Yelp – A love/hate relationship

Posted by Elizabeth Paulsen on 14 November 2014

As a web browser/consumer I love Yelp.  When my family wants to find a new restaurant in a specific vicinity we check Yelp for reviews and address details.  In addition, we enjoy reading their whimsical email and perusing humorous web articles about local venues.

As a marketing agency I encourage my clients to secure and optimize a listing in Yelp, because reviews on Yelp are valued by consumers and Yelp feeds information to Apple devices.

However, as a marketing agency I do NOT love (aka hate) Yelp’s revenue model sales systems because their sales representatives are constantly calling our client businesses and frequently appear to be making claims that are not supported in Yelp’s web statements and contracts.

Case in point: One of our clients was receiving hundreds of user views and dozens of prospective customer contacts a week through their FREE listing in Yelp and so we thought it would be a good idea to purchase a “top of the page” listing with Yelp.  In exchange for $1,000/month to Yelp, the sales representative stated in emails that the specific ad location would not be sold to other businesses in the same industry and geographic niche combination.  I reviewed the layout of the listings and the traffic data from Yelp and recommended the client give it a try. 

Then within weeks of securing the paid listing, we noted that there were six other local businesses (competitors) advertising in the same ad location and the user views and contacts to our client’s website had dropped to one fourth of what they were with the free listing.  We contacted Yelp only to learn that the sales representative was not an employee of the company and that there were no territory boundaries between sales representatives.  Therefore, the fact that our client had bought space was leveraged by other non-employee sales representatives who then sold the same space to other local businesses in the same niche.

Yelp claimed that the contract we signed did not guarantee us the uniqueness of ad placement.  However, we produced the emails in which the sales representative had 1) appeared to be an employee and 2) had made the commitments to not selling the space to competitors.  Through much dialogue we secured cancellation of the contract without penalty and we received partial refund for payments already made.  And we asked that the company no longer contact this client.

Today, some years later, many of our clients (even the one with the especially bad experience) are still continuing to get aggressive phone calls from Yelp sales representatives.  I encourage our clients to ask two questions of each caller - 1) “Are you an employee of Yelp” and 2. “Do you have prescribed territories in which you can sell?”  Invariably, there is a brief silence and then a quiet “No” to each question.  Then I encourage the client to say “That until Yelp’s sales model and process changes, we can not support it.  Call me back when you can answer “Yes” to both my questions.”

Hopefully, one day Yelp will get it right.  Once they do I’ll encourage clients to buy in and stay in and Yelp might really be able to become strongly profitable.  Afterall, their layout and usability and information works for getting helpful information to consumers.  We’d like to see them do it right!

About Elizabeth

Elizabeth, president of Cascade e-Commerce Solutions, Inc., lives and works in SeaTac, WA. Helping small businesses succeed on the web is her specialty.  Join Elizabeth on Google+.

Like us on Facebook Follow us on Google Plus
Constant Contact