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

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.

[Tweet “Consider these issues before you advertise on #Yelp #PPC.”]

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.


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.

Have you advertised on Yelp? What are your thoughts?

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

  • 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.

  • 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.

    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.

  • 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!!

    • 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.

  • 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.

    • Yla

      Vicki, I agree greatly! Def. feels like blackmailing. All of our new reviews would get filtered until we began advertising with them. then they all magically came back. A few months later got a call from our rep and was asked to increase our budget, i told him that it was not possible at the time and what do ya know. 4 positive reviews were filtered 2 days later.

  • 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.

  • 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.

    • 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.

      • beyondbrandi

        Totally, I literally am deciding right now…and the rep has been calling every 3 hours….just that alone is annoying! ugh.

  • 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.

  • 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…

    • 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.

      • Michelle

        I am thinking of using Yelp but since reading the comments Google seems to be far better. What forms of advertisement should I use with Google?

        • Toby Danylchuk

          Hi Michelle,
          Google offers two basic forms of advertisement: search and display. Search is often the best place to start. With search you are bidding on keywords that are relevant to your business so the benefit is that customers are pre-qualified since they had to type in a query related to your products or services – they are actively searching for you. You can also integrate remarketing campaigns too which allows you to follow customers around for up to 1 year serving them ads – this is very beneficial when you consider that only a small percentage of site visitors convert to a lead on the first visit to your site. Hope this helps.

  • 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.

  • Abatar Cls

    After 3 years of hundreds of phone calls from , 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 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.

  • 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.

  • Joel LaRusic

    I paid for a pay-per-click campaign with Yelp and wished I hadn’t. First off, they charge you $100/month just for the privilege and then its about $5/click… so the net cost is about $10/click. Ridiculous (and not made clear by the way). I decided to cut my losses and cancel and pay the $200 cancellation fee but was told I had to give a months notice. I did that and just before it ended my Yelp guy called me and convinced me to give it another month and he did help me fix up my profile a bit. So another 3 weeks goes by and I’m getting nothing so I tell him I’m still going to cancel and he tells me I have to give ANOTHER 30 days notice. That’s a low blow. So, expensive and unethical business practices is my take on them (also untrustworthy but don’t even get me started on that!). Thanks for your review.

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  • Fl Spa

    DO NOT ADVERTISE with Yelp. We are a small business that believed YELP to be a reputable way to advertise. We entered into a $250/month contract, and from the get go were not given what promised. I confirmed with the sales rep 3 times that we would be able to downgrade to $100 month if we were not seeing results and he said yes. When we tried to do so after the first 3 months we were told that this was not possible. We were paying a flat price with a monthly report showing Less than 4 clicks per month.WE never received 1 Call from Yelp! Often times we were still on the 6th page of yelp search for our industry in our zip code. We have 10 reviews that are not showing (only 3 that are). These are our customer, not paid reviews. We convinced them to allow us at least to change to a pay per click (yet were still being charged $200 for an “upgraded Profile.”) Suddenly they claim we are getting 60 Clicks per month and our bills increased! This is when, clearly, our report shows only 3 clicks. I can not believe how bad we got scammed. Put your money in Google – that is honest to advertisers and gets results. Advertising with Yelp was the biggest mistake we made!

  • Chrissy Lee

    Yelp Is AWFUL DO NOT SIGN UP WITH THEM!. They do nothing but market to you. They told me that the most inexpensive advertisement they have is $555 per month and if I even get that many clicks I will definitely make it up clients coming in, COMPLETE LIE, Now I have to pay an early termination fee of 1500 even though I am only 7 days into a year contract. AND i told them I was given information when I signed up I was given opposite information. Its free to be on yelp and they tell me after I sign up that I will not be receiving many clients for a few months. Its free to be on Yelp. Only Sign up if you can afford to give a company $2000 before seeing any results of it.

  • Chris Terry

    I too was suckered in to yelp, having established a great yelp on my own I became a target of their relentless sales calls. They promised to deliver 5 to 10 times more traffic to my page, which would lead to “thousands” of dollars in additional revenue. Man they are good at convincing people, I don’t know how the reps sleep at night.

    In the end I thought it was a great idea, month 1 of advertising I received 3 visits to my website. That’s a 300% DECREASE from my pre-advertising days. Month 2 I received a whopping 4 visits to my website, down 266% from my pre-advertising days. So I cancelled and they want to charge me a cancellation fee. Go efff yourself yelp, I gave you enough of my hard earned money for zip in return.

  • Robert Teegarden

    I have a small auto detailing business that I advertise on Yelp! and get almost 80% of my business through there. With that said, I am aware that this particular market frequents Yelp! which is why I decided to to pursue paid advertising with them. I will concur with others that the sales rep, although very nice and professional, was very pushy to get me to sign up for a package that would have been roughly half of my revenue on am monthly basis. After a month of cat and mouse, I got a CPC package with a three month term, which I am now month to month on. I am considering lowering my ad budget as I am generating more business than I can handle at the moment, (again,it’s a side business for me). You just have to have patience and keep poking back at them to get what you want. Hope this offers a different perspective than what has been mentioned here.

    • Toby Danylchuk

      Thanks for your comment Robert – I do think Yelp ad results vary on industries as per your business it seems to be working well. If you can do short-term contracts as you have and then measure results I believe that is the best which allows you to exit if it’s not working.

  • jc

    Completely worthless and extremely over priced. They coaxed us into signing a contract, promising everything from a video to a 4 to 1 return on our ad spend. Once the contract was signed, I never heard from them again. Didn’t get a customer login, screenshots of any advertising campaigns, the video never materialized, we got ZERO customers and ended up spending almost $1,500 for exactly 5 (alleged) clicks on an ad that was placed on our own profile….that linked to our profile (aka: the same page). The only thing I got out of this was a bill and a bunch of BS from our sales rep. Hang up when they call.

  • Brian Benson

    I had a free listing on yelp. An ad rep called me and while she started off pleasant, turned rude at the end when I told her I wasn’t interested. When I looked for my company today,our companies listings have been taken off the site totally. And we don’t even exist on there site anymore. Talk about extortion

  • MDamron

    I joined Yelp as a paid advertiser on Febuary 9th and my page wiews increased dramatically day one fo rthe next 7 days until I pulled the plug. Every morning before 7:00 am it looks like Yelp served up my ads and I got burned bad for a week solid. Spent $900 and cannot contribute a single phone call or inquiry from Yelp.

    So who’s doing this a competitor protecting his advertising or Yelp raking in revenues. At this point I’m just happy I pulled the plug.

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  • Indi

    I wish I did not sing up the contract with yelp, but I did since I saw and was recommended to do it. But now I see o did a big mistake. They don’t do anything, I did increase calls advertising myself, that’s click impressions doesn’t look like it’s true , they just adjust it to the money you pay them monthly. I want to cancell my agreement with them but I don’t wanna pay them and this cancellation fee. Does anyone know who can I do it? they called me before all the time, but now when I want to cancell the agreement and talk to the Accountant manager Ashlee , and I tried to connect her they do not allow me to talk to her. They lied to me that it was a trial month. When I wanted to cancell their service in three days after I singed it , they said its a trial month you don’t need to pay anything. I got abt 8 calls from yelp to my business and they kept silence abt a minute that’s how they put calls and impressions. When I said to the yelp agent he cant say anything. Please If you know how to help me or give me an advise I’ll appreciate your help. Thank you.

    • Toby Danylchuk

      Hi, unfortunately you will have to deal with your acct mgr at Yelp…it’s really up to her and her manager. If you signed a contract my sense is you will have to pay the cancellation fee to get out of it.

  • J. Dirom Photography

    Thanks for the article. I had received a call form Yelp a week ago about advertising with them. Wanted to do some research and found what others have experienced.

  • Michelle

    I originally signed up with Yelp because I wanted to keep competitors’ adverts off my page. (We have a competitor who is a really aggressive advertiser!) I just cancelled my Yelp contract and sucked up the $600 early termination fee. We’re a very small business – highly personal service – with just 20 clients. I surveyed the most recent 10 and none of them had even visited the Yelp page. Just not a good ROI when not a single lead has come that way.

  • Bonnie

    I just cancelled YELP and have to pay the early cancellation fee. My formerly nice account manager called last night to see “how he could help me.” Don’t think I have ever been that angry in a phone conversation. Everything he said was more insane than the earlier one. Our salesman emphasized that YELP would be as good for our service business as for a pizza place. Wrong! We teach reading. Search for reading and you get a company that had that word in a review not a company that has it in its name. Type in reading improvement and you get Lowes. Typing in reading instruction and you get Yoga. He said that when you use two words to use a comma. Like those searching would do that? That didn’t work either. Our ad only appeared once in a great while. Reviews sometimes show up and sometimes don’t. The salesman said that we could get more business with a special offer. But (after we signed the contract) we discovered that you can only offer dollars off but not say what the deal is for! I can’t yelp loud enough about YELP.

  • Sanja

    Here is the problem, I am advertising with them, and my 5 starts reviews are still hidden. Advertising with YElp doesn’t bring any positive results. I am so upset I sign up with them, the biggest mistake. Just have your customer give you positive review, after they review few more before, and they need to have friends on Yelp, other way, they would be hidden.

  • Anton Gio

    Do not go with YELP.. They’re just sucking money from your pocket

  • James

    Toby danylchuk. I’ve ben with yelp now over 3moth and its not helping me at all, they told me, it would be guarantee help with advertise my business.. what I don’t no is the high percentage rates and they were real clever on getting me to join with them.. my bill this month is 350.00 with and this just on clicks. if I’d known it would have been like this I wouldn’t have never hooked up with me..

  • juicejug

    I was approached today by a one of their reps.

    I also found them to be pressuring and she wanted me to sign up today or I’d miss the June 1 deadline. DON’T CARE!

    In just the small amount of research I’ve done, I’ve found it probably won’t be worth it. I did a test on one of the example businesses she used in her presentation that was paying for ads. I searched from several different computers on different networks so that I could bypass any IP tracking that might give me different results. I also checked on my phone and a tablet.

    What I checked for was the prepopulated search category this business was focused on and their city and their zip code from their listing. The results I got were that this businesses ad never appeared on top of any results, additionally their business page showed up at the bottom of the second page from the computers and was the 56th result on the mobile devices.

    Also on each search, the top results were always businesses that could barely be classified in the same category and were businesses still using their free listing.

    Full disclosure, I still use Yelp and think it’s great to get reviews. I do however think most people will be best off using their free listing but directing their clients to review them as it seemed that the most reviews would show up at the top of the results.