Should I Consider Advertising on Yelp?

Many businesses are wondering if it makes sense to advertise on Yelp. Yelp is a very unique site that combines reviews with social networking. It has become progressively important for consumers to be able to read and share real opinions about businesses, and Yelp enables them to do just that.

According to Bloomberg Businessweek, over 500,000 businesses have claimed their pages on Yelp, but only approximately 19,000 have opted to pay for advertising on the site. That being said, a lot of big-name advertisers such as American Apparel have opted to give it a try and seem to be sticking with the program.

Is it worth it for your business to advertise on Yelp? There’s no simple answer that will fit every business and circumstance. Some people find that it works well, while others feel that it’s better to invest their money and time elsewhere. This blog will dig into the pros and cons of Yelp advertising.

The Benefit of Positive Reviews on Yelp

Having positive reviews on Yelp has become a very important asset, especially for local businesses. At an exponential rate, customers are turning to their computers and their smartphones to find a local restaurant or retailer instead of using their phonebook or newspaper.

More and more customers are using Yelp specifically for their online searches because the reviews are unbiased, and negative reviews cannot be hidden or suppressed by the businesses. Many businesses, especially restaurants and local service professionals, have experienced a noticeable increase in website traffic and/or calls thanks to positive reviews on Yelp.

It's also possible to add a Yelp badge to a website that displays the number of 5-star reviews received; click on the badge and the browser links to the business listing on Yelp. This can help establish credibility beyond what you get from reviews on other sites.

When it comes to reviews on Yelp, another benefit is that they are free. Yes, it costs to optimize and customize the profile, but creating one and managing it is available without a cost. This is a pretty good deal, especially for smaller businesses that are finding their footing.

The Impact of Negative Yelp Reviews

The fact that negative reviews cannot be hidden can be a plus for customers, but a detriment to small business owners. Regardless of how hard you try, it isn’t likely that you are going to be able to please everyone. Every business will eventually have at least one negative review. There is a chance that that review may be displayed for a time at the top of your Yelp business page.

Your paid Yelp advertising leads customers to your Yelp page, and not your company website. Therefore, you could be paying customers to go read a negative review of your business. Checking around with clients and friends, I've learned that it is possible to dispute a review and have it removed if management agrees that it seems unduly harsh.

Other Criticisms of Advertising with Yelp

I have to admit that my initial reaction to the actual layout and design of Yelp was not favorable. Personally, I found the lurid red color and busy design caused me to squint. Another criticism of advertising with this review site has been that the cost is much higher than other comparable, if not more effective, paid online advertising options.

Business owners also complain that Yelp charges based on impressions instead of clicks, and it is much harder to track your return on investment when using this structure. This can be frustrating and may be a good reason not to advertise on the platform. Not knowing what you’re getting for your ads is generally a bad sign.

The general impression of Yelp paid advertisements from the small business community seems to be that small businesses might be better off investing their marketing dollars with Google AdWords or Bing. Larger companies, like retail chains, might do it to take advantage of the high exposure.

I doubt most people check how many 5-star reviews their local American Apparel store has received since they know the company by reputation and consistency from store to store. A single hair salon, such as our client Salon 90, most definitely benefits from the exposure of frequent 5-star reviews.

Some also note that Yelp can be pushy. There have been lawsuits about how aggressive their advertising is. In some cases, they claim that Yelp offers a pricy subscription to receive lower amounts of negative reviews. Whether this is the truth or not is hard to say but it’s something to keep in mind.

The main advantage of advertising on Yelp, as with other websites, is that you gain control over the message, the image, and the vibe. You get exposure, the chance to improve your search engine ranking, and reviews that many people find trustworthy. Whether that’s worth the cost of advertising on the platform is a decision you need to make.

Final Thoughts

Is Yelp good for advertising your business? It depends on your goals and the needs of your business. Even if you don’t choose to pay for extras, placing your business on the website can gain you reviews and get exposure for your brand. Just remember that reviews can be both positive and negative so you have to be willing to risk the bad for the good.