Yelp Advertising: The Good, the Bad & the Ineffective

yelp advertising

With every new social network comes a new potential marketing and advertising opportunity. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Foursquare and Pinterest all offer their own versions of ads or sponsored content, but hospitality and service-related brands also have another option — Yelp. Like its social competition, Yelp offers advertising to help boost brands’ online visibility. But is it worth the time and effort? We spoke with two businesses to get their take on Yelp advertising.

Owen Hemsath is an online marketing coach and CEO of Videospot Video Marketing. Although he loves Yelp as a company and a social space, he has issues with it as an advertising platform. “As an advertising platform, Yelp is far from transparent or effective. Yelp offers business owners a backend system for monitoring ‘leads’ to which Yelp assigns an arbitrary value. It’s based on where the lead clicks from within your Yelp listing — your website, the map, your products — and then determines if the lead ‘would have bought.’ After calculating all this nonsensical data, Yelp assigns you a congratulatory welcome with a number for how many sales you’ve made. This month, for example, I made $2,567 on Yelp according to Yelp. In reality, I received one phone call from Yelp and they just wanted a price.”

For Hemsath, Yelp has a long way to go as an advertising platform. He suggests business owners looking for value on Yelp concentrate on keyword optimization and maintaining a great homepage.

Bill Akintoye of Shabana Motors has had similar experiences with Yelp advertising. In April of 2013, he signed up for Yelp for Business Owners in an effort to capitalize on positive reviews from previous customers. But the response he’s seen in the past year has not convinced him it’s worth renewing his contract. “In the past year, we haven’t seen much of an improvement on our Yelp page. Their definition of a lead is extremely broad, and though we see a high number of leads on our back end page, only a fraction of those have been phone calls to the dealership or mobile check ins. In February we have had 11 interactions with our page, but we’re not sure that number is enough to justify the monthly fee to be included in the program.”

For Akintoye, the platform’s inability to target direct customers makes it far less effective for business owners. “I do not think we will be continuing with Yelp advertising after our yearly contract expires. Advertising on other platforms gives our dealership the option to target direct customers, and Yelp offers very little aside from a limited monthly number of impressions.”

What do you think? What’s your experience with Yelp advertising? Weigh in in the comments below!