Expert Opinion

Have you been yelled? Where good intentions can go horribly wrong

Recently several clients contacted us about some strange goings on. They had been alerted to the fact that a domain name with their business in it and a web page with incorrect information about their business was showing up in the search engines. Could we get to the bottom of it?

So we had a look, and yes, an unprofessional, inaccurate webpage was showing on a url with the clients name and location. There was a phone number on the page, but it wasn’t theirs, however it did redirect to the client when we rang it?

A check in the source code of the web page also showed tracking code for someone’s analytics…..

Next we searched on nominet and discovered that yell.com had registered these domains! So we sent a tweet into the twittosphere to see how many others had been affected and received feedback that many businesses across the country were also suffering the same embarrassment.

A few days later we had a phone call someone in yell.com’s customer service department who had been tasked to explain what was going on. It seems that yell.com offers a free service to people advertising on yell.com whereby they will buy a domain name, put up a webpage and gather statistics to help with your organic search engine rankings.  Great! you might think, and it could have been, BUT, and this is a big but, what yell have failed to understand is that by doing this they have completely undermined the clients brand.  If the yell.com domain ranks higher than the clients official web page and a potential customer clicks on it, they would be completely turned off by the appalling webpage that they landed on. What happens to the potential customer then? They go elsewhere, so although the intention from yell was to generate traffic and sales leads, it’s actually damaging the clients business both financially and from a branding point of view.

Take a look for yourself.  Here’s yell.com’s idea of ‘ professional’ web design page

Here’s the page they put up for one of our clients: www.primoordohaverhill.co.uk

and here’s the official clients website: www.primoordo.com

Now you think that’s bad? It gets worse.

None of the people who contacted us knew these pages even existed. Yell.com’s customer service explained that at the time of signing up for advertising the yell.com rep would have “clearly explained in detail the seo web page offering to the customer” . Well clearly, they didn’t!

Here’s some of the comments we had back when we asked if the rep had clearly explained;
“I do recall the rep saying something about extra web pages”
“I was under the impression that these were the pages that I can alter myself when I click on my listing on Yell.com (it says ‘more’ or something like that, next to the listings) – I can add photos etc to them apparently. I’ve had a look at them and assumed they were what he meant.”
“I had no idea it was a separate website in my name”

The terms of their SEO WEB PAGE offer is in full on their website here:
http://www.yelldirect.com/SEOwebpagerates/home.html

Our attention was particularly drawn to clause 4. which states:
“We will notify you of the Domain Name applicable to your SEO Web Pages. It is your responsibility to check that your SEO Web Pages are accurate and comply with Yell’s New Media Advertising Conditions. You are solely responsible for all your advertised services and products. If your SEO Web Pages contain one or more errors, you can request corrections to the following by contacting our customer services team during Business Hours on 0800 777 485 or emailing us on service@yellgroup.com quoting your account number:”

Talk about an abdication of responsibility! So we checked, did any of the people who had contacted us been notified so they could do something about it? And yes, you guessed it, not a single one.

“I’ve had no notification about this page being live – the 1st I knew was when I found it in a listing and sent it to you! A lot of the stuff is incorrect on it.”

But don’t panic, you can get it corrected. Here’s what to do.

So we suggest that if you are advertising with Yell.com then check your business now!

How to check:
1. Go to the official registration body Nominet’s website: http://www.nominet.org.uk
2. On the right hand side in the ‘WHOIS’ box type in the domain using this format:
[yourcompanyname][yourtown].co.uk

e.g. if your company was called ‘HIREMEE’ and you are based in ‘ROYSTON’ you would type in the box “hiremeeroyston.co.uk”

3. If your domain has been registered then you’ll see the registrant listed as YELL LIMITED.

4. Now take a deep breath, and type the url with the www prefix into your web browser. (e.g. www.hiremeeroyston.co.uk)

What are your options?

Well, you can get the page amended as per clause 4 in Yell.com’s terms above so contact customer services on 0800 777 485 or email service@yellgroup.com with your account number.

Or you can ask them to remove it altogether and we suggest that you request they forward the domain they have bought to your official webpage.  The email address is: seowebpages@yellgroup.com

Do let us know how you get on. And we hope that you’ve not been ‘yelled’!

What can public relations do for my business?

Public Relations or PR is completely different to advertising but each has its place in the marketing strategy. The key difference is the way in which the audience perceives the information presented to them.

For example, when you see a press or TV advertisement you know the ad has been paid for and that the company is trying to sell to you. However, when you read articles written by a third party you’re seeing something that hasn’t been paid for and subsequently view it as either an endorsement or are interested in the opinion it expresses.

It’s not all about stories, but for starters, how can you tell if your company has stories worthy of undertaking a public relations campaign?

Newsworthiness can be a particularly tricky issue for many businesses, after all what might seem like the biggest piece of news your company has to offer, may pale in comparison to what will actually get featured in the press.

As a rule of thumb most editors will look to see if a story covers any number of these seven points:

Timeliness: time is of the essence, no one wants to hear about old news.

Prominence: does it feature a well-known company or person?

Proximity: is your story relevant locally or nationally?

Human interest: Does your story involve or have an impact on people, especially in regard to charities or other good causes.

Impact: does your story have any consequences or significance to the publications readers?

Conflict: Ethical or physical clashes are always evident in the news, whether it be war or a hostile merger.

Uniqueness: does your story feature something never seen or heard of before?

Whether your company has stories that adhere to any of these points or not, we have many tactics to generate news when your business has none. One of the more successful strategies is to develop a corporate social responsibility programme; dedicating time and money to your local community, a charity or other non-profit organisation. If undertaken correctly this provides a strong human interest story and reflects the socially aware ethics of your business.

Care needs to be taken that this is not just developed as a PR stunt but actually has substance and is relevant to your business.

Every organisation has a message to deliver and an audience to reach and time after time public relations has proven to be an effective way to do this. Image and reputation remains paramount to any business and for this reason PR should be an essential part of any company’s marketing plan.

As you sit and read about the success of another ‘specialist’ entering the marketplace or your competitor commenting on the latest industry news, do you question why it’s not you making the news?