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Earlier this year we were contacted by a client who had a Yell website. During our initial conversation it became clear that this client felt they'd been pressured into signing up and that the website Yell had built for them just wasn't performing as promised. 
 
And then they mentioned how much they were paying Yell... 
 
Hold on to your hat, because we couldn't quite believe it at first. The client told us they were paying over £700 a month. 
 
Yes, you read that right. £700. Plus VAT. For no leads and a really poor performing website. 
 
How on earth had this happened? 
 
The more we looked into it the more it became apparent that this wasn't an isolated case. 

 The Yell Business Model - a bit of background info 

Back in the day, Yell were a well respected business. The Yellow Pages business directory was their primary focus and if you wanted your business to be noticed you paid for the biggest and best advert you could. 
 
Unsurprisingly, Yell made a LOT of money in the halcyon days of the Yellow Pages directory. So much so that back in 2003 they were ranked in the FTSE 100
 
However, things change. The rise in online search and digital media started to make Yellow Pages obsolete. Just 10 years later and the company is in debt to the tune of £2.3 billion (yes - that's 2.3 BILLION). 
 
How do you even start to recoup losses of £2.3 billion? In the case of Yell, you move the directory online (yell.com) and you hire a sales team who get commission for signing up as many businesses as they can to the range of paid Yell services including websites, reputation manager and pay per click (PPC). 
 

 The Yell Products 

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Yell used the good reputation they'd built from the Yellow Pages days to target small businesses with a range of paid services. Typically the process starts once you've added your 'free' listing to the yell.com business directory. 
 
Adding the free listing often triggers a call from one of their Belfast based telesales agents, claiming that they are uniquely placed to help you get new customers and give you a better ranking on the first page of Google. 
 
This sales call is likely to last at least an hour (sometimes longer) and it's very likely you'll be offered a 'special discount' to sign up immediately. The moment you agree, you're locked into a 12 month contract with no cancellation or cooling off period. 
 

Website 

If you don't have a website or you've got an old or outdated site, this is one of the first things they'll try and sell. Yell use a template website builder - this means that many of their sites look exactly the same as others with just colours, logos and images changed. The design is often poor and it can be difficult to get changes or additions made to your site. 
 
You're also effectively renting your site from Yell. You never own it, you can't take a rip of the site (code, design, text, images) and host it on another platform. It belongs to Yell and is designed to make it difficult for you to move providers. 
 
If your website was built and managed by Yell it's likely you won’t have access to Google Analytics. Instead, Yell send a simplified monthly report. When Google Analytics have been added to a Yell site, there's often large discrepancies between the Google data and the figures used by Yell. This makes it difficult for you to accurately monitor how well your website is performing (hint - it's likely to be not anywhere near as well as Yell promise). 
 

Reputation Manager 

Often used as an add-on to get you to sign up for a website or other service, Reputation Manager can cost up to £50 a month yet does nothing you couldn't do yourself for free. Many of the claims that Yell make for reputation manager often contradict advice from Google. 
 

Promoted Listings 

When was the last time you used Yell.com to search for a business? Traffic to Yell.com is decreasing year on year with a drop of over 91% since 2015. Paying to promote your business on Yell is just not worth the money. 
 

Google & Facebook Advertising 

Short version: You'd be better off doing this yourself or paying a competent SEO agency to manage it on your behalf. 
 
Longer version: Yell add a 40% management fee to every click, your ad campaigns will be managed by automated software (https://www.kenshoo.co.uk/kenshoo-search/) - not a real person, and if your website is with Yell, you're still unlikely to have access to Google Analytics to accurately monitor results. By paying 40% of your budget to Yell, you're always going to be outbid by your competitors as each click is costing them 40% less. It's highly likely that your ad budget will just be eaten up by Yell and Google without you seeing a return on your investment. 
 

Smart Performance 

This is currently being heavily promoted by Yell and many of their existing Google Ads or Facebook Ads customers are being encouraged to transfer. Smart Performance is a re-badged third party product licensed to Yell and is designed to distribute your marketing budget across multiple platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Bing & Google. While this sounds great in practice, in reality it's unlikely to achieve the results you'd expect - especially when Yell are taking a 40% to 50% management fee (similar to the Google advertising issues mentioned above). Smart Performance is a form of 'programmatic advertising' and as it's automated, you're not in control and your ad is unlikely to be seen by your target audience. 
 

 Pricing 

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Yell websites tend to start at £400 + vat for a very basic site however we've seen pricing as high as £5,000 + vat for a 15 page website. As Yell agents are commission based, they'll often discount prices just to get you signed up, and remember that once you are signed up you're locked into that contract. 
 
You also need to add on a monthly fee which can vary between £30 + vat and £75 + vat (sometimes more). 
 
Then you have your 'extras'... 
 
£50 + vat per month for reputation manager 
£265 + vat per month for sponsored listings 
£500 + vat per month for PPC & maintenance 
 
We could go on however it's easy to see how the monthly payment can increase significantly. 
 

 Reviews 

You can see for yourself what many businesses think about Yell. Just search for Yell Website Reviews. 
 
 
Yell also has a history of manipulating it's own reviews including on Trustpilot (see image below). 
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 Want To Leave? What Can You Do? 

Check to see where you are with your Yell contract. Typically if you've had a website with Yell for over 12 months, you should be able to cancel - however, Yell may have rolled your contract over into a new 12 month period. It's worth checking to see where you're at. Even if you are in contract, talk to us or take a look at the useful links at the end of this article to see how you can still leave. 
 
The next step is to contact your preferred web company to see how they can help and what can be put in place to improve your existing web presence. Take your time and look around to find a company that you're comfortable working with and who offer the services you need at a price that's within your budget. 
 
The web company will need to make sure your domain is secured before launching a new site and that any downtime with your current website is minimised. 
 
If you're not looking to work with a web agency there are plenty of self-build options you can look at, although you'll need to factor in time to build the website yourself and manage the domain. 
 
When your new website is ready to go live, cancel your direct debit to Yell and inform them of your cancellation. Again, the useful links at the end of this article will help you with templates. 
 

 Conclusion 

Remember that client we mentioned at the start of this article? The one who was paying over £700 a month to Yell?  
 
Well, not only did we produce a new website for them at a fraction of the cost, we helped them quit their contract and they're also on course to reclaim the money they'd previously paid out. 
 
The new website we produced is now generating leads and is being found for the search terms required.  
 
If any of this resonates with you, we'd suggest you look to speak to your preferred web company as soon as possible - you deserve a website that works for your business and you should expect good customer service as standard. Don't settle for anything less. 
 

 Useful Links 

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