Advertising on Yelp?


We were recently helping our office masseuse (yes – we really have one!) decide whether or not buying advertisements on Yelp was a good investment for promoting her spa here in Indianapolis, Quiescence Experience. Monique had already been seeing some foot traffic from her presence on Yelp, so perhaps advertising on Yelp would generate even more.

In speaking with the advertising representative, the ads package is quite strong. First, Monique would get a dedicated advertisement on relevant, local searches of Yelp for businesses like hers. Yelp would never promote another business – only hers – on the search results page:
Yelp Advertising

As well, the advertisement would run on the competitors’ business pages:
Yelp Advertising

Lastly, Yelp would also run the ads prominently on mobile devices:
Yelp Mobile Ads

The Yelp representative did a great job of walking us through their positioning in the space, comparing themselves to the Yellow Pages, Trip Advisor and Angie’s List (our client). To visualize it, they provided this Google Trends chart:

Personally, I thought this was a bit deceptive. This chart shows the actual search volume counts for the sites themselves… not the searches for terms like Monique’s business would require. If you do that search (“massage Indianapolis”), the search results are quite different – with Angie’s List being displayed above Yelp and Yellow Pages with Google Business results dominating the page:

Massage Indianapolis Search Results

Finally, we received the pricing for the Yelp advertising. Cost was not prohibitive, and even included a custom video that Yelp would have produced with the client. The rep informed us that when there’s a video, there’s a 7% higher conversion. At issue with the pricing was that it required an annual contract. If Monique wasn’t getting results, the penalty for getting out early was 2 months of payments in addition to the cost of the video. In other words, it could cost Monique a couple thousand dollars if the advertising wasn’t working.

We recommended that Monique not move forward with the advertising… not because we thought Yelp advertising wouldn’t work, but because of the requirement for the annual engagement. A thirty day trial would have been great to test if if the conversion rate would drive enough new business for Monique to fill her calendar. However, if it didn’t, the annual contract requirement could devastate her new business – when she needs revenue the most.

Have you used Yelp Advertising? What was your experience?


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      I recently sign up for yelp ads and they would call me over and over and over after I had told them I couldn’t do it and I never received any work and the first month I got charged 300+ dollars for a bunch of clicks and never got any customers no customers of yelp called to even get a quote when I cancelled the yelp ads they charged me 24$ for yelp services and they are supposed to be free yelp business is a scam I would revive more call when I let was free then when I paid the first month and I didn’t athorize for that transaction to go thru they just took it from my account with out letting me know they had charged my card
      Knowing how much I was struggling they still went ahead and did this

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      Thank you Jim Hart. What you said was very relevant and with the rest of the comments and the post, I will most likely not advertise with them. They have also filtered reviews from my most loyal clients. I’m an acupuncturist and know little about business matters, so I rely on research to help me make my decisions. Your are so right. If they had confidence in what they were offering, they would let you try it out for a month. Thanks again, Tracy Sturdivant

  3. 6

    great post Doug. I’ve looked at Yelp very closely for clients and spoke plainly with our rep about the annual terms and how much of a deal killer that was. I suspect we’ll see other options soon, especially with posts like this.

  4. 7

    Followed your Google lead; other than food and drink Yelp barely registers although Yellow Pages continues its downward spiral in all categories as well. Seems to fortify Doug’s position as Yelp barely registered in the health category and their reviews show a preponderance of Yuppies as being their sole demographic.

  5. 8

    I’ve heard a number of small business complaining about strong-arming from Yelp. A sales rep calls you and gives you the pitch and if you refuse to sign up for annual advertising, you will notice your 5 star ratings do not appear on their home page anymore. They are filtered out or to the bottom. This has happened with at least 6 small businesses (usually 1-3 people) in the last 6 months. And I checked out the pages of a few (one where I wrote and couldn’t find my 5 star review) and something does seem hinkey on that front.

  6. 10

    I decided to sign for 6 months with a 1 month termination fee. Truthfully the adds have brought only two inquiries within 3 months. They say there is a snowball effect with ads you see more results over time. Which only makes me think there must be some matrix that shows your ads at better times for instance when you’ve been there longer. I think I’m going to eat the kill fee and put my money I have left into direct marketing. They already filtered some of my most relevant reviews! Oh well.

  7. 11

    I’m very glad I found this article. I am strongly considering advertising with Yelp but I am also reluctant to sign for 1 year. I was given a 6 month option with a 1 month term fee, but the video option is eliminated. Yelp has another PPC option that doesn’t require a contract that I am leaning towards instead. However, I was informed if I go with PPC, I can’t sign up for the advertising later down the road. Seems very odd to me..

    • 12

      Biggest waste of money ever for my business. I get 10 times as much traffic to my Yelp page organically and for free then clicks generated through the paid advertising.

  8. 13

    I talked with a Yelp Rep just this morning. I own a dayspa in Portland OR and am a one woman show. I thought the Yelp fees were astronomical and the requiring of a one year contract crazy. While I would really like to advertise with Yelp, I just don’t want to pay the $350/mo. The prices and different contracts that everyone already posted here are correct. The one other thing I asked about was the video. Even though they say they are paying for the video (right, we really know that we are paying for it). If you want to use the video on your business website, you have to buy the video from the photographer. So even though we are paying for it, it is not ours to use.
    There is the pay-per-click option, But, it is a $200/monthly min. and I’m not really sure that you can put a cap on it.
    Of course they say that since you are on top, all the business is coming your way, virtually guaranteed. Yeah…no. If they really thought that, then there would be no need for a yearly contract. I would much rather pay separately for the video and set my own monthly budget then have (if you Have to have a contract) a 3 month, 6 month, 1 year contract with Reasonable minimum budgets
    Sorry, no Yelp advertising for me, for now.

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      But how can you be certain those 8 new customers are coming from paid advertising versus their free Yelp listing? You have no idea because you can’t differentiate conversions from the paid ads versus the free listing.

  10. 16

    Yelp is exactly like the mafia. I am not some delusioned small business owner who doesn’t know CPC from impression based ads. My first word of advice: Do Not under any circumstances advertise with Yelp. They are thieves (similar to the devil actually) who just want you to sign the dotted line so they can trap you with their contract and then proceed to give you terrible service. I have complained to Yelp’s advertising reps that their advertising click throughs absolutely suck on more than one occasion. The response I have received have been the same each time. The dimwitted Yelp salesperson send me some stats about how my yelp page is getting X number of views, x number of people clicking to my website from the yelp page, x number of mobile views, and X number of Yelp deals sold. They fail to communicate that all these stats have very little to do with the paid Yelp advertising. Most of this is a result of my free Yelp page listing. Basically in a nutshell, if I have 300 free monthly Yelp views to my website (Based on google analytics numbers prior to advertising with Yelp) and then I get 40 click throughs (keep in mind these are clicks through to my Yelp page, with no guarantee the potential customer will call me or even place an order), why is the Yelp sales rep touting those stats as though I am getting those as a result of my paid advertising??? Because most of their customers are small business customers who are not very advertising savvy and they just try to confuse them into believing that without paid Yelp advertising all of this will go away.

    These people are true scam artists. Yes, Yelp is good source of new business which was the reason I signed up for paid advertising in the first place. However, the bottom line is that their advertising packages are a total rip off that only benefits Yelp, not the advertiser. Did you know? Yelp sales people won’t give you their phone number to reach them? You have no way to call them. They can only call you. You can email them, but they may not respond for days. Then when they finally call, and you miss the call cuz you are you know running a small business, you have no way to call them back. This can go on and on. Apparently these sales people are so busy that they don’t have time to speak with the people who justify their role, their customers.

    Once my advertising contract is over, there is no way I will sign up with them again. Total scam. Stick with the free Yelp listing. It works far better than the paid advertising and its free.

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      I’d still recommend having a page on Yelp, Facebook and Google+… but not sure I’d advertise on Yelp given their requirements. If you’re a service provider in Angie’s List, they have the most valuable audience out there and a fair way of mediating between the providers and the customers.

  12. 19

    Are you mainly thinking of using Yelp to get new customers or just make it easier for your existing customers to access you? As a Yelp user, I use Yelp for both new discovery as well as looking up menus and phone numbers for businesses I already know about and go to.  Although, I have to say I have never clicked on an ad and when I see an ad, I assume that if you have to advertise on Yelp then your product must not be good.

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    Unfortunately, my wife just ran an ad for her local hair styling business. Yelp claimed there were 100 clicks on her ad in the first two weeks. We said no way, my wife has the cell phone for,the business and not one call! She has a 5 star Yelp site with three great reviews how could she get zero calls from people that were interested enough to actually click on her ad?

    The really stink part is that Yelp charged us $3.50 per click!,,

    We never expected to get more than a handful of clicks (we think the click count is Fraud) and a decent percentage (10-30%) of those that clicked to call.
    No calls would have been no big deal and somewhat expected, but not when Yelp wants to charge us for 100 clicks.

    Yelp’s support team suggested we make some improvements to Yelp page and business description. That does nothing to explain the 0% call rate from the supposed 100+ clicks.

    We want out from Yelp now, they tell us we had to have cancelled by the 15 th of prior month.

    Any suggestions of how to get us out and how we can best get the word out to other small business owners to avoid Yelp like the plague.

  15. 22

    If they have your checking account information and make automatic withdrawals….I would cancel that account and open a new one. When they threaten you with legal action…keep proof of your phone records to show the fraud. That is what I would do. Of course you may lose in court….or just cancel and pay the penalty. I hate Yelp. We business owners need to fight back.

  16. 23

    We are a water and mold remediation company and we are advertising with Yelp. Not great results and a 1 year contract. On top of that, they have removed some of our good reviews with the excuse than they might be fake ones. Do not recommend you to waste your money with them.

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    I too have a small business, I had a five star rating, it was a customer I did work for, and he did not know me or have any kind of connection with me that would sway his opinion, that would cause him to give a swayed rating.
    He took it on his own to give me a very good review. He cited specific reasons for his opinion and had knowledge of the field of work. There was nothing in the review that it would appear that it was nothing but a unbiased opinion.
    After yelp sales attempted to sell me on a paid program, I politely declined many times during many sales calls.
    After declining my five star disappeared. It was now in the not recommended section. He was my only review. I contacted yelp and stated my case that the term “not recommended” is mis-leading and as soon as a potential customer sees the term ” not recommended” they will believe it is a negative review and the business is not recommended and move on.
    After stating my case I didn’t think anything would happen I was glad to see they re posted the five star rating review.
    Then shortly after they attempted to sell me paid program again, and again I declined. Then guess what, my five star rating was taken down again.
    During this period I would ask customers to review me. Some seemed confident that they would take the time to review. No other reviews ever showed on my page again. I finally realized the reviews are not making it into the page. So now I don’t mention yelp to customers.

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    Do Not, just as others have said, Advertise with Yelp!
    They say anything to get you to sign up then you never get any response!
    They also block you from making changes to your own free listing on Yelp!
    They charged my account without my permission after they assured me multiple times that they would not!
    I have received numerous calls from sales people who mentioned they saw I was advertising on Yelp and wanted to see if I would try advertising with their company, or use their company for SEO..
    this proves that Yelp doesn’t monitor clicks and make certain I only pay for people searching for and interested in using my service as they claimed! !!
    Total b/s company!
    I never got to approve my ad before they published it
    they have random pictures on it instead of my logo
    they never sent me a bill to pay within 30 days, charged my bank day 1!!!!
    (all things they lied about)
    .. I spoke with a manager, he said “absolutely, we will get these changes made to your account” (5 things that were wrong, including my service area) “we want you to be happy with the service you are receiving. ” which point I asked him what changes would he be making (before getting off the phone, wanted to make sure he understood) He couldn’t name ONE SINGLE Thing we had discussed!
    he wasn’t even listening! I thought I had heard him talking in the background (why I asked him to repeat items back to me)
    RUN! this guy is a ” Stupid Visor ”
    he’s the guy training these Scam Artist Demons!
    DO NOT Advertise with this shady company!
    They charged me $375 and I only received 16 sales calls about my website, not one call from one potential customer! also competitors are not monitored and are probably clicking your ad!
    I have now had all of my five star reviews removed THANKS YELP!

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    Our business also had a variety of reviews including one to five star reviews. The one star review was obviously written by an imbalanced person who was ranting and had not truly visited our business and the threes thru fives were from actual customers.

    I politely refused yelp ad calls (many in a few weeks), and the four and five star reviews were hidden, leaving only that one star review. They claim that they take off reviews that are not legit, however that one star review was given by a reviewer with only that one review, while one of the fives was from a reviewer with many reviews on their profile.

    They are liars and thieves at yelp. I would never pay them a cent, and never use them as a consumer to search for local shops either. I vote with my consumer power – please never use that site! The more people who avoid visiting it, the less views they’ll get, and hopefully they’ll go out of business.

  25. 32

    So I looked into it and the one star was real. That’s ok, we are in an industry where one stars are the norm. although the one star review was legit, it was still really weird that yelp only chose that one to keep, while getting rid of higher reviews after we said “no” to paid ads. Yelp yuck.

  26. 33

    Unbelievable experience with yelp ads, never thought a brand this big would be a total scam. They lock you into a year long contract, as many described here, forget about how the ads are doing or follow up once they get you on board.
    Very shady sales tactics, false promises, nothing more than a scam!
    Their PPC technology is also very very questionable, got calls for unrelated services and the statistics they had was completely inaccurate.
    When asked about why calls come in unrelated to the business, they state that business is in a certain category and the visitor that fits into that category gets to see the ad, which proves that they just want clicks and dont care of presenting the ads to the client that is actually looking for your service.
    Very dishonest, do not fall for the trap, stay away!

  27. 34

    Agree, did the same to me, took all my five stars because I didn’t want to sign with them, what should we do? This is fraud.

  28. 35

    Total waste of money I recomend that everyone put the word out that these people have no idea what they are doing plus i think they have employees click on ads to use up advertising dollars. Craigs List got me 100 times the response for How much? Wait for it?….For nothing cause Craigs List ads are free. These people are thieves plain and simple.

  29. 36

    I have had a terrible experience with yelp ads. They are expensive. You are locked into a contract that you have to pay a lot to terminate early. I didn’t get any good results from this advertising. Please don’t make the same mistake I did. Spend your advertising dollars elsewhere.

  30. 37

    I actually went for this one. Painful Painful …. and I’m a PR/Marketing professional. I pretty much echo Elaine’s sentiment. The “click per ad” rate is a bit ambiguous at best – with the sales rep telling me that it would be roughly $5 – $10 depending upon competitors (more peeps w/same biz drives it up) when it was actually about $18/click. In over 3 months there was NOT ONE conversion. Their algorithms are in need of serious tweaking – Yelp would deliver up our ad when folks conducted searches for unrelated services. No wonder it sucked …. who wants an ad for say a “bakery” when they’ve searched “bar”.

    If I can get it together I may actually sue for fraud …. it’s that bad.

  31. 38

    I signed up for yelp and the only option they gave me was the 1 year contract. After 6 months, I was tired of paying the $375 monthly fee even though I was not getting any new clients from them. So I have been trying to cancel for a month. They said I must give a 30 days notice and pay the $700 early termination fee. Does anyone know what will happen if I refuse to pay?

  32. 39

    Im a small business owner. I recently cancelled my contract with yelp as well. Not only was it poor performance for the money we paid, but they over-empower the consumer. The consumer remains anonymous, writes negative reviews about your business, with no proof. That allows your competitors to write fake/bad reviews anonymously, and ruin your business reputation. So Yelp wants me to pay $540 a month for that?! I even had a customer give us a 1 star review, simply because we were booked up, and didnt have a tech available for him at that time (10:30pm). We had not done any work for them, we were polite, we were upfront and honest. But got a 1 star review just because we were busy! Yelp refused to remove it.

  33. 40

    You can self-serve ads on the Yelp platform on any schedule you like. It’s only if you book a contract with Yelp that the annual commitment clicks in.

    Log in at as the business owner and you can turn on ads for any amount or time period. You don’t get the video but you can test the ads. We use them for clients.

  34. 41

    Michelle – Thanks for posting. Are you able to give me a more in depth look/understanding of self serve ads vs “booking contracts”?

  35. 42

    Against my better judgment, I signed up with Yelp for an ad campaign to run for a minimum of three months, max ad cost $1,000 per month, with a $700 early cancellation fee. My business is bankruptcy law. I’m a bankruptcy lawyer/attorney, do not do any other type of law, and Yelp knew that. Soon after I found that they were running my ad (which I was paying for clicks on) for searches for “tenant law” and “live scan fingerprinting”. I am not making this up!

    Because of that very flawed ad service, I notified Yelp and cancelled the service. They went ahead and charged me for ad clicks for the remaining two months ($575 and $1,000) and also the $700 cancellation fee.

    I disputed all three charges with my credit card company. #1 charge ($575) has been fully resolved in my favor. #2 charge ($1,000) is still in progress. #3 charge (the $700 termination fee) was decided in Yelp’s favor because “it was in the contract”! Will I take the time and trouble to sue them for it? Doubtful.

  36. 43

    Yelp is by far the worse company I have ever worked with. The per-click a complete rip-off. I found them deceptive and I had to work to find out about cancellation fees. Thankful I only had a three month contract. I work with many on-line companies and they are not perfect, but Yelp is the only one I do not trust.

  37. 44

    I have a one man (me) fireplace repair biz, the Yelp rep was very nice and very persistent in trying to get me to sign up. I told her every time we spoke what I was looking for. If people search “fireplace repair and the city” I see that yelp says “Best Gas fireplace repair in Renton, WA – Yelp” and is always on the first page. I told them If I pay you will I rank on the first page once they click on the Yelp site, I was told I would. Did a search last night, clicked on Yelp, when I got to page 9 there I was, 80+ business later, I even came after a guy with his Biz called Honey-do Handyman, I’m sure he is a great guy but really? I specialize in fireplace repair and the handyman beats me in the results? Called to cancel and got the same story as the rest of the folks that I have read about on this site, sure wish I would have read this before. I did just cancel my credit card so I hope to avoid the 2 month BS that was never mentioned when I signed up, and I said I would give it a couple months and see if I wanted to continue. There is no way I would have signed up with a contract, could not have made that more clear to the sales rep. I knew better but got sold anyway. Once again I forgot to trust my gut, lets face it, a “non-biast” (sp) rating company that begs for company add dollars, HELLO!!!!!!!! My bad…….

  38. 45

    Glad to see this discussion, just wish I had looked it up BEFORE signing with Yelp Ad program. We believe this is a total scam. After the first month I was given their analytics and the bill which showed dozens of phone calls I know we never received: I carefully tracked our caller ID logs and 75% of the calls they said we got did not happen (date/time/phone number did not register) and many that said there was no answer, just not possible. We DID see a big uptick in the garbage solicitation calls and many of these did match our call logs. For this reason we completely do not believe their numbers in the hundreds of clicks we supposedly got through the ad listing. We had ZERO calls from people saying they saw our Yelp Ad and ZERO customer orders. Because of their cancellation policy we ended up getting ripped off for almost $1400 just to get out of the scam. The simplest way to look at this is that they cannot provide ANY proof of the clicks they say they generate for your business, which is what they base the billing off of. Beware, beware, beware, we would absolutely NEVER recommend the Yelp Ads rip-off to anyone.

  39. 46

    Worst advertising product ever! Spent over $2000 and got not one lead. Then cancelled and was charged $700. Would not recommend to anyone, anytime. Complete ripoff!! Asked to speak with someone about it and never returned my calls or email.

  40. 47

    Don’t get mad, get even.

    The number one factor for attracting business on YELP is not ads. It is reviews.

    That’s why we developed the “Y” review booster – which makes it a snap for people to leave you reviews. – All for a fraction of the cost of one month of advertising, get a year’s worth of reviews. Plus reviews stick around forever. Contact 5StarMarketingSoftware for a better way to build business on Yelp.

  41. 48

    I signed up for a free trial with yelp, cancelled after one week since I didn’t receive qualified leads, and they charged my card $450 2 months after, saying that I never cancelled. They said I should have received a cancellation email from them if I did cancel, which again since I didn’t is an issue with their system. I spoke with their billing department, who said they wouldn’t refund my account and they could cancel it today… This seemed all too calculated. I immediately called my debit card company and had them dispute the charge. When I called yelp back to speak with a manager, they were not answering because they said it was the first of the month and they were overloaded with billing issues. I can imagine! I had not received one invoice, email or notification that I was to be billed during this time, they simply ran my card. Google and Facebook continually send updates to you while advertising. Yelp seems to not be doing well, and this is a failed attempt at gathering revenue at the customers expense. Not happy with their lack of rectifying the situation, nor their customer service. DO NOT SIGN UP FOR A FREE YELP TRIAL! IT IS A SCAM

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