Yelp Ads - Are They Worth It?
Consideration of Digital Marketing / PPC Advertising
If you are reading this, it’s clear that you are serious about digital marketing and pay-per-click advertising. Whether you’re looking to setup up your very first campaign, or considering expanding your search engine marketing portfolio, you might come across Yelp ads and wonder if they are any good. By now, most of us know that Yelp is basically just a local search engine to help consumers research and choose a business. As it turns out, any business that registers with Yelp will undoubtedly receive a phone call soliciting their advertising platform (via marketing techniques such as $300 in free credit, of course which comes with a disclaimer).
In order to properly assess the value of Yelp ads, we need to examine the following criteria: How effective are these ads? How good is the ROI? What are digital marketers saying about their experiences with Yelp?
How Effective are Yelp Ads?
If you haven’t figured it out already, Yelp ads run exclusively on the Yelp website. Similar to Google and Facebook ads, there’s (limited) ability to target potential leads and the charges are based on the CPC (cost per click) model. However, there are two major problems here with Yelp ads. First, a system with sub-par targeting abilities is not going to effectively serve your ads to people that can be expected to convert (or click on your ad and ultimately turn into a customer). There is little to no keyword transparency which can result in wasted ad funds (for unrelated and imperfect keyword searches). Second, these ads only display on the Yelp website... a click on your ad might just bring the user to your Yelp page, which one might arrive at organically to learn more about your business. Therefore, a Yelp ad click-through is not effectively a true conversion. Last, Yelp itself is mainly tailored to the restaurant industry. Depending on your business/industry, it might not even be at all beneficial to be on Yelp in the first place. In these cases, Yelp ads are ineffective and would be a complete waste.
Where's the ROI?
Yelp ads offers numerous packages with a large range in price – blatantly obvious about their use of “Goldilocks” pricing, a marketing tactic that makes the middle package(s) seem like the most reasonable choice with the best value. Off the bat, all of these packages are over-priced – you get charged for the click budget (the ads), enhanced profile (unlocking more stuff to show about your business; free on Google, Bing, Facebook), a featured video (if people are so inclined to sit through and watch), and call tracking (which you shouldn’t have to pay for; free on Google, Bing, or Facebook). If you’ve purchased a package, you’ve already wasted part of your budget – these funds would be better served going straight to the ads.
Yelp ads aren’t very effective as previously discussed. Fair to poor targeting causes invalid clicks (some by mistake, some fully off-topic, others not quite what the user was looking for) – this an absolute waste of the ad budget, even if it only happens occasionally. In general, there are very few customers that click through to a website. By the time you finally acquire a customer, you’ve wasted and burned through a large portion of your budget. With these ads running at such a high cost, your monthly ROI will most likely be non-existent.
Yelp’s Poor Reputation
Probably most importantly, Yelp ads have a poor reputation among digital marketers and unsatisfied business owners. It’s unfortunate, the Yelp advertising platform is known for a number of issues. The most recent complaints and scam warnings deal with Yelp misleading everyone about their "free credit" or "free month". Here are some of the most common complaints:
- Misleading "free" credits/months of service
- Too costly overall
- Limited ad targeting
- Aggressive sales team
- Poor customer service
- Inaccurate, inflated reporting
- Only useful for specific businesses/industries
- Poor business practices (claims of unauthorized charges)
Based on independent review websites, Yelp has terrible ratings and reviews (ratings at the time this article was written) as well as an alarming history of deception:
- Reviews of Yelp on TrustPilot.com | 1.9 Stars (3,844 reviews, 79% bad)
- Reviews of Yelp for Business on SiteJabber.com | 1.1 Stars (546 reviews)
- Yelp Complaints on Better Business Bureau® | 2,094 complaints and "Pattern of complaint alert" included
- Yelp on Wikipedia - A long history of unfair practices, misleading sales tactics, poor reliability, manipulating reviews, and more
Conclusion and Recommendations
Given the issues with efficacy, cost, and reputation, Yelp ads are definitely not worth it. Additionally, it’s pretty alarming to find so many testimonials, complaints, and reviews that highlight Yelp’s poor reputation as a business due to their unethical practices. Instead of Yelp, we recommend you go with Google Ads instead (or literally any other advertising vendor/platform).