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The Ultimate Showdown: Google Ads vs. Yelp Ads – Which Platform Will Bring You More Customers?

by Toby

May 13, 2024

Google Ads vs Yelp Ads - Which is Better

Tired of shouting into the void? Ever feel like your advertising dollars are disappearing into a black hole? Whether you run a cozy bakery, a bustling dental practice, or an innovative tech startup, attracting new customers is the lifeblood of your business. 

But with so many advertising options, how do you know which one will give you the biggest bang for your buck?

Today, we're diving into the ultimate advertising showdown: Google Ads vs. Yelp Ads. 

If you're wondering which platform will supercharge your marketing efforts and bring in a flood of eager customers, you've come to the right place. 

We'll break down each platform's strengths and weaknesses so you can confidently choose the one that best suits your business goals.

What is Google Ads?

Imagine you own a local med spa and want more people to discover your services. Google Ads is like a megaphone that helps you shout your message to a massive local audience online.

Here's how it works:

  • Search Ads: These are the ads that pop up at the top of Google search results when someone types in keywords related to your business. For example, if someone searches for "best med spa in [your town]," your ad could appear right there, leading them to your website or location
  • Display Ads: These are the visual banners or images you see on websites, apps, and even Gmail. They can showcase your logo, the services you offer, or special offers to entice customers
  • Video Ads: Think of these as mini commercials that play before, during, or after YouTube videos. You can use them to show off your bakers in action, highlight customer testimonials, or create a fun, engaging story about your brand
  • Shopping Ads: If you sell products online, these ads showcase your goodies directly in Google search results, complete with a photo, price, and link to your online store. It's like having a virtual storefront on Google!

Why are Google Ads so effective?

  • Massive Reach: Google is the most popular search engine on the planet, so your ads have the potential to reach millions of people. It’s also the number one maps navigation app, has the number one mobile phone operating system in the world, along with the number one website analytics program which is installed on just about every website. Google has tons of data that helps you as an advertiser
  • Precise Targeting: You can target your ads to specific keywords, locations, interests, demographics, and even the devices people use. This means your ads will be shown to the people most likely to become your customers. Google Ads also uses machine learning to deliver the most effective results for your ad spend
  • Measurable Results: Google Ads provides detailed reports and analytics on how your ads are performing. You can see how many people are clicking your ads, visiting your website, and even making purchases. This allows you to fine-tune your campaigns for maximum impact

In short, Google Ads is a versatile and powerful tool that can help your business get noticed by the right people, drive more traffic to your website, and ultimately increase sales. It's like having a personal marketing team working tirelessly to promote your business 24/7!

What are Yelp Ads?

Now, let's turn our attention to Yelp, another go-to hub for finding local businesses and reading reviews. And Yelp also offers advertising options to help businesses like yours get noticed.

Yelp is more than just a digital phone book – it's a thriving community where people share their experiences and opinions about local businesses. When potential customers are searching for a restaurant, plumber, or hair salon, Yelp is often one of the places customers check before doing business with you. This makes it a potentially powerful platform for local businesses to connect with their target audience.

Here's how Yelp Ads can work for you:

  • Sponsored Listings: These ads appear at the top of relevant search results on Yelp, ensuring that your business gets prime visibility when potential customers are actively looking for services like yours
  • Enhanced Profiles or Page Upgrades: With an enhanced profile, you can add photos, videos, and a call-to-action button to your Yelp business page, remove competitor ads, add a slideshow, and more, making it more engaging and enticing for potential customers
  • Call to Action Buttons: You can include prominent buttons like "Call Now" or "Book Now" on your profile, making it easier for customers to take the next step

Prefer to watch a video?

Why should you consider Yelp Ads?

  • Local Focus: Yelp is all about local businesses, so your ads will be seen by people in your community who are actively seeking services like yours
  • Review Power: Yelp is known for its customer reviews, and positive reviews can significantly boost your credibility and attract new customers
  • Targeted Reach: Yelp allows you to target your ads based on location, keywords, and even the interests of users, ensuring that your message reaches the right audience (although it doesn’t do this very well - more on that shortly)

If you're a local business looking to increase your visibility and attract more customers, Yelp Ads could be a valuable tool in your marketing arsenal. It's a platform where reviews matter, local connections are made, and potential customers seek businesses like yours.

Toby Danylchuk

Discover How Our Agency Can Drive More Leads and Sales To You

SEO - increase traffic and leads from Google

Content Marketing - from a data-driven topic strategy to awesome content

Paid Ads - Google Ads and Paid Social Media

Head-to-Head Comparison: Key Factors


Reach and Audience: Who Are You Talking To?

When it comes to reach, Google Ads is the undisputed heavyweight champion. 

With billions of searches happening on Google every day on both mobile and desktop, your ads have the potential to reach a massive global audience, or a hyper-focused local audience on scale. This is especially beneficial if your business has a broad target market or offers products and services that appeal to a wide range of demographics. 

In comparison, Yelp's strength lies in its hyperlocal focus. 

It attracts a dedicated community of users who are actively seeking out local businesses and rely on reviews to make informed decisions. This makes Yelp an ok option for businesses like restaurants, hair salons, dentists, and other service providers that cater to a specific geographic area.

Advantage goes to: Google

Targeting Options: Hitting the Bullseye with Your Ads

Now, let's talk about targeting, the art of getting your message in front of the right people at the right time. 

Both Google Ads and Yelp Ads offer a variety of targeting options, but they each have their unique strengths.

Google Ads: A Multi-Tool for Precision Targeting

Google Ads is like a Swiss Army knife of targeting options, giving you an impressive array of tools to fine-tune your targeting. Here are some of the key features:

  • Keyword Targeting: Choose the specific words and phrases that your potential customers are searching for on Google. This ensures that your ads appear when they're actively looking for products or services like yours
  • Demographic Targeting: Narrow down your audience based on age, gender, location, and even household income
  • Interest Targeting: Reach people based on their interests, hobbies, and online behaviors. This is perfect for showing your ads to people who are likely to be interested in what you have to offer
  • In-Market Audiences: This unique feature allows you to target people who are actively researching or considering buying products or services like yours. It's like having a crystal ball that predicts who's ready to become your next customer!

Yelp Ads: Hyperlocal Targeting 

The Yelp ads platform has far fewer options compared to Google and it is a less precise and less efficient platform than Google with its ads. 

Here's what you can expect in terms of options to use to target your ads:

  • Location Targeting: Target your ads to specific neighborhoods, cities, or even zip codes. This ensures that people who are most likely to visit your business see your message. (see below)
  • Keyword Targeting: Similar to Google Ads, you choose keywords that potential customers might be searching for on Yelp. However, Yelp’s keyword options are nowhere near the effectiveness of what Google offers

What makes Yelp less efficient and less precise has to do with its geo targeting options along with refining the keywords you use, and the lack of additional targeting options that Google has.

Advantage goes to: Google Ads

Comparing Google Ads Geotargeting to Yelp Ads Geotargeting

With Yelp, if your customer base is less than a 5-mile radius, you may have trouble narrowing your targeting.  As you can see below, the narrowest we can set the radius is to 5 miles. Yelp does offer the ability to target based on zip codes and neighborhoods, but this feature may be limited if there’s not enough search volume in those areas.

Yelps Ads Geographic Performance Report

Yelps Ads Geographic Performance Report

In comparison, Google offers more fine-tuned geo-targeting abilities. 

Here’s an example of the geotargeting interface in Google Ads.

Geo Targeting Interface in Google Ads

Geo Targeting Interface in Google Ads

In the example above, I set the radius to as low as 1 km. Much narrower than what Yelp allows for because there are far more people available to reach in Google versus Yelp so narrower targets are allowed. You can also set Location Exclusions in Google Ads so your ads won’t show in certain areas as well.  

Google also allows for larger scale targeting by cities, counties, states, and countries. 

The advantage goes to: Google

Compare Google Ads Keyword Targeting to Yelp Ads Keyword Targeting

Google was founded on keywords. Its keyword abilities far surpass anything that Yelp has to offer. This comparison is not even fair. 

Google’s Keyword Research

Google offers robust keyword research tools to find precisely the best keywords. Google will show you all sorts of actionable data. Below we used the term “best med spa san diego.” 

The Google Keyword Planner not only shows us other terms to consider, but also average monthly search volume and top of bid range for cost-per-click. 

Google Ads Keyword Planner - Keyword Research

Google Ads Keyword Planner - Keyword Research

In addition to the keyword research tools Google provides, it also provides in-depth information on how each individual keyword is performing. 

Here’s an example below.

Look at all the data on specific keywords for this account.

By analyzing the data, we can identify the keywords that are driving clicks and conversions, such as phone calls or online bookings. Armed with this information, we can optimize our campaign by pausing underperforming keywords, thereby reallocating our ad budget to the keywords that generate the most sales. (read our related post on setting up conversion tracking for Google Ads).

Google Ads Keyword Performance Data

Google Ads Keyword Performance Data

Yelp Ads Keyword Targeting

The Yelp keyword tool is very limited. The below screenshot shows the Yelp keyword tool. There’s not much there.

Yelp Ads Keyword Tool

Yelp Ads Keyword Tool

Yelp also doesn’t provide any insights into which keywords are working well and which are wasting your ad dollars - you have no insights to act on which means your ad spend is wasted.

Tracking and Analytics

Google Ads Tracking

Google makes available an immense amount of data to you so you can refine your campaign to its very best. 

As I showed earlier, you can see clear keyword level data to refine your keywords.

Here’s another example where we can see the type of lead for five different campaigns: 

Google Ads Conversion and Lead Data

Google Ads Conversion and Lead Data

You can also see leads and conversion data by geography. This enables you to further refine your campaign to stop showing ads in places that are not sending you business. 

Google Ads Leads and Conversions by Zip Code

Google Ads Leads and Conversions by Zip Code

Yelps Ads Tracking

In comparison, Yelp Ads shows you a heat map of where your ads are “reaching” - not which areas are sending you the most business. Again, you cannot refine your ad spend based on these data. Some of these areas are for sure wasting your ad spend in this case.

Yelps Ads Geographic Performance Report

Yelps Ads Geographic Performance Report

Yelp does provide more ad insights as you can see in the below screenshot broken down by various actions. 

Yelps Ads Leads and Conversion Reporting Data

Yelps Ads Leads and Conversion Reporting Data

Other Features

Day parting is another feature Google Ads offers that is an effective feature. Day parting allows you to show your ads only during certain days and times of the day. So if you have a finite budget, you can focus it only during your business hours when you’re most likely to convert traffic. 

Here’s an example for a restaurant where we have ads running only Friday, Saturday, and Sunday during specific hours to focus the ad spend during those times. (read a related post here on Google Ads Dayparting)

Google Ads Dayparting Strategy

Google Ads Dayparting Strategy

Yelp doesn’t have this feature. Ads run all day, 7 days per week.

Feature Comparison Table: Google Ads vs Yelp Ads

Google ads vs Yelp Ads Feature Comparison Table

Google ads vs Yelp Ads Feature Comparison Table

Which Ad Platform Should You Use: Google Ads or Yelp Ads?

Without knowing more about your precise situation, Google Ads is hands down the most effective ad platform overall. And it’s the one we consistently recommend to our clients.

However, Google Ads can be complex for those not regularly engaged in advertising. Successful campaigns require expertise in managing Google Ads, including setting up conversion tracking, conducting keyword research, and possibly creating landing pages or integrating with your website.

Google does offer simpler alternatives, like Google Ads Express and Smart campaigns, but these versions lack the comprehensive features of the full platform and tend to be less effective.

Yelp’s ad platform is very simple to use. 

On the other hand, Yelp’s advertising platform is much simpler to navigate. However, not every business thrives on Yelp. While restaurants and salons may find success, the platform doesn’t necessarily cater to a wide variety of business types. In contrast, Google Ads reaches a vast and diverse customer base daily, making it a more universally applicable option.

Got more questions about Google or Yelp Ads?

Book a time with me to discuss your project and how we can help you win more business now.

Toby Danylchuk

Discover How Our Agency Can Drive More Leads and Sales To You

SEO - increase traffic and leads from Google

Content Marketing - from a data-driven topic strategy to awesome content

Paid Ads - Google Ads and Paid Social Media

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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