Advertising: To Yelp, or not to Yelp?

October 21st, 2014


Advertising dollars are precious when it comes to business owners, especially in consumer-centric, local B2C business models. When it comes to how to invest those dollars, do you or don’t you choose to invest in Yelp?

Yelp has established itself as a go-to network for user-generated reviews, having a monthly average of 138 million unique visitors in Q2 2014 and by the end of Q2 2014, Yelpers had written more than 61 million rich, local reviews, making Yelp the leading local guide for real word-of-mouth recommendations on everything from boutiques and mechanics to restaurants and dentists (

In a world where customers trust peer recommendations and word of mouth over traditional marketing, Yelp is an incredibly powerful tool that can both boost or crumble a business, depending on the reviews the business elicits. If you’re blessed with glowing reviews, then you’re golden! If not, you can find yourself slipping down a dark, dark rabbit hole making it extremely challenging to resurface to the top. Or, there are always these people who give discounts for BAD Yelp reviews simply to “stick it to Yelp”.

Business owners have long since had a love/hate relationship with the network, claiming that their internal algorithm has hidden valid positive reviews yet showcased the negative, false reviews, much to the business owner’s dismay. Other allegations have surfaced that stress the notion that if you do advertise with Yelp, they can give you more favorable reviews via the internal algorithm. Yelp gives little control to business owners when it comes to being able to flag or challenge detrimental reviews. However, Yelp claims that the algorithm, much like that of Google’s, is meant to help users easily navigate to make the most informed decisions based on past user experiences.

So, what are the pros and cons of advertising with the sometimes controversial network?


  • You have an Account Manager as a go-to, living, breathing person at Yelp to help with FAQs, advertising support, and assistance with consolidation with pages when applicable.
  • You get insight into how users are engaging with the Yelp listing (see below). In the business owners dashboard, you can see specifics on how long conversations were had with your business from Yelp, and how people are finding you (clicking on website, map, etc).
    Yelp business owner dashboard
  • Optimized profile complete with “free” commercial to add to your listing through a Yelp partner, SmartShoot


  • Limited control of what is shown on your listing, including control over the images that are highlighted on the profile.
  • No direct contact at Yelp to assist with FAQs (they are very difficult to reach if you do not have a rep).
  • If your competitors advertise, then your listing will be tough to see, and you may risk losing potential new business to your competitors who advertise on your same keywords and potential branded keywords as well.

Now we’d like to know what you think about Yelp advertising…. do you, or don’t you? What has your experience been? Please let us know in the comments section below.

FILED UNDER: Client Work Social Media

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