Yodle is an online marketing company that advertises for small, local businesses. It was recently ranked ninth on Forbes‘s list of “America’s Most Promising Companies.” From a financial standpoint, that’s probably accurate. But when viewed through the lens of the online advertising industry, does it actually live up to its promise? In this edition of “Prospect Genius Reviews…,” we’ll dive into Yodle’s business practices and client reviews to find out.
Yodle was founded in 2005 under the name “NatPal.” In 2007, it focused its online marketing services on local businesses and changed its name to Yodle. Like many online advertising companies, it offers a combination of services for web presence, paid search, SEO, and social media.
Unfortunately, there are some very negative reviews of Yodle online from past clients. Now, our caveat with online review sites is that they’re biased toward consumers and prone to negativity, so we take everything we read on these sites with a grain of salt. With that being said, there’s a significant number of past Yodle clients who echo the same complaints: Yodle’s sales tactics are too aggressive, it over-promises and under-delivers, and it often sends incorrect leads. We won’t go as far as posting excerpts from consumer complaints against one of our competitors, but you can take a look at MyThreeCents.com, SiteJabber.com, and RipoffReport.com if you’d like to read them yourself.
According to the Better Business Bureau (BBB), there have been 179 complaints against Yodle in the last three years— the majority of which have to do with advertising and sales issues. The report states:
During the sales presentations, a few customers said they were told by staff about a guarantee of results from using the company services. Many of the complaints submitted to BBB about Yodle focus on the poor performance of the services they signed up and paid for, such as lack of leads, no increase in web traffic, or incorrect leads/calls routed to their company.
The “guarantee” mentioned in the report is particularly poignant because we know firsthand that there can be no guarantees when it comes to online advertising. There are too many variables at play, including keywords, targeted search terms, and accuracy of information— not to mention Google’s ever-changing algorithms— to predict when and how any given marketing campaign will reach its peak. If it’s true that Yodle is guaranteeing results— whether it’s page-one ranking on Google or a certain number of leads per month— then we’re inclined to be a little suspicious of its sales tactics.
See also: Page One Guarantee? No, Thanks.
Furthermore, we’ve heard firsthand accounts from some of our current clients who used to work with Yodle. They tell us that Yodle led them to believe they were signing up for a full lead-generation package when it turned out that they had merely signed up for a basic “starter” package (which involves launching a site and claiming a Google Maps listing only). As you can guess, they started getting upset when virtually zero leads came in.
Yodle’s unfounded guarantee, combined with its allegedly aggressive (and misleading) sales pitches, is most likely what’s leading business owners to sign up for Yodle’s services before they’re ready. That explains the dissatisfaction many clients are reporting. In fact, the BBB’s file on Yodle confirms this: “Consumers are telling BBB about high pressure sales tactics from Yodle, Inc. sales staff, who allegedly try to coerce new customers to sign up before they fully understand the services they will get.”
As an online advertising company ourselves, we make it a point never to guarantee results and never to pressure any business owner into signing up. We’ve found that when clients don’t completely grasp what they’re signing up for, their confusion often turns into frustration. We tell our prospects, very straightforwardly, that our lead generation services are a long-term investment, requiring patience at the beginning of the campaign while their web presence gradually ramps up. We feel that if we didn’t do that, we would be misleading our customers.
WhileÂ we’re on the subject of straightforwardness— or lack thereof— let’s look at how Yodle handles their pay-per-click (PPC) clients. Yodle doesn’t tell their PPC clients how their monthly bills are broken down. That means clients give Yodle a certain amount of money each month but have no idea what percentage goes toward their Google AdWords budget and what percentage goes to Yodle. It should break down to 70% going to Google and 30% going to the advertising provider, but there’s no way for clients to know. They’re left wondering how much of their $1,000 monthly bill is actually getting put into their PPC campaign and how much is going right into Yodle’s pockets. (For the record, Prospect Genius maintains full transparency in our PPC campaigns. We always charge $100 per ad group, per month, no matter what a client’s click budget is.)
It’s easy to see how Yodle manages to consistently sign up new clients and grow its business financially. But we believe that customer satisfaction and retention are the best measures of an effective online advertising company, and that’s why Prospect Genius reviews Yodle with suspicion, if not full-on negativity.
Next time, “Prospect Genius Reviews…” will discuss the benefits of Facebook Pages for Businesses.