Yellow Pages partnering with Google Adwords – What’s the catch?

Yesterday I had a phone call from a Sensis call centre in Melbourne. The genuinely friendly Aussie on the line was offering me an amazing opportunity to achieve top ranking every time someone searched for a marketing consultant on Google.

I held my tongue between my teeth. I was of course itching to talk about how Yellow Pages publications are now the medium for less than 20% of people searching for a local business compared to more than 75% just five years ago, but of course this wouldn’t interest a guy trying to earn a crust in a call centre.

So now Yellow Pages has teamed up with the very organisation which has stolen its multi-billion dollar business from under its collective noses. Of course I wanted to hear more.

The script read by the Aussie (I’m assuming it wasn’t an operator from the sub-continent who’d received intensive training by watching Neighbours) breathlessly informed me that my website would be listed in the top three appearances for a search of any one of 100 key words. All I had to do was sign up for a six month contract at $110 per month.

We ended up spending quite a while on the phone. I asked numerous questions which weren’t mentioned in the training manual the very patient operator had in from of him, so he had to turn to his supervisor a few times and ring back with more information a little later. Poor guy had probably had half a day’s training on Google Adwords before being told to get some customers.

Eventually I was able to dig out the key points of the offer for the benefit of you, my valued reader.

What Yellow Pages DOES offer in Google Adword services

Yellow pages will run your adwords campaign for you. Their entry-level $120 per month contract (currently reduced from a minimum 24 months to six months minimum) will spend $80 of the $110 in media costs. Their “expert search engine consultant” will write your ads for you and assign 100 keywords. If the $80 doesn’t get used in a given month the remaining funds will be used in the next month’s allocation. When queried what would happen if a lot of the media revenue hadn’t been used after the contract term I was assured this would never happen. I really dispute that based on my own experience of niche businesses in a limited market like Adelaide.

Limitations Yellow Pages won’t tell you about

It took a lot of probing to learn that once you sign the contract with Yellow Pages, you get no come-back at all. If you don’t like the wording of the ads they design for you, well that’s just too bad. If you get a lot of revenue-burning clicks because of misleading keywords or inaccurate wording of your ads, there is no mechanism in place to rectify this. The only person you’ll ever be able to discuss your specific business requirements with will be the (very) inexperienced call centre operators who have probably never set up an Adword campaign in their life.

Deceptive marketing by Sensis

Seems to me that in an effort to regain some sort of revenue stream to make up for the decimation of their business has experienced over recent years, Sensis are resorting to marketing which is somewhat deceptive and is far from transparent.

The telemarketer’s script studiously avoids referring to the actual name of the product they are promoting; Adwords. In fact they appear to deliberately confuse potential customers by referring to paid search results as if they were organic search results.

They also promote their subscription service by offering features which are entirely free to anybody who signs up to Google Adwords, including Keyword Generation and campaign analytics, both of which cost Adwords customers nothing at all.

The telemarketer I spoke to also made one further significant claim which I have no way of verifying but would love to find out about. He claimed that Sensis would achieve more appearances and far better Pay Per Click rates on the Google Adwords platform compared to regular customers because of the “Premier SME Partnership” with Google. Google have stated that “all AdWords accounts have the same opportunity to achieve a high-quality performance regardless of who is managing the account”.  If anybody can offer clarification on this claim by Sensis I’d love to hear from them.

A better way

I take a very different approach with my clients. I charge my usual hourly rate to teach them how to run their own Adwords campaigns, setting up their own platform with them. In particular I show them how to test their specific market with different keywords, regularly changing the wording of their ads and measuring the results. By empowering my clients to learn how to run this very effective advertising medium themselves, they may pay a little more up-front, but they will learn how to achieve far better results over the longer term.


I have just received a very kind email from Karen, BDM from ReachLocal in Brissie. She has clarified an important point:

“No partner receives a discount of any kind from Google for being a premier partner. There is no cheaper cost per click and the technology they are using is a simple Adwords campaign.”

Thanks Karen!

2014-02-24T11:34:26+00:00 By |

About the Author:

Mark Gibbs has broad experience as a marketing manager and graphic designer. He holds an MBA with a marketing specialisation. Mark runs a consultancy called MadLab: The Marketing And Design Laboratory. Based in Adelaide, he operates around Australia.

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