If you're a small local business with a website there's a good chance you've heard from any number of online lead gen services specializing in local business online advertising. And there's an equally good chance that it was either Yodle or ReachLocal that contacted you. Both companies are growing and have acquired some serious funding in the last few years, and from what we can tell, both are employing some pretty aggresive sales tactics. While we're sure that there are a great number of companies out there having success while working with these services, we want to offer caution based on the feedback we've heard from several home performance companies that have worked with Yodle or ReachLocal with mixed results.
How They Work
Both Yodle & ReachLocal follow a pretty basic process when you sign up with them, at least in the home performance field. They develop a 2nd website for your company that they control, either on a subdomain or on a completely separate domain name. That site will either be a carbon copy of your existing site or a unique and unbranded site designed to target local searchers. The reason for this is so that they can completely control the traffic coming into the site without having access to your "real" website. The new site has a different phone number and other contact form so that these companies can track the number of leads that they generate. Once that site is created they proceed to drive traffic to it from what primarily seems like Google AdWords and other paid search platforms like banner display ads & retargeting services. In some cases they may also use some local SEO efforts but at the end of the day the tactics they employ are the ones we write about all the time on this blog.
Do they Work for Home Performance Companies?
Well - maybe. Honestly the results we've heard about in the home performance world have been mixed at best. In some cases there are companies getting a decent volume of calls but they lead quality isn't great. In other cases the number of leads or contacts they receive is low and the people calling and emailing aren't even interested in home performance related services. I won't go so far as to say they never work in this category, but if they are, we haven't heard about it here.
3 Reasons to Be Cautious
My first issue with these services is the 2nd website they build. I understand why they do it and I'm sure it makes sense for them from a business process standpoint. But what stands out to me as a major drawback of these services is that whatever efforts they employ to build up your web presence and drive traffic to you is directed to this second clone or unbranded site and not to your main site. This seems like a major problem to me because you will only benefit from what they are doing as long as you keep paying them. If you decide to part ways or try something else or need to reduce your marketing budget you'll be right back where you were before you engaged with one of these services. Building up your real and primary site is always better than focusing on 2nd or 3rd websites.
Secondly, where the money you are spending with these companies is going is pretty opaque from what I can tell. They each charge some up front fee and then an additional monthly cost going forward, and the amount of that that goes to them as payment for services vs how much is spent on driving clicks to your site is not clear. With that being the case their strongest incentive is to drive the cheapest possible traffic, not necessarily the best converting traffic.
Finally and perhaps most importantly, from what I can tell they don't treat a home performance company much (if at all) differently from any other home contractor or remodeler. This is possibly the biggest drawback and problem, and probably why many of the leads they send to you are not looking for home performance related services. Energy efficiency is your differentiator and what makes home performance compainies special - leaving that out of your marketing efforts or going after people who aren't interested in that aspect of home improvement is ineffecient at best and a total waste at worst.
If any home performance companies have worked with Yodle or ReachLocal or any of the many other local lead gen services out there and had success I'd be very interested in hearing about it in the comments. And if you're thinking about working with one of them already I hope you've come away with some good questions to ask them about how they will do what they plan to do and how they will make sure your positioning in home performance is incorporated into those efforts.