First—What is Yelp?
Yelp is one of the most popular local search and reviews online services. The platform helps businesses connect with customers through free profiles and paid advertising.
Once you set up a free Yelp profile for your business, you get calls from Yelp sales agents offering you premium features and advertising packages to help you generate even more leads.
While these offers may sound attractive – especially if you already have many customers telling you they found your business on Yelp – there are a few important things you need to know before you commit your advertising dollars.
This article offers you an unbiased objective insight into Yelp’s advertising platform. The information in it will help you make better-informed decisions about where to allocate your business’s digital advertising spend to get the best return on your investment.
So read on to find out whether Yelp advertising is worth the cost or not.
First, let’s take a look at the fundamentals of how Yelp works.
How Yelp Works
Maybe you know and maybe you don’t, but Yelp offers two types of paid features to businesses: Business Page Upgrades and Yelp Ads.
Here’s a quick rundown of what each entails:
Business Page Upgrades
These are premium features that allow you to enhance the way your Yelp profile page looks and functions. They include:
Competitors’ Ads Restriction: A free profile on Yelp shows your competitors’ ads on your profile page. However, if you advertise, your business will show up when potential customers search for other local businesses in your niche, while your competitors’ ads will be restricted on your profile.
Enhanced Slideshow: This feature lets you organize the images from your business in any way you like. It starts with a photo chosen by you and then cycles through the rest.
Call to Action: You have the option to add a call to action on your profile page. This can send visitors to any page of your choosing, such as an order form, coupon, and so on.
Yelp ads work in much the same way as Google Ads and Facebook Ads in that business owners can pay to get preferential rankings and placements.
With these ads, you get the opportunity to target potential clients as they are deciding which business they want to spend their money on.
When you sign up for advertising, your ad gets impressions on the profiles of your competitors and other companies.
You also get historical metrics to show you how your campaign is doing.
This includes the number of ad clicks, ad impressions, cost per click, total ad spend, and more.
However, the results of Yelp advertising are mixed, and for every business that reports success on the platform, you will find another that labels Yelp’s advertising program as a scam.
This article primarily covers the advertising packages, but the information contained here applies to the upgrades program as well.
What Is The Cost To Advertise On Yelp?
Now that you know how Yelp works, it’s time to understand how the advertising platform charges local businesses.
Yelp charges on a cost per click (CPC) basis. You can start advertising for just $150/month, and you can choose how you spend your monthly budget.
The amount you pay for each click varies widely, with some advertisers, such as food establishments paying amounts as low as $0.30 for each click, while others in more competitive industries like law pay up to $40 or more per click.
Not All Industries Are Created Equal
Whether or not Yelp ads are effective for helping your business generate additional leads has a lot to do with the industry you’re in.
For instance, there are 1383 categories on Yelp, with restaurants being the most notable.
One Los-Angeles based restaurant, Bottega Louie has well over 16,000 reviews while the leading trivia host only has 35.
This goes to show that some types of businesses just don’t get searched for on Yelp.
The key to success is critical thinking and deep research into how your customers typically find you in your space.
You must put yourself in your customers’ shoes and determine whether or not they’re using Yelp to find your business and others like it.
At this point, I should state that Yelp representatives don’t care if you’re a restaurant owner or a trivia host – you’ll get a call no matter what industry you’re in.
Having said that, there’s no doubt that lots of prospective customers frequently use this platform. They consider it an extremely useful source for business information, and it can be a valuable channel of advertising for some business owners.
So, if you’re still considering advertising on Yelp, here are some of the pros and cons:
Pros and Cons of Advertising on Yelp
In this section, we’ll take a look at some of the benefits and drawbacks of Yelp advertising.
Pros of Yelp Ads
Free Features: A Yelp business account includes a wide range of free features, most of which are extremely helpful for small businesses.
No Cancellation Fee: You can get Yelp’s paid features on a month-to-month basis, and there’s no fee if you decide to quit the service.
Budget Control: You have full control over what you spend each day or month so you can stay within your budget.
Easy to Manage: You can have an ad live on the platform in just a few clicks of the mouse.
Effective Ads: Yelp ads can be effective – if you’re in the right industry. For some businesses, Yelp ads offer the best return compared to Google Ads, Facebook Ads, Twitter, and Instagram Ads. For these businesses, Yelp is a source of consistent bottom-of-the-funnel traffic to their websites.
Cons of Yelp Ads
Costly Advertising: Yelp ads are quite expensive which puts the premium amenities out of reach of many small businesses. According to reviews online, some merchants have reported prices of $20 and more per click for meager results.
Limited Targeting Options: Although you can set listing photos and specify all the special features of your business, you’re unable to set location controls or keywords for any of your ads. Yelp’s targeting options remain a mystery, which means that you’ll likely get lots of people contacting you about services you don’t provide (unless your business offers general services).
Questionable Reporting: Many business owners report that Yelp’s reporting is inflated and unsubstantiated. The analytics cannot be validated using other tracking software like Google Analytics.
Negative Reviews: Yelp has a poor reputation on sites like TrustPilot, with many of the platform’s merchant features getting disappointing reviews from business owners.
Aggressive Sales Team: Some user reviews online show that the sales agents don’t seem to care if Yelp ads are ideal for businesses in your industry or not. They’ll try to rope you in regardless.
Less Than Stellar Support: The support team is reported to be less than helpful. According to Nick Leffler, owner of Exprance, support is super helpful while trying to get you to commit your advertising dollars, but they become hard to get a hold of if you need answers after that.
What Do Merchants Say About Yelp?
I don’t want to sound as if I’m taking this advertising platform to task. I think that Yelp has its pluses.
If your business offers products that cater to Yelp’s user base, you can get a nice increase in local foot traffic with premium ads. You’ll get people who have read reviews and other information about your business, and are qualified and ready to pull out their credit cards.
However, during the course of my research, I came across tons of negativity online.
There are detailed recollections from business owners citing shady tactics, lawsuits and coercion on Yelp review manipulation, and much more.
In fact, it’s scary just how many people are crying to burn this platform at the stake.
Although one might argue that some of the negative opinions are likely to be unfounded, or simply based on public opinion – with no facts or data analysis to back them up – it’s still a good idea to consider the views of other merchants.
This can be of great help in informing your decision as you gauge whether or not a Yelp advertising campaign is right for your business.
The Bottom Line – Are Yelp Ads Worth It?
The answer is: It depends.
Despite Yelp’s strong negatives and numerous lawsuits, the advertising program can be very useful.
There’s no denying that people look to the platform to provide them with reviews from a business’s previous customers. They want to read about the type of experience provided for other customers before they can hand over their hard-earned cash.
Even with Yelp ads, those people will still want to find relevant reviews so they can determine which is the best company to go with.
This means that if your business profile isn’t established, then you are not likely to see great benefits from advertising on the platform.
However, if your business is in one of the well-searched categories on Yelp (all B2C), and you’re already seeing some success with your free profile on the platform, you can pay to get more exposure on Yelp so you can drive more leads to your business.
For small businesses that want to get more exposure for their products or services, Yelp ads may boost their visibility and engagement from customers.
However, a study found that there are very few long-term residual effects from Yelp Ads.
This means that advertising on this platform can prove to be a costly endeavor – particularly for small businesses.
If you decide to move forward, just keep in mind that Yelp’s advertising program is a slippery slope so navigate with caution.
Look at your statistics regularly and compare the cost per click with revenue earned from customer visits.
My Final Recommendation?
For the most part, B2B companies want to abstain from advertising on Yelp.
As a general rule of thumb, search for your niche and take a look at some of the companies that come up.
See how many reviews each of them has, and check if any other businesses in your industry are advertising on the platform.
Consider whether you get a lot of local foot traffic to your business, or if you have significant organic Yelp profile views. If so, what is the estimated CPC, and is it worth it? What are your conversion rates from existing Yelp traffic?
Answering these and other questions like these will help you determine if Yelp ads are worth the cost for your business.
Here’s an even quicker way to help you decide:
Yelp ads may work for you if you can say ‘yes’ to the following:
- Does your business have an adequate advertising budget to support it?
- Do you offer general services rather than specialized services?
- Are reviews for your business an important decision-making factor for customers?
- Are you willing to invest the time necessary to manage the effort?
Yelp ads might not be right for you if:
- Your business doesn’t have the profit margin to afford ads
- You require specific targeting to get the right customers
- You don’t have the time to invest in managing your ad campaigns
Some marketers feel that advertising on Yelp is not worthwhile. They are skeptical about what Yelp can deliver in terms of prospects and leads, and they feel their ad budget would be better spent on other platforms, such as Google Ads.
Other marketers sing Yelp’s praises and report consistent positive returns on their advertising spend.
The best way forward is to test it for yourself and monitor everything.
You can either sign up for Yelp, get the free $300 upfront credit and apply that to your ad campaign, or try their smallest advertising package to see for yourself whether Yelp advertising is a good fit for your business.