(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 actually 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 clients 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.
Now 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 metrics, like page views, or ad clicks and other metrics in its dashboard. As you can see in the above chart, impressions in yellow were when we started advertising on Yelp — definitely an increase.
Now look at the below chart showing “Customer Leads” for one year within its ad platform – this particular business has a large Yelp ad budget.
The word “Leads” should be used very lightly when looking at these ad metrics.
Most business owners I know define a lead as someone that called their business or submitted a form from the website or drove to the business. This business didn’t receive 3,732 real leads from Yelp (at least not how the business owners define a lead).
However, with any of the tests we’ve run with Yelp ads, we’ver never been able to verify how many “real” leads the business received.
Website Traffic From Yelp
When looking through the website’s analytics, Yelp ads drove very low bounce rate traffic (a bounce means someone didn’t stay long on your page and left immediately – low bounce rates are considered a good thing). The bounce rate of traffic coming from Yelp to your website is often in the 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 on the site or app if they are on mobile devices.
Geotargeting Of Yelp Ad Campaigns – It’s A Mystery
Within the Yelp ad platform, there’s no way to set your geotargeting – where will your ads show? Who knows? What is the radius it uses to show your ads? Who knows? You have to ask your Yelp rep. So we did.
Then came the shocking part….
For one of our clients, the Yelp rep said his ads were showing within a 20-mile radius! This little insight was a disaster as the max distance his customers might travel to visit his business was 5 miles. So our client was spending 3/4 of his ad spend in geo areas that were never going to convert.
Now I’m sure that geo radius changes depending on your situation or niche (or perhaps if Yelp needs to spend your budget and there are not enough people searching, I wouldn’t be surprised if that geo radius expands to show your ads to more people further away from you to spend your budget – that’s just my opinion, not proven).
If you use Yelp ads, you need to absolutely understand your geotargeting to know if you are wasting ad spend outside of your target area. You will never be able to see this within the ad platform, however, and you will always have to rely on what Yelp tells you.
What Keywords or Topics Is Yelp Showing Your Ads For?
Similar to the geo-targeting issue, there’s no transparency in what keywords or topics your business is showing for. Unlike Google Adwords where you have complete control over the keywords and topics, you have no idea in the Yelp ad platform.
That’s the scary part – how much ad money are you wasting on keywords or topics that are not relevant?
What Does Yelp Do Well?
Yelp captures a significant amount of Google organic traffic – the company does a good job with SEO and ranking its pages in Google.
Here’s an example below – this was for a plumbing related query. The first 3 organic listings below the Google Local Pack are all Yelp.
Why is Yelp SEO important to you as a Yelp advertiser?
Because in addition to the traffic it generates from its app and awareness with consumers, it also acquires a good amount of traffic from Google which means potentially more traffic to you.
- Lots of awareness with consumers as a reliable source for reviews (that’s subjective of course) and good adoption of its app on mobile devices
- Ranks its pages well within Google (thus sending possibly more traffic)
- Low bounce rate traffic is sent through to your website (although overall not much traffic is sent to your site from your Yelp page)
- No transparency on what keywords or topics you’re spending your ad dollars on
- No transparency with the geotargeting of where your ads show
- The Yelp app skews to a younger demographic which may not align to your targeting audience (the younger demographic was uncovered in our survey)
- Difficult to verify true leads coming from the platform
Why We Pulled the Plug on Yelp Advertising
Nonetheless, at the end of the day for the original business owner at the top of this article that I mentioned, we calculated a much higher cost per call and far lower ROI than with the Google PPC campaign we were running. So we decided to put Yelp ads on hold and put the budget into other more productive tactics, primarily Google Adwords (a related post here compares Yelp to Google Adwords).
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, or pay as you go, until it proves itself (they try to get you into advertising contracts).
And to be honest, the fact that Yelp trys to get 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 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