In September of 2014, I created a business profile on Yelp. In December, I was contacted by a Yelp sales rep, a very nice lady who showed me lots of statistics and graphs, along with links to press articles about Yelp.
I am familiar with Yelp and use it for restaurants, but I never believed it could be a good lead generator for my Web Design business. I gave the Yelp rep a chance to make her case, and she persuaded me to give it a try.
However, in general the Yelp salespeople were very aggressive and kept pushing me to sign the agreement right away. They were rushing me, and that was a red flag. In fact, they wanted me to sign the agreement during our first call. What worried me the most was the push to sign a 1 year contract for $600 per month, without clearly stating that the early cancellation fee would cost me a fortune. This is a very, very nasty practice!
Advertising with Yelp is expensive. The cheapest option is $350 per month for 500 number of impressions. The impressions seem to be very targeted, so if I could get one client per month, it would provide a good ROI. So far, so good.
Before signing the agreement, I contacted two California based web design companies I found on Yelp (I am based in NYC) and asked what they think about the service. The first company is located in San Diego and paying $600 per month for yelp ads. They said they are getting a few leads each month from Yelp.
The other company I contacted had a Yelp listing but did not pay to advertise, and they were getting some leads. Talking to these companies encouraged me to take the plunge and sign up with Yelp.
Based on a previous bad experience with this type of advertising, I was not ready to commit to a 1 year agreement. I negotiated with Yelp for a 6 month agreement at $350 per month, with 1000 impressions for the 1st month and 500 impressions for the following months, with an early cancellation fee of $350.
And my campaign started…
I understand NYC has many web design studios and my ad is not the only one out there, but the biggest problem with Yelp is their terrible organic search. I spent hours on the phone with Yelp tech support, and I still do not fully understand why my listing, with great content, lots of photos and several 5 star reviews, is not even in the top 100 for keywords like “Web Design” in New York. The big problem seems to be that searches are very micro targeted and extremely local. Yelp is well optimized for local businesses where location matters, such as bars or restaurants.
But for web design companies, location is not as important. So when I search Web Design in NYC, it returns results listing companies from downtown, then it favors nearby unrelated businesses (such as computer repair shops with 0 stars and no content) over web design companies still in Manhattan and Brooklyn, but a bit further away.
I followed all the Yelp advice on how to make an effective profile, but it did not have an impact on my search position.
From the advertising itself, during the 4 months I have received about 140 visitors to my website, no potential good calls, and not a single client. Of course, numbers on Yelp Advertising Dashboard do not match the reality at all.
Is Yelp for you?
If you are in a small city, this may work for you, but for large metropolitan areas with dozens, if not hundreds, of web design studios listed, there is little chance you will get any results. And with Yelp’s ineffective search method, you have little chance to get noticed.
I further analyzed the companies in California which I called. They are well positioned in search results, which I now realize is due to the number of reviews (more than 30) and the fact they have been listed on Yelp for many years. Geographically, they are located in the middle of San Diego, so when I search for “web design” in San Diego, the geo targeting is perfect for them. If they were in La Mesa (10 miles east of the city), they would have no chance of appearing in the results for this kind of Keyword/Location search.
Sometimes you may notice links to Yelp in Google search results (for keywords related to Web Design), but again, this happens for one company among hundreds, and it works mainly because the company has keyword stuffing in its company name.
Create an account on yelp and build reveiws, but do not pay until you see some leads without investing in any advertising with Yelp.
Yelp Ranking Factors
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