Google Ads vs Yelp Ads: Top 12 Reasons Why Google Beats Yelp

by Toby

December 3, 2019

Yelp Ads vs Google Ads

Choices - where to put your marketing budget is a common question with all our clients. Clients often ask us about Yelp advertising, whether they should allocate funds to it, and should they use Yelp over Google?

Below I go into a comparison between the two platforms to help you decide which is the better platform for you.

I wrote a post a while back on Yelp advertising here that was one of the most commented posts we have, and the majority of the comments are negative about advertising on one of the top online review sites. Business owners have a love-hate relationship with Yelp.

But here's a more factual list about why you're better off choosing Google, especially if you have to choose between one or the other. Your mileage will of vary based on your industry and situation, of course. (this post is updated ongoing).

Here's a summary of what we'll cover and then we go into depth. 

  • Google has the most searches
  • Google has no contracts
  • Robust tracking and analytics with Google
  • Google has pre-qualified leads
  • You can leverage remarketing and retargeting with Google
  • Easier to start and stop your Google Ads
  • With Google, you have the ability to go after different types of customers
  • Google provides robust geotargeting options
  • Google Ads allows for integration with Facebook marketing
  • Google's system is designed to give you the lowest cost per click
  • Google provides support
  • Full funnel advertising is possible with Google

Google Has The Most Searchers

Google captures 70% or more of all search traffic between the 3 search engines (which is really just two search engines). It's one of the first places people go to begin their research about a product or service. And consider that the majority of mobile phone users are using Google's Android operating system. You don't want to miss these searchers.

No Contracts

Google Ads do not have contracts. Yelp, on the other hand, often pushes contracts and prefers 12 months. They do offer a self-serve option, but the sales reps probably won't tell you about this option. So if you're considering advertising, ask about the self-serve option before being locked down in a contract.

Tracking & Analytics Of Your Ads

Google Ads provides an overwhelming amount of actionable data on exactly what keywords are driving traffic, campaign performance, where users that are clicking on your ads are searching from, and it integrates completely with Google Analytics.

Yelp provides almost no data whatsoever about what keywords people are using and who is seeing your ads or clicking. Yelp does allow you to set general keywords and to block specific keywords, but these are pre-designated in Yelp's system.

Here's an example of specifying topics or niches within the Yelp ad platform for a personal injury attorney:


Yelp Ads Keyword, Niche Options and Negative Niches For Personal Injury Lawyer

Pre-qualified Leads

People completing Google searches are pre-qualified. You know exactly what queries are driving clicks to your website and which queries are converting to leads.

This is not as clear with Yelp ads as Yelp determines which queries to show your ad for, and you have no visibility whatsoever into the actual query data as you do with Google.  As indicated in the above image, you can specify in Yelp general categories of search - in this case, attorney, auto accident attorney, etc, but those are general topics.

Here's an example of the keyword terms that a similar Google ad campaign shows - this is just a snippet but in this particular case there were more than 600 search terms over a 2 week period that Google searchers used to find this business - what I'm showing is just a sample.


Google Keyword Search Terms


Most of your customers will not convert on the first visit to your website, but that's ok if you're using Google Remarketing because you can target those people for more than a year serving them ads about your brand to bring them back to convert them to a lead. Can't do this with Yelp.

Also, Yelp sends a low percentage of people through to your site (obviously since they want to keep that traffic on Yelp) so even if you are using Google retargeting, almost none of your Yelp traffic will end up in your Google retargeting lists. (I would add that the little traffic that Yelp does send through to your website is very low bounce rate which is a positive).

Here are some metrics for clicks and traffic- the first bar chart shows 614 clicks from Yelp ads. The second table shows Google Analytics data over the same period that show only 34 people clicked through to the website from Yelp...and some of those are likely not even coming from the Yelp ads, just organic non-paid Yelp traffic.


Yelp Ads Click Data For One Month

yelp traffic to website

Google Analytics Showing Yelp Traffic To Website

Easily Start or Stop

Google Ads allows you to start or stop a campaign very quickly, and thus control your spend. If you signed a contract with Yelp, you're locked in (see point 2 above).

Flexibility To Go After Different Types of Customers

Keyword selections in Google Ads allow you to target customers at different stages of the buying cycle based on the type of query.

For example, people just starting to search for digital cameras might query for, "digital SLR versus Point and Shoot Cameras" - this customer is not ready to buy, but you could target that query to at least create awareness of your brand.

Or you could put all your budget on the bottom of the funnel search queries where people are ready to buy right now, "where to buy digital SLR cameras near me."

Yelp advertises you in your industry/niche, but there's no choosing the types of queries you go after, and those other industries could be too far afield from yours.

Geotargeting Options

Google provides incredible flexibility in geotargeting on the map. You can target a radius from 1 mile or km up to 500 miles or km. You can specify an address and target right around that, or specify a zip code, city, county, or state for targeting. With Google Ads, you can also exclude certain areas as well to ensure your ads don't show in those particular areas. A related post here on Google Ads Local Targeting.


Google Ads Geotargeting Options

Yelp provides 3 radius options - 5 miles, 10 miles, 15 miles - that's it!

Yelp Ads Geotargeting Options

Yelp Ads Geotargeting Options

Integration with Facebook, Cross Marketing

Using UTM parameters, you can target just your Google ad visitors on Facebook.

Conversely, when looking in Google Analytics at referral traffic from Yelp to your website, it's very low so you cannot easily integrate Yelp with other marketing campaigns (i.e. through retargeting Yelp website visitors on Google, Facebook) to cross-market.

Lowest Cost-Per-Click (CPC)

Google's ad auction system is designed so that you pay exactly the lowest cost per click possible to maintain your ad position (referred to as the Adwords Discounter. More info here), and its Smart Pricing system will actually reduce the cost-per-click if it believes a click is less likely to lead to a conversion.

Whether your particular industry has lower CPC in Google vs Yelp depends on your industry and geolocation. I have seen the CPC higher in Yelp in some industries and higher over in Google in other industries. For example, the CPC cost in Google for personal injury attorneys is often far higher in Google, yet in massage therapy, the CPC cost in Yelp is higher vs Google.

With Yelp advertising, the amount you pay is primarily determined by Yelp - there's no real-time auction ensuring you pay the minimum. And for most campaigns, that means CPC for Yelp from our discussions with reps is usually in the $3 - $4 range for many industries. Your industry CPC can vary greatly depending on your industry - certain attorney niches pay upwards of $50 per click.

Cost Per Lead - Google vs Yelp

From the below anecdotal example, we looked at the same period in Google and Yelp to identify the cost per lead data between both. It's not possible to capture every lead, but this is a good comparison. They both have a similar cost per lead (keep in mind this is a law firm where the cost are extremely high). Your mileage will vary greatly depending on your industry.

Yelp Ads Cost Per Lead vs Google Ads Cost Per Lead For Law Firm

Yelp Ads Cost Per Lead vs Google Ads Cost Per Lead For Law Firm


Google provides a toll-free number for support (866-2-GOOGLE) with technical Adwords specialists, or Google Analytics reps. Yelp provides a sales rep.

Google Ads Provides Full-Funnel Marketing and Advertising 

Google provides a complete full-funnel marketing solution for businesses that targets your customers at the earliest stages of discovery long before they become a customer all the way through the funnel until they are ready to purchase.

The Yelp Ads platform provides a simple solution that is lacking in most of the robust features in Google Ads.


Every situation is unique and has to be evaluated on its own, but from working with dozens of businesses and looking at the corresponding data among both platforms, if you have to choose one over the other, my recommendation is to start with Google Ads.

 What are your thoughts? Which do you prefer and why?

For those of you new to Google Adwords and paid campaigns, a couple of related posts here will help: 

What is Google Adwords and how does it work?
And How much should I spend on Google ads

About the author 

Toby is the co-founder of 39 Celsius. He has over 20 years of digital marketing experience and has started several companies throughout his career. He's an expert in SEO, Social Media Ads, Google Ads, Marketing Automation, and more. He has a BA in Chemistry/Biochemistry from UC San Diego and an MBA from SDSU.

  • Stanleyrama says:

    Great article. You have a more recent article and the comments on Yelps practices are HORRIFYING! In the past few months Yelp has called every small business in my area over and over! I would not even claim my business with Yelp so they don’t know you exist. Go with Google!

  • Kedric Jackson says:

    I have Google words and Yelp advertising. I am having more success with Yelp than Google! I am paying about $1,000 monthly on Yelp advertising and I am grossing about $5,000 + easily. With Google, I have to advertise towards the end of the month to make profit off the money I spent for Google advertising. I pay per click not by impressions for my Yelp advertising and I love my success thus far. Finally, as with most things in life there are certain things I do not like about Yelp, but one of them is not the money Yelp helps me make! Best to all you ladies and gentlemen!

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