A Candid Review – Is Yelp Ripping People Off?
A new client recently told me that he was paying Yelp $300 per month for their “services.” My initial reaction and what I told him that this was unnecessary, since Yelp listings are a free service. Although most directories offer premium features which I’m sure have some value, I wanted to investigate what he’s actually paying for and found this excellent analysis by Raymond Fong.Maybe you know and maybe you don’t… but Yelp (a local search and reviews online service) offers paid advertising for businesses called the “Yelp Sponsorship Program“.
To sum it up, according to the page advertising this opportunity, this Yelp Sponsorship program allows you to:
- Put up a slideshow of the images of your business.
- Highlight a user’s review that you like the most (as the business owner)
- Promote your business as a sponsored search result and on your competitors’ business pages. Target potential clients while they are making decisions about where to spend their money on a business like yours
It sounds all fancy spansy right? Sounds like you get even MORE control over your business listing which will help “put your best foot forward” and sneak attack your competitors, stealing all their would be clients.
But Stop the Music, Do These Yelp Advertising Features Actually Accomplish Anything? Or are They Just Fluff Designed to Lure You in so They can Zap You?
Suck Them in & Then ZAP Them!
Before we proceed, I’d like to first state that my experience and knowledge of this Yelp Sponsorship program comes from dealing with them on behalf of one of my clients. This client signed up with Yelp (despite my warnings – apparently Yelp’s salesman are SMOOOTH) and I got to learn all about this program.
Having said that, that’s only ONE experience which doesn’t make me an expert but it certainly makes me more knowledgeable of this Yelp marketing program than those who’s never experienced it.
Furthermore, in case you are not familiar with how Yelp works, anybody can post a business on Yelp, as long as it falls under one of their categories and is a “fit” per their policies. And the rightful owner can claim that Yelp page by jumping through some hoops and voila, you have a FREE listing about your business.
And for comparison’s sake, here’s an example of a PAID Yelp review page:
With that said… let’s examine feature #1.
Now, granted the larger images and the “slideshow” adds a bit more snazziness to the page but honestly, how big of a difference does it really make? If you wanted to see pictures, wouldn’t you be inclined to go visit the business’ actual website?
I’d love to see some split test on this…
As far as feature #2, I suppose this is a good thing, like Yelp for Business Owners says, “put your best foot forward”. But then they go and shoot themselves in the foot by posting the “Rating Distribution” graph next to it. This graph, as you can see, shows all the reviews, INCLUDING the negative ones.
As humans, we are so inclined to ask “what’s wrong” that I reckon most wouldn’t take the “favorite reviews” at face value; they’d go and seek the worst reviews to find out why those folks gave bad reviews.
Yelp’s Business Owner’s Sponsorship Program feature #3 is my favorite.
Yelp Advertising… on Others’ Pages
So the idea here is similar to Google AdWords, when someone searches for a term related to your business, your listing shows up (as, “Sponsored Result”) with the hopes that your business gets clicked on.
Here’s the caveat though, Yelp is charging you per impression basis instead of per click basis. What this means is that whenever your listing shows up in this manner, it counts against your total allotted amount that you paid of (so you are paying “cost per impression”). If it were click based (cost per click) you would get charged ONLY if your ad gets clicked.
This brings into a few questions, the least of which are:
- So how much is it per impression?
- How many impressions can you expect to get (this is of course dependent on the search volume) – bear in mind that this is a LOCAL search and review online system. Which means that you are really throttling the number of impressions your ads will show up because the number of LOCAL folks doing searches related to you business within your area is a tiny tiny fraction of the searches done nationally combined.
- Are you able to test different the keywords with which your listing shows up (which is costing you money)?
- Are you able to TRACK the results you are getting on fine details? I.e. what keywords are converting, when is the best time to show your Yelp sponsored listing, etc. Basically, questions that any savvy AdWords expert would ask.
- How much control do you have over this campaign? After all, you ARE paying for it.
Before I Go On, Let’s Talk About Leakage
What is “leakage“? Well, in digital marketing term, it means actions taken by your website visitor that doesn’t contribute to your ultimate goal (such as capturing the lead, making the sale, etc.) This often includes having active links which serve as distractions that take the visitor ELSEWHERE.
Now… take a good look at just about any Yelp review page, do you see leakage? Do you see links everywhere? But more importantly (and relevantly from a marketing perspective), do you see the box that says, “People Who Viewed This Also Viewed…”? Do you see how these links tend to be links to direct competition to the business review page you are viewing?
Yelp.com Pay Per Impression is a Friggin’ Joke (& Rip Off You Can Argue)
Okay, so going back to the sample list of questions listed earlier on. Let’s dig deeper and find out exactly what sort of program Yelp is running (and charging you for).
First of all, here’s the cost for Yelp’s advertising program:
$300/mo – promotes you to 1,500 people in your area looking for a business like yours.
$500/mo – promotes you to 4,000 people in your area looking for a business like yours.
$1000/mo – promotes you to 10,000 people in your area looking for a business like yours.