Yelp: To Pay or Not to Pay? A Question Every Local Business Must Answer

Yelp. It’s a heated subject. When I’m speaking with local business owners, almost everyone has an opinion on the matter.

And it’s usually not positive…

The goal of this post is to determine if you, as a business owner, should pay for Yelp’s services or not.

The last I checked, Yelp’s primary offer to business owners is to have a custom page on their site for $400 a month. This is a 12 month commitment. If you need to get out of the commitment, it’s a steep $1000 penalty.

Thus the question from business owners – should I pay for Yelp or not?

There’s no doubt that a lot of 5 star ratings from Yelp can help a business. Especially when the reviews are legit.

However, you can work on getting a lot of 5 star reviews from Yelp whether you pay for their services or not.

There’s no doubt that Yelp has great search engine results placement.

For example, if you search for “Hair salon in Walnut Creek” you’ll probably see Yelp pages in the first 5 or 6 results.

Does Paying for Yelp Services Provide Additional Benefits?

The goal here however is to see if paying Yelp offers any additional benefits.

To dive a bit deeper, let’s take a look at two former Social Rocketship clients to see if it’s worth paying for or not.

Compared side by side, there’s Ihaul in Concord, CA and All American Hauling in Walnut Cree, CA (you may have to click on the image to enlarge):


Do you see any differences?

Can you tell which one is paying Yelp every month and which one has never given them a dime?

Hard to spot the differences right?

To give you some clues, Yelp says if you pay them, then you can load up multiple pics or even a 30 second video up near the top of the page. Is this is a big benefit? Would a number of different pics really persuade you to buy from someone? Probably not.

Especially because you’re not at Yelp to look at pics.

Next Yelp says if you pay them they’re remove your competitors from your page. By looking at the two images, can you tell where they’ve done that?

Yeah, it’s in one section along the top of the page. All they’ve done is remove their own ads (this is advertising you can pay Yelp – but only on all those free account businesses!)

With that in mind, go back to see if you can spot who’s paying for Yelp and who isn’t. Still probably pretty difficult but IHaul is the company NOT paying Yelp.

What’s crazy is even if you’re paying Yelp or not you’ll still see the “People Who Viewed This Also Viewed…” which is Yelp linking to your competitors! They do this along the right hand side as well as at the bottom of the page.

So the obvious question – why pay $400 to advertise your competitors on your page?!

Does Yelp Hurt Your Rankings If You Don’t Pay Them?

Another aspect is whether or not Yelp will improve your search results if you pay for their services.

Yelp says no. But business owner after business owner says yes – because it actually happened to them.

There have been reports of business owners even being yelled at by Yelp associates for not enrolling with them or for choosing to halt their services.

Granted, this is more hear-say than anything concrete but it’s important to take into consideration.

Yelp or Not?

To sum up I’ll just say this, Yelp is just one of many online platforms. Just one. It’s just one way people can learn about you. But you’re not at Yelp’s mercy for your business.

Instead, you can take things into your own hands. For starters, your company website is by far the most important digital asset you have.

Making sure your website is getting found and engaging new visitors is vital.

From there, your YouTube channel and other social media platforms are very important in getting found and reaching new customers.

Let me put it another way.

If I only had $400 a month to spend on online marketing, it would NOT be with Yelp.

Instead, I would invest the $400 on a more multifaceted marketing approach.

I make sure my website is getting found in the search engines (SEO). I would make sure I’ve got lots of videos on my YouTube channel. I would make sure my social media profiles (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc) were all engaging. I would make sure I was supplying Google with lots of quality content on a consistent basis.

And most of all, I would be tracking everything to see what’s working and do more of that!

**Ninja tactic** Still want to make all of those great reviews go to work for you? Take them and put them into your own blog posts and even YouTube videos!

If you would like help understanding the Yelp maze or would like to revamp your internet marketing, we can help! Contact us here!

How to Leverage Online Reviews into More Business

Recently, some friends of mine were buying a pre-owned minivan to accommodate their growing family. While they were still in the dealership, they looked online (on their smart phones) for an auto mechanic who does pre-owned inspections to make sure the car was in good condition.

After the mechanic completed his inspection, he thanked them for their business and asked how they heard about his shop. They said they went to his shop because he had the best reviews online. He looked puzzled and asked, “Reviews?”

He didn’t even know his business was being rated online! Fortunately for him he was getting good ratings. Imagine if the opposite were true.

Because of online review sites, like Yelp, businesses are now gaining or losing business and might not even know why. Online review sites are becoming one of the most powerful ways of finding new products and services for consumers. If you’re a business, it’s now time to learn how to navigate review sites and use them to grow.

It’s important to recognize online reviews for what they are – word of mouth! And we all know word of mouth marketing is one of the best ways to generate more business. Everyone likes to see that a business helped “someone like them”. The places our peers visit and like will most likely be the places we like and visit.

Here are a few things to consider about review sites and managing your online reputation:

  • Yelp and other review sites offer a very public forum where your business will be talked about – be sure you’re representing your business in the best possible light. Be real. Be nice. People are smart and can spot a good business when they see one (the opposite is also true).
  • Review sites are powerful. Because it’s not an ad from the business itself but a review from peers, people are more inclined to believe what they read.
  • Some people are going to be your raving fans while others are never going to be pleased. Treat each review on an individual basis and always respond with grace.
  • Going online and writing a review about your business takes time. Be grateful for the attention and free advertising the reviewer is giving your business whether it’s a good review or bad.
  • Understand that people who review online are vocal people. Treat them with respect because you never know how big their audience might be.
  • Consider when to take things off the public forum. Maybe you’re willing to give the customer a total refund and that’s not something you normally do and you don’t want everyone else to see that. Ask them to contact you at your own email or personal phone number.
  • Keep your replies brief, positive, and humble – it goes a long way in online communication.
  • Make sure you claim your own business on the major review sites. This can lead to increased visibility and, of course, increased sales.

Steps to responding to a positive review:

  1. Introduce yourself as the owner of the business or one representing the business.
  2. Thank them for taking the time to post a review.
  3. That’s it! A simple thank you is usually good enough.
  4. You might consider inviting them to join you on your other online homes like your main website, Facebook page, YouTube channel, and anywhere else that’s appropriate for your business. *Caution* be sure not to sound too pushy. You want your “Thank you” to be genuine and not a sales pitch.

Steps to responding to a negative review:

  1. Do not reply immediately. Possibly even sleep on it for a night. This gives you time breath, calm down, and think about the best solution for the situation without “emotional retaliation”.
  2. Think about the review. Was it legitimate? Be honest. If it was, then see this as an opportunity to better your business.
  3. Consider what you’re willing to do to relieve the situation. What can you do to make them feel better?
  4. Write your response. State your name and title and first thank them for taking the time to review your business. If you can tell it’s not a very legitimate review (like just someone having a bad day) this is all you need to do. Thank them and be done. If it is a legitimate review then…
  5. Apologize if needed and briefly explain what you’re willing to do to correct the situation.
  6. Thank them again.

In the end, how you respond to reviews is all about customer service. You get business through marketing and sales. You maintain and grow your business through amazing customer service.

So get online! Make sure you know what’s being said about your business. Interact with your customers. Thank everyone, provide amazing customer service, and watch your business skyrocket!