Yelp appears to have been gaining more and more online awareness with consumers since it is considered by many as #1 online review site (a survey we did here found that Google reviews were more important). I know I frequent Yelp more often these days. Clients had been asking us, “should I advertise with Yelp?” But often I would defer to Google Adwords/PPC as I was skeptical of what Yelp could deliver. I would tell them if you’re getting results on Google, and there’s more inventory still available, add to your Google budget.
However, finally, I placed several eager retail clients on Yelp. One client was in Houston, the other in an affluent Southern California area. I figured it was worth a try, minimal risk, and I thought maybe the consumers on Yelp were just as far along in the sales funnel as a Google PPC customer.
I am an advocate of tracking all your marketing spend to understand fully the results and ROI, which I usually do with call tracking phone numbers for retail brick and mortar businesses. Effectively tracking leads and understanding ROI from Yelp advertising is harder than other marketing tactics. It doesn’t make sense to put a call tracking number anywhere in Yelp (absolutely don’t use a call tracking number in your Yelp profile if you care at all about local SEO efforts with Google). Without call tracking, you have to rely on asking consumers how they found you when they call your business (this is a horribly inaccurate and unreliable way to collect data). Yelp does, however, provide some metrics, like page views, or ad clicks. As you can see in the above chart, impressions in yellow were when we started advertising on Yelp–definitely an increase. When looking through our website’s analytics Yelp ads drove very low bounce rate traffic (25-30% range) which is very good when comparing it to other referring sources and websites, but in general, Yelp sends very little traffic through to a website as most people stay within the site or app if they are on mobile devices.
Why We Pulled the Plug on Yelp Advertising
Nonetheless, at the end of the day, we calculated a much higher cost/call and lower ROI than Google PPC, and we decided to put Yelp ads on hold and put the budget into other more productive tactics, primarily Google Adwords.
In addition, Yelp provides no transparency into what keywords people are using to find you within Yelp so you don’t know how much of your budget is going towards searches that are less than relevant.
If your primary objective for your business are leads, and you cannot validate that a particular tactic is driving low-cost leads, stop it and put your money where you know you can get a lower cost per lead.
I have numerous clients on Yelp, and none has received very promising results. So I’m not advocating you not use Yelp, but I would minimize your budget exposure to Yelp by asking for shorter contracts until it proves itself (they require advertising commitments).
And to be honest, the fact that Yelp requires you to commit to an advertising contract is a big downer for me — why lock in a business if something is not working. In Yelp’s defense, they’ve always stated the best results occur after you’ve been advertising with them for an extended period…take that for what it’s worth (kind of like the fox that guards the hen house). Most businesses with a finite ad budget are better off utilizing a comprehensive Google PPC campaign integrated with remarketing, and Facebook ads and Facebook remarketing — after all just about everyone on the Internet visits either Google or Facebook every single day, if not multiple times per day.
- Pay as you go – Yelp offers the ability to pay for clicks with NO contractual obligation. You will not have some of the other features of the 1-year contract options, but this is a better place to start first before you are locked down in a contract.
- If you do decide to advertise with Yelp (or you are currently), do yourself a favor and experiment with the CPC (cost-per-click) bids. Yelp sets these for you (often I see these set in the $3 range), but we’ve adjusted these to half of that thus making the budget go MUCH further with more clicks and traffic for your business. You have to look out for yourself here – I’ve never seen a Yelp account manager move these down to your benefit, but if you do you can potentially acquire far more traffic from your ads. If you implement lower CPC’s, monitor the progress as sometimes it can go too low and you are outbid by competitors and you lose impressions (update: it appears Yelp has removed this ability now).
Have you advertised on Yelp? What are your thoughts?
Related post: How to get rid of negative Yelp reviews.
Survey Results of Which Reviews Sites Consumers Prefer: Top Review Sites For Consumers – Survey Results