Yelp ads stock photo.

Yelp is perhaps the number one review website in the United States. Purchasing advertising space on Yelp for your small business should come as a no brainer, right? Anyone that has ever set up a new Yelp page for their small business knows that this is a decision that is going to have to be made. The advertising sales staff at Yelp are very persistent and will go to great lengths to tell you how effective Yelp ads will be for your business.

I’ve personally worked with Yelp advertisements when I worked for a small business that owned multiple locations. It was more of a trial and error kind of thing at the time and I had no idea whether Yelp would be an effective or ineffective advertising platform. In short, Yelp places your brand’s advertisements on the pages of similar and competing businesses in your niche. Straight out of the gate, you know that your potential leads will be far down the sales funnel. Yelp’s metrics are very bland and do not allow business owners to track conversions and their return on investment (ROI) very well. A business owner could set up a unique phone number for Yelp but that could negatively effect your brand’s local SEO campaign. It’s very important that your business’ name, address and phone number are the same throughout the entire web. Google frowns upon inaccurate business information.

The general metrics provided for your Yelp business page include user views, customer leads, calls from mobile devices and revenue estimate. You’ll see these when logged into to your Yelp account. The advertising metrics when you sign up for Yelp ads include ad impressions, ad clicks, cost per click (CPC) and ad spend. You can bet that the majority of these clicks will not fit your brand's definition of a lead or conversion. How a business defines a lead or conversion can vary. Most often, conversions are considered an actual purchase, an inquiry phone call or an inquiry contact form sent to the business. To determine your cost per conversion, a business owner would take the total ad spend for the month and divide it by total number of conversions. Only the business owner will know whether the cost per conversion makes Yelp ads worth the investment.

Unlike Google Adwords, the most effective advertising platform for businesses by far, Yelp does not allow brands to decide which keywords should be targeted. There is also no performance data regarding keywords provided to business owners. Another problem with Yelp ads is that the geotargeting isn’t anywhere near as effective as Google Adwords’ geotargeting. You’ll never know exactly where your ad is being shown and to whom. If you have a nationwide ecommerce business that services everyone, that’s not as big of an issue. However, geotargeting is a critical factor for local businesses because customers will only drive so far to purchase products and services. It’s a safe bet that if a specific geo area isn’t fulfilling your Yelp advertising budget that the company will expand the radius that your advertisements show up in. Without telling you, of course.

Yelp also makes business owners sign a contract and you’ll be required to pay a penalty if you decide Yelp ads aren’t delivering quality leads to your business. With Google Adwords, business owners can activate or pause the ad campaign whenever they wish. With Facebook ads, the business owner determines the budget and length of the campaign ahead of time. Yelp definitely isn’t as flexible with their ads platform.

Despite all of this, Yelp ads will work just fine for businesses that have a marketing budget to freely spend on branding. Keep in mind that you’ll need to send an email cancelling your contract 30 days before the contract’s expiration. Otherwise, the agreement will rollover to a month by month basis. How much do Yelp ads cost? For a 12-month contract, the different packages look like this. All packages will include your monthly ad budget, an enhanced profile ($50), a featured video about your business ($50) and call tracking ($25). These rates are for 2018 and will likely fluctuate in the future.*

  • Intro - $400 per month. Includes ad budget ($275), an enhance profile, call tracking and a featured video.
  • Basic - $600 per month. Includes ad budget ($475), an enhance profile, call tracking and a featured video.
  • Standard - $850 per month. Includes ad budget ($725), an enhance profile, call tracking and a featured video.
  • Premium - $1,100 per month. Includes ad budget ($975), an enhance profile, call tracking and a featured video.
  • Super - $1,650 per month. Includes ad budget ($1,525), an enhance profile, call tracking and a featured video.
  • Ultra - $2,250 per month. Includes ad budget ($2,125), an enhance profile, call tracking and a featured video.

In conclusion, Yelp ads are ok for more established businesses and corporations that have a free flow of marketing dollars to spend on branding. For small businesses and entrepreneurs that want to quickly scale their business and have a tighter budget, Yelp ads are not worth the investment. The demographics of Yelp’s users are typically very young; nearly 40% are under the age of 34. Users are also often already familiar with the businesses they’re researching which means your advertising dollars will be spent almost entirely on their aimless browsing behaviors. However, all businesses should at least claim their business page on Yelp as it is one of the most important citation listings out there.

Are you a small business owner in need of a little guidance with your digital marketing strategy? John Mann SEO Consulting can help. We are a small SEO company in Nashville, Tennessee and offer services such as search engine optimization (SEO), email marketing, content marketing and development and social media marketing. We provide free consultations to all clients that inquire about our services. We can be reached at 615-491-9819 or by completing our inquiry contact form.