Yelp Positives and Negatives

The Pros and Cons of Yelp

Yelp is one of the many companies that spam call us each week. You can tell they’re spam callers when the call starts with a series of computer clicks or when you hear the background chatter from a dozen other call agents. Those are my queue to hang up.

However, this one call from Yelp was different. There was no background chatter. No early click. Instead, there was the sound of this almost desperate young woman who pleaded for me to stay on the phone.

“Please don’t hang up. I really want to talk to you about Yelp.” She said she was my account rep, and that I’ve been singled out to advertise on Yelp. I don’t have an account and doubt I won some Yelp lottery; however, I stayed on the line as listened to her desperate talk about how positive Yelp is for business.

And I have to agree. There are definitely some positives to working with Yelp.

The Pros of Yelp

Yelp started in 2004 as a scrappy business listing and has worked hard to establish a firm niche in that category. It’s not going away.

Buyers Trust Yelp

And that longevity has created public trust. That’s a huge positive.

In 2019, the website averaged around 150 million views a month, with the average viewer seeing around 4 pages per session. Much of the traffic that refers back to Yelp is from Google or Bing search engines. This is the most coveted traffic as it’s real, organic traffic. Only 0.05% of Yelp traffic is from Yelp’s own advertising.

Yelp is Local

Those are excellent numbers, but what makes Yelp even better is that it’s local. And that’s baked into how they do business.

From Yelp’s reviews to their business profiles, Yelp focuses on small business information and local search.

And we know that since, according to a Washington Post article, over 96% of the company’s revenue comes from local companies paying for ads.

Yelp lives and breathes local advertising and thus does a wonderful job ranking high on Google for local companies.

Yelp is Mobile

Yelp users posted over 177 million reviews in 2018. That’s an increase of nearly 30 million from the previous year.

While the full 2019 numbers aren’t available yet in January 2020, Q3 of 2019 shows 199 million reviews, or a 17% increase in just 12 months.

Much of those reviews are fed by their mobile users. Currently, about 40% of their traffic is fed via their mobile app. It’s an Editor’s Choice on the Google Play store and the number #3 app in the Apple Store.

Yelp has the audience, it has the technology and it’s local. They’ve got a lot going for it.

The Cons of Yelp

So, we can all agree that Yelp is a great environment for users. Hands down. No competition.

For business owners, however, Yelp is going down the road of treating small businesses as their cash cow. And for that, we stay away. In fact, that’s what I told that desperate young woman when she called.

The Yelp Phone Spam

Whether your company advertises on Yelp or it doesn’t, Yelp has chosen that phone spam is the way to go.

Our customers (and us) receive weekly phone calls from Yelp. We pick up. We see “Yelp” in the caller ID line. We hang up. They call again.

So, if you advertise, as one of my clients did, they should stop calling, right? Wrong. They keep calling, trying to upgrade you to a higher service, trying to talk you into additional premiums or trying to extend your service contract. I’ve tried to interest some of our restaurant customers in Yelp, and the most common reply is “Oh, you mean that company that calls me .. all … the … time?”

They have obviously adopted the Chet Holmes school of sales: never stop calling; never give up. Maybe they should at least ease up with their paying customers.

Yelp is Expensive

Example of a Yelp Restaurant Page

If you choose to advertise, Yelp charges on a cost-per-click model for ads, just like Google Ads. They also have a similar click costs: from $.30 a click for low interest things like sushi in Texas to $40 a click for legal in Manhattan.

However, if you’re going to pay Google rates, does Yelp bring back a Google level of traffic? And the answer is no.

Yelp is it’s own universe, and most users stay on Yelp when they go to Yelp. Between buying meals and tickets to looking at reviews and even the menu, Yelp doesn’t create many opportunities to send their users back to a company’s website.

That said, you can extra service from Yelp if you pay for an expanded Yelp business page which STARTS at $300 a month. Yes, $300 a month.

That blocks traffic and let’s you setup other aspects of your business profile. For some small businesses, that’s their entire ad budget. And for some, yes, it’s worth it because Yelp is rather good for advertising food or restaurants.

For others, it’s not because you’ll have a hard time spending $300 on a service that doesn’t return $300 in profit.

Yelp’s Value is Vague

So, why advertise on Yelp?

To use, the value for any advertisement is how many leads come back to your business. It’s not eyeballs that generates revenue. It’s a person’s name and address that you can use to then continue to market.

And if getting a user list is the most important metric, that’s a challenge on Yelp.

39 Celsius had a blog that talks about this problem. For their sample account, Yelp reported that over 7,000 leads went back to the business, as shown in their graphic below:


But how did they verify that claim?

The target company didn’t receive 7,000 actual names and email addresses. And of the 3,622 clicks Yelp said they forwarded to the target site, Yelp won’t tell you who they are (even while they should know because most people on Yelp have a Yelp account).

So, unless these “leads” convert to a solid user list, we have to question the long-term value.

To Yelp: We Like You, But…

Much of Yelp’s value rests with the reviews people leave on a company. a dozen solid reviews on Yelp is better than a $1,000 spent on Google.

So, when that young lady asked us to advertise, I said I would love to …. if they stopped hiding valid reviews.

In late 2018, Yelp changed their review system so if a customer sees your website, clicks on your Yelp page link and then enters a review, those reviews are tagged invalid and become hidden. They won’t be part of your ranking and most customers won’t see them.

Why? Yelp doesn’t accept reviews from people who recently visited your website, which means leaving the Yelp logo as a link on your website actually hurts your Yelp ranking.

It’s better to give customers a physical card and ask for a Yelp review, which is stupid in the internet age. Why can’t you just provide a link?

For restaurants and some service companies, like beauty parlors, it makes sense to invest in Yelp, regardless. Food and local companies is Yelp’s primary demographic, so most restaurants are bound to get solid reviews if they provide good service, regardless if they promote their Yelp profile.

For other companies, we just don’t see the value, especially when Yelp makes it very hard to market your Yelp page from your website.

“But, that’s just our algorithm, and I can’t help that. You need to be on Yelp”, the young sales person said before the end of the call.

“Sorry, you can’t help your users by hurting your paying customers,” I said, trying to be nice. “You’re just not that important.”