I had a bad experience with Auto Repair Medway and posted a critical review on Yell. This is what followed.
Above is a so-called Reviews policy from the online business directory Yell.com.
Below is an email from Akash Methre which I was not expecting to receive.
On the 29th November 2019 at 15:51 GMT, I called Auto Repair Medway in Strood, Kent to book an MOT for my car. Here’s a transcript:
"Auto Repair." "Good afternoon, my name's Alex. I'm calling to book an MOT please." "And which day?" "Uh, pardon?" [Aggressive tone] "Which day do you want to book your MOT?" "Friday the 6th of December please." "I got Friday, but I can't understand the date you're saying." [Slowly] "Friday the 6th December." "Yeah, your phone is shit mate. What car is it?" "Don't worry, I'll find somewhere else." "What?" [I hang up]
In response to the poor customer service, I took my experience online and shared it on Yell, the first result when searching for the business. Here is the review below, now faded due to its censorship. Comically, the so-called policy states that “we do not monitor, censor or moderate reviews” despite doing exactly that – censoring.
Allegedly, this review “does not appear to comply with Yell’s Reviews Policy.” I thoroughly read the so-called Reviews Policy linked at https://www.yell.com/help/reviews/guidelines/. I gauged that describing them as “Medway’s lowest” is the only connection Akash Methre could make to the review being offensive. Therefore, I will post another review with the phrase removed and see if it is censored again.
Then something peculiar caught my attention. The business listing for Auto Repair Medway Ltd encapsulates 46 five-star reviews. The amount of four, three, two, and one star reviews? None whatsoever. One’s logical conclusion to this is that other critical reviews have been censored in the same way. There is no doubt that others have been met with dismay at Auto Repair Medway and would want to share it online. The Yell page for the business is the second result when searching on the Google UK engine. My review’s removal within two weeks of posting implies that either Auto Repair Medway or Yell is efficient at intercepting and censoring online critics.
This begs the question: is Yell paid to remove critical reviews? Has Auto Repair Medway exchanged any money to have their business listed on their directory?
Firstly, I looked at the mutual benefit. Yell benefits from having businesses loyal to their site because more business listings attracts more clicks, thus more advertising revenue. Auto Repair Medway gains a larger online presence from Yell when people search for MOT centres in Medway.
Secondly, I examined all of Auto Repair Medway’s online presence. I found that Auto Repair Medway has paid Yell for some online services. Their website https://www.autorepairmedway.co.uk/ is “powered by Yell Business.” Websites and hosting are not free, therefore Auto Repair Medway is paying Yell in some form for web hosting and SEO.
Lastly, I researched Yell’s paid services. It transpired that Yell charges an extortionate amount of money for its services. The Auto Repair Medway website uses their template design wherein the designer only has to fill in boxes:
According to Trustpilot reviews on Yell, they charge about a thousand pounds annually for their website building services. Hosting a domain and being listed on Google, Bing, and Yahoo does not cost thousands. My blog’s domain and hosting on WordPress costs less than £30 a year and appears in search engines when you type ‘Warped Hero.” If I paid for premium hosting on here, Wix, or SquareSpace, it would cost more but would still be more affordable than with Yell.
Google Ads would be a better investment than having Yell list you on their website mixed with other businesses and build a template website. I tested an ad campaign targeting users within a seven mile radius under the example of an MOT centre and received the following prices:
Running the advert for one month with 390-670 potential customers costs £274. Running it every month annually would cost £3288. Naturally, if you were a startup you would only need to run the advert for a month or two to attract brand loyalty. The advert would not be run every month annually. With this form of advertising, you would also have access to analytics so that you can tell how the adverts are performing with click-through rates, demographics, and other metrics.
Through research, Yell suggests using Google Analytics to track user engagement. Why use Yell in the first place if you can just use Google Analytics with your own site that you can build yourself for cheaper?
There is no definitive evidence here that Medway Auto Repair pays Yell to remove critical reviews. However, after examining Yell’s business practice, it would not be out of the question to assume that Yell protects their paid business listings in such a way – to keep brand images for both Yell and their business listings positive. Businesses are paying a premium for a service that can be done cheaper and better elsewhere. It is in Yell’s interest to retain as many paying clients as possible. By being lenient on businesses abusing the report function, their clients are more likely to be happy and thus keep their contract.