How to Advertise on Yelp for Free (And Avoid Yelp’s Traps)

Find out how to advertise on Yelp for free to get more new customers. Avoid Yelp’s worst traps that could destroy your business. Show up in Yelp search for free.

As a small business owner, you’re already familiar with Yelp as a review site that assists consumers in picking the best place to purchase the goods and services they’re searching for at a the time when they most want that good or service.

Setting up a Yelp business profile is free of charge and can be done in about 20 minutes. You can add photos and videos along with a description of your business including hours of operation and a map. This free profile will help consumers find you when searching out products or services you provide.

This article will cover all of these topics:

Businesses that advertise on Yelp get a terrible ROI

Yelp is known by many in the advertising industry as having a very low ROI.

For example, Nick Leffler of Exprance ran a 3-month experiment to advertise on Yelp. After running $1,903 worth of Yelp advertisements, his cost per qualified lead was $952.

Fortunately for him, Yelp was trying to win his business during the experiment and only charged him $970 for $1,903 worth of advertising, so his actual cost per qualified lead was a mere $485. But if he hadn’t been able to advertise on Yelp for free during the trial period, he would have been out the full $1,903 and paid $970 per good lead.

To compare his usual costs with Google and Facebook, he had a cost-per-click (CPC) of $20 on Yelp while he normally saw a CPC of $2 to $6 on Google and up to $4 on Facebook.

So it looks like Yelp was an astonishing 4X more expensive than his most expensive ads on other platforms… and still failed to convert to good, qualified leads at a decent rate.

Yelp ads have low conversion rates

One major problem when you advertise on Yelp is that the conversion rate is very low. This is a site that people visit for reviews or locations, not to find your website.

When you advertise on Yelp, then consumers will click on your ad only to find themselves at the profile page of your business. Again this is a profile page any business can set up for free.

And most Yelpers don’t click through from that profile page to your website, or call or visit your business in any trackable way.

Yelp’s click-through rates are deceptively low

So the click-through rate (CTR) from Yelp to your website is usually terrible even if the CTR from Yelp’s search results to your (FREE) Yelp profile may be high.

Yet you pay Yelp every time someone clicks on that ad to go from one Yelp page (search results) to another Yelp page (your FREE Yelp profile).

If you try to compare your CTR when you advertise on Yelp to your CTR on Google or Facebook, you’ll find Yelp’s CTR is very deceptive. That’s because Google, Facebook and most other ad platforms measure a CTR where the “click” in “click-through rate” brings the customer to your own website… not just to another profile page on the ad platform.

Yelp’s cost per click is unpredictable

Yelp’s cost per click (CPC) is the most frustrating part about advertising on Yelp. The CPC of Yelp ads is determined by Yelp, unlike ads on Google.

Google Ads is designed so you pay the lowest cost per click possible to maintain your ad position. Google has a “smart system” that will lower the CPC if it feels that the click will not lead to a conversion. Yelp doesn’t seem to be concerned with conversions as much as impressions.

Google and Facebook are better alternatives to Yelp

Of course, every business is different and you should experiment with what works best for your own business.

You may even find that Yelp gives you a great ROI if you try to advertise on Yelp.

But if your business is like most others, you’ll find that your advertising dollars go much farther on Google, Facebook, or other review sites or advertising platforms.

Yelp boosts sales (despite terrible advertising ROI)

Although Yelp doesn’t have a good conversion rate (as a matter of fact, it’s terrible) it’s important to have a business profile on Yelp, as it does boost sales. Yelpers are going to the site for reviews and if your business has a high review rating on Yelp, then that will convert to sales… for FREE.

But you don’t need to advertise on Yelp to boost sales. You can effectively advertise on Yelp for free by driving business from Yelp organically instead.

Reviews have become a way of life for consumers. Customers believe that a business with the best reviews will provide a better product, service, and overall experience. It’s very important to make sure that your review sites like Yelp have high quality and quantity of reviews.

A study by UC Berkeley economists showed that restaurants that just have 4 star rating on Yelp sell about 19% more often than restaurants that have 3.5 stars. Great proof that customers’ perceived value of 4 stars vs 3.5 stars actually drives differences in sales.

Having positive reviews on review sites will also increase your SEO as Google and other search engines factor in reviews when they push websites to the top of the search results. Being at the top of the search results obviously increases sales.

In today’s world, consumers may hear about your business through word of mouth but, they’re then likely to do some research on their own. They will go to review sites such as Yelp prior to going to make a purchase or to receive certain services. Review sites do increase sales.

On average 93% of consumers read reviews before they make a buying decision and 85% of consumers trust reviews as much as they trust a recommendation from a friend or family member, according to a consumer survey by BrightLocal.

How to advertise on Yelp for free

The best way to advertise on Yelp for free is not to advertise on Yelp at all… but instead to rank organically.

Here’s how to advertise on Yelp for free by ranking organically: Simply strengthen your Yelp business profile so that it shows up at the top of Yelp’s search results whenever your customers look for a business like yours in your local area.

And the best way to strengthen your Yelp business profile is to increase your star rating and the quantity of your reviews.

Yelp’s algorithm uses your star rating and the quantity of your reviews to decide how high up your business will rank in Yelp’s search results. So if you have a high quantity of reviews with a high star rating, then your place of business will appear in the search results just as often as if you were paying Yelp for advertising.

So… the best way to advertise on Yelp for free is simply to build up your review profile with a lot of 4-star and 5-star reviews. You’ll get even more traffic (and sales) from Yelp than if you pay to advertise.

To advertise on Yelp for free is a process that takes time and effort. But your investment in time and effort will give you the best results.

If you spend the time creating an engaging profile and drive Yelp reviews, then you’ll beat out your competitors in Yelp’s search results, and drive new customers to your business.

Yelp is one of the top review sites, not a top advertising site. So what drives consumers to your place of business is the number of reviews, not the amount of money you spend on advertising.

If your business is like most, your goal is to drive more customers to your location and ultimately increase revenue. It’s not necessary to use Yelp’s advertising to accomplish these goals. Your free profile is sufficient, since Yelp is where consumers will look to see what others have said about your business prior to making a decision on who will earn their business.

Having a high quantity of high-quality reviews with high star ratings, especially if those ratings are higher than your competitors in your local area, will push you up to the top of the search results.

The best Yelp ad is not an ad at all, but instead a really strong Yelp profile.

How to get a LOT of Yelp reviews

Having a good 5-star review ranking on Yelp is important. But having a high quantity of these types of reviews is imperative. Click here to see how to get Yelp reviews.

If you don’t receive a large number of reviews then you won’t show up in Yelp’s search results.

For example, if you receive three 5-star reviews, then your score is obviously 5 stars. But if your competitor has ten 5-star reviews, then they will appear higher than you in the rankings.

The key is to get as many high ranking reviews as quickly as possible.

Here are 5 pro tips you can use….

Pro Tip #1) Time your request

Make sure that you have completed the sales or service process, and that your customers appear satisfied before you approach them for a 5-star review. The old adage that timing is everything is absolutely the case in getting your review ranking up on sites like Yelp.

Pro Tip #2) Pre-screen for positive reviews

You must pre-screen your customers by sending out an email/text asking about their experience with the product of service they received at your place of business. Pre-screening is important in order to ward off any negative feedback that could be placed as a review on Yelp. And it’s also a technique you can use to get private feedback on how to make improvements that will get your business even more 5-star reviews from customers in the future.

Pro Tip #3) Give customers a direct link to write a review

Providing your customers with an easy-to-use direct link to the exact location where they can leave a review. This will increase your review conversion rate. People are impatient and don’t want to search more than a few clicks, so make sure this link sends them to the easiest place to complete the review.

To give your customers a direct link, use this URL format, replacing YOUR-BIZ-ID with the Yelp ID for your business: https://www.yelp.com/writeareview/biz/YOUR-BIZ-ID

To get your Yelp business ID, just go to your Yelp profile, click “Write a Review” and notice the business ID in that page’s URL. (You can ignore all the extra “junk” in the URL starting with the question mark.)

Pro Tip #4) Follow up

These words are used so much by business owners, but rarely followed through on by employees. It’s very important to follow up with customers who don’t respond to your initial email/text. You should follow up to attempt to get that review count up, but also to show that customer how much you care about their feedback. By doing so, you’ll inspire customer loyalty.

Pro Tip #5) Be systematic

Put processes in place that make sure you’re doing all of the above steps each day for every customer. This takes discipline and is sometimes difficult as you’re more concerned with sales than continuing to follow up with people who have already purchased.

The above mentioned steps can be made very simple by using our web app.

By using this automated tool, you’ll get a lot of 5-star Yelp reviews quickly to improve your Yelp ranking. But you won’t have to do most of the work of typing emails, pre-screening customers, following up with customers who don’t respond, managing opt-outs, and all the other time-consuming drudgery.

Here’s a quick overview of how the web app works to save you a lot of time while maximizing your 5-star Yelp reviews….

How to get a high star rating

Pre-screening customers for positive reviews is the key to getting a high star rating on Yelp.

High star rankings are very important for your business. For every one negative review, it takes five 5-star reviews to recover an average 4.5 star rating. So it’s very important to keep those 5-star reviews coming quickly.

How do you get those 5-star review rankings on Yelp quickly? It’s simple…. PRE-SCREEN!

By pre-screening, it’s not suggested to ask the customer in person for a review. That is very abrasive, is a turnoff, and you will most likely not get an accurate response. Who wants to tell someone that they did a bad job?

Pre-screen by using email or text. Only a 5-star scale can accurately predict which star the customer will click once they’re on Yelp’s website, so make sure you ask in your emails or texts what your ranking would be on a scale of 1 to 5 stars.

First send an email that asks the customer how they would rate your business on a 5-star scale. But don’t ask for a review (yet).

If the customer gives you a 5-star rating on the initial email or text, then send them an immediate follow-up that gives them a direct link to write a Yelp review, so they can simply click on the link and leave a review.

If the customer gives you a lower star rating than your current Yelp average, don’t ask them for a review. Ask them for feedback instead. That way, you can learn how you to earn their 5-star review in the future, before then asking for it.

The email/text processes can be automated for you by using our web app. This app will send out the initial email, send happy customers directly to Yelp to write a review, collect private feedback from all other customers, follow up with customers who don’t reply, and manage opt-outs.

How to avoid Yelp’s review filter

Yelp’s a complicated system, and it will sometimes delete positive reviews. The filter often filters out authentic reviews from real customer reviews. It’s also very biased, filtering out positive reviews 33.8% more than negative reviews, so it’s important to know how to avoid these filters.

If you’re losing more than 1 out of every 4 reviews you get, that’s actually normal for Yelp. Some businesses lose substantially more, some less.

The best you can do is play the numbers game and try to get as many Yelp reviews from as many happy customers as you can.

For more of an in-depth dive into this subject, check out our article on how to get Yelp reviews and avoid Yelp’s filter.

Otherwise, here are 3 key highlights….

#1) Don’t buy reviews

It’s very important that you never buy Yelp reviews. Some reputation management companies will approach you, telling you that they can increase your 5-star review ranking with Yelp by buying reviews. This is not only a bad business practice, but it’s also illegal, and you could be sued by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

#2) Don’t use your own device for reviews

Using your own device to let customers leave reviews is tempting. However, Yelp reads your IP address and their systems know to filter reviews when a lot of them come from the same IP address.

That being said, it’s perfectly safe for your customers to leave reviews from their own device at your location. So if this is something the customer is wanting to do, then that practice is acceptable.

#3) Avoid spikes and dips

Yelp will filter reviews if they see a sudden spike and then a dip in the number of reviews. Sudden changes are a signal to Yelp that the reviews are fake… even if you know they’re perfectly legitimate reviews.

Yelp filters out many of your reviews. On average, Yelp filters out 21% of all reviews and removes another 7%. That means only 72% of reviews actually get published accurately.