Social proof is a buzzword throughout social media today. And there is a reason for this – people value the opinions of others. This is especially true when it comes to making purchases online. In a recent survey by BrightLocal, it was found that 88% of consumers say they trust online reviews as much as a recommendation from a friend. Review site Yelp takes this power and runs with it.

In a study by BCG, businesses that set up a free account on Yelp generated approximately $8,000 more per year. Those that advertised reported more than a $23,000 annual increase in profit.

If you are a small- or medium-sized local business, learn why it’s a smart move to incorporate Yelp into your online marketing strategy.

A Beginner’s Guide to Yelp

Yelp is a local reviews site for businesses such as restaurants, bars, clubs, beauty salons and retail outlets.

Founded in 2004 by Jeremy Stoppelman, the site now boasts 77 million unique visitors per month via desktop and 69 million mobile web visitors with an Alexa rank of 33 in the US.

The platform has had over 100 million reviews posted on it since its inception.

According to Social Media Examiner, “If you run a local business like a restaurant, Yelp should be an essential cornerstone of your online presence.” But it is not just the obvious small businesses that you can find on Yelp – financial services, medical services, and many others also use it to great effect.

Most of the content on Yelp is user-generated. As a business, all you need to do is set up your business page and let your customers do the rest – hopefully leaving many positive reviews and four and five-star ratings.

A healthy Yelp profile can have a profound effect on your business. In a Harvard Business School study by Michael Luca, it was found that increasing a restaurant’s star rating could increase revenues 5–9%.

Who’s Using It?

The Yelp website has a useful table of user demographics taken from reports from comScore.

Image 1 (comscore demographics) YelpSource: Yelp

The majority of users are below the age of 55 while the largest demographic is in the 18–34 age range. This is probably due to this age group being part of the “Google generation” – turning to the internet first for advice, and using their phones on the move more often than those who are older.

Yelp’s users are well educated with 59.5% of them having a college education and 44% earning a salary of over $100,000 per year.

This is great news for the advertiser, especially if you are selling a high-end or luxury product. Higher income usually equals higher disposable income.

In Quantcast’s traffic report for May 2016, a larger proportion of Yelp users were women than men.

Image 2 (Quancast traffic report) YelpSource: Quantcast

Image 3 (Quantcast age demographics) Yelp

Source: Quantcast

How to Advertise on Yelp

You can set up a Yelp ad using their self-service option, or you can choose to go with the full-service option and work with an account manager who will manage things for you.

Yelp ads are snapshots of your business homepage and are displayed in search results.

Image 4 (Search result ad) Yelp

And on competitor’s pages.

Image 5 Yelp

Yelp’s ad program is different than most competitors because they require a contract, available in 3, 6 and 12-month periods. The cost per click is different depending on competition in your local area and the expected relevance to the user.

The advertising rates aren’t displayed publicly, but for a typical small business a normal advertising spend would be somewhere around $300 to $1,000 per month.

Your business needs at least a 3-star rating on the site to be able to advertise. Speak Well and Sell recommends having 2–3 good reviews on your page before you consider advertising.

This is because the ad will take the visitor straight to your Yelp page; if your business looks unpopular or isn’t an attractive prospect, visitors might simply move on – making your ad spend a waste.

How to Make the Most of Yelp Advertising

Optimize your page

Optimizing your business page is the key to successfully benefiting from Yelp advertising. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, you don’t design a separate advertisement; your ad is a snapshot of your business page.

Secondly, when visitors click on your ad they are taken to your business page in full. If users don’t like what they see, you’ll fail to acquire any new business.


Make sure the “About Your Business” section has strong copy explaining your business concisely, highlighting the benefits and drawing the reader in.

Social Media Examiner marks this as a “huge opportunity to stand out,” because a lot of local businesses use a few poorly shot photos on their Yelp page. Get a good number of professional photos taken and include some of your storefront for the added bonus of helping customers to find you when they do visit.

Cultivate Reviews

Reviews are your lifeblood on Yelp. You want lots of them and you want to be getting them regularly. It helps to have a system in place to encourage customers to leave them.

It depends on the kind of business you are running as to how you do this. For restaurants, Restaurant Engine recommends to, “use signs in your restaurant and footnotes on your menu and bill to ensure customers are actively aware you are using Yelp.”

Add a Call to Action

Adding a “Call to Action” button is a great addition to your page. It can be used to secure sales in a number of ways including:

  • Call Us – If a customer is unsure about your product and has a question, leaving this unanswered could mean losing the sale. This makes it easy for them to speak to someone directly.
  • Book Now – Basecamp Hotel in South Tahoe saw a 150% increase in bookings after using Yelp advertising, and they recommend using this call to action if you are in the hospitality industry.
  • Visit our Website – Send the visitor to an optimized landing page or your main website so they can read more about your company.

Reply to Reviews

This helps for a number of reasons:

  • Shows potential customers that you care, generating trust
  • Encourages new customers to leave reviews as they can see that they are listened to
  • Generates a sense of community, and again, trust

Manage Negative Reviews

There is nothing you can do to stop negative reviews and they cannot be deleted, but they can ruin your Yelp page if not dealt with correctly. Sara Angeles of Business News Daily recommends you, “strategically interact with negative reviewers – without being too defensive or, worse, lashing out at the customer.”

A/B Test

As with any successful advertising campaign you need to monitor your results and adjust accordingly. Yelp has some powerful analytics in its dashboard to help you perform marketing tests, which we will explore in detail in the Optimization section.

Unique Targeting

Yelp ads don’t have many targeting options. However, this isn’t actually a big deal as the two options they do have make for a laser-focused campaign. It is definitely, “quality over quantity” here. The options are

  • Search keywords
  • Location

For small and medium-sized local businesses this is all you really need – people who are looking for the service you provide and are in your area will see your ads.


To help you optimize your business page and therefore your ads, Yelp provides some exceptionally powerful analytics tools. Direct Carpeting Unlimited describes Yelp’s metrics as “amazing” because you can see the return from your marketing efforts so clearly.

In the business dashboard you can find:

  • Detailed traffic information, including devices used. Up to a 24-month period.
  • Customer leads feature – Shows how users interact with your business, such as calling you, mapping directions to your business or clicking through to your website.
  • Revenue estimate tool – Gives you an estimate of earnings from your ads. Based on how many customers’ leads you are getting and the average revenue generated by customers for a business like yours.

Advantages of Using Yelp to Advertise

Yelp Users Are Buyers

Advertising on Yelp makes sense because users are in buy mode. Or, as TechCrunch puts it, in the “demand fulfillment stage.” Users already know they want something and they visit Yelp to find the best possible place to get it.

This is very different than social platforms like Facebook and Twitter where you can be displaying ads to people who might not be interested a lot of the time.

Opinion is Everything

Positive reviews can have a profound effect on potential customers. In one study, 72% of consumers say that a positive review makes them trust a business more. If you have a strong business page with good reviews, it makes sense to increase traffic to it so you can harness this power.

The Snowball Effect

The great thing about Yelp ads is that they generate a snowball effect. The more customers generated from your ads, hopefully, the more reviews you get. The more reviews your page has, the stronger it looks to potential customers after they have clicked on your ads, and the more conversions you get – and on and on it goes.

Worth the Price

Yelp advertising can be expensive compared to competitors like Facebook and Google AdWords. However, for companies that sell products or services with a high profit margin, it can be worth it. Think high-end restaurants, law firms, mechanics and other types of repair shops. Yelp ads can also be lucrative for companies that are likely to get repeat business such as ones in the financial, medical or travel industry.

Cut Out Competitors

An impressive additional feature of using ads on Yelp is that it blocks competitors from advertising on your page – giving your campaign the double-barreled approach of driving customers to your page and keeping them away from your competitors.

Sticking it to the Man

Research by Michael Luca found that having a strong page on Yelp is not only good for your business individually but the market you are in as a whole. The study showed that as Yelp penetrated a market, revenue shifted away from large chains and towards independent companies.

Mobile Nature

A large portion of Yelp users access the site on their mobiles. Yelp had 69 million mobile web users and 21 million mobile app users in March of 2016. This gives advertisers access to a huge demographic that is only going to get bigger as technology advances. Yelp is also integrated into several car navigation systems and Apple Maps, further increasing your reach.


Case Studies

Case Study #1: J & C Import Car Care

J & C Import Car Care is an auto repair shop based in North Hollywood, California.

J-C-Import-Car-Care Yelp

With a business model centered on customer service, building a strong presence on a review platform such as Yelp made sense.

The repair shop invested in a 12-month advertising package for ads targeted at users searching for the words “car care” and other similar words in the North Hollywood area.

In six months, J & C has seen:

  • A 46% increase in views of their Yelp Business Page
  • A 46% increase in clicks to their website from their Yelp Page
  • A 31% increase in mobile phone calls from Yelp users

J & C was extremely happy with the success of the advertising campaign with their manager, Paul, saying that, “Yelp has been the best advertising money we have spent in 15 years. Period.”

Case Study #2: Lanes Flooring & Tile

Lanes Flooring & Tile is a specialty flooring business based in Martinez, California. The company turned to Yelp in the early days of their business. Looking to attract new clients and build the business, they could see the benefits of using word-of-mouth to access a large client base.

Lanes-Flooring-Tile Yelp

The company invested in ads targeted at users searching for flooring, tile, and similar phrases.

In six months, Lane Flooring & Tiles has seen:

  • Three times as many views of its business page on Yelp
  • Six times as many clicks from its business page to its website.

The company is ecstatic with the results but isn’t too surprised. Owner Mickey Lane said, “the authenticity of Yelp’s reviews convinced me that our money would be well spent on advertising.”

Wrapping It Up

Yelp advertising isn’t for everyone. But if you are a small to medium-sized local business with a decent marketing budget – and you get lots of repeat business – it could be worth harnessing the power of Yelp advertising.

And by using some key strategies such as optimizing your business page, including pictures of your storefront, cultivating reviews and using Yelp’s built-in powerful analytic tools, your business could really shine on Yelp.

Over to you – is your business on Yelp yet? Have you explored their advertising platform?