Rants

On-Line Yellow Pages

More Trouble than They Are Worth?

October 6, 2010

On-line business directories and internet yellow pages seem like a good idea, but are they really worth it? How much do they help? How much do they hurt?

The Concept

Well, the concept seems pretty good. List businesses by ZIP or postal code, or by city and state (or district, county, or whatever), or list business by region, and allow people on the internet to find businesses in their area, even if those businesses don't have a web site. In fact, most of these sites are better at this than local chambers of commerce. (Hey chambers, get with the program and start promoting your member businesses!)

In addition, these on-line yellow pages sites are usually searchable by company name and region, and sometimes even phone number. These internet local business directories are also usually browsable by business category and/or region.

A lot of these internet yellow pages sites are set up so that users can post reviews and ratings on businesses they have done business with, to either encourage or discourage people from using those businesses in the future.

The Good

So, it's a neat concept. There's got to be some good coming out of this, then.

And there is. There are many of these sites out there that will help you find a business, or find businesses in your area providing the type of product or service you are looking for. Really, this works a lot like a yellow pages in a printed phone book, though some people find it easier to search on a web page than the flip through pages in a book...

Just as with a printed yellow pages, once you have found a business in one of these on-line business directories, you can contact the business. Usually phone number, street address, email address, mailing address, and web address are provided, giving you several different ways you can contact these businesses. Of course, not all listings have all the different contact information, but there should be something. If not, once you have a name, check in the phone book and see what you can find. (In fact, once you find a listing, you probably want to check in the phone book or some other reliable resource before actually trying to make contact with the business you found.

In addition, once you have found a listing on an on-line yellow pages site, you can often read reviews from other customers, and post your own reviews of a business you have done business with. These reviews, both good and bad, can help you - or whoever comes after you - make a more educated decision about who you want to do business with.

The Bad

Well, one of the biggest concerns is that many of these internet business directories (not all of them, but many of them) are run by some not-so-ethical people, who are just looking for email addresses to send the newest "Buy our rat-poison-based fake V|@gra from our Canadian pharmacy based in Russia with a Chinese web address and American owners" spam to a hundred ties a day; or even just to send seven emails a week about the completely worthless, meaningless, useless, and unhelpful goings-on at Merchant Circle. Either way, you want to be very careful about which, if any, of these on-line business directory sites you submit your email address to. Reading their privacy policies is a good start, but remember, there isn't really anything binding about a privacy policy. good businesses will comply with their privacy policy, but unethical businesses post their privacy policies (usually pretty good sounding ones, too) and then just ignore them...

From a business standpoint, there are some issues with these sites as well. The most obvious of which is bad reviews. There will be honest bad reviews, and then there will be the odd tirades about incompetent staff and horrible messes. I believe most internet readers are getting used to seeing these reviews, and are learning to separate wht wheat from the chaff and make informed decisions based on these reviews. In general, the more reviews, the better, because then the less accurate reviews will be overwhelmed with more honest information. Also, many of these internet yellow pages sites will allow the business owner to respond to individual reviews. sometimes these responses can be helpful, but other times they will just make the business sound like it's run by grovelling idiots and can actually compound the harm of a bad review.

Another issue with these business review sites is that they can have a diluting effect on your business name. The more of these sites your business is listed in, the harder it may actually be for a internet user to actually find your own web site. This is more true the more of these sites have incomplete listings, or that hide the links they provide in the listing. This puts you, as a business owner, at an impasse: do you try logging in and editing your listings and risk getting even more spam, or do you leave them alone? Some of these sites offer an option to remove a listing (but this may not be permanent), but this often requires you to create an account with them, and expose yourself to the possible spam threat...

Another issue that can come up from these sites is the quality of information they provide. Many of these sites are getting information from other internet business directories, old business records, old telephone records, or who knows where that these places have decided is part of the public record. This can lead to your business being listed with an outdated - or impossible address, an incorrect phone number, or some other piece of invalid information. Unfortunately, once one of these directories gets inaccurate information on your business, it can take weeks, months, or years to get it corrected.

The Incompetence and Arrogance

Yeah, once one of these directories gets inaccurate information on your business, it can take weeks, months, or years to get it corrected - and all that while it can be spreading like an undetected cancer throughout the internet, so just when you think you have the last vestiges corrected or removed, you encounter a brand new handful. And it doesn't help that many of these internet yellow pages sites just aren't interested in publishing accurate information or providing a good customer experience, they're just interested in using your business information to sell advertising or to sell their other services.

Some of these services don't want to correct inaccurate information. Yodle Local, for example, when you fill out their form to complain about them having information that never could have been correct published, will have a sales person call you to try to sell you on their advertising. The sales person will have no idea that they are responding to a complaint. Now, the sales person will tell you that they are passing your information on to someone who can correct the information, but weeks later this still won't be done. Yodle Local goes out of their way to hide any contact information on their site, indicating that the only way to contact Yodle Local is through the Contact Yodle Local form, which just gets you a sales call - with no concept that someone could be complaining about Yodle Local's incredibly poor service. you can actually get a hold of their office that cares in New York, but you have to call the parent company and complain. Once you do this, you actually can start to get information corrected, but it's still a several week process.

Other sites, like B2BYellowPages are so grossly incompetent that their only response from their support staff is that they have absolutely no way to edit any of the information on their site. Seriously. Rather than take it upon themselves after repeated complaints about inaccurate information (or, if they were professional and/or competent, after the first complaint) to contact their data supplier and notify them of the incorrect information to get that false information removed, they put the burden on the person or business a bout whom they are publishing false information to address it. Look. It's not my fault, you're publishing this false information, you correct it. It's one thing to have a policy to not remove reviews or comments unless they are profane, threaten violence, or otherwise illegal, but be unwilling to remove FALSE information from your own web site is unprofessional and to be unable to remove FALSE information from your own web site is just incompetent. I would strongly discourage anyone from doing business with B2BYellowPages, because if they can't even figure out how to get correct information on their site - or at least get incorrect information off of their site, who knows what they'll do to completely bungle whatever service they may be performing for your business...

GetFave is another business of questionable competence. They have a contact form on their site, but complaints sent in through this form about incorrect or fabricated information published on their web site is ignored. Repeated complaints are ignored. Requests for information about the sources of the falsified information that GetFave is publishing are ignored. However, calling GetFave and bitching about being ignored does get results. Their staff is not interested in correcting the information, but they will remove the listing which contains false information. It just takes some pushing to even get that... Again, as with B2BYellowPages, I would strongly discourage everyone from doing any form of business with GetFave. If they are this uninterested in making sure their own information is correct, what are they going to do with your information? And if they ignore complaints, what should you expect when you complain about them bungling whatever they were supposed to do for you?

Localeze is one of the sources for a lot of this business listing data. Localeze is used by a lot of these internet yellow pages sites as the core of their listing information. Localeze, however, has its own problems. Localeze claims that they have the most strenuous checking, re-checking, and then confirming process for any data before they allow the data out into their networks. Not only do they supposedly check the validity of the sources of their information, but they check the information itself. Wow! That sounds great. Unfortunately, Locleze is the source of invalid information for these other sites. And Localeze is nearly as bad as B2BYellowPages for getting information corrected. Localeze support staff will admit that their "Correct Address or Phone Number" function doesn't actually correct anything, but instead creates a new record, but will expect you to believe that the other functionality on their site will work - and, again, the staff at Localeze is not interested in providing accurate information, or having people happy with Localeze. In fact, they seem to suffer from the delusion that since information is published by Localeze it is correct, even when they receive a confirmation that not only is the information not correct but it never could have been correct, and never could have been gathered from any legitimate source. Localeze fabricates at least some of their data, and makes no efforts in these cases (obviously) to check, re-check, or confirm that the information is accurate - they just send it out to their partners. When Localeze receives complaints about their information being inaccurate, their attitudes is "tough, just deal with it," rather than the professional, "lets get it corrected, then" attitude of a more legitimate data provision business. As with GetFave and B2BYellowPages, I would discourage anyone from doing business with Localeze.