Hey there, business owners and marketers! Are you ready to dive deep into the world of Yelp's advertising platform? This post offers ou unbiased, agency-tested, matter-of-fact feedback and insights that will empower you to make informed choices before investing your advertising dollars.
Yelp has a range of paid solutions up its sleeve, from Page Upgrades that enhance your page's appeal to enticing paid ads.
However, we're zeroing in on Yelp Ads in this post, and for good reason! While Page Upgrades have their perks, it's the ads that truly drive results for a business.
So, is it worth joining the Yelp Ads bandwagon to get your company noticed by potential prospects? This post will help you uncover the answer based on your unique situation.
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Are Yelp Ads Worth it?
Yelp advertising can be an effective way for businesses to reach potential customers, but it's not without its drawbacks. And there are more effective options out there. Some of the most common concerns include:
Don’t Take My Word For It
As you read through the post, don’t forget to read the comments at the bottom for additional insight - there are dozens of comments from past Yelp advertisers and their first-hand experiences.
One thing is certain:
Interest in Yelp Advertising has been steadily declining for several years. Below is a recent Google Trends graph highlighting declining search interest in Yelp Ads.
First, Where Does Your Target Audience Hang Out?
Does your ideal customer visit Yelp often?
Study your competitors’ Yelp presence.
Make a list of businesses similar to yours in terms of products, services, target audience, and location. Consider both direct and indirect competitors. Search for their Yelp profiles. Are the profiles filled out well? Do you see ads from your competitors on Yelp?
Not that your competitors’ strategies are the best for your business, but if not many in your local market have much of a presence there, then you should consider that.
Next, Be Clear About Your Goals
Clearly defined advertising goals, such as increasing brand awareness, driving sales, or acquiring new customers, helps you stay focused on what you want to achieve with your advertising efforts.
And when you clearly understand your objectives, you can dedicate resources—such as time and money—more effectively.
This helps you maximize your return on investment (ROI) by prioritizing tasks and actions that directly contribute to achieving your goals. And at the end of the day, it helps maximize your cash flow - after all, the last thing you want is negative cash flow from advertising.
For example, if you have specific sales goals, you might not be able to achieve those goals using Yelp Ads for various reasons. Perhaps there isn’t enough traffic on Yelp to achieve your sales goals. Or the cost is beyond your budget. There’s too much competition. Or your customer just isn’t on Yelp looking for you.
Geotargeting Options Of Yelp Ad Campaigns
Yelp provides a couple of options. You can target based on:
For businesses that have the search volume in Yelp, you might see these two options.
If your target market is small geographically, say within a few miles of your location, you may have difficulty reaching enough customers. And likely, you’ll have wasted ad spend since the smallest radius you can target is 5 miles.
From a reporting perspective, Yelp is not for you if you want data. There’s little you can change to affect performance other than change the actual geographic area of where your ads show, your budget, and the keywords you’re targeting.
Below is an example of what Yelp shows regarding where ads show. In this particular case, it’s for a business in the Houston Heights area. These data are interesting but not helpful or actionable.
What would be beneficial is to see where the actual conversions or phone calls were coming from, not just where the ads are served.
In this case, this business’ clients are within a 3 - 5-mile radius. But notice the red-hot spot to the south near Pearland? This is likely wasted ad spend. This area is 25 miles away, and the drive can take anywhere from 30 min to an hour, depending on the time of day. But we’ll never know if the advertising in Pearland is worth it since we cannot see conversion data on the map.
In comparison, in Google Ads, you have greater flexibility in your geotargeting and transparency on what geo areas drive results.
For example, in Google Ads, you can see where conversions, phone calls, clicks, and impressions are coming from geographically. Then, you can bid more aggressively using bid modifiers for areas you know convert more searchers to customers making your ad spend as efficient as possible and eliminating wasted ad spend.
Keyword Targeting: What Keywords or Topics Is Yelp Showing Your Ads For?
Similar to Google Ads, you can choose keywords for your business. Here’s an example of a plumber:
Like the geo-targeting issue earlier, there’s minimal transparency in what keywords or topics your ads are showing for. Some of your keywords perform well, and some just burn your budget, but you’ll have no idea.
Unlike Google Ads, where you have complete control and transparency with keywords and topics, you are limited in the Yelp ad platform. And that’s the scary part – how much ad money are you wasting on keywords or topics that are not producing sales and profit? I would imagine Yelp doesn’t show that to advertisers because if it did, advertisers would spend a fraction of what they could be spending once they uncovered underperforming keywords.
What Is The Cost To Advertise On Yelp?
Yelp charges you based on CPC (cost-per-click).
The CPC you pay varies widely – advertisers pay as low as $0.30 per click (for some food establishments) and more than $50+ per click for more competitive niches like personal injury law. You can choose your ad budget and set it as low as $5 per day.
Generally speaking, Yelp cost-per-clicks in some industries is less than Google Ads in Search campaigns. But Yelp also provides less ad efficiency and effectiveness.
However, suppose you’re in a highly competitive niche where the cost-per-click (CPC) is very high in Google, as it is personal injury law or leak detection for plumbers. In that case, you may consider adding Yelp ads to your marketing mix in addition to a Google Ads campaign.
Here’s an anecdotal example of a personal injury law firm using Yelp Ads and Google Ads. The cost per lead coming from Yelp was slightly lower. And for leads, we didn’t count leads as Yelp counts them, but instead as calls and messages.
Remember that this niche is highly competitive ($50 per click on Yelp, $200+ per click in Google Ads). However, for many other businesses, the competition is less fierce.
Campaign Performance Metrics
The first chart here shows the “leads” breakdown. I put leads in quotations because that is a loosely defined term with Yelp. Most of what Yelp calls “leads” are not leads, as most business owners would describe them.
I define a lead for this business as someone who booked an appointment, called and wanted to know more about the company, or submitted a form online. I estimate that ONLY 10% - 15% of what they call “leads” are true leads. But the data do look lovely in a chart, so there’s that (lol).
Here’s a closer look at the breakdown of leads:
Very few Directions and Map Views are legit leads - many of those may be repeat customers or people just checking to see how far away you are from them and whether it’s worth the drive. Similar situation with Website Visits - many people want to learn more about you, but a low percentage are converting to actual leads (i.e. booked appointments).
What Does Yelp Do Well?
Yelp does a good job with SEO and ranking its pages in Google searches which means potentially more exposure for you as a Yelp advertiser.
Many queries in Google will show Yelp pages appearing at the top of the organic listings For example, below are the search results in Google for the query, “med spas near me.” Yelp is the first traditional organic listing, so it’s pulling in traffic for Google searches which can benefit you.
Don’t expect your business’ Yelp page to rank in Google – most of Yelp’s pages ranking in Google are its category or search pages, not individual business pages. The key point is that if you’re advertising on Yelp, you can capture more traffic than just Yelp’s internal traffic – in this case, the organic traffic that’s coming from Google as well.
Diminishing Returns for Yelp from Google
However, Yelp’s presence in Google continues to diminish as Google maximizes its own opportunities.
Because Google is dominating the top part of its search pages so well with its own properties (Local Service Ads, Google Ads, Google Local Packs, Featured Snippets ranking in position 0, etc), it’s increasingly difficult for Yelp to continue to acquire non-paid traffic from Google organic searches and thus deliver more traffic to Yelp advertisers.
This trend with Yelp’s pages ranking in Google is most evident with service-based businesses where Google shows the following properties ahead of Yelp pages:
Google pushes the Yelp organic listings way below the fold and below its own properties.
- 1Yelp ads will increase your exposure inside Yelp - without Yelp ads, you won’t reach many new prospects
- 2Ad options have become more flexible for advertisers removing contracts (pay-as-you-go options are available with no long-term contracts), page upgrades, and ads
- 3There’s plenty of awareness among consumers in specific industries that Yelp is a source for reviews (that’s subjective, of course), so Yelp will likely maintain its own internal traffic for some time. However, Google Reviews in most cases, take precedence over Yelp reviews with consumers
- 4Lower cost-per-click in some industries compared to other channels like Google Ads
- 5Yelp ranks its own pages well within Google, although this is diminishing
- 1No transparency on what keywords or topics you’re spending your ad dollars on
- 2The Yelp app skews to a younger demographic which may not align with your target audience (the younger demographic was uncovered in our survey)
- 3Lack of transparency in the ad platform to cut back on wasted ad spend
- 4Difficult to verify the actual economic value of leads coming from Yelp ads (compared to other paid channels like Google and Facebook