Do Google Local Service Ads spell the death of Yell?

Since the demise of the Yellow Pages, Google has played the role of both Yell’s oppressor and its saviour.

Had Google never existed, Yell might still have some use as a local business directory. With Google, Yell had an opportunity to sell Google advertising to its customers.

Yell is now almost wholly dependent on Google to drive traffic to the website. It is also heavily reliant on the fees it charges small businesses for managing their Google advertising and SEO.

Google Local Service Ads

In December 2020, Google launched Local Service Ads in the UK after successfully trialling the product in the US. Google Local Service Ads are designed for local business such as locksmiths, plumbers and electricians.

When a searcher looks for one of these services in their area, Google now displays a panel of approved professionals whose service is guaranteed by Google. This guarantee means that if the customer isn’t satisfied with the quality of the work, they will be reimbursed by Google (up to £1,500).

These Local Service Ads are displayed prominently in the highest position of the search results and include the business’ contact details, reviews and trading hours.

There is little doubt that with the prominence given to these ads and the guarantee from Google, they will become the primary method for UK customers to find a local business.

Better still, the business owner only pays per lead, not per click. If their ad doesn’t generate genuine customer enquiries, it will cost them nothing. The business owner can easily manage the ads themselves without paying a management fee to any third party.

Once fully rolled out, this new Google service is likely to have consequences for all established directory sites such as CheckaTrade, My Builder, TrustaTrader etc.

So, where does this leave Yell?

With the launch of Google’s Local Service Ads, Yell is likely to find it much harder to convince small business owners to use Yell to advertise on Google. The directory will also continue to see a significant drop in organic traffic. This will effectively leave Yell with only two viable products left to sell:

Social Media advertising
Local business advertising on Facebook, Instagram etc. is generally poor at generating enquiries. When people look for a local tradesperson on Facebook, they tend to seek recommendations from a Facebook community group. Promoting a business within these groups is free and doesn’t usually require any professional support.

Yell Websites
Yell charges £700 for a basic 10-page website plus monthly fees of approximately £100. Business owners can easily create a similar website with Wix or SquareSpace for approximately £18 per month with no setup fee. In fact, Yell will soon be offering Wix websites to its customers.

Yell is a company riddled with debt. It is already losing 30-40% of its customers every year. The launch of Google’s Local Service Ads will only hasten the demise of a business that no longer serves any useful purpose.

There may be a few categories of business that are not currently served by Google Local Service ads. However, local service professionals make up the vast majority of Yell’s customers. Once they are lost to Google, Yell will have no viable market left to serve.

If you are a local service business still using Yell, you may wish to consider Google’s Local Service Ads. You are likely to generate far more leads and at a much lower cost than you currently do with Yell.

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