If you are a business owner, you may have noticed the recent uptake in calls regarding online advertising with Yelp.  Due to some new relationship they have started with Amazon and Safari,  Yelp is pushing hard to encourage you to update your profile and advertise on their online network. Based on their approach with a few of our clients, the common question we have been fielding is … “Is it worth it?”

Well, to be honest, the answer to that question is tricky. In our experience, successful online advertising in any market depends on the layout of the company website, how well you communicate the message to achieve the desired goal of the ad, and the true audience you are targeting with the message.  While many of these are dependant on you or your marketing service providers, Yelp certainly makes their offer sound convincing with stats and search data.

So how do you know?  

The Data Is a Nice Feature – But What Kind of Revenue Is Actually Generated From Your Ad?

Whether Facebook Ads, Google Adwords, Yelp Advertising or whomever – the “revenue actually generated” is out of their hands.  Their job is simply to provide a means for your message to be seen in the hope to attract more customers to your business.  The performance of the ad depends on the ad itself, and the process which a lead would follow to determine if you are the right provider for the product or services they need.  This is done through clear, well directed communication on your website that is tracked and evaluated using data analytics provided by your website and having the know-how to improve sales conversion.

As you can see – it can get complicated because there are several pieces involved; but for the moment we will focus on the question at hand – “Is online advertising with Yelp worth the investment?”

Since we have already established that a simple, more direct answer is impossible, we will share our own personal experience with advertising with Yelp and the thought process behind our decisions along the way to give you an example of what we considered and why.

Case Study:  Business-2-Business Online Advertisement with Yelp

In our case, our market is business-to-business (B2B).  Because we have always perceived Yelp to be a consumer based audience, we typically never considered them as a lead source for us.  After we were first contacted by Yelp, we did some market research and found that there were a few other worthy competitors from our industry already listed and advertising in this community, so we reviewed the opportunity further.  We boosted our free profile appearance just by making some minor adjustments in content and images.  We were clear to highlight key factors that might make us a better choice than those listed in the same area, then elected to advertise. We spent $424.80 for the month of April in 2019 in an advertisement.

Yelp Ad Clicks

By their results, they boast the Ad had 17,212 impressions with 24 ad clicks which led them to our Profile page. From there, we had a total of 3 clicks to our Website (confirmed by our Google Analytics) and zero sales or leads generated. As you can see, the cost per click was $17.70.

From our personal experience, $17.70 was an expensive amount to pay for people to simply view our profile. If it generated more than just “clicks” to our website and actually generated a true return on investment like an actual sale or captured a validated lead that we could follow-up with through email marketing – than yes – maybe; but for only 3 clicks, we were less than impressed with the results.  In fact, I would bet the cost I spent on that Ad that most of the 17,212 impressions were from them calling my competitors trying to convice them to advertise, and showing them our profile as an example knowing we set-up our website and profile in the best optimal way for success!

This experience just confirmed for me that Yelp remained unworthy of our advertising revenue – likely because they are more consumer audience driven.

(Yelp Rep) But Wait! Yelp Now Supports Voice Search!

At least this was the claim of the rather persistant young lady calling our office on a daily basis.  Yes, we purposefully mention “persistant” as she was willing to seek approval from anyone who answered the phone – even when our phone line was forwarded to a Help-Desk Tech who clearly identified herself as “someone with zero authority to make advertising decisions for the company” on multiple occasions.  When she finally connected with a decision-maker, she pursued the charge for her cause, irrelevant of how many times we explained that we were less than impressed by our previous Ad performance and why. She persisted to inform us that “their platform has changed since our last encounter with advertising with them. Now they are the number one source for local search information for both Amazon and Apple voice search tools (Alexa and Siri).”  Unfortunately, we felt no other option but to hang-up on her to end the call because the words “no thank you” – even when stated several times – were simply excluded from her acceptable options to end the call professionally.

She did succeed in peaking our interest with her “Voice Search” claim, so we did a little digging to determine the value of their new position.

Our research resulted in a couple of interesting conversations – both found on the Voicebot.ai website.

Alexa and Siri trail Google Assistant’s prowess by a much larger deficit when it comes to the local query, “Where can I buy [BRAND]?” However, when Alexa and Siri are able to offer correct answers, it is most often courtesy of Yelp. It is worth noting that both Alexa and Siri fail more than they succeed when asked these queries that typically rely on local search results. However, when they do succeed, Yelp is the source 89% of the time for Alexa and 81% for Siri.

Source: https://voicebot.ai/2019/07/11/voice-assistants-alexa-bixby-google-assistant-and-siri-rely-on-wikipedia-and-yelp-to-answer-many-common-questions-about-brands/

Based on this information, we had to question “who had the better ranking for their effectiveness on their voice assistant?”

So again, we hit the web for research and came up with data reported by Voicebot.ai which indicated that Google Assistant performed best in voice search – far above Alexa and Siri.

While this data was reported in 2017 and improvements have likely been made, with our expertise with web development and SEO, and just the sheer track record and determination of Google,  it comes with little surprise that this research revealed that Google would hold a solid lead in the voice search market. Google has long been the leading contender in the world of search on all platforms. They have long put emphasis in their Local Search tool through Business Pages and have done well integrating those pages with their mapping software. While it is possible for Yelp to benefit from the data needs of Alexa and Siri apps, the fact that big tech contenders like Amazon and Apple have to rely on Yelp to manage their local search data options was also a little disconcerting – especially with the many conversations we found online about Yelp and their less than great reputation related to handling fraudlent or bad reviews.  This information simply highlighted for me that Google remains the King.  Without the effort of pushy sales calls, they simply ride the wave of their reputation they have built for themselves and set the standards for others in their market to follow.

From our own experience, we were less than comfortable with both the number and quality of leads generated by their platform from this and previous advertising attempts.  We were then even further turned-off by the highly-aggressive nature that we experienced with the Yelp Representatives who literally hound you day in and day out – even after you have said “no thank you” multiple times.

On a side note, we did eventually build a wierd relationship with the Rep since she called so often.  She knew our voices as well as we recognized hers.  To be truthful, we felt really bad for her.  We know she was just doing her job which included sales quotas that she was required to meet, but we were far from fans on her approach.

Determining the True Value of Your Investment

From our experience, the answer is truly dependent on the business and the situation where it is used. For example, in our experience, Yelp has been more beneficial for clients operating in a business-to-consumer (B2C) environment. This means it is a great platform for restaurants or local retail merchants that cater specifically to foot traffic. They offer opportunities for Deals (like coupons) and Gift Certificates which are great tools to help you attract visitors to consider your business over someone else listed without such offers. You can also build out your profile page with photos and videos, and encourage reviews – much like a Google Business page – but we encourage you to proceed with caution.  The fact that Google has the proven experience in voice search and domination in all of these other areas, we would still recommend Google AdWords over Yelp in today’s market.

As far as cost – well your Cost per Click on any advertisement is typically determined by the value of the category or keyword you have selected as the target for your ad, plus the competition already advertising in that area. So this factor can easily vary by company, industry, and timing of the market search.

In our experience, PPC or CPC advertising gets costly quick unless your website is prepared correctly to support the leads generated by the Ad.  See, the advertising program is dsigned to display your business ad against your competition.  This results in the program making ongoing suggestions of new keywords and ultimately, driving up the cost or value of the category or keyword where you want to be found. While many people simply perceive the process as more keywords = more opportunity = more traffic to your website, they fail to see the process through to the end.  See, any “clicks” generated by your ad will become useless unless you can appropriately catch them and measure their interaction on your website through an appropriate sales funnel.  It then becomes the job of a marketing and communications expert to help you measure your conversions and track where you need to improve your sales process giving you the maximun benefit from your advertising budget.

 A Non-Technical Analogy of How PPC Advertising Works

Imagine leaving all of the windows of your home open and the air conditioner set to freezing on the hottest day in July. Cooling the neighborhood is far from an ideal situation for your household budget, and even less effective for you to get cool quick since the windows no longer contain the cool air in a specific area of your home for your benefit. So imagine closing the windows and really paying attention to those spots in your home with great ventilation to cool you down quick after cutting the grass or coming in with groceries. Well, those spots of your house that make you feel comfortable the fastest, easily become your private sanctuary on those hot days, right? Well, having your website prepared to “catch” these leads and further navigate them through a decision process is just like you, creating a “sweet spot” for your customers. Your advertisements have more value when you complete the conversation or draw a picture to help them visualize the end result that you can provide instead of simply focusing on getting them to walk through the door and hope they look around.

The Take Away …

We see all-too often, businesses of all sizes falling victim to the online advertising process without really understanding how to effectively use advertising tools like Yelp to grow their business.  It is my experience, that many business owners simply are unaware of how everything works, so they make decisions based on a convincing sales pitch – in this case, impressive numbers and trending voice search, and end up wasting time and hard-earned money.  It is important to realize the many roles involved in online advertising.  Remember, it is the Advertiser’s job is to get your link seen, but they woo you with ideas and leave you hanging.  Web designers can have different strengths – either in graphic design or technical – and often hire third-party copywriters to develop relevant, search ready content.  With all of these roles involved in the design of your website, it can create a gaps in the overall flow and effectiveness of your website to deliver the appropriate message.  A company with experience in marketing and communications typically looks at the whole picture and can then identify, assign and manage the proper flow of technical, graphics and copywriting to support a more productive sales conversation.   So before you invest in any digital advertising,  partner with a company with an expertise in marketing and communications to help identify the best online marketing strategy for your business so you can get the most out of your online advertising investment.

If you have questions or would like personal assistance exploring online advertising for your business, please contact us!  We’d love to help!

Julia Eudy - Golden Services Group

About the Author:  Julia R. Eudy is the C.E.O. and Communications Specialist of Golden Services Group.  Her experience in the sales and marketing field and life-long hobby of analyzing generational traits and the subconscious mind have led to her success in developing digital sales funnels and interpreting data analytics to improve ROI.  She is also a STOP.THINK.CONNECT partner and can help you spot potential cyber-security threats and can help you limit risks for your business.