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!


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