How the Yellow Pages 360° Solution Works

This is a low-level explanation of some of the finer details that are common to the "altered website" and "leads page" variants. Some of the differences will also be discussed. Yellow Pages offers other services as part of its 360° Solution; however, my clients have not utilized these services and I have no experience with said services as a result.

One of the larger concerns with the Yellow Pages 360° Solution is that much of the relevant "information" you as a business owner would require to make a more informed and intelligent decision is buried deep within the Yellow Pages 360° Solution itself. Finding this information requires multiple mouse clicks or cell phone "taps" and either a significant effort or an incredible amount of good fortune. I have compiled, organized, and explained the more pertinent details and their associated issues on this page to provide you with a clearer picture of what the Yellow Pages 360° Solution entails.

Commonalities

Alternate Phone Number

The phone number used on both variants is an alternative VoIP number supplied by a third party. Calls made to the VoIP number are logged by the third party, and the logs are sent to Yellow Pages and presented to small business owners in the form of a monthly report indicating "leads generated".

The phone calls themselves are forwarded on to your business line using a standard call forward with no indicator that the customer did not contact you via a regular company telephone number. The only clue provided is in the monthly report.

Phone Number Q&A

1. Does the small business owner get to keep the phone number?
Yellow Pages does not permit this, as Yellow Pages does not "own" the phone numbers. Since I cannot link directly to the Yellow Pages FAQ in question, I have provided a screen capture below.

Figure 1: screen capture of the FAQ indicating that Yellow Pages does not own the alternate telephone numbers.

2. Is telephone number portability (i.e. moving a number to a provider of the small business owner's choice) mandatory by law?
It appears as if telephone number portability is a CRTC requirement for competitive local exchange carriers, or CLECs. One of the third parties associated with the Yellow Pages 360° Solution is a CLEC. However, I cannot state this with absolute certainty, as I am a web developer and do not possess a legal background.

3. If I end my campaign with Yellow Pages and I can't keep the phone number, what happens when a customer calls the number?
One of two things will happen. Either the customer will hear a "number is not in service" message, or the customer will be answered by another business or individual if the phone number is recycled and assigned to another party.
Assuming the Yellow Pages campaigns are "successful", this poses a problem of increasing magnitude as websites are accessed more frequently by mobile devices that provide the capability to call and save phone numbers directly from web pages; potential customers could save the alternate phone number in their contact lists, attempt to call it back after you've ended your campaign, and be discouraged as a result.

4. Doesn't Bell own Yellow Pages and by extension the phone number?
Yellow Pages is owned by Yellow Media Ltd., a publicly traded company listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange under the symbol Y.
Bell may or may not own stock in Yellow Media Ltd., but it has not retained sole ownership of Yellow Pages itself in several years. Thus, Bell has no incentive from an ownership standpoint to supply Yellow Pages with phone numbers for marketing purposes; their incentive would be strictly based on increased revenues, as it would be with its competitors in the telecommunications industry. In this particular case, Yellow Pages has either directly or indirectly subcontracted the telephone number service itself to another provider.

5. If Bell doesn't own Yellow Pages, why do Yellow Pages charges still appear on a Bell telephone bill?
Although Yellow Pages is no longer owned by Bell, a business relationship still exists between Bell and Yellow Pages. Although I have not confirmed this, it appears that the inclusion of Yellow Pages charges on a Bell telephone bill is a part of that business relationship.

Marketing Strategy

The marketing strategy for both the "altered website" and "leads page" variants is similar in concept; they will create and manage a set of "targeted advertisements" using the advertising networks and spaces that search engines such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo! provide to users. The following screen capture indicates three potential advertising spaces from a Google search that are auctioned off to potential customers. These advertising spaces are labelled with a yellow "ad" box and represent spaces that Yellow Pages and other companies could potentially bid on to market either variant.

Figure 2: example of a potential Google "targeted advertisements" area.

Major Issues with the Marketing Strategy

Marketing strategy issues may exist that affect your individual business. This section is intended to cover a few of the major issues that affect a large percentage of small businesses.

1. You do not control when or how your "targeted advertisements" appear.
Yellow Pages indicates in the FAQ that you, the small business owner, cannot control your own advertising. The official reason is as follows:

Our search engine marketing specialists will select the best keywords and bids based on industry best practices, your business profile and campaign targets. If you want to suggest keywords, include them in the special customization notes field in the contract and they will be taken into consideration.

One of the third parties subcontracted by Yellow Pages to create the landing pages is also a search engine marketing company; since Yellow Pages works on a "white label" basis with the third party, it is likely that the third party is the company in charge of maintaining search engine marketing campaigns as well. A common practice among white label service providers is to allow their resellers to deal directly with customers without getting involved themselves; this in turn means that there is an extra layer of communication required to deliver a message to the white label provider. It appears that this is the case here, and Yellow Pages has elected not to pass on instructions and adjustments from small business owners as a result.

2. You may end up competing against your own search engine marketing campaigns.
If you engage in a search engine marketing campaign for your business website, the possibility exists that you may bid on the same ad placement as the Yellow Pages third party, thereby inflating your customer acquisition costs. If you are aware of the "competition", you may be able to remove your own bid in favour of the Yellow Pages bid; however, the Yellow Pages advertisement will direct users to a variant containing the alternative phone number if visited, which leads to the problems listed above should you wish to suspend or cancel service.

3. Seasonal businesses may have to pay for offseason traffic and "leads" that they cannot convert to sales.
From the aforementioned Yellow Pages Search Engine Marketing FAQ:

Figure 3: Yellow Pages FAQ indicating that you may purchase two six-month contracts as opposed to a full 12-month contract.

This indicates a shocking lack of flexibility and understanding of the seasonal nature of many businesses. For example, tourism-related businesses in Niagara Falls traditionally experience a peak period between June and August, when children are on summer holiday and families often plan vacations. Three months' worth of "peak period" advertisements are being purchased to "benefit" customers which are of little to no benefit to these businesses.

Differences

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

The "altered website" variant includes a file known as a robots.txt file in order to ensure that it does not get indexed by search engines. Since the domain ends with "calls.net", this does not affect your original website in any way.

The "leads page" variant does not include the aforementioned file, as it is designed to generate leads through organic search results. Organic search results are search engine results that appear underneath any advertisements on a Search Engine Results Page (SERP); they are referred to as "organic search results" because they are returned based on what a search engine algorithm naturally determines are the most relevant results, and search engines accept no forms of payment for higher organic search result placement.

The major issue with the "leads page" variant is that Yellow Pages indicates that the "leads page" content is "optimized" for search engines when it appears that said content is simply content taken from the small business owner's site and minimally edited.

An excerpt from canwestelevators.ca, a Yellow Pages lead page:

Canwest Elevator & Lifts is a full service elevator company that specializes in the installation and service of home elevators, commercial elevators, and accessibility lifts. We also provide elevator maintenance. Canwest elevators and lifts install everything from simple chair lifts to complex passenger elevators.

This excerpt appears to be a rewritten version of text contained within the Canwest Elevators "About Us" page.

Canwest Elevator & Lifts is a full service elevator and lift company that specializes in the sales, installation and service of elevating devices. We provide everything from simple residential stair-lifts to complex passenger elevators.

This can pose problems with Google in particular due to duplicate content issues. The two excerpts are appreciably similar, and there is an argument that can be made for deceiving the end user; the domains canwestelevators.ca and canwestelevators.com are very similar, and the alternative phone number is misleading since it isn't a primary business telephone number.

Website Content

You as a small business owner control the content of your "altered website" as it is displayed to your customers via the Yellow Pages third party proxy server, with the exception of the modified (subdomain).calls.net references and alternate phone number. The "leads page" is created by the Yellow Pages third party.

The Uniform Resource Locator (URL)

Uniform Resource Locator (URL) for the "altered website" begins with (subdomain).calls.net, where (subdomain) is usually similar in nature to the domain of the actual website e.g. the altered website URL for canwestelevators.com begins with canwestelevators.calls.net. The URL of the leads page begins with a domain that is similar in nature, but not exactly the same as, the domain of the actual website e.g. the leads page URL for Canwest Elevators is canwestelevators.ca as opposed to canwestelevators.com.

Does the Contract Reveal These Details?

The contracts that I have seen do not reveal any of these details. An example of a client's contract can be found here.

Last modified: October 8, 2015.

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