Has anybody else noticed a big push by Yelp to get businesses to use Yelp ads? The week before last I received a phone call from a Yelp sales person, who informed me there have been some big changes. Number 1: No more annual contracts! That is huge. It used to be that you had to sign up for a year at $300 per month. They would throw in a free, professionally produced video, but still, $3600 is a lot of advertising money for a small business to plunk down on an unknown entity. Now there is a chance to try out the platform before actually committing to pay Yelp a significant chunk of change.
Number 2 also got my attention: $150 minimum spend per month. I can see how that could also draw in some small businesses.
Although my interest was piqued, I explained to the understanding Yelp sales person that I’ve had a number of clients who have tried Yelp Ads in the past, and none renewed after their original contract expired. That tells me something.
A little later that same afternoon I got an email from another Yelp sales person, who was asking for a phone call to explain the changes in Yelp Ads. Since I did want to learn more about the changes in the Yelp ads program, towards making informed marketing recommendations to my clients, I made an appointment for the following Monday AM.
When appointment time came, the Yelp sales rep was less into explaining the changes, and more into giving me a step by step on how to sign up, including entering my credit card information. With no contract and the ability to cancel at anytime, that was ok. Like most people, I learn better by doing rather than listening to a sales person. The one thing I noticed though, was that the minimum spend you can select is $10/day, which adds up to the old $300/month. There was no $150 per month option. After asking for confirmation that I could quit anytime, and being told I could but it was not recommended, I signed up, and the ads started running.
The Problem with Yelp Ads, for My Business Anyway
I am basically a sole proprietor. I answer my own phones, give all the free consultations, and write all the free quotes. I only want qualified leads. I want a marketing platform that can target. I don’t have time to politely answer a lot of irrelevant RFQs. And on Yelp, if you aren’t responsive, courteous and polite, expect to get a bad review, even if the person is only inquiring about your services. That counts according the Yelp, even if they never became a customer.
With Yelp ads, my ad display was solely triggered by very general categories. My categories were “Web Design” and “Marketing.” The first lead I received was from someone who wanted me to provide them with storefront signage. The second was from someone I had never talked to before following up on some details of an involved project. That’s when I remembered the problem I had using the Yelp Quote system.
Yelps Shotgun Spray Approach to Quote Request
On the last couple of home repair projects, I requested quotes from Yelp. In the past I had done some preliminary research, and then went to Yelp to check on reviews. I figured it might save time to skip a step. The first project was a deck repair, below isn’t the actual search I used, but it demonstrates the issue.
When requesting a quote, Yelp auto-populates similar businesses, and sends the quote request to them as well, unless you manually uncheck the boxes. These businesses may or may not offer the services you are requesting. In my case, only 2 of the five I sent out were responsive, and of those I wasn’t able to get one who was really interested in taking on my job.
As the Yelp advertiser, you are getting peppered with irrelevant quote requests, and you either ignore them, or stop what you are doing and respond. I didn’t want to do either, so seeing now what the problem I was up against, I stopped my campaign. I figured the sales person who had me set it up might see that I cancelled after two days, and follow-up, but he didn’t. In fact I emailed to ask whether or not the minimum daily spend was now $150 as I was told by the previous Yelp associate, but my email went unanswered.
In my very limited 2 day experience with Yelp Ads, I got what I expected – no relevant leads, and something I didn’t expect – irrelevant leads. Also, given my 2 day ad run at $10/day average budget (average is the key qualifier) I spent over $60, which is actually $30 per day. I guess creative math is ok if you have someone’s credit card number and a bunch of lawyers.
Cost per Click
In the end, I think removing the year contract requirement was a step forward for Yelp Ads, but targeting would need to be improved if I were to give it a longer trial. The “send request to additional businesses” feature undoubtedly makes Yelp Ads’ lead conversion rates look better, but at the expense of spamming their advertisers. That alone can be a deal breaker for businesses that don’t have a lot of time to spend on irrelevant inquiries.