Yelp Advertising Review: Was My 3-Month Contract Worth It?

Written by Nick Leffler | 9 Comments | 13 min read

Home » The Online Presence Blog » Business » Yelp Advertising Review: Was My 3-Month Contract Worth It?

I took the plunge into Yelp advertising for 3 months so you don’t have to and I’m sharing my raw Yelp advertising review data and all.

I recently signed up for a 3-month contract to experiment how it would do for my business (web design/online presence).

I’ve previously written about Yelp ads and tried their free advertising so I had an idea of what to expect.

Download the free Yelp review request email template + master your Yelp strategy.

Read on to learn about my full experience and the ideal way to approach Yelp advertising.

Yelp surprised me in my advertising package so be sure you read all the way through.

Before you talk to a Yelp sales representative, read this fully and be prepared for that call.

You don’t have to spend any money with Yelp to figure out generally how Yelp advertising works, I already did it for.

Every industry works differently though so you have to take my experience is general advice but not specific to your industry.

What Package Did I Buy?

After much back and forth with the Yelp advertising representative, I laid out my expectations for advertising.

I expected to see at least some interest in my business within the first month. I was assured I would see interest or else I could possibly cancel my contract within the 30 days.

Luckily the need never came to cancel before the 3 months.

Let me get back to the details of the advertising package I bought though.

After much finagling and getting my needs understood we came to an agreement for a 3-month contract instead of a 12-month contract.

Going with a 12-month contract without knowing how it will do for you is a mistake.

They will tell you it takes time to build up and start seeing results. That’s not true.

I saw results within the first month and then nothing for the rest of the 3 months.

So, I was actually doing good in the beginning but then my results devolved into a money suck.

This infographic is from Yelp and tells you all about the Yelp advertising pricing and what each package comes with.

Yelp Advertising Package Pricing 12-month Program

These are all the plans Yelp offers when you sign a 12-month contract. They will often give you the ability to sign up for less of a contract than 12 months but not if you want the featured video. You can also download this as a PDF.

The only difference between each plan is the ad click budget.

They did things a bit different for me to get the monthly cost down. I wasn’t willing to invest $1,200 in Yelp.

I did come close though.

My Package

I had a custom package that was based on the intro level.

I had the following features which are bare bones:

  • Enhanced Profile
  • Click Budget

To lower the commitment price for the plan I went without:

  • Featured Video
  • Call Tracking

I got everything I wanted and nothing I didn’t want. A feature video wouldn’t have made sense and call tracking was unnecessary (I can easily track that in the activity).

Now that I got what I wanted from the package I had a more easily digestible price.

My Price

The price commitment for my 3 months was $325 each month.

That’s a total commitment of $975 though, in the end, I came in a bit under that.

The price for 3 months was $970.40.

My Agreement With Yelp

My contract began March 9th, 2017 and ended June 8th, 2017.

This is the span of much of the data except where Yelp wouldn’t let me target less than 12 months.

I didn’t receive my first bill until April 1st.

As far as I know, there’s no way to have a contract-free package and get the bonus’s Yelp may throw your way (you’ll find out what those are).

You agree to a certain number of months which is laid out in the contract.

If you want to cancel early then you have to pay an early termination fee which is usually a 1-month fee. This could vary depending on your contract length and amount.

If you want to cancel your Yelp contract when it ends, send an email at least 30 days before. Click To Tweet

If you want to cancel at the end of your contract, make sure you send written notice 30 days before your contract end date.

Don’t try to cancel on the last day of your contract. You will have to pay for another month unless you raise a fuss (which may not work).

All that’s great but the important part is my outcome and the value of advertising with Yelp.

This is where my Yelp advertising review becomes reality as I parse the data.

What Was My Outcome?

There’s a lot to look at when determining my outcome.

I’ll go through the details here and in the next section I’ll cover my conclusion for the whole Yelp advertising experience.

But first!

I got a bonus surprise from Yelp which made my advertising dollars go slightly further.

My Special Bonus Surprise

I’m assuming this can only happen when you’re signed up for a contract.

During the first full month of advertising, I got a nice surprise which boosted the value of the Yelp click advertising.

If you remember my total contract obligation for ad spend was $825.

I received a total of $1903.30 in ad-spend though!

Yelp Advertising Review Historical Metrics

They gave me an additional $500 in ad-spend for 2 months!

Yes, the math doesn’t add up completely but Yelp’s system isn’t the most transparent.

This boost helped increase the worth of the advertising quite a bit and lowered the Cost per Click (CPC).

Cost per Click (CPC) Comparisons

The special surprise from Yelp helped boost the Yelp Cost per Click (CPC) but still not to a level I could achieve with other advertising.

My CPC that I actually paid for ended up being $8.68 even with the Yelp boost. Without the boost, it would have been $20.03.

That’s kind of a lot.

Yelp Advertising Reviews Historical Metrics Cost per Click

To compare with others we can see how high Yelp really is.

The CPC on Facebook can range from $.25 to $4 on the very high end while the CPC from Google can range from $2 to $6 or more.

Targeting people on Yelp isn’t as good as Facebook or Google though but they are improving it a lot.

Want to know how Yelp is improving their targetting? They’re giving you the power to see keywords used to find your ad and the ability to block them.

You should read more about the ad keyword management features available on Yelp if you’re going to do ads.

In fact, Google ads are more relevant than Yelp in targeting.

Cost per click isn’t a really good start to look at though.

The important data comes from the cost per lead.

You know, those that actually contact you rather than just click on your ad.

Yelp Cost Per Lead

There’s another level of analyzing my numbers to find out how much each lead cost me.

Yelp Advertising Review Activity

Of the people who clicked on my ad during my 3 months of advertising (95) only 23 of them converted into action on my Yelp profile.

That sounds like a good conversion but when you look a bit more deeply into it, it’s not a conversion.

Only if someone takes action on my profile does it become a lead.

Just as Yelp advertising isn’t great at getting people to take action (and you have little control over how it’s shown) Yelp profiles also don’t do good at getting people to take action.

So I really got 23 leads during my 3 months of advertising. In many cases that action is a visit to my website so then the follow-through dwindles even further.

If the goal is to get visitors to my website then Facebook and Google ads are way more effective.

Saying the 23 leads I had were actually valuable leads is generous.

My cost per lead on Yelp ended up being $42 per lead.

Remember, that’s being generous.

Several “conversions” weren’t services I provide and completely untargeted users.

Yelp advertising delivers untargeted leads to you that are highly unlikely to convert into customers. Click To Tweet

Actual leads I got from Yelp advertising were in the realm of just 2.

I spent $970.40 on Yelp advertising and received 2 valuable leads. That’s $485.20 per valuable lead.

Ouch.

Luckily over time one of them will cover the whole cost. I was lucky though.

There were some hits with Yelp advertising but there were also some misses.

I just mentioned briefly the hits but more details help put context around it.

The Hits

Within the first few days, I received my first message from a lead through the Yelp inbox.

This lead didn’t convert into a client for some time but the lifetime value of the client should eventually pay for all my Yelp advertising.

I also received a click on my call to action within the first month.

While the lead I received may never convert into a paying client, I was able to establish a good relationship helping with her business on social media.

With the help of my Yelp review request email template, I was able to turn this lead into a positive Yelp review, a good outcome though one without monetary value.

That’s it for the hits.

They all happened within the first month.

After these two I received many leads but they were poorly targeted and didn’t fit what my business does at all.

The Misses

I received several calls for leads that were extremely poorly targeted.

Some of the services I was asked about were things I have never even heard of.

I was asked for digitization services, marketing an office to dentists, etc.

There were truly some interesting questions and also clicks to my website that never converted.

I’m assuming many of these clicks were people looking for something entirely different from what they found.

That or they called or emailed me to sell me something which did happen several times.

Here is a list of all the actions people took, only a few of value.

Keep in mind this list is ALL activity from my profile from a 12-month period but I did remove items from the activity feed from before my advertising.

I’ll show more detailed graphs of just the advertising also.

Yelp Profile Activity July 2016 to June 2017

This shows all the details of activity on my Yelp profile from July 2016 to June 2017. I edited the image to remove activity before my advertising term. Yelp doesn’t give you many options to pull more specific data.

Other’s Yelp Advertising Review

I wrote about my experience and will get to my conclusion.

First, take a look at what others said in my previous blog post about Yelp advertising.

These are real people who left their own Yelp advertising review on my blog comments.

Yelp is NOT worth it. Tried it for 6 months, obtained no new customers but a whole lot of costs from yelp.

Would not recommend Yelp at all.

– Dale B.

And here’s another more detailed comment:

This was an expensive error that I wish I could tell every business owner I come into contact with about. If I could rate the experience on Yelp, I would give it zero stars. The ad budget that I gave- $450 PER MONTH did not result in ANY increase in business or increase in web traffic to my site. Additionally, $75 additional dollars for an enhanced listing did not improve any incremental traffic to our site.

– Vic L.

And last but not least:

Worst advertising product ever. Wasted over $2000 and then cancelled early and they charged me an additional $700. Would not recommend them to anyone, anywhere!! Worst advertising decision of my life.

– John O.

To be fair, before I even tried the free $300 Yelp gives away I called several businesses who were advertising on Yelp.

I found several who were indifferent to the results and one who said spend your money elsewhere.

Finally, I also found one that said they loved their relationship with Yelp. They’ve found it a valuable method for bringing in new clients.

Now to my conclusion after my long and documented experience.

My Conclusion

I was pleasantly surprised with a good lead from Yelp within the first few days.

It kept me going through the rest of the contract but the rest of it wasn’t a great experience.

After the first few weeks, I continued to get poorly targetted leads and questions for services I clearly didn’t offer.

As an update on that as of November 1st, 2018, I got a call today asking if I had faxing services. You know, like Kinkos. No! I absolutely don’t.

I’m glad I went through the experience of advertising under contact on Yelp because I got a good idea of how it works but I wouldn’t sign another contract for it.

I’m currently running monthly ads, no premium profile, for just $10 a day and I monitor my keywords like a hawk, you should learn more about managing ad keywords before even thinking about advertising with Yelp.

If I hadn’t received my 1 valuable lead then I would have regretted the whole thing.

That means I was somewhat lucky therefore wouldn’t recommend doing it unless the extra expense won’t harm you too much if it doesn’t work.

Alternatives

So if Yelp advertising isn’t worth it, what are your alternatives?

Your goal for being here is to get more local customers. Paying for Yelp advertising isn’t usually the best solutions.

Organic Yelp traffic is great though!

Organic leads are always better than paid advertising.

Yelp is just one source in many for organic leads though.

You need an organic local lead generation solution because that’s how you’re going to get more local leads who are likely to trust you.

Your best alternative to Yelp advertising (which are expensive and have little return on investment) is to have a local directory and review strategy that helps get your business directly in front of people searching for you.

Trying It Recommendations

If you’re going to try Yelp advertising, don’t sign a contract unless you have the money to burn (who does?).

You can do just as much by purchasing an enhanced profile and then buying ads.

The downside to this is that you won’t get the Yelp bonus.

There are more effective places you can spend advertising dollars.

Google ads are even more targetted than Yelp and people are looking for what you offer if you do Google ads right.

Yelp’s big selling point from their salespeople is that people are looking for your business. That’s great if they could target well but they can’t.

Poor targeting options in Yelp makes its advertising ineffective with poor quality leads. Click To Tweet

Until Yelp ad targeting improves A LOT, it won’t be worth it.

I already knew advertising on Yelp wouldn’t bridge the gap from an unestablished profile (no reviews) to an established profile (1+ reviews).

My experience confirmed that for the most part.

People go on Yelp to see reviews.

When you’re starting your business out, the first thing you should do is make sure your business is listed everywhere if you’re a local business. That means it might be necessary to have some help managing your business listing across directories.

Even with advertising, if they don’t see reviews then trust is hard to build.

So, after you’re listed everywhere, focus on getting reviews as many places as you can. If a customer came from Google Business, ask them to review you there. If they came from Yelp, ask them to review you there.

Keep doing that as you build up your business presence online.

Set On Trying It?

If you’re set on trying Yelp, pay for the enhanced profile features without a contract and buy some advertising. Don’t sign a contract.

Make sure your Yelp profile is filled out completely and get as many Yelp reviews as you possibly can.

I created an easy Yelp review request email template for you to ask for review non-intrusively from your customers.

Ready to become a master of Yelp?

Get more review, master Yelp, get more business. Profit!

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Author Bio:

mm

Nick Leffler

Nick Leffler is the owner of Exprance, a Sacramento web design and digital marketing agency which helps businesses reach their customer online. Nick has grown his online presence with a small marketing budget by blogging, organic social media posting, and email marketing.

9 Comments

  1. Jerry on November 2, 2018 at 6:39 pm

    Yelp is counting on business owners sleeping after they sign up for the service. This is a common tactic for companies that suck your credit card dry and then have the bank roll it over into your new card when it expires or changes. DO NOT GET SUCKED IN!!!!!

    They got me for 240 and then hit me for three more days after a cancel for another 50 a month later, no refunds no way they give money back.. Basically they will tell you its your fault for falling for the sales pitch….

  2. Zoiya Tate on August 9, 2018 at 11:08 am

    I wish I had read your blog before my experience. Some one had called me from Yelp claiming to offer free $950 in advertising for trying their service. He rushed through everything very fast and told me my credit card would not be charged, When a screen popped up about the fee for the call to action button he told me not to worry about it just select a 3 month span and they would be waiving it. After he rushed me off the phone I started to look at everything and saw there was going to be a charge. I called YELP back immediately to cancel and they walked me through the cancellation nut yet I was charged money for the next two months on my card. I just called today to resolve the issue and I did not get any benefit from whatever they were charging and I am still unsure what that was since I pulled the add the same day. Low and behold they say they can see I called to complain about being mislead but I decided to keep the service anyway? What the ****? Why would I want ti keep it after being lied to? I got transferred to 3 different departments until I got a smug personality on the other line who was not even willing to help me or hear me out. I did a charge back with my credit card. They are total crooks and I would not recommend.

    • mm Nick Leffler on August 9, 2018 at 11:40 am

      That’s an unfortunate experience. Thank you for sharing your experience here.

  3. Dean on April 13, 2018 at 10:48 am

    Depends on your business.
    I run a local tax service and lots of my business comes from Yelp. I do agree with the unqualified leads though. I’m not too pissed off at them though since my average client pays 750 per meeting. So 1 client covers two months of Yelp ads.
    I TRACK YELP myself. I ask every new client:
    “Where did you find me?” “What caused you to call/come in today from my Yelp/Google/FB/articles I’m featured in?”
    “Were you considering any other companies when you chose me?”
    These three questions are GANGSTER-level intel on where my business is in the client’s mind…
    If you’re a new biz just set up a profile with good pictures and read an article or two on SEO for Yelp to write your business descriptions, who we are, etc.
    Also don’t forget about Bing too.
    Make sure every free online social media outlet and search engine has a listing for your biz. But only focus on the ones that bring you business.
    For digital marketing companies, I don’t think Yelp users go on yelp to find you…

    • mm Nick Leffler on April 13, 2018 at 5:21 pm

      I agree there, it’s entirely depending on your business, location, etc. which is why I always recommend testing. I’ve talked to digital marketing/web design agencies which Yelp has worked OK for. I called several who were advertising on Yelp and the results of my calls were hit or miss. In my personal tests I’ve tried two different industries and the results weren’t too good. Many other industries I’ve heard from also (both in chat and the comments here). That doesn’t mean it won’t work though! That’s precisely why I love the $300 ad credit. It’s a good way to test things out and see if there’s any benefit before committing to $350+ per month.

      Thanks for commenting and sharing your experience.

  4. Reggie on December 1, 2017 at 2:36 pm

    I cancelled Yelp after 2 months of no results into a 6 month contract. It cost me an extra $360 to do so. If you do the same I would strongly advise you to quickly close your credit/debit card and get another.
    Yelp is a bigger ripoff than the old Yellow Pages Advertising. Neither care whether you survive or not; just continually pay high fees to them for doing a one time set up.
    When I think of politition or Yelp, “self-important leech” comes to mind.
    It is passive advertising. Money is better spent on direct mail to targeted lists.

    • Paul on February 26, 2018 at 7:45 am

      I agree. Not only did I no traffic from Yelp, they failed to tell me that a three month contract automatically rolls over into a month to month agreement. I paid a fortune for absolute crap. Avoid Yelp advertising

      • mm Nick Leffler on February 26, 2018 at 8:33 am

        I experienced this same thing Paul. I didn’t get to the end of my 3-month contract but I forgot to submit my notice of cancellation 30-days before the end of the term. That would have meant I would have had to pay for keeping it past my 3-month agreement. I was able to make a fuss about it and they allowed me to cancel it at the end of my contract though.

        For some it may work though depending on the type of leads you’re looking for and your industry. That’s why my recommendation is always to try it out with their free coupon first. For many it won’t work but for some it will. Every industry is different and every experience is different also.

        • Saber Amine on July 23, 2018 at 9:03 am

          YELP advertising is a complete scam! After agreeing to test their advertising program by spending $5 per day for the month of June 2018 and after the sales representative communicated to me that I should expect about 11 clicks for that price I was shocked to see that the “3” clicks I received were charged at the price of $50 per click. This was far cry from the average I agreed to of $5 per day.
          If you google Yelp advertising reviews most the top search results is just advertising companies trying to get you to spend even more money for yelp. I feel that their marketing complain is very deceiving.

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