Note: This is a super useful article that is fully driven by our desire to publish useful articles about useful stuff. This is not Yelp’s guest blog on our site. 

They finally did it… Yelp just sent me an e-mail today about their Agency Affiliate Program. This is a program that has been in a closed beta since March 2017, and as of August, released to the agencies and freelancers everywhere.

Yelp is now willing to give a cut of their PPC revenues to marketing agencies willing to “represent Yelp Advertising directly to their clients” along with a myriad of marketing tools and incentives.

It’s about time.

I asked about this program on July 31st, and they said they didn’t have it ready. August 11th, I got this e-mail.

Now, I know what you’re going to ask right away, so let me address this first before I explain everything else:

Are Yelp Ads effective, and should marketing agencies promote them?

The short answer: If you have substantial reviews (I recommend 10+), then it can make a big impact. But it depends on your industry!

If you’re new to Yelp and someone is trying to convince you that Yelp Ads will bring tons of clients, take a step back and consider what that person has to gain… Do they stand to make money with their “advice?”

I have seen more business owners get burned by caving into a slick salesman speaking the following line than almost anything else:

'Yelp salesman trick #1: You'd pay for the whole program with just a few sales.'Click To Tweet

While this may be true, it is irrelevant to the real questions you should be asking here. And since marketing agency people are more likely to be reading this than business owners (although biz owners will certainly find this helpful, too), here are the questions I recommend asking…

If the answer is no to either one of these questions, don’t sell Yelp Ads to your client… unless you like short term gain more than long-term success for your clients.

Question #1: Is this the right time for Yelp Ads?

Based on our experience, small business owners should be focused on establishing their marketing channels in the following order (as a general guideline):

  1. Word-of-mouth referrals
  2. Establishing strategic referral partnerships via networking
  3. Website development (to enhance effectiveness of #1 and #2)
  4. A systematic way to earn reviews
  5. SEO, PPC ads, and/or Direct Mail Advertising
  6. Everything else

As you can see, Yelp Ads would fall into #5 (under PPC ads). If you’re still working on getting a professional website up and running, there is no way you should be paying for ads. But if you have a decent website (which functions as a second look for potential customers), and you’ve earned a solid number of Yelp reviews on your profile (10+ with 4-5 star average rating), then it may be the right time for ads!

Question #2: Can I afford this?

If you’re asking this question (for yourself or for your client), you should be applauded!

You’re going to get roped into a 3-month, 6-month, or 12-month commitment if you’re serious about Yelp Ads (along with slightly better pricing and perks with longer term lengths).

So you better have a good idea of if you can afford to spend all this money without a single customer phone call. Are you willing to gamble this money? If you’re not willing to consider the risk of losing your investment, then re-consider if you or your client can afford this.

Yelp Ads can be extremely profitable, or they can bust, and so if you’re averse to risk, then consider other marketing channels that require shorter term commitments instead (like SEO Marketing or Direct Mail Ads).

Somewhat reassuringly, Nielsen recently published a study about Yelp Ads, reporting an average greater than $1,000/mo earned for $300 spent on Yelp Ads.

Straight from Yelp’s Infographic. It may be true, but these stats are not a guarantee!

Question #3: Will this get clients to call?

Ads will not get clients to call on their own merit. All they’re going to do is draw people to your page.

If the content on your Yelp Listing is rushed, poorly thought out, or sparse… you’re probably not going to get the dream customer that is looking at your listing to call you.

Proper Calls to Action (CTA’s) are super important to get customers to convert. Here are two quick examples of CTA’s that we use for our own Yelp listing:

CTA for Desktop:

Our Desktop CTA drives people to a website to learn more & call us.

CTA for Mobile:

Our Mobile CTA is a “click-to-call” button. Instead of driving traffic to a website, we skip a step and ask the customer to call us!

Is looking into the Yelp Agency Program worth your time?

Yes. You should at least be educated on this as an Agency, and for a client that is determine to use Yelp, you will certainly be able to give them way better deals than if they did it on their own.

For the right client, you can give them a good return on their investment. But don’t look to sign people up for the commission check, or you’ll be sorry when your client is pissed at you for locking them into a contract without telling them the full story.

And for your clients, you’ll finally have a single dashboard that can monitor all your clients’ account performance. No more logging in and out of multiple Yelp Business accounts to get things done. Hooray!

Our Yelp Ads case study

Currently, we decided to try out Yelp Ads for 6 months to determine if they’re worthwhile for us. We expect a good case study to arise out of this, and we have metrics in place to track exactly where our leads come from. We know how many leads we get on average from Yelp, and we know if they clicked ads or not.

Check out our current metrics from ads:

Our Yelp Ads stats as of Aug 11th, 2017.

How many sales have we closed from ads so far? Zero, but our services are expensive, and “professional services” generally require more time for people to consider before they reach out. Check this out:

Professional Services Stats from Nielsen’s Yelp Study

Who knows — we could have 3-5 potential clients looking up our stats and reading our blogs (hello, potential client if that’s you!). If we did earn one client for every $160, I would probably have to buy an island every few years for all the new Yachts that would arrive in my private collection. 🙂

So based on numbers, we’re willing to gamble roughly $6,000 over a 6-month period to test out this case study for ourselves before we really start recommending Yelp Ad services to our clients. After all, why would a prospective client trust a company that is telling them to do something that they haven’t done themselves?

Can we afford to waste $6,000? While I get high blood pressure thinking about lighting $6,000 on fire, I see it as a manageable risk and am willing to give it the good ol’ college try. We have 19 unfiltered Yelp Reviews at the moment, and we feel that this is plenty to give it a solid effort and see a positive return.

For reference, check out our current ad:

Ads can pull lines from customer reviews or from the business description, depending on what a user types in as a search query.

How can you get your Agency involved?

I expect this section to be updated, but you should really give the person that reached out to me a call. Their name is Jessica, and their e-mail address is jcarlin@yelp.com. They will likely freak out with glee at all the agencies that want to sign up under them from this post, so go for it if it suits your fancy 🙂

Remember, this is not going to work for you if you’re a small business owner looking to get “the best deal” on Yelp Ads. If you’re looking to get the best deal on Yelp Ads, contact us instead.

Hopefully this was helpful to y’all! I’ve been really inspired lately to write about Yelp, so expect more to come in the near future!