You don’t have to look very hard to find horror stories about Yellow Pages / Yellow Book / Hibu.
While it’s true that the people who have the worst experiences with a company are the ones who are most likely to write a review at all, the sheer number of reviews, articles, and forums posts on the subject is staggering.
Directory publishers have become more active in the web development sector over the years, promising sites that get your business found online, due in large part to the publisher’s existing reputation in local business advertising.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to be a promise that’s delivered in many instances. Many reviewers talk about how their site’s traffic saw no increase at all—what was promised was more leads and what was delivered was a costly, ineffective suite of non-services.
Quantity over Quality
It’s not an unfamiliar story. The big business tries to do something on the biggest possible scale in the least amount of time with the lowest overhead. The result is poor execution, inferior implementation, cut corners, and, ultimately, a worse product.
Another unfortunate casualty in these instances is customer service. Due to the ever-increasing demand to meet sales quotas, the business’ sales reps use aggressive tactics to both keep their existing clients and squeeze as much money out of them before the inevitable end as possible.
The packages that these directory publishers offer are quite appealing to small businesses for a number of reasons. The first is the promise of unmatched local advertising. The assertion is that since they’ve been in the business of local print advertising for decades, they can get your business more leads. The truth is that these publishers are more often than not out of touch with what it really takes to build a business’ online presence. Your site will have shoddy optimization at best, lacking some of the most basic SEO practices—like a sitemap, for example—and sporting things like vaguely relevant page titles.
Directory publishers will also promise a site that “looks great.” While their sites have surely become better looking over the years, a quick glance at some current examples shows the extremely wide range of quality in their designs. The problem goes beyond aesthetics, with mass-produced sites built with little regard to user experience. Even if you do end up with a nice looking site, it could very well be poorly laid out and confusing for potential customers. Usability is directly linked to a user’s willingness to explore and interact with the site and to eventually purchase your product or service.
Finally, there’s the appeal of an “all-in-one web solution.” Something that can be set up and run without you having to worry about it—all you do is pay a monthly price and the customers start flowing in. There are a great number of problems with their version of an all-in-one web solution. The biggest problem is their idea of SEO services. To say they barely scrape the surface of optimization is an understatement. Their sites can be so poorly structured as to be detrimental to their own rankings, with deep-rooted issues such as missing 301 redirects for www versus non-www links.
Another problem is the cost. There are a number of articles online outlining how certain directory publishers overcharge, nickel and dime, and straight-up scam their clients. Small businesses end up paying hundreds of dollars a month (and in some cases much more) for services that they didn’t want, they didn’t need, and that aren’t effective in the slightest. For example, more often than not directory publishers purchase and retain the rights to your website’s domain name. Getting them to give it up if you want to leave could cost you extra. In reality, you don’t own the site—you’re just renting it.
Preying on Customers
Finally, there’s the pervasive idea that a website = more customers, which these publishers take full advantage of. These days, having a website means next to nothing if it’s not designed, built, and optimized properly, on top of having fresh, relevant content. A website is not a tool to magically make more customers appear; a website is a medium through which your business is represented online and in which tools and techniques are actively employed to attract new customers and keep loyal customers. An effective website is a constant process, built upon over time to serve your needs and the needs of your customers.
Above all, a website is a direct representation of your business. Today, it is likely the first thing every potential customer will see pertaining to your business. It’s your chance to make an impression, and studies show that you have mere seconds to do so. We implore you: don’t leave all of this in unqualified hands. But don’t take our word for it, either. Do some Google searches to see what you can learn about these directory publishers’ web development services. Read the articles and the customer reviews, then make an informed decision about who should be building and maintaining your website.
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