Are Yelp Ads Worth The Spend?

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Yelp, the current juggernaut of online review platforms. We all know that Yelp has a strong online presence for many businesses who want to build awareness among consumers. If you’re searching for something on Google, Yelp has a great chance of landing on the top of the SERPs. As a small business owner, you’ve found success with consumers finding you on Yelp and now you’re wondering if you should double your success by investing into Yelp’s advertising platform. Nevertheless, should those investment dollars be better spent on Yelp ads?

The goal is to provide you with objective insights into Yelp’s advertising platform.

First and foremost, you have to figure out what the definition of a lead means to you. The word “Leads” should be used very lightly when looking at the ad metrics that Yelp shows you. Some business owners may classify a lead as someone who has called their business, submitted a form on their website, or drove to their business.

Now, these are some of the “Yelp-defined” leads below:

  • Mobile Calls
  • Clicks to Website
  • Messages
  • Directions & Map Views
  • Call-To-Action Clicks

Take some of these so-called leads with a grain of salt and dive deeper into those metrics to figure if they’re truly leads towards your business. For example, if by clicking on directions count as a lead, it may be possible it’s an invalid leads because it may someone who was a previous lead who needed directions. Although this may be a possibility, Yelp will count it as two leads.

Another perspective we must examine is the fact that all the “leads” you are receiving from Yelp are from actual Yelp ads and not just from organic searches from Yelp. When you start advertising, you are still getting a ton of organic traffic from Yelp, regardless of the ad.

In general, you’re getting plenty of impressions on Yelp but they send very little traffic through a website as most people stay on the site or app if they are on mobile devices.

The Geotargeting of Yelp ad campaigns are quite complex and actually quite mysterious. These are not two qualities we want when thinking of our next investment. Of course, we can’t always expect to know 100% of what’s going on with your investment, there’s a bit of risk of involved. With Yelp’s geotargeting, you have only a limited amount of options to choose from.

We reached out to a Yelp representative of how different geo-targeting options are determined, they vaguely responded that service-based business will have a wider radius that local brick and mortar businesses.

Let’s say that most of your customers are less than five miles from you, or if you’re a franchise with competing locations within that five-mile radius, you will have ad spend that is overlapping. If you use Yelp ads, you must thoroughly understand your geo-targeting to know if you’re wasting ad spend outside of your target area.

Keywords, like geo-targeting, needs to be thoroughly known how to be valued to know if it’s being used to its maximum benefit for your business. The Ad Firm is a big believer in being transparent with all of our clients because we want them to know exactly what we’re doing to help their business succeed and what more we can do for them. Yelp is issuing minimal transparency when it comes to keywords or topics your business is showing for.

If you have any experience using Google Ads (formerly Google Adwords), you have complete control over the keywords and topics, but you have a limited idea in the Yelp platform.

This begs the question: how much ad money are you wasting on keywords or topics that are not relevant to your business at all?

Yelp allows you to choose your own categories, but some may be too general for your niche that it still wouldn’t work for your business.

Take this example – your business is in Harley Davidson motorcycle repairs. You’d think that being under the category of motorcycle repairs is excellent, and in a way, it is, but that category is still too broad for the traffic you’re getting to turn into qualifying leads. We hope we haven’t deterred you from choosing Yelp ads as an advertising platform because although they may have flaws, they do have strengths as well.

Yelp does a magnificent job with SEO and getting its pages ranked in Google search, which means more potential exposure for your business.

Many search queries in Google will show Yelp pages to appear at the top of organic listings that sit below the Google local 3-pack. Now, hold your horses. Don’t expect your Yelp business advertising page to be the one to show up ranking on Google’s page. Most of Yelp’s pages ranking in Google are its category or search pages.

Google dominates the top part of its own search pages so well that it will become increasingly difficult for Yelp to continue to acquire non-paid traffic from Google organic searches. As the lower the volume Yelp gains from Google, the lower the traffic Yelp paid advertising owners will receive.

Final Thoughts On Yelp Ads
Overall, Yelp’s positives and negatives seem to negate each other, depending on your point of view and what your objective goal is. Yelp ads can increase exposure within Yelp and since consumers find Yelp as the most reliable source for reviews, it’ll keep its own traffic for a well amount of time. Also, most of the traffic Yelp sends to your website is low bounce rate traffic.

The main negatives we see with Yelp is the lack of transparency on what keywords or topics you’re spending your ad dollars on, and the fact that the Yelp app skews to a younger demographic, which may not be your target audience. In addition, it’s very difficult to truly see the ROI in Yelp ads when the metrics they report on are also skewed in their favor.

Our advice when thinking about going forward with Yelp business advertising is to determine what your goals are and how much you’re willing to spend with Yelp paid advertising.


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