com site and this abhorrent rental model for website (which is a further lock in if you think about it) is not in the best interest of small businesses.

      Anthony, drop me a link via the contact form and I am sure we can help.


  10. DO NOT ADVERTISE WITH YELL. IF I COULD HAVE GIVEN THEM 0 STARS I WOULD HAVE DONE! I have been advertising with Yell for 4 years and each time I renew with them i encounter problems. Last year one of the reps came round to renew our adverts and add some new adverts. We told him that our budget was £800, and that we couldn’t afford to go over that amount. He then went ahead and placed the orders for us got all the paperwork signed and left. We then find out that the rep had placed orders that had amounted to around £2,000 a month which is well over what we had agreed to with the rep. He was so eager to get the paperwork signed that he didn’t even go through each add as we would have realised what he had done.

    This year another rep came as we refused to see the previous one who had conned us and the new rep who came said that the previous rep was well known for conning the customers into large orders. This time the adverts were placed but again the adverts were all mixed up showing wrong logo’s, wrong telephone numbers on one of the adverts we even had a different telephone number altogether belonging to a dry cleaning firm. I have complained numerous times to Yell, by telephone, to our rep by telephone and text to which he does not reply.

    Yell are as nice a pie until they get you to sign on the dotted line, if there are issues afterwards they do not want to know. I have screenshots of the errors I have mentioned. Our rep gave me a list of all the areas we covered it took nearly 2 weeks for me to go through each individual advert and check and note any mistakes, sure enough, there were over 20 pages of mistakes. I have sent copies of this list together with some of the screenshots to Yell but apparently, they have not received it yet and my complaint has been closed even though it was only opened last week and they were aware that I was going to forward proof to them of the errors. I have now been informed that the adverts have been taken down including our sponsored listings as there is an outstanding amount. The payments have been stopped as the adverts were incorrect how can you pay for something that is wrong.

    Not only does it look bad to any prospective customers it also makes our company look dodgy. I have lost a lot of business due to all these mistakes as customers ring me asking if its e.g London Shutters but they have actually come through on the S & S Shutters phone line. The biggest loss will be our Alibaba Shutters listing which has our name and logo but a completely unknown 0800 number. I actually telephoned the number and found that it belongs to a dry cleaning company so if any customers did ring that number they would have got through to a dry cleaning company and not us.

    Yell are unprofessional with their conduct and are only interested in getting new business from you they will call you and chase you but in case of errors they do not return calls or correct errors. We did have a website which Yell built for us and then took down and then they claimed that they do not have the website anymore how can you lose a website that was built by them surely there should be a copy somewhere. Instead, they kept on trying to get me to pay for a new website to be built. Yell is all about how much money they can get from you. The reps, the customer service team everyone is very helpful and bend over backwards to make sure you renew adverts once you sign that’s it if there are mistakes or errors you will then spend months to try and get them sorted with no luck as they are not interested.

    1. Hey Cumaza,

      Sorry to hear that you had such a bad experience with Yell. But as you can see from this post and all the comments, this is standard behaviour for Yell.

      Feel free to give us a shout if you need any marketing advice, we’d be more than happy to point you in the right direction.

    2. Sadly this is a story we hear all too often.

      – Sales person makes huge and misleading claims
      – Operations make a mess
      – Support is slow and hopeless

      Sign the contract and you are pretty much locked in and on your own.

      If we can help give us a shout via the contact page.


  11. I have tried cancelling my account with Yell.com. In fact the have been very helpful gave me a cancellation reference and said that a credit note would be issued for any outstanding invoices and that all my advertising with Yell had been cancelled. Unfortunately the are still sending me e-mails saying there is an outstanding invoice. I do not know how I can cancel if Yell are unwilling to process my cancellation.Any help would be grateful

    1. Hey Graham,

      Pleased you managed to get it canceled, it’s not often I hear of that from Yell customers. Best thing to do is call up the Yell team and ask why there are still outstanding invoices and go from there. Hopefully it will just be an error in the system.

  12. Ryan,
    Thanks so much for your post. I’ve just spent an hour on the phone with Yell explaining that I won’t sign up unless I have a detailed written quote. After nearly an hour, of explaining why my SEO isn’t working (and trying to avoid a written quote), they agreed to phone back later.

    I think you may have just saved me a fortune that likely would have ended my startup.

  13. I totally agree with all of the above.
    We are a small company who used to handle our own Adwords but we thought they would have better knowledge of the system and therefore more conversions. How wrong we were.
    Firstly traffic on those keyword is down.
    Conversions do not log revenue and so therefore are worthless as we do not know they’re effectiveness, they seem unable to understand how to fix it.
    Our emails get ignored most of the time,
    Technical support is virtually non existent.
    Their web portal is mostly offline.
    The stats shown are dubious tom say the least as thy cannot prove any of the interactions

    Now like a poster above we just have to wait until the contract is over and take back control of our own AdWords.
    At least then we have full statistics, tracking info and conversion information available.

  14. The worst thing with yell is that you are lured into a fixed-term commitment without prior knowledge of the conditions for withdrawal. and when you try to opt-out you are asked to seek legal advised… Where does this happen. Is anyone in a similar situation? The Yell Social Advertising advert for my website reached 8000 people with no conversion, I have requested to opt-out of their service since I have not gotten the desired result instead I am told that I must remain in this horrible contract for another 6 months paying £180 monthly charge, and if I insist on opting-out then I should seek legal advice

  15. We used Yell’s seo services for 9 months and were very dissapointed with the results. We had no input from the customer service manager and the seo ‘specialist’ we were assigned took us in totally the wrong direction. The net result was £6k spent and our website had gone backwards in terms of its performance. We complained and they couldn’t care less. It actually took me 3 months to lodge an official complaint which says it all really.

    1. Hey James – sadly a story we hear all too often. I have just come off the phone with a new business owner who at three months in, with a hefty spend for a website and marketing – has not had a single lead. Unfortunately, whilst I am sure there are some good eggs, on the whole Yell is a sales-led organisation that cares little for the small businesses they take on.

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