If you own or operate a small business, you probably don't need much of an introduction to Yelp. With a huge user-base and excellent brand recognition, it's one of the best places for businesses to connect with customers. Setting up a free profile to collect organic traffic is a no-brainer for virtually any business, but what if you want more? Does Yelp advertising deliver enough value to warrant becoming a paying member?
Unfortunately, as with most marketing and advertising questions, there's only one honest answer: it depends.
Yelp is a social media review site that allows people to post reviews about restaurants, hotels, shopping centers, etc., and businesses to respond to those reviews. If someone writes a negative review, the business owner can reply directly to the reviewer. In addition, businesses can pay to promote themselves on the site. The site launched in 2004 and now boasts over 50 million monthly active users. Yelp has been called "the Amazon of Local."
Yelp users spend an average of three minutes and ten seconds on each page of the directory they visit, and click through to seven pages before leaving.
A free profile provides access to most of the Yelp platform's features, from collecting and responding to reviews to updating important info about your business. In some cases, that may be all you need to start generating traffic and building a buzz. If you're looking to tilt the odds in your favor, however, you have two primary options:
When you're trying to attract potential customers, the last thing you need on your business page is an ad from a competitor. With Yelp's Business Page Upgrades feature, you can pay to make competing ads go away for good. You can also choose a variety of other useful add-ons, including slideshows, highlight badges and customizable call-to-action buttons. You'll also get access to Yelp customer support, which can be helpful in quickly resolving any problems that pop up along the way.
Passive, organic traffic is always valuable, but why wait around for people to come to you? Yelp Ads offers a more proactive option, allowing you to reach out to prospective customers and enhance the visibility of your business. Your ads will be placed where they're most likely to be seen by your target audience, boosting the number of quality impressions. Yelp Ads also give you priority ranking within search results in your industry.
Of course, the value of a service depends heavily on how much it costs. Increased traffic is certainly advantageous, but not if it wrecks your advertising budget. With Yelp Ads' cost-per-click model, you simply define your desired budget and pay a set price for each click your ads generate. This per-click charge varies radically from industry to industry, however, so be sure to check on the rates for your particular business.
There's a lot to like about the advertising tools available to premium Yelp members, but that doesn't mean it's the right choice for every business. Before you decide whether to spend money on Yelp advertising, it's worth considering what your investment can deliver — and what it can't.
Much to our dismay, there are rarely any universal answers when it comes to marketing. Advertising on Yelp has been a tremendous success for some companies, but it's not a great fit for every situation. Ultimately, it comes down to your industry, your business and your advertising goals.
Steve Lepore is a co-founder at Circulation Studio and Circulation Dental and has been in the SEO (search engine optimization) game and building websites since 2011. In his free time he likes to camp, play guitar and argue about the NHL. GKG!