The rise of Yelp has fundamentally changed internet marketing, especially for local businesses. Many consumers bypass Google and other traditional search engines altogether and simply conduct their search on Yelp. Many will check out a company’s Yelp reviews before bothering to contact them. In addition to this, Yelp listings and categories often shows up in traditional SERPS, thereby serving as another asset (if it’s your business listing) or hindrance (if it’s your competitor’s). So for better or worse (I say better), Yelp has changed the local search game, and it’s not going away any time soon.
Yelp has certainly empowered many small business owners and given them an affordable (free!) channel from which to market their products and services. But what about their paid advertising options? Many such business owners are approached by Yelp account reps with the prospects of greatly increasing their business through their paid search platforms.
Having gotten far more involved with SEO/marketing for local businesses, and having seen how much business Yelp’s free listings can drive, I thought it would be great to try out their local Yelp Ads.
Yelp Ads: Summary
Now what do you get with Yelp Ads? For one, your ads (which take users to your Yelp page, not your website) show up on your competitor’s listings (unless they too are buying Yelp Ads) and competitor ads won’t show up on your listing. You get a call-to-action button and your uploaded photos will rotate in slideshow fashion (meaning visitors will see more than just the first uploaded 3 photos). The option we went with was $350/month (a 3-month minimum contract).
Yelp Ads: The Results
The 4 months of Yelp Advertising didn’t result in any noticeable increase in revenue. However, there was some noticeable increase in activity on this Yelp page as well as what Yelp calls leads
The Yelp Ads campaign began in April, 2014 and ran through July 2014 for a total of 4 months. There was certainly an increased number of visits to the company’s Yelp page (“user views”).
Customer Leads were actually highest in March 2014 (leads are a collection of actions including mobile calls, direction and map views, clicks to your website, etc)., before the Ad campaign began. There is a drop off from July (the last month of the ads) and August, though this could also be a continuation of the drop-off between June and July.
Google Analytics Data
In general, Yelp has driven between 0 and 2 clicks per day to the advertiser’s site. There was a slight uptick to to about 1-3 clocks on average during the ad campaign, and no noticeable increase in revenue.
Here is the phone data for calls in general during the end of this campaign. In order to maintain a consistent local search presence, we are not using a specific “Yelp” phone number to track calls separately (for tracking purposes it’s a good idea to do so, but may also hinder local search rankings by reducing consistency).
From this small data it’s certainly difficult to give local Yelp advertising a ringing endorsement. The only real spike is the increase to the company’s Yelp listing, but this is not surprising since that’s where Yelp ads link to. One can always insert post hoc reasoning from either side of the coin. One can argue that Yelp ads mostly drive “looky-lous” as opposed to determined customers. On the other hand, perhaps Yelp ads kept the Yelp page afloat for what would have otherwise been a slow summer.
Yelp Basic vs Yelp Ads
While this is experiment makes it difficult for me to recommend Yelp Advertising (at least for local business), this should not be confused with Yelp’s value in general. I have seen first hand how much business Yelp is able to drive, especially when you take full advantage of what’s freely available (ask happy customers to provide reviews, use all 3 categories if applicable, fill out your description with pertinent information, etc). However, Yelp Ads don’t seem to add enough value to justify an extra $350/month (this may be different for specific businesses like law firms, where a single lead could be worth thousands of dollars).
Do Yelp reviews drop off after you stop advertising?
It’s not uncommon to hear that Yelp begins to filter reviews as ‘punishment’ for discontinuing ad campaigns. There are even some business owners who have claimed that Yelp has engaged in outright extortion. I can say that this business has experienced nothing of the sort (though there has been at least one call from a local marketing company claiming to be able to remove negative Yelp reviews–ironically, that company’s Yelp listing was itself overrun with negative reviews).
Yelp Advertising Costs
Since there are different forms of Yelp advertising, it’s important to distinguish the available options, especially the difference between Yelp’s national advertising option, as opposed to its local ads, which is what this post is referring to.
The local advertising package ranges from about $340/CPM* (for the larger more expensive packages) to $700/CPM (for the smallest package). That may seem like a typo for those only accustomed to Google Adwords and/or Facebook Advertising (which has been around $4/CPM in my tests) but no, I did not forget to add a period.
The justification is that these are technicality geotargeted users who are already showing an interest in your product or service. You are essentially closing the deal with qualified prospects. Unfortunately, this test hardly corroborates that notion.
* CPM = Cost per thousand impressions