“Local” Listing & Advertising Services: Buyer Beware…

If you’re like most small business owners, you find yourself being pitched and sold by numerous “local” online advertising services and if you are not sure exactly what you are getting for the money, you should hire a trusted third-party consultant to help you. Getting involved with these companies can mean that they own you and all your free local listings.

Local Listing Services

There are so many different advertising options out there for small businesses and many of these are worthless. Yellow Pages, super pages, Yext, Yodle, etc… Many of these companies offer services that businesses can do on their own without having to pay a dime to these types of companies.

I have seen clients that have had their Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc… listings
basically hijacked by these companies. The way this works is the company will claim your existing listings, set up new local listings (Google+ pages, etc…) and use different call tracking phone numbers and new cookie cutter websites instead of the businesses own phone number and website.

In most cases, these third-party companies will be providing you with leads you could get, or would have already gotten on your own by managing your own local listings.

Yodle

I know how Yodle operates after seeing what they did to one of my client’s local listings. ALL of his local listings were reclaimed (hijacked) by Yodle after he had originally set them up himself (Google places, Google+, Yahoo local and Bing local).

He told me he was paying $500/month for their service and wanted me to take a look at it to see what was going on and whether it was worth continuing. Here’s what I found:

In the month that I sampled from the Yodle stats, he had received 49 calls through the call tracking number they had placed on his existing local listings. 25 of these calls were repeat calls (the same persons calling multiple times).

Yodle’s service also records the calls, so I was able to listen in on some of the calls. I found by listening in that many of these calls were from existing customers. In other words these were calls he would have gotten from his original local listings anyway, without Yodle.

The “new” cookie cutter website that Yodle had replaced his own website with on all his local listings only generated 3 email leads in that same month.

The bottom line is that he didn’t need help from Yodle. He had done just fine with his local listings on his own.  He was now out thousands of dollars and had to hire me to fix everything back to the way it was with him in charge of his own web presence.

Below are a few quotes from business owners in dealing with Yodle in particular:

“They changed our places page and tried to take credit for traffic they have nothing to do with…”
“So when they changed our places page and put their phone number on it. We had people already working with us calling…”  (source)

And more:

“Well this is one more way they own you! If you stop feeding the machine they stop redirecting your calls to you. People looking for your brand will find Yodle’s phone number not yours. If you ever want to change internet advertising providers, they will not port the phone number to you.

Also, they put their phone number on your Yahoo, Bing, and Google local directory listings. So good luck ranking locally, or even reclaiming your own business on these local directories, should you want to change service providers or go it alone.”  (source)

From my experience, these scam complaints are spot on.

There are many complaints about these shady local listing service tactics. Small business owners are easy targets for these sorts of services. In most cases these services also require long-term contracts and can run into the thousands of dollars per month range.

Before you sign up for anything, you should be sure about exactly what you’re getting for the money you’re spending. For the most part, none of these companies offer anything that you could not do on your own, or with help from a trusted online advertising consultant or webmaster.

I have saved many of my clients thousands of dollars in advertising money that was being spent, or was going to be spent on advertising campaigns that either didn’t work, or wouldn’t work for them. I have also had to help clients dig themselves out of the messes they have gotten into with these local listing services. Getting everything back to normal after cancelling is not an easy task. Buyer beware.

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