SmallBusinessShift ponders the challenges of scaling an ambitious SMB SEM play:

It’s not that Yext is a scam, although they do have some problems. The bigger issue is that there’s a communication and expectations gap when it comes to these big marketing companies and the businesses they’re serving.

  • Yext, Yodle, etc. all have lots of venture dollars and high attrition rates. The only way to hit their targets is to aggressively acquire new customers.
  • There are a lot of channels available for marketing online. It can get complex, and is often not explained well enough to the business owner (even assuming the salesperson really understands what they’re selling).
This one pretty much hits the nail on the head:

The problem seems to largely stem from the fact that most of these salespeople are working for a commission, and business owners are hesitant to commit their money to an untested venue/provider. Therefore, the pitch is all about bringing in no-risk leads.

Definitely worth a read.

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30 Response Comments

  • Chris Reilly  April 21, 2010 at 11:24 pm

    Here’s the thing… signing up new customers is easy, especially given the promise of a squeaky clean lead source. Keeping them is far more difficult, yet so much more valuable. A 10% bump in client retention for these SMB lead gen services would be like adding another month’s worth of new biz…

    Assuming the product cannot be improved, the way to improve client retention is to SET BETTER EXPECTATIONS. Ironically, underselling the service is more likely to make business owners A. believe you and B. stick with you.

    I would venture to say that the majority of SMBs in verticals that have large yellow page ads have been “promised the world” by an internet ad opportunity, and felt burned by the experience. I sincerely hope for our industry that the Yexts, YP.coms, and Reach Locals of the world start to sell a realistic and holistic vision of lead gen- so the whole concept of local online advertising doesn’t continue to get a sullied reputation.

  • Nolan  April 22, 2010 at 3:23 am

    “There are a lot of channels available for marketing online. It can get complex, and is often not explained well enough to the business owner (even assuming the salesperson really understands what they’re selling).”

    The depth of information required of a small business owner to understand the expectations, implications and long/short term benefits of marketing online is too vast for the approaches being taken by these “big” companies.

    The business owner must be engaged in the process and open to modifying business practices to integrate with the online world.

    If not, you just get directory listings, non-performing ppc and unsatisfied customers with buyers remorse

  • M Burke  April 27, 2010 at 3:59 pm

    I just wrote a blogpost on ReachLocal cause I’ve had to field some comments from friends regarding their services.
    I’ve had only a fantastic, professional quality experience with my rep and her team. As a medium-sized company, we don’t have the resources to have someone manage our Internet advertising constantly, ReachLocal does this providing easy access to the data, and it’s confirmed through Google analytics. I especially appreciate the phone-call recording that they bring to every call that is made through their listings.
    Feel free to drop by my site and comment if you want.

    Does anyone have a good resource for SEO?

  • David  May 4, 2010 at 6:29 am

    We’ve been using yext for the last few months with mixed reviews. We have had some calls come through that are looking for our product but we’ve also had a lot that are solicitors or wrong numbers and then i have to apply for a credit and constantly watch my account for these calls. They are working on weeding out the bad calls before they even get billed but we’ll see. They are also changing their structure for our industry to bill $65 for good calls which is really high especially since we have yet to close a job from these calls. The people that do call are mostly looky-loos looking for cheap prices in my opinion.I don’t think it’s a scam necessarily but may not be the most effective way to advertise.

  • Andrew Shotland  May 4, 2010 at 12:31 pm

    Readers, you must check out David’s site.

  • Chris Reilly  May 4, 2010 at 12:44 pm

    Wow. I… wow.

    M Burke, for local SEO, try Andrew!

  • John  June 19, 2010 at 3:07 pm is a real life scam organization. Don’t get involved with these people………. you will live to regret it.

  • Jennifer Nelson  July 10, 2010 at 9:18 pm

    Stopped by looking for good Local SEO advice. Definitely found it here- and I did take a look at David’s website- all I can say is, well I’m just speechless really!

  • Former Yext User  July 15, 2010 at 2:44 pm

    We used yext for about 1 year and eventually cancelled. They actually started out pretty good by advertising our company on their site. And only charging us for the number of jobs we got, NOT the number of calls. They then began hijacking our ads on other sites like superpages and yahoo local. After they had hijacked the other internet sites they start charging for every phone call with no mechanism to request credit for bad calls. This is a copyright violation, and should be investigated. Yext has destroyed our company’s online advertising.

  • robert west  August 13, 2010 at 4:53 pm

    Read the above experience (by “Former Yext User “). It is spot on.

    Our hard Internet marketing work was completely hijacked by Yext. They even changed our free Yahoo Local listing to their phone number (@$8 per call).

    Now we have to go scour the net to clean up everything that they changed.

    Don’t go near these scammers. You will lose days of your life in grief and clean up.

    Yext FRAUD SCAM.

  • robert west  August 13, 2010 at 4:57 pm

    Oh, and Andrew Shotland…

    I don’t know if you’re shilling for Yext, but you should look into what they’re doing to their customers (i.e. hijacking existing web advertising).

    I’m looking into whether they are breaking laws by “changing” our own listings (rather than just creating new ones, which is what they should be doing).

  • Andrew Shotland  August 13, 2010 at 6:28 pm

    Hey Robert,

    I am not shilling for Yext.

    Re the practice of switching out phone numbers, it’s a not uncommon tactic. There’s no law being broken that I know of. No site has a legal obligation to display your correct phone number.

    The best way to keep control of your phone number on other sites is to claim your listing, and in some cases sign up for a premium listing.

  • Steve West  August 17, 2010 at 8:11 am

    Reach Local is terrible:

    Here’s my first month: Didn’t use my ads. They made their own which would have been OK if they didn’t completely misrepresent what we do. That ran for a while before I figured that out. Then their results were so pathetic that they didn’t use our parameters for distance and went out 60 miles when people are only going to come in for approx 10 miles around us.

    I was doing this on my own before I figured that I would go with a professional. Here’s the results: cost/click went up with Reach Local by 63%. Impressions went down by 64%. Visits to my site went down by 33%. The calls I did get averaged over 30 miles away. Remember only 10 miles or less gets me business.

    Completely thievery. A neophyte shouldn’t be able to beat the pros like this. That only leaves one thing. Incompetence.

  • Paul Hersh  August 20, 2010 at 9:39 am

    Yext sucks! There customer service is horrible! Tried them out for 6 months or so. Some of the calls were ligament. However, most were not. I just receive a call from a client through my Google search. This same client was shopping around and called me back from the Yext number. The recording clearly stated he called me earlier under my direct line. I call Yext customer service to get a credit on this call.

    There response;

    “As mentioned in the email we sent on 8/4, we are no longer crediting for calls.

    We spent several months talking to customers and studying our service to find what our clients liked most, and least, about the service. One overwhelming piece of feedback that we heard was that requesting and handling credits was time-consuming and a hassle. Based on that feedback, we came up with our new Pay-For-Calls model with the goal of giving you your time back and making our service easier to use. We removed the ability to receive credits, and while we can’t promise that we will filter out all calls that aren’t directly relevant to your business (computers aren’t perfect after all), we have lowered the price to offset these changes.”

    I was asked, “well your making money on the other calls, right?’ This is totally BS! They charged me $30 for a call that was from my client, calling there number by mistake. I canceled with Yext immediately!

    To all out there, BEWARE! You would think in today’s economy customer service would be a priority?

  • Matt Gardiner  December 1, 2010 at 3:00 pm

    They out right just robbed me of $200. My corporate franchise would not allow us (small franchise)to advertise with them ….unfortunately I got the memo an hour to late from corporate. I had signed up with them the same day and had given them my credit card (huge mistake) I received an email from corporate an hour later after I set everything up with them. They took my ad down off there site immediately. But refuse to give me back my $200. The ad was not even up there a few hour’s . It was not up there for a week or 3 weeks…it was taken down the same day within hours after I started the process….the company doesn’t understand small business and what a small amount of money means to us. I hope any small business understands who there dealing with …There is no negotiating with them over a small amount of money that they want to steel from a very small business. I wonder what would have happened if it were a big company???

  • Pavlicko  January 21, 2011 at 9:49 am

    Having worked with at least a half dozen clients who’ve tried ReachLocal, I feel pretty confident calling it a scam. The best was when I checked the log files and saw they were clicking on the ads from their own offices – listening to them stumble over themselves trying to explain that was the highlight of my day.

    My advice to business owners: before signing a contract with any of these ‘mega’ providers, try running an adwords campaign on your own – throw a hundred bucks into it (only costs $5 to setup) and play around with it for a few weeks to a month – just enough to get familiar with it…that way you won’t fall for their crap excuses when they start explaining where your budget went.

  • Ewan Kennedy  February 8, 2011 at 11:59 am

    Hi Andrew.

    Today I find myself defending an attempt by Reach Local to poach one of my customers. So I started to google “reach local” and Google’s search suggestions did the rest. Thanks G, as always! Third in the list of suggestions in the drop down box was “reach local scam”. On accepting that, up you popped number 8 (in with all these tales of woe (except for M Burke’s who didn’t say why he formed the view he did).

    In the complex world of online marketing, there will never be a shortage of people that can be enticed by the hollow promises of snake oil salesmen.

    A short post but one which provoked some very useful reactions.

  • attorneydavid  June 26, 2011 at 5:13 pm

    I do alot of SEO for business. I never figured out ppc so I talked to a number of people including y-dle about it. The big red flag is they won’t tell you their take on the ad spend. PPC is hypercompetitive and barely profitable even with great lead followup for lawyer. (this make sense if you realize there’s millions of venture capital hiring people to cold call lawyers to spend on PPC. )

    For seo i’ve heard horror stories about about these kind of services one guy spend 9k for 40 links showing up in YSE. He did get a refund though.

    The only good stories usually involve niche businesses where there’s not alot of competitions driving down the ROI so any online presence is logically beneficial.

  • locoal.yoddle  October 24, 2011 at 7:43 am

    Have you seen how yoddle also spams the hell out of local.yoddle for it’s customers. We saw 10 pages of listing in under one month. not only do I recommend reporting these pages to google as spam I would also wonder if they do it like this so when someone cancels they can remove all the pages in one click or if they leave this horrible mess out there to hurt you.

  • Alex Kush  April 23, 2012 at 10:46 am

    Hi Andrew,
    Couple days ago I was approached by Yodle sales person to promote my website for $176 per month, so we will have prospects calling us.
    Is it a scam, and if so where I can find (local better?) a company which for reasonable flat rate will be able to employ SEO, Links, Maps, Social Networking, Press, ORM to have my company on the top spot in search engines.

    • Andrew Shotland  April 23, 2012 at 10:55 am


      I haven’t used Yodle’s service in a long time so I can’t speak to its value these days. That said, if I were you I would think about how realistic it is to expect significant results from any marketing program for $176/month. On the one hand, that can buy a decent amount of clicks from AdWords, but on the other, it’s not enough to make it worth anyone’s time to manage.

  • Sean  May 18, 2012 at 12:24 pm

    I tried ReachLocal, I was promised the world and delivered nothing. Be smart, use Goodle Adwords Express and stay away from these huge providers of nothing. I lost $2,700 in 30 days and they refused to cancel my 4 month contract. ReachLocal is not an ethical or good company to do business with .

  • Erik Kullenberg  July 3, 2013 at 9:42 am

    Wish I had found this before signing my company with Yext. Our website URLs were substituted with yext tracking URLs. Great SEO – for Yext, not me.

    • Andrew Shotland  July 3, 2013 at 9:50 am

      Hey Erik,

      Can you share with me a profile or two that’s using Yext tracking URLs? I don’t think they do this, but some of their partners such as Yahoo Local do.

  • Erik Kullenberg  July 3, 2013 at 10:04 am

    Hey Andrew. Thanks for the fast reply.

    I cancelled with Yext, but you could try the link below. Not sure how long it will be before Yext reverts the listing. Check the actual URL in the source code and you’ll see what I mean.

  • Andrew Shotland  July 3, 2013 at 10:21 am

    Hmmm. I am seeing a lot of different implementations but you may be onto something here.

    That said, the link value from these profile URLs is a lot less valuable than the citation value.

  • Aaron  August 26, 2013 at 8:42 pm

    I have a small carpet business in Fort Lauderdale. I used Yodle to handle my online advertising. I completely understand the hi-jacking they took over my Google places/+ and take credit for inbound calls that could be generated by free listings. Best solution. Go door to door and beat the internet. Paper publishers are old school scammers also. But hit the streets and get customers before they even look online.

  • Jordan  November 3, 2013 at 8:24 pm

    Time to face yext with a class-action lawsuit or bring on some heavy weight government regulation… latest victim: Mapquest free listing gone, replaced by minimum of $3/week, mapquest/yext only listing… $150 yearly just for MQ… for what used to be a basic free listing…. totally unfair, what about all those people who already have free listings? How is this fair to new businesses?

  • Ben Neil  November 9, 2013 at 4:23 pm

    Deceptive business practices and nothing they sell you on is in writing. They will not deliver even 1% of what they promise. Save your money and spend it elsewhere! I was initially told that for $1250 per month I would receive 20-30 leads per month. I shut it down after month 2 when I only received 1 phone call total even though their system shows 4 leads total. I asked for a refund of $1250 since obviously the campaign didn’t work. They even informed me that my account wasn’t spending on the PPC end. $1000 per month was allotted to this as well so technically according to what I had been told by Mark Foley in their Phoenix office I should have still had $1600 left in this account that wasn’t being used. I filed a chargeback with my bank for 1of the 2 payments,and since nothing is in writing, and I never received a written copy of the terms and conditions, I’m pretty much screwed and out all the money. Good for Yodle they have figured out a way to legally steal my money by being deceptive. I am very disappointed. I had very high hopes for this from the start. They have what seems to be a great concept and plan but it just didn’t work. I would have gladly spent 3 times this amount if it had even delivered half of what was sold to me. I should have been more careful and not trusted a publicly traded company. Shame on me I guess?

  • MA  April 24, 2014 at 5:56 pm

    I was also ripped off by Reach Local. They were deceptively pocketing an additional 50% of my marketing budget for over three years. This was $100,000 plus in advertising I never received.

    So I am now getting it back with interest

    I have started a digital marketing agency that is righting the wrongs Reach Local are guilty off by providing a transparent alternative. I have discovered how to identify each and every Reach Local client world wide current and past clients. I currently have 10,000 and will have all 25,000 current clients in a few months.

    I am looking for digital marketing partners who will help me call these clients and offer an alternative. I have been doing this in Australia with huge success. I have detailed script that works and can walk each customer through the reach local login to show them exactly how little is actually going towards Google advertising costs.