Advertising on Yelp: What you should consider. avatar
Advertising on Yelp: What you should consider.

Definition here!

Yelp appears to have been gaining more and more online awareness with consumers, since it is the #1 online review site. I know I frequent Yelp more often these days. Clients had been asking me, “should I advertise with Yelp?”, but often I would defer to Google 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 is 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.

Yelp-Advertising-Page-Views

I am an advocate of tracking all your marketing spend to fully understand 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 more difficult 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), so you have to rely on asking consumers when they call your business. Yelp does, however, provide some metrics, like page views , or ad clicks.  As you can see impressions in yellow are 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).

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 effective tactics, primarily Google Adwords.

If your primary objective for your business is 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 lower cost per lead.

I have several clients on Yelp and none have 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.

Click here to receive a PDF document outlining Yelp’s ad packages so you can make a more informed advertising decision.

Have you advertised on Yelp? What are your thoughts?

Related post: How to get rid of negative Yelp reviews.

 
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  • Lance Throttle

    I use yelp for my other business, I fear listing it as my Yelp credibility could get even worse than it already is. I have been paying the evil dollar to yelp to the tune of $550 a month. The filter has us losing our mind. The positive reviews do not stick more often. I can’t wait until my yelp contract is up. Do not sign up and do not pay them the monthly fees.

  • http://www.grandrapidsmichiro.com Jacob

    I just got off the phone with yelp. Their packages are definitely a little weird and they were pushing me pretty hard to sign up here and now. I get great results with Google and if I was going to spend an extra $350-$550/month, I would put it in a place where I know people are clicking. The yelp packages they offered me were for impressions, and it was a moderately low impression count. It came out to around $.70/impression, which in Google Ads is outrageous. Anyway, after reading your review, I believe I will stay away from it until they get into the world of CPC.

    Thanks,
    Dr. Canfield

    • Toby

      Yes, good points Dr. Canfield! I’ve tried with several clients to get more transparency on Yelp results and distill results down to a cost per lead but they always come in higher than other tactics. Yelp does offer a CPC option, but they set it at $3/click — it’s not a Google efficient real-time auction for keywords.

      • Jaime Mansfield

        My ‘wanna be” rep, who was trying to get me to come aboard as a yelp client, quoted me $4 a click, capping the ceiling at 25 clicks would be the most I’d be charged for. I told her we weren’t ready at this time.

  • http://www.gwynnismosby.com Phillip Mosby

    I just signed up with Yelp and after reading your comments, I am wondering if I should call back and cancel. Let me know, thanks!! gmmaoffice@gmail.com

    • Toby

      Phillip, I generally recommend clients tap their budget on Google first if possible before moving to Yelp. Leads are pre-qualified in Google search and Google is a proven advertising channel with results that are easily measured. Understanding results from Yelp is more difficult.

  • Seeker

    7 days after signing up Yelp,
    I canceled the account.paying $600.00 early termination fee is way better than sticking to them for a year.

  • DrB

    As a business owner, Yelp is basically it is a shakedown. Their advertising doesn’t produce, but they may gradually delete negative reviews, which can help your business. Kind of like paying off the concentration camp guards so they give you favorable status.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Vicki-Stuart/100003688919138 Vicki Stuart

    I would prefer not to be listed on yelp ever, but consumer like to check out business on yelp and your positive reviews will not stay on the site unless you have advertising account. This is form of blackmail from yelp, and I would say that this is disturbing tendency. Business community should be aware of this business practice.

    • WLV Lighitng

      That’s not accurate at all. I have 4 5 star reviews for my business and have never given a dime to Yelp.

  • Screaming Stone

    Like others have mentioned – the Yelp ad rep tried pushing the Cost Per Impression method – $350 for 600 impressions/month requiring I commit to one year contract. When I inquired about the Cost Per Click, the rep had very little knowledge about the product, continuously stated that that was not what I wanted – and pretty much made me reconsider working with him at all as an ad rep. We are considering the $3.50/click program – because it has other advantages. They need to reconsider their sales training.

  • http://www.facebook.com/JanuKiPappi Xander Cage

    Great review ! So Helpful I was going to advertise with them but just found out there is a one year contract and no guarantee of any kind !
    This helped a lot.

    • http://www.39celsius.com/ Toby Danylchuk

      Thanks for the comment. Glad it was helpful. I would look to Google Adwords first before going to Yelp if your goal is lead generation.

  • Art

    I don’t like Yelp. Even though they are saying that if you pay them it doesn’t affect your reviews, I decided to test it out myself. I can’t give 100% if it was true and not random algorithm change, but you can make your final decision yourself. So they called me with an advertise offer. I said them that I had only 3 reviews and 4 filtered ones. My point was to get my filtered reviews back so I had something to show and only after that I could start advertising. What if Yelp filters all my reviews and I sign up a year contract – doesn’t make any sense. Then I ask them to call me next day. Believe it or not but one of my reviews got back from filter, so I had +1 review when they returned a call next day. This company doesn’t seem playing white hat all the time at least I made this decision for myself after all my conversations with Yelp and following all its behavior. Conclusion: I have all 5 star reviews and I have constant traffic that comes from Yelp, BUT I would wish if Yelp disappears one day – ASAP :) P.S. the review that I got back after first conversation as a sort of ‘deposit’ (probably) got filtered in two-three days after my second conversation when they failed to make a sale.

  • http://www.environix.com/ James Mallory

    Heads up – Yelp finally rolled out a true PPC campaign recently. It still has lacks the transparency of Google AdWords and has the silly contract and monthly fee though.

  • aaron

    I just signed on with yelp. I felt the video they now offer would help my business stand out among the competition. After two weeks of advertising, I am so ready to quit. I put a halt to my video shoot because I am listed 52nd in a general search.
    For me and by the admission of my representative, the only results that matter are the top ten. I was told that my position could change if I offered a “yelp deal”, that means I offer my service for 20,40,50%off and give them a percentage. they have a great business model to maximize their control of advertisers.

  • davidahn

    I find I’m relying on Yelp as a consumer less due to inaccurate search results (burger joints show up on a Vietnamese food search, advertisers preempt higher reviewed businesses. As a business owner, I feel like they’re extorting us… a 4-review, 3.5 star business’s Yelp page shows up at the top of page 1 in Google search results despite our 8 review, 5-star business. So I don’t know if we should advertise to try to get on page 1 of Google searches (we could really use it), or if we should stick to our principles and not negotiate with extortionists.

  • Robert Marcos

    I invested in a Google Adwords campaign for almost five years. The results got worse over time, probably because a million wedding photographers entered the marketplace over that period. So I pulled it and have had no advertising whatsoever for the last two years, except for a free Yelp listing. It’s only because of the occasional BAD review that Yelp can be trusted. If they allowed no bad reviews than they’d just exist to make money. The fact is all of the local search lead portals charge – Angie’s List, the Better Business Bureau, and Google Adwords. Of the four of them Yelp leads by far in actual usage…

    http://www.google.com/trends/explore?q=adwords#q=adwords%2C%20yelp&cmpt=q

    • http://www.39celsius.com/ Toby Danylchuk

      Google doesn’t have a local portal, but they drive far more awareness and leads for just about all businesses by a large margin over any other. Not sure exactly what happened to your campaign over time, but even in the most competitive industries (personal injury law where cost per click can be $150+) I’ve seen Google deliver.

      Some markets as yours (wedding photographer) are highly competitive but there are additional tactics to make Google Adwords campaigns much more effective, i.e. retargeting on both Google and Facebook for anyone that visited your site, or running targeted ads towards people on Facebook that are engaged and if they go to your website and you’re doing remarketing you can then follow them around for up to a year serving them ads reminding them of your service at very little cost — almost nobody converts on the first visit.

      Yelp has its place in some limited form, but a thorough well thought out marketing plan with multiple online tactics will make everything work better and will certainly out run your less savy competitors.

  • Michael Denufrio

    I own a personal training company in providence RI . I am in the beginning stages with purchases of equipment, my website, and now marketing/ advertising. Yelp called me from AZ and a man named Daniel was EXTREMELY pushy with the sales. I don’t appreciate someone nearly forcing the advertising down my throat. He spoke very slow but when it came down to cancellation he very quickly stated the cancellation is $200. There is an annual commitment which seems very shady. I like yelp and think they are reputable but the sales approach really angered me. I will stick with google

  • zack craig

    The lady from yelp called me twice this week with all the sales pitches. I told her i was still thinking about it and she is going to call me again tomorrow. Its a good thing i read this article because i was locked with superpages and yellow pages who were not delivering for my other company and i was considering a new type of advertising venue for my new company but i will not go that way. They just want to lock me in for $350 a month and then they will disappear they can care less whether or not i get calls or not.

  • http://abatarcarservice.com Abatar Cls

    After 3 years of hundreds of phone calls from Yelp.com , I deal with a New York representative Meredith Hottinger who lie in very sweet way and sell $325.00 per month advertising program that should create 800 leads of clients who’s looking for airport transportation in New York.

    My small business “Abatar Car Service” locaten in Brooklyn NY was a victim of bogus advertising that created only 7 links or phone calls to my business. If you divide $325 in 7 leads it’s $46 for each leads.

    I argued with Ashley Wilbraham (My advertising Manager) about the enormous cost and zero business results and she told me “if I need better exposure” to be more aggressive and increase to $1000 a month . I refused because $325 was proving that was bogus advertising already. I better canceled. Am going to New York small claims court for the return of my money.

    Stay away from Yelp.com it’s a ripoff company that will steal your money and create difficulty’s to your company.

  • miss415

    I almost signed up for yelp ads and locked myself in for a 1 year committment but when I logged in to my business owner account for the first time, (mind you, while on the phone with a yelp sales rep) the first page one lands on prompts the user to “Set Up Yelp Ads”. On that page it says “No contract. Cancel any time”. When
    I asked about, the rep said “oh that’s a different program” but when I read the agreement I was supposed to sign, it sounded like the exact same thing except for the 1 year commitment. Maybe I’m wrong & just didn’t understand all the jargon in my agreement, but the rep could not clearly explain the difference to me & was pressuring me to sign saying “the price increases on Monday”. It was Friday afternoon and I didn’t sign. It’s a shame they are so dishonest & aggressive because after hearing the initial sales pitch, I thought it sounded like just the boost my business needs right now.

  • martinw392

    Yelp advertisers will be targets for other businesses being hurt by yelp, they will hit you with negative reviews to try and deter your support for yelp, I wouldn’t touch yelp if you value your good will and reputation.

  • Eric

    I just got off the phone with yelp and must say I’m very surprised. The pricing seems a little silly to me, I was offered a 6 month contract at $325 per month for 500 impressions, early termination fee is 1 month on the 6 month contract and 2 months on the 1 year contract. It is $25 more for the same impressions if you choose a 1 year contract. What I don’t like is how few of my questions they were able to answer, I asked if I could pay to increase my service area and was told they didn’t know and I would have to speak with my account manager whom they are not able to forward me to until after I make the commitment. They also could not tell me how many others I would be competing against nor how often my ad would come up (every 8 searches or 12 or 50). The information was not available. I find it difficult to give this company $2000 of my hard earned money when simple questions cannot even be addressed.

  • Brad

    My law firm decided to advertise on a Yelp for $375 per month with a free video and one year commitment. There’s an early termination fee of about $1000. It has been two months and we have seen no results. All our reviews remain filtered, competitor firms show up all around our “sponsored listing” and the whole experience has been underwhelming. Google AdWords produced much better results. Demanding an early termination penalty should have been the first clue that this campaign would be a dud.

  • EON Electric

    Great article! Thank you. I tried the Yelp paid advertising when I 1st joined and got nothing out of it, BUT… my local business had no reviews at the time.

    Now that I have some good reviews on there, I’m wondering if it would work better this time.

    Big fan of Yelp, just not sure about the “locked-in” one year commitment to their advertisement.

  • Daniel Chan

    They need to automate a bidding system and get rid of their pushy sales team, similar to what Facebook and Google does.

  • http://timothymaina.com/ Timothy Maina

    This was very helpful. We were considering using Yelp for our brand as well as for some of our clients but after reading this, I think we’ll pass. Thanks for the great article.

  • Ganesh Gs

    i signed up with Yelp advertising starting june1, 2014 and so far the results have been VERY DISAPPOINTING! 1 CLICK THRU TO MY WEBSITE AND 2 CALLS, THAT’s IT, i believe i’m not getting the number of impressions i was promised. they said i needed to sign up for a minimum of 12 months, mandatory, with a $200 early termination fee. i don’t recommend it, waste of money.

  • Eric Shaw

    I have to admit that yelp has been great for our business but I just can’t get around
    paying them to drive more people to our Business Listing and not to our Website. This is something that yellow pages and city search have done as well and it continues to fail. Also showing additional ads on competitor’s business pages doesn’t really jive to well with me. Google has done this with the business
    bubbles on google maps and all it does is confuse people and tricks them into
    clicking on ads. What bothers me the most is when customers call and say
    they saw our yelp listing and wanted to call but never got around to actually visiting
    our website. It leads me to believe that getting more people to visit our
    business listing is not the answer if they don’t click on the website link and for that reason I wouldn’t advertise on yelp.

  • Warren Peck

    I was very happy with my free Yelp business profile, so when the Yelp salesperson told me that with paid Yelp advertising I could expect great results almost immediately, I was suckered in. Not only did my leads from Yelp not increase, they actually decreased the month I started advertising with them. The second month, I noticed that I had only a 10% increase in my Yelp traffic, when I was told to expect 50% to 100% because I would be at the top of my category for 1300 views. Big waste of money, big money to get out of the contract, horrible customer service. I will never give Yelp another penny.