A Candid Yelp Advertising Review – Is Yelp Ripping People Off?


Maybe you know and maybe you don’t… but Yelp (a local search and reviews online service) offers paid advertising for businesses called the “Yelp Sponsorship Program“.


To sum it up, according to the page advertising this opportunity, this Yelp Sponsorship program allows you to:

  1. Put up a slideshow of the images of your business.
  2. Highlight a user’s review that you like the most (as the business owner)
  3. Promote your business as a sponsored search result and on your competitors’ business pages. Target potential clients while they are making decisions about where to spend their money on a business like yours

It sounds all fancy spansy right?  Sounds like you get even MORE control over your business listing which will help “put your best foot forward” and sneak attack your competitors, stealing all their would be clients.

But Stop the Music, Do These Yelp Advertising Features Actually Accomplish Anything?  Or are They Just Fluff Designed to Lure You in so They can Zap You?

Suck Them in & Then ZAP Them!

Before we proceed, I’d like to first state that my experience and knowledge of this Yelp Sponsorship program comes from dealing with them on behalf of one of my clients.  This client signed up with Yelp (despite my warnings – apparently Yelp’s salesman are SMOOOTH) and I got to learn all about this program.

Having said that, that’s only ONE experience which doesn’t make me an expert but it certainly makes me more knowledgeable of this Yelp marketing program than those who’s never experienced it.

Furthermore, in case you are not familiar with how Yelp works, anybody can post a business on Yelp, as long as it falls under one of their categories and is a “fit” per their policies.  And the rightful owner can claim that Yelp page by jumping through some hoops and voila, you have a FREE listing about your business.

FREE Yelp Reviews Page

FREE Yelp Reviews Page

And for comparison’s sake, here’s an example of a PAID Yelp review page:

PAID Yelp Review Page

PAID Yelp Review Page

With that said… let’s examine feature #1.

The “Slide-Show”

Now, granted the larger images and the “slideshow” adds a bit more snazziness to the page but honestly, how big of a difference does it really make?  If you wanted to see pictures, wouldn’t you be inclined to go visit the business’ actual website?

I’d love to see some split test on this…

Favorite Review

As far as feature #2, I suppose this is a good thing, like Yelp for Business Owners says, “put your best foot forward”.  But then they go and shoot themselves in the foot by posting the “Rating Distribution” graph next to it.  This graph, as you can see, shows all the reviews, INCLUDING the negative ones.

As humans, we are so inclined to ask “what’s wrong” that I reckon most wouldn’t take the “favorite reviews” at face value; they’d go and seek the worst reviews to find out why those folks gave bad reviews.

Yelp’s Business Owner’s Sponsorship Program feature #3 is my favorite.

Yelp Advertising… on Others’ Pages

So the idea here is similar to Google AdWords, when someone searches for a term related to your business, your listing shows up (as, “Sponsored Result”) with the hopes that your business gets clicked on.

Here’s the caveat though, Yelp is charging you per impression basis instead of per click basis.  What this means is that whenever your listing shows up in this manner, it counts against your total allotted amount that you paid of (so you are paying “cost per impression”).  If it were click based (cost per click) you would get charged ONLY if your ad gets clicked.

This brings into a few questions, the least of which are:

  • So how much is it per impression?
  • How many impressions can you expect to get (this is of course dependent on the search volume) – bear in mind that this is a LOCAL search and review online system.  Which means»
  • Are you able to test different the keywords with which your listing shows up (which is costing you money)?
  • Are you able to TRACK the results you are getting on fine details?  I.e.»
  • How much control do you have over this campaign?  After all, you ARE paying for it.

Before I Go On, Let’s Talk About Leakage

What is “leakage“?  Well, in digital marketing term, it means actions taken by your website visitor that doesn’t contribute to your ultimate goal (such as capturing the lead, making the sale, etc.)  This often includes having active links which serve as distractions that take the visitor ELSEWHERE.

Now… take a good look at just about any Yelp review page, do you see leakage? Do you see links everywhere?  But more importantly (and relevantly from a marketing perspective), do you see the box that says, “People Who Viewed This Also Viewed…”?  Do you see how these links tend to be links to direct competition to the business review page you are viewing?

GEEZE! Can You Say, "Leakage Leakage Everywhere!"?

GEEZE! Can You Say, “Leakage Leakage Everywhere!”? Pay Per Impression is a Friggin’ Joke (& Rip Off You Can Argue)

Okay, so going back to the sample list of questions listed earlier on.  Let’s dig deeper and find out exactly what sort of program Yelp is running (and charging you for).

First of all, here’s the cost for Yelp’s advertising program:

$300/mo – promotes you to 1,500 people in your area looking for a business like yours.
$500/mo – promotes you to 4,000 people in your area looking for a business like yours.
$1000/mo – promotes you to 10,000 people in your area looking for a business like yours.


Blind Mouse TOY

So you are looking at $100 CPM (cost per thousand impressions) to $200 CPM to advertise on their network. In the AdWords world, this is ridiculously high for paying CPM unless you are in some highly competitive and profitable business like real estate and 401k portfolios (oh wait… given the crash of the economy, DOH!).  Even then you are pushing it a bit.  Folks who are paying high CPM on the pay per click networks have thoroughly tested their campaigns, have tracked EVERY single detail, and have all the control in the world.

But on Yelp?  Hellllll no!  You don’t know what your “campaign” looks like let alone have any control over it.  You are like a blind mouse and they are the big bad kitty toying with you.  And yet, they are still charging you an arm and a leg.  And one quick look around Yelp will tell you that most businesses are NOT high-price markets, they are mostly smaller markets like restaurants.

This brings me to my second point of frustration when dealing with these Yelp folks, where’s the proof of these impressions people paid for???  Where are my listings showing up?  And what’s the conversion rate??  Again, they tell you nothing and keep you blind.


Sales Team Who Doesn’t Know Jack and Preys on Toy Mice

Okay, so I had the opportunity to speak to a Yelp representative on the phone on my client’s behalf.  Armed with my knowledge of AdWords, marketing, the works… I came prepared.  Sadly for the person on the other line, that’s more than I can say for her.

I asked about all the things I mentioned before (about click through rates versus impressions, how I can track my campaign, how much control I have, etc.) and she was STUMPED.  She couldn’t understand why we would care about such matters.  As a matter of fact, I’d venture so far as to say she didn’t know JACK about marketing, and yet, she’s representing a team that’s suppose to help us market.

But what REALLY got to me was when I asked her about a 24 hour backout clause, which means that within 24 hours of the start of the campaign, if I am not satisfied with the results I am seeing, I can cancel.  Nope she said… and the reason is because it takes time for the program to ramp up for me to really start seeing results.

EHHH?  It’s the internet we are talking about here right?  I can track clicks fairly easily right?  Hmmm… okay.

So then I went on and asked what is the minimum sign up period, to which she replied, “6 months”.

OMGWTFBBQ, 6 month minimum at $325 a month where you have NO IDEA what’s going on?
For some reason,»   Thanks but no thanks.

The Proof is in the Pudding – Proof that Yelp Sucked

Against my better judgment, my client went for it anyway, and looking at the chain of emails he received from Yelp along with how their program is setup, I can sympathize why.

See, Yelp is banking on folks NOT knowing the difference between “impressions” and “clicks”.  They are banking on the fact that businesses will confuse “impressions” with “visitors” – as in, “For $300 a month I can get 1,500 NEW customers every month?  SWEET, sign me up!”  They are banking on folks not knowing how to track their progress and not caring to either.  They are banking on being able to just sweet talk their would be victim on the phone and dazzle them with fluff.

And worse yet, without the clients being able to track the campaign, Yelp is able to get folks to resign, again and again, by giving out meaningless stats.


Don't Let Yelp Do This to You

To give you a perspective of just how much SUCKINESS is in this program, with the aid of Google Analytics and my idea of adding a page that leads people to a printable in-store coupon, we were able to see how the program performed.  Here are the stats, in 2 months time, Yelp drove 64 unique visitors to this special landing page (which again helps us track the comers from our Yelp advertising campaign) and of those 64 visitors, we got 9 customers that we can tell.

This meant 32/1,500 = 2% conversion from visitor to Yelp to the website and 0.3% from impression to actual customer.  Put it another way, my client paid $72.22 for each of those clients – clients who are just diners to his restaurant.



Look, You Don’t Need to Pay for Yelp, Nor Do You Want To

Don’t get me wrong, is awesome, I use it all the time to get the low down on new restaurants, find a plumber, etc.  But you don’t need to pay to use it!  Business owners can get free Yelp review pages and those rank (from a search engine optimization perspective) just as well as the paid for pages.

This means you’ll get traffic regardless!

Hope this was enlightening for you.  Like I said earlier on, I’ve had only one experience with Yelp and boy was it a horrible one.  I’d love to hear some success stories and some proof that it worked.

Until then, don’t pay Yelp a dime to join in on their “Yelp for Business Owners” program, especially if you are a restaurant owner.

Raymond Fong

If you are looking for real trackable result, I’d like to recommend you take a look at our internet marketing consulting company which specializes in helping local businesses gain more exposure, get more leads, obtain more customers, and ultimately add to their bottom line leveraging the internet.


P.S. You might be interested in this post I wrote as well, “Yelp Strikes Again…

that you are really throttling the number of impressions your ads will show up because the number of LOCAL folks doing searches related to you business within your area is a tiny tiny fraction of the searches done nationally combined.
what keywords are converting, when is the best time to show your Yelp sponsored listing, etc.  Basically, questions that any savvy AdWords expert would ask.
they charged my client $325… maybe a price increase?
We are not even sure if these visits and visitors are a direct result of my client PAYING for this Yelp advertising program, read below to see what I mean.


  1. Charles says:

    I was contacted by a slick talking Yelp Rep today (i set up a Yelp business listing 2 weeks ago). She knew her stuff, and I let her take me through this well planned Yelp sales presentation, an email with links tailored specifically for me, all of which was intended to lead me to an immediate and spontaneous purchase decision. She was saying all the right things and was well trained. Being a well trained sales guy / web developer myself… I hung in there to listen to her offer and service…. and who knows, maybe I’d learn something! Well, I learned that Yelp is going all in trying to get a piece of Google Adwords market. But unlike Google Adwords, where you have total control over your marketing campaign… Yelp starts you out in a “little box” that they refer to as a” package,” with limited flexibility, and dings your card on a monthly basis for X amount. Sure you get a dumbed down control panel that shows you basic info, but i get this FREE with Google. They even give you a calculator that shows you how much money you are making off of this advertising platform. But for this to work, YOU pluck a number out of thin air regarding how much a customer call is worth to your business and the calculator uses that figure. The kicker… Yelp is partners with a slew of other websites (Yext being one, YP being another) that share your information with each other. Your information then goes to countless sales call lists and you get get bombarded with calls from people trying to sell you something. All of these calls, are made on your Biz tracking phone number set up by Yelp… that you are paying for! In short, you pay Yelp to sell your info to other companies who hammer your phones with… more sales calls. So a dumb business owner will look at the Yelp call tracking for the month and says… “WOW, this program has really generated interest in my business… have some more money Yelp so I can get even more business!” Don’t be a dumb business owner. Sure you may pick up a customer or two from Yelp. But you’ll pay for hundreds of sales calls. Lots of companies like Yelp are doing this. But in my experience, Yelp is a social platform where users are motivated to review business experiences. NOT find new businesses. This is a very attractive, well thought out, rip-off that targets uneducated business owners.

  2. Liz says:

    The answer to the question you pose is – Yes – they do rip people off.

    The whole idea of filtered reviews and only showing reviews of people who continue to post on Yelp ad nauseum (granted some of them are very talented – I’ve read restaurant reviews so funny that tears rolled down my face) is total crap. But paying to advertise there is asking to be screwed.

    I admit to getting sucked in as a paid advertiser and fit the bill of the semi-naive advertiser profile you describe. The customer service from my first rep was shockingly abysmal. Where do we leave Yelp reviews for Yelp and its employees? – that’s what I want to know. Just as bad – they play very fast and loose with your credit card – mistakes – big ones of many 100s of dollars – are way too common and very very slow to be addressed once you catch them.

    But worse – there is no way to monitor the legitimacy of the activity you’re charged for. I found your post after getting off the phone with a rep who’s unable to address the absurdity of my ad suddenly receiving 20-100 times (not doubling as in 100% – but 100 times!!) as much activity in the last two weeks of the year’s contract I was riding out.

    Use the site for free but paying for it will be a hugely expensive mistake.

  3. John says:

    I just received a call from a yelp salesman/ marketeer.
    They advised that 6 people referenced my location through yelp in the last 30 days, that might be correct, who knows. An interesting approach.
    We don’t pursue retail business but do accept it when the client agrees with my estimate. We never got to costs, the cost per impression vs. the price per click is very interesting. As our advertising budget is zero, any of their programs is beyond our reach. I told them to call back in 9 months, we have too much going on now, I could take in more work with more trained and capable staff, but THAT is my problem right now, not advertising.
    Thanks very much for the synopsis.

  4. john says:

    I was sold on a new advertising program: Pay per click (not impression) for people searching for my services in my area. I am one of the best around at what I do, and I figured that if I got even a 5% contact rate for people who click through the ad them I’m still making my ROI.


    All of a sudden, after some weeks of little to no activity, I’m getting all my clicks maxed out, and absolutely nothing to show for it. I got one client back before the click madness happened.

    Something is very weird. This isn’t a reasonable outcome. Yelp promised me only people searching for my services in my area would even see the ad, and I’d only get charged if they clicked through. Meanwhile, I’m down $1500.

    Something foul is happening. They are setting up my ad so that people who aren’t my target audience area seeing it or they are clicking through it themselves.

  5. James says:

    I hired yelp to advertise my business. not only did the advertising never pay for itself, the account reps were inexperienced people who are not qualified to help a business grow. They feel far short of the sales pitch and overcharged my credit card, then refused to refund the money. Crooks!! Basically, we are yelp so f-off small business, you were dumb enough to give us your credit card number, so I guess it serves me right.

  6. Ed Pollock says:

    AMEN>>>>How long is it going to take for the FTC to finally act, and close Yelp down….

  7. Jan Morgan says:

    Thank you Raymond for posting this. Yelp the Digital racketeering company!
    The more I work with client reputation the more I think that is not far from the truth!

    In my opinion Yelp clearly hides behind what they call their “algorithms” or automated software of a business’s shown review ratings. More negative reviews tend to show up in clear public site. The “not recommended” reviews are hidden and are NOT factored into a businesses mean average review star rating. WHY?

    These negative reviews seem to coincide with Yelp sales to my clients sometimes 3X a day to enroll in their $300 $400 plus programs. Hmmm………I bet their sales room is a boiler situation.

    All clients I have worked with had real unsolicited reviews of 5 stars, great reviews, on the “not recommended” hard to find area of their profiles.

    Bottom Line Why doesn’t Yelp just show all the reviews like most all other directory sites and average all reviews into their rating system? Or Yelp, maybe it is time to re-write some algorithms?

    Reviews are a huge factor in consumer buying decisions and directly affect businesses. It’s a real hardship on small businesses. Especially when it is pure slander as in one case I’m working on now.

  8. I say ….as this bottom feeder should be shut down. No joke. DO NOT ADVERTISE WITH YELP. More ….

    I own a BBB A+ rated property management company, with growth of over 400% in just 4.5 years, despite the best efforts of Yelp to show ONLY 1-Star reviews and hide 8 or 9 5-Star Reviews on page 2 and 3 of their Filtered area. Nice right? – The kicker; the 5-Star reviewers reveal who they are and are mostly home owners…, not tenants. The bad reviews are mostly former tenants.

    Bad reviews are okay actually, when the owner can reply ….and if all reviews are shown fairly by the date they come in.

    Let me explain.

    1. I have 1-Star reviews on the main page from two years ago, with several new reviews hidden.

    2. Most of the 1-star reviews are disgruntled former tenants, who were unhappy at not getting their deposit back, sad to say. They should not have let their dog crap and urinate on the owners nice carpet…, plus leaving tons of trash for us to pay someone to pick up. Just one typically case.

    3. A Yelp salesman called me back in 2012 and said he could help me with getting better reviews seen.., if I were a paid advertiser. I smelled a rat and refused to be extorted. In 2014 a land salesperson called and I agreed to try their advertising….in the hopes it would offset their negative reviews …or at least in the hopes they would be more fair. She said they had been using bad sales methods but had not changed. Okay. – $1,000.00 a month …and in 3 months it was terrible. Very poor results, so I pulled the ad, at a cost of 2 months fees up front. YES THEY CHARGED me $2,000.00 to cancel their poor advertising. I will post those results as time permits at as time permits.

    Thank you for reading.

    Donald J. Leske Sr.

  9. Mary says:

    WORST company ever. They call and try make it sound like they are a customer wanting an estimate. They even went as far as call the emergency # we have strictly for our customers who have a true emergency. They continue to harass my husband and talk down to him when he said he doesn’t make advertising decisions to call the office. She said well you are the owner why can’t you make decision. He is a plumber on a job trying to finish he does not need this kind of aggravation. Even after I called myself and told them to please stop seconds later they called him again. Not to mention how incredibly unprofessional and rude this Colleen person was after I tried to tell her to remove us from you list. How do these people get away with this crap????

  10. I’ve been doing a lot of research tonight on Yelp since I have been on the fence about signing up for their advertising package. I’m really glad I found this article! I also thought the 1 year contract and the cost per impression was a bit much. I LOVE the sales person and she was very helpful. Two things have been bothering me though – besides for the cost and the contract. One – I stumbled on their PPC option a couple nights ago and wondered why she never told me about the non-contract, PPC option when we spoke the first time and I had specifically mentioned my preference for PPC and Two – my business model is so unique that I don’t know where my ads would display. My business is a grocery delivery service that delivers to Las Vegas resorts. The closest category we fall into is Food Delivery Service which is primarily restaurant delivery. It is highly unlikely that someone looking to have pizza delivered to their resort will change their mind and have groceries delivered instead. She reassured me that they could filter based on the search terms, but I am still struggling with it. I think I am going to continue educating myself on Google Adwords right now and try to improve my Adwords campaign.

  11. Shadi says:

    I was watching CNN a couple of days ago, this guy from was on talking about how to build your on line reputation! What’s interesting is that the interviewer disclosed that Yelp and share a few board members!! Did you guys know about that? How strange and even creepy is that? How they are allowed to do that. On one site they post phony fake reviews and then on other site charge you to remove them! Where is the government?

    The other thing that came up was that the Attorney General is after those business owners posting or buying reviews for themselves which is great. I believe they should go after those posting false bad reviews too.

    As a matter of fact if there is no proof of any transaction, why should be any reviews! I think senates should do something about these and we have to do something that they hear us. Also, what about freedom of speech of those posting the positive reviews that Yelp filters them right away?

  12. Danny says:

    The answer to all of this is

  13. Drew W says:

    First of all that is not my website I listed. It go’s to

    I read a lot about yelp. Ever since they started extorting people out of money quite some time back. This is a good article. I learn more and more about yelp everyday. I have had many firiends business effected by the reviews. Some are obviously disgruntled former employees.They were not even smart enough to change their unique style of lingo around. Some are competitors by the way they haven written their review, almost matches their profile to an exact science. Then you have trolls that go around rating sites using the word retarded. Isn’t retarded something small kids, preteens say?

    Plus the fact that these people are just ordinary everyday people like you and me with a personal opinion or grudge is a scary thought. One reviewer bragged in his profile how he love all types of food except seafood. Yet he ate at a seafood place and gave them a 1 but not before ripping them a new one. YELP is the worst food review / rating website on the internet in my own opinion.

  14. Yelp is a joke – too many people have there friends add reviews. Angie list seems to be a better choice

  15. Tony DelRoso says:

    This saddens me to see this post.
    I had recently opened up a coffee shop here in Goleta, CA. Business was slow and im not in a very good location, sadly to admit. But never the less, I hadn’t heard of Yelp until a woman and her friend came in a stated to me they had found me on Yelp and they chose me cause i had 4 stars. I had no idea i was even on this site. Coincidentally i had been contacted about a month later by a yelp representative, definitely a smooth talker as well, and reeled me in with ad space and the thought of more customers. I was skeptical at first, told him not at the moment, i want to do my research. I received another call about a week later the rep. and i had spoke for about a half hour, before i decided to go with my gut and try them out for a year. I had thought it was pricey but he had reassured me that i would profit from doing this. About 3 months pass and business was picking up slowly, i had noticed my smoke breaks being interrupted; lunches getting shorter; and asking my only employee to go full time. It wasnt until about 6 months in is when business really picked up. Im now on my second year contract with them, and i couldnt be happier with my choice. My business would not be where it is right now if it wasnt for this company. Before i was barely cutting rent for my home. Now my wife and i are opening up a second location. Im sorry to hear that your client didnt have a good experience with this company, maybe better luck else where. But this company has made a total difference in my life.

  16. John Michaels says:

    I’m just one more business that fell victim to the Yelp advertising scam. Spent $1,000 with them and can not attribute a single new customer to Yelp. I keep seeing tons of reviews talking about how bad yelp is, Wish I saw them before I signed a contract with them. A fool and his money are soon parted. And I was. Don’t fall victim yourself. DON’T SPEND A NICKEL ON ADVERTISING ON YELP, NOT MATTER WHAT THEY SHOW YOU OR PROMISE YOU.

  17. Raymond Fong says:

    It’s free to get listed in Yelp.

  18. shaghayegh says:

    I have a simple question that I have not been able to find any answer for it!

    How much does it cost to have a basic profile on yelp? I guess this basic profile should contain my business address, opening hours and images.

    Please someone help!

  19. tom says:

    Interesting article. I have some observations.

    Yes Yelp ads on a CPM basis seem expensive on a CPM basis but restaurants are less than 20% of yelp revenue for a reason. Many advertisors are high value professional services where the life time value of a customer is very high. Many yelp customers are looking to transact, and these impressions are valuable.

    Yelp’s annual repeat customer rate is 72%, and I just don’t think it would be this high (and increasing) if they are not giving good value to a large number of their customers.

    Yes, the ability to measure advertising ROI is poor. But most forms of local advertising such as Yellow pages and news paper has even worse ability to measure advertising effectiveness and this doesn’t stop them from charging rates at par or higher than Yelp.

  20. Francisco says:

    For years I’ve been watching YELP scam people. Someday investors will wake up and dump this dog. Maybe trading will be suspended too.

  21. Mason says:

    I have a jumper rental business . I have a total of 4 reviews on Yelp. 3 positive reviews and 1 negative. All the positive reviews are filtered. The negative review was not even a customer, nor did I have contact. I suspect it came from a competitor. The negative is really hurting me.

  22. Francisco says:

    I complained to the CEO of YELP, but got no response. I wrote to the Attorney General of California and was told they didn’t handle scams like YELP. I wrote to the FTC and was told they only deal in security issues.

    There was a class action lawsuit filed against YELP but the case was dismissed due to lack of evidence. Probably the attorney wasn’t very good.

  23. Shadi says:

    I think it’s too naive to believe Yelp only removes the reviews for some violations! I also think believing all the 5 star reviews are fake. I read some where that no one deserves 5 star, that’s sick!

    I normally use a few sites to make sure I get the whole picture and when comes to Yelp, I first read the filtered reviews, because they are more reliable.

  24. Ed says:

    Sorry to you all, I fought YELP for many years, as a small business owner, and after refusing to pay Yelp black mail, I and a few others established YELPSCAM ..thousands of businesses nation wide joined us. We tried to get help from government agencies, but never heard back from them, except acknoweging our complaint. YELP is killing small businesses nation wide, it’s pay the black mail or suffer bad reviews from people who NEVER visited your establishment…I felt everyone’s pain my own.
    But, after being in business for thirty years. time and age caught up with me, i closed the business, and most recently shut down YELPSCAM. I guess the fight will have toi be carried on by others, we tried our best ..but in the end greed and money won the fight for now. Good luck to all, keep at YELP, they are a phoney business…a parasite …now that they have gone public, I’m sure fishface has gotten his $$$$ . Just like the Mofia and there protection racket, they got it eventually and so will Yelp…Bye all, and good luck in your fight.

  25. Francisco says:

    We advertise on Google at $1.25 per click. We get lots of traffic on our web site. YELP’s rate are too high; we avoid YELP. Reviews are highly suspect. I also stay away from business with a 5-star review and a big advertising spread.

  26. Raymond Fong says:

    Kim, you are paying $28 a CLICK… not even a client. Do you know how much those same CLICKS would cost you on Google AdWords? Have you tried? Have you attempted other sources of advertising to get some comparison for cost?

    My article IS within the scope and context of small businesses, businesses like restaurants. Most of these businesses CAN’T afford $28 a CLICK and their value per customer CANNOT justify that high of clicks.

    To say that their value per customer make it impossible for them to sustain that high cost o advertising make them doesn’t mean they don’t “see the value in a pre-qualified lead.” They absolutely know the value of a pre-qualified lead (actually, they can do you better and tell you the value of an acquired CUSTOMER) and they can do the math and tell you that Yelp, the way it’s structured, is a LOSING proposition for them.

    Anybody with half a brain such as yourself can see that at $70+ a pop for an acquired client CAN make sense for some… assuming their average value per customer is greater than $70.

    But that same person with half a brain can and should also know that Yelp is not the ONLY possibility out there for small businesses and certainly not the cheapest.

    Does it have a place in the online advertising space? Yes, for businesses such as yourself where the value per customer is high.

    But is it a viable option for small restaurants? NO – because it is way too costly and difficult to track.

    And here’s where the problem lies… Yelp is actively pursuing these small time restaurants and trying to sell their services like it’s actually going to be good/work or them.

    And as you can see from the long list of comments associated with this article, WAY too many have been burned.

    The folks who actually are proud and happy with $28 a CLICK are few and far in between when looking at the types of businesses that are on Yelp.

  27. Kim says:

    What a short sighted write up this is, my business has been advertising with yelp for a year now and for the $4200 that I have spent with them I have received 149 clicks, just over $28 per click, expensive!

    But if your know so little about advertising that you don’t see the value in a pre-qualified lead then frankly you shouldn’t be giving advise online.

    I would wager that yelp is probably the largest supplier of business for most small sized companies that exist in the US today and as much as I hate the way they conduct themselves on occasion I would never advise anyone away from them.

    If you were a little wiser then you would realize not only that you can strike deals with yelp to get you advertising a little cheaper but also that the more you invest in them the more they return.

    Also the additional customers that are generated from your extra web presence and word of mouth from your quality customers is insurmountable.

    Lu, reviews are only removed if they violate the terms of service, they will be placed in the filtered section if they do not line up with your current trend, the filter is not perfect but at least it helps weed out the bogus folks


  28. Nick says:

    I wish I had read this before I tried Yelp PPC. We had been a NON paying customer for years. The Calls for us to join the Paying group ended 2 years ago FINALLY.

    Last week we needed to jump back into the PPC world due to a Major oops with our site that had us disappear from the net and all search results. ( make sure when you update WordPress sites that your homepage does not default to DO NOT INDEX)

    Well The SECOND we put our payment information into Yelp we were getting Charged for Clicks. Every day without Fail our budget was Maxxed out until we got our first charge on the account , we then cancelled the ads.

    Total? 30 Clicks = 1 call for something we do not even do.

    Funny thing? Our Views were HIGHER for the previous three month period FOR FREE!

    And we got quality calls as well.


  29. Fred says:

    I saw this in the classifieds recently, and think its a great idea. Here it is:


    We are a group of restauranteurs, concerned citizens and former yelpers who disagree with yelp’s business practices.

    We ask that you:

    1- remove all your 1 and 2 star reviews that you have written for other businesses (your 3, 4, and 5 star reviews can remain in place )

    2- close your yelp account after you have deleted your 1 and 2star reviews.

    *** In order to qualify, you must have written at least 25 or more reviews before 11/1/2012.

    If you are interested, please reply to this ad and send us a link to your yelp profile.

    **if you’d like to learn about yelp’s business practices and why we disagree with them, you can :

    1- google “yelp extortion”

    2- watch this video :

    3- read what some yelpers themselves are complaining about, right on the yelp website itself:

    4- read this article:

    5- and this article :

  30. Jojo says:

    Dear Ray,

    We had really nice reviews on yelp, then my partner received a call from a yelp salesman, the very next day we noticed that ALL of the good reviews were gone and only bad ones remained. We went from 4 star to 1 star ! I am not an activist but I am sure hoping a class action law suite starts pretty soon here. We’ve been in business for 10 years, we offer good products and service, you would never know by reading yelp. People who pay attention to yelp end up missing out on good stores and services.

  31. Arlo Miller says:

    I wish I had read this before signing up for Yelp ads.

    Fortunately I only signed up for 3 months.

    My experience so far.
    1. Contract is for 1500 impressions per month. Yelp only delivered 74 in the first month. I’ve written to them several times to see what they are going to do to meet their contract obligation. The answer? Nothing.
    2. ROI on this is about 0.3, by far the worst of any advertising campaign that I have undertaken.

  32. Lawrence L says:

    I said the same thing Shadi said on my profile, almost down to the letter, regarding a negative review. wow.

  33. Shadi says:

    Why don’t we organize demonstration to bring a better attention to this? People overseas put their lives on line to pull dictators down, what is wrong with us! Have you seen Yelp page on Yelp? There is picture of of “Yelp Rules” written in the sands expressing the mind set of these people, meaning they know they are destroying lives and businesses and they are proud of it!!

    I have a good record of all my clients for a bout three years now and proof that the positive reviews were from real people, but Yelp has removed about 3/4 of them while the less than 1/4 of the posted reviews remains on my listing, about 1/3 of them are negative from those never used me, I don’t know them, and they either admit they don’t they never used us, or the review is so obviously false! Yet the negative reviews are in touched!

    On 9/7/12 a salesperson called me to sell advertising, and of course I refused, so on 9/12/12 another one star review showed up. Two days after on 9/14/12 a client posted a 5 star review, but that one was removed/filtered before I get a chance to see it. Both of theses reviews were the first review of the reviewer, but I have proof that the positive one was a real client, and the negative one does not even mention any real experience, and never contacted us!

    Interestingly, I emailed myself the phone number and a summery of the conversation I had with this Yelp’s representative on the same day she called, because I knew what would be coming, another one star review from no one!

    Yes, I have a good record of my positive reviews being removed right after it’s been posted (before and after), as well as the negative reviews that never been touched. I have all the emails with yelp too. I think oyu all must visit your page and record the changes, copy/past, screen shots, videos. Open an email account just for that so you have everything in one place and recorded.

    I don’t understand why no one in congress and government, media even courts take this matter so lightly? I care about freedom of speech as much as they do, if not more, but what about freedom of speech rights of those who write positive reviews, why those are flushed?

  34. Andy says:

    Raymond, Thanks for the great analysis. I have a Jumper Rental business and I have been considering advertising with Yelp only because they contacted me and were very convincing. I had some concerns until I found your thoughts.


  35. Greetings! I know this is kind of off topic but I was wondering if you knew where
    I could find a captcha plugin for my comment form? I’m using the same blog platform as yours and I’m having difficulty finding one?
    Thanks a lot!

  36. SJameson says:

    Hi Ray,

    This was a well written post. Thanks for the insight and updated information. Those of us in the SEM industry know this is not exactly “news”, but it is important to know that things have not changed since the last time I looked into Yelp about a year ago.

    I am sure that a variety of people will have a variety of experiences with Yelp; some good, and some bad. But what I find to be significant is that the people who have had a poor experience are all telling the same story. It is not just some disgruntled business owner or miffed marketer, these are all different types of business that all had the same high pressure phone conversations, manipulated reviews, and lack of measurable data.

    And lets be clear, it is the lack of measurable data that is the most troublesome.

    One person here mentioned that if the ROI is good enough, why not just pay the blood money. I can see the point there, $325 a month to make $3000 is worth it, no matter what ribbon you tie around it. The problem is…people cannot substantiate if they are making $3000 a month.

    Which brings me to the other consistency I notice. The people who say they have been doing great with Yelp are not providing any data to back up their claims. They offer fervent “verbal” endorsements, which is nice, but in the end there is no evidence that those people know how to measure a PPC campaign. Maybe they just think that since business is doing well, and people say they saw them on Yelp, that Yelp is actually giving them what they are paying for.

    Because the issue here is not whether Yelp is good for business. It’s not whether Yelp is sending customers. What really matters to me is this…

    Is yelp serving the number of impressions I am paying for and providing me with accurate data to measure ROI ?

    Hey, I am thrilled if anyone has tons of conversions…just show me the analytics report that display how many impressions, how many clicks, and how many unique visitors from traveled from the Yelp page to the landing page.

    Just my two cents.

  37. Juliet Jimenez says:

    We started a plumbing company a year and a half ago, and after 7 months we signed on with Yelp advertising, with a one-month trial period. Clicks to our Yelp page doubled in that month, and tripled two months later. Now, after seven months of advertising, we have four times as many “clicks” on our ad, and more business than we can handle. And guess where almost all of our customers come from? If you said Yelp, you’re right. Of course, it might not be as effective for all types of businesses, but for ours it worked.

  38. Danny Antwi says:

    I’m really sorry about these complaints you all have because review sites like this are necessary for both consumer and businesses to gauge client satisfaction which is a mutually desirable end.

    What have you done about it since learning about this, it can be frustrating but throw your support behind and honest and thought out start-up or even an existing service like it of your choosing. I’m sorry google hasn’t developed that and faacebook is not a solution either.

    This might appear self-serving but note this, I decided to start RaveOrBash because of my deep concerns for consumer issues being one.

    This fall, we will change the face of consumer reviews, we’ll tackle fraud and cliquey memberships among others.

    i’ll keep you posted but follow us on twitter for more updates and throw your support behind us now on by liking us and sharing with your network.

    A balanced consumer review site for all is on it’s way to being your destination on the web for all consumer reviews.

    This Fall

  39. nelson says:

    Yelp totally is bogus when it comes to paid advertising. I didn’t have to pay to know that. The best way to deal with is to set up a free website that
    provides review services and KEEP it free. Don’t charge for advertising, just keep it free. That website should be for small businesses only. If you want to charge big corporations then set up a different commercial website and make your money that way. yelp also has this kind of cheap thrill social network happening and if an alternative FREE and always free bulletin board/chat/dating division on the website for small business is created that will help pull consumers away from yelp as well. The best way to do all this is to gear the new domain and website toward the city it is headquartered in. That city should be New York City. Dedicate the website to consumers and businesses in New York. Build it up (remember, it needs to remain FREE) , and then as you gain consumer traffic on there, use the domain and website as a launch pad for something global.
    Anyway, I agree that Yelp sucks ass. The sales people on there seem desperate like they are going to get fired for not being able to persuade us to sign up and pay. Nobody on yelp seems to really know what they are doing.
    They have a communications team of amateurs. It’s easy to defeat yelp, because they are sabatoging themselves every day.

  40. suspcious says:

    Also, another thing about Yelp that bothers me is that on mobile version of YELP using Iphone, you don’t get to click on the “filtered reviews” to see the filtered reviews. So, you only see some businesses with the lonely 1 star review, not realizing the 50 5 start reviews are filtered. Many people only use the mobile version to find restaurants while they are out. It’s so unfair.

  41. Francisco says:

    If a business owner has a big ad spread, I know they fell for YELP’s baloney. Now I am wary of restaurants with YELP spreads. There’s nothing like word of mouth for good eating. YELP restaurants (in my experience) are to be avoided.

  42. QuestionAble reviews says:


    No, I’m not in either category. In fact, there are more and more disatisfied Yelpers these days. Just like those who criticize the president aren’t necessarily republicans or non- U.S. citizens, to say those who criticize yelp belong only to those 2 categories is wrong.

  43. Ed Pollock says:

    VINCE…you are wrong…go to and see who is complaining about Yelp..this is extortion …no different then then the old Mafia protection racket..but they hide behind the “we are not responsible for what people say ..its freedom of speech” ,,,BS ..they munipulate the reviews …thousands of people and business across the nation have join the coaltion..and hundreds join every week.

  44. Vince says:

    Seems like everyone with negative reviews of Yelp itself on this site is either:

    1. A business owner with a poor Yelp reviews.
    2. Someone in the same business line as Yelp trying to discredit a them.

  45. Jeremy says:

    @Franciso It’s disgusting isn’t it? You also are in the epicenter of the Yelp community, don’t look at anybody cross-eyed around there, they will slander your name all over Yelp.

  46. Francisco says:

    Responding to Jeremy, I feel your pain. Over 4 years ago, a guy bought a few dance classes, a special offer, which was agreed to be non-refundable. Six months later the guy comes back, and wants a refund. Explaining to him it was non-refundable, and he could give the lessons to anyone he wishes, the guy posted a scathing review on YELP, about how the studio is a bunch of crooks and the studio is a scam, etc etc. The studio resolved the issue with the Better Business Bureau, and to this date the studio’s reputation is AAA. However, the negative review is still posted prominently, whereas 50 positive reviews are buried. YELP salesmen called, offering to remove the negative review if the studio buys advertising. Since the studio advertises on Google, and all over the web, YELP was turned down.
    (The studio was won many awards, best in San Jose, best small studio, year after year.)

  47. suspcious says:

    4 days after leaving yelp (in San Francisco) one star review, they sent me an email saying they are deleting my only other one star review I wrote 2 years ago. coincidence? I don’t think so.

  48. Jeremy says:

    As somebody that works for a company that doesn’t have the best reputation on Yelp and whose job it is to try and clean up that reputation, I can honestly say that Yelp is not a friend of businesses. Yes, we have bad reviews, no they aren’t all true, but some are, at least partially. Most are from people that have never received our services, admittedly so, and most of them come from Silicon Valley, where apparently it is all the rage to whine about every little thing aspect of your life on the internet. This public whining is something that is encouraged by Yelp, with their Elite statuses and their ‘it’s not our fault, we didn’t write it attitude.’
    Yelp doesn’t give any real power to the business owner and they rarely respond to emails and never (in my experience) do they do it in a timely manner.
    Our company’s main focus is to be better in every aspect of what we do. Better customer service, better prices, faster installation time etc. etc… We have spent 1000’s of man hours, 100,000’s of dollars trying to rectify the mistakes of the past, but none of this matters to Yelp. It doesn’t matter that we have responded in some way or another to every one of our critics. It doesn’t matter that we do everything we can to make our customers happy. We bend over backwards, work overtime, work for free and sometimes lose money on our jobs because we want our customers to be happy. Is this reflected on Yelp? Do the customers whose situations we have rectified remove or edit their reviews about us? NO and NO. All people see on our Yelp page is negativity, even though Yelp reviews make up, literally, less than .5% of our customers. We have 100’s of videos of happy customers, REAL PEOPLE WITH REAL REVIEWS of our company, hand written and notarized letters and testimonials from people who love us. Does this matter? Not to Yelp, and not to the people that use it. They’ll take one look at our Yelp page, which out ranks almost everything on Google and pass us by, literally costing us millions of dollars a year.
    Our company is not a bad company; we are a great company, a company that has succeeded in spite of a bad economy and a company that keeps pushing forward even when companies like Yelp try to beat us down. But, the story isn’t the same for other business around the country. Yelp has caused businesses to shut down, people to lose their jobs, families to lose homes, for what? So they can continue to spread gossip, negativity and lies?
    Who holds a company like this accountable? A company that has caused more jobs to be lost than be made? Yelp needs to be brought under control, the longer they exist the worse things will get for business owners.
    There is no accountability with Yelp. They hide behind the laws that protect them, they hide behind their users like a Chihuahua yapping away at its enemies from the safety of its owners arms. They refuse to man up and admit their faults, they’d rather let the users take the fall for them. So if you are reading this Yelpers, remember, Yelp doesn’t really have your back. They only let you say what you want because they know that the laws are protecting them and they’ll be the first ones to point a finger right at you when the water gets hot. Yelp will throw its users, has thrown its users, under the bus the same way they have thrown the economy under the bus. Yelps founders and managers i.e. Jeremy Stoppelman should be ashamed of themselves; they have thrown morals out the window and are patting themselves on the back for it.

  49. Francisco says:

    YELP is garbage. As people have posted, to profit by extortion is inexcusable. Investors will dump this stock only when they think YELP will crash. Soon …

  50. Raymond says:

    Ray, as per every ones concern admits we all are victims of Yelp, so as people of the UK and abroad are victims of Murdock family of England. NOW Murdock calls it a mistake, failure, etc. I can see a day that team Yelp has to hide from people and never mention that they ever associated with them since they destroyed American small businesses for their agenda and money. I as a business owner can’t understand how someone plans to make money over destroying others livelihood. Shame on every selfish S.O.B working in Yelp. Shame … Shame … Shame!

  51. Francisco says:

    It’s one thing to review the service: how was the food, the ambience, etc. It’s another to say the owner is a womanizer, or the waiter is a pervert. This is the type of crap YELP publishes.

  52. AK says:


    Weak ethical principles aside, what about the small self-employed business owners that work on their own, have a small business, don’t have any employees, and likewise don’t have a ton of revenue? If this were my father’s business we’re talking about, $300/mo is not an insignificant percentage of his monthly income, much less profits.

  53. Raymond Fong says:

    Lachlan, best of luck to you.

  54. Lachlan McGuinness says:

    Yes Ray, that is exactly what I’m saying. I understand the nobility of sticking to your principles by not supporting a system that exploits business owners via extortion, but if the alternative is to pay $300 a month so I don’t lose my very profitable business and 100+ employees don’t lose their jobs – until there is a way to fight them, I don’t see another choice but to pay their ransom so my positive reviews remain and I can keep my doors open.

  55. Francisco says:

    Correct. YELP extorts. It also publishes character assassination, and insidious comments by “real” people. These”real” people are salesmen. Negative reviews remain for YEARS, even though the gripe is phony and contrived. YELP is pure swill.

  56. Raymond Fong says:

    Lachian, I am not sure if I am understanding you correctly. Are you suggesting to just forgo principles and give into extortion and in essence support a system that exploits business owners just to keep your reviews positive?

  57. Anon says:

    I just got yet another harassing call from a Yelp rep, asking me to consider signing up for upgraded. When I informed them that I’d given them a try already through a free trial (they don’t really have such a thing but told me I could cancel the paid service within a month to not be charged), he complained that I “didn’t really give it a chance.” What he really meant was that I “didn’t pay them anything yet.” Their salespeople are overly aggressive. They do not provide enough value for my type of business that it is worth even their lowest level of paid service, which basically costs almost as much as the profit I make in my business at this point! I really like Yelp. I think they provide a great service. I had actually almost created a very similar website many years ago, before they came on the scene. By I see no point of paying them anything. The value of their service is to act as a conduit. The REAL value is in the reviews provided by users. Other free services exist for this and are growing in popularity. Yelp needs to redefine it’s business strategy if they want to become more profitable. Harassing business owners is not the way to do it.

  58. QuestionAble reviews says:

    I was wrong. You could rate yelp!!! Yelp is in San francisco. Itself only has 3 stars. The positive reviews might have been written by their own people (as so many have already alleged.). Let’s all rate yelp and complain to BBB about them!!! Btw, I am a consumer, not a business owner rated by yelp. I just sympathize w those who have been harmed by yelp.

  59. QuestionAble reviews says:

    I think if yelp was honestly interested in consumers’ comments, they should also be willing to allow their services be rated. I’m sure plenty of small businesses would like to rate them!!! I’d like to hear their complaints of yelp. Wouldn’t you? But of course they would block them or erase negative reviews.

  60. Lachlan McGuinness says:

    Ok Ray, let’s say it is extortion – which I firmly believe it is. Even if the lead generation is at say $72.22 per new diner, wouldn’t it still be worth paying their ransom to have a higher star rating? From my research losing a star will decrease your business by 10%, and gaining a star will increase your business by 10%. In a restaurant, that is a lot of money. Wouldn’t it still make sense to just pay the blood money and keep your positive reviews?

  61. Raymond Fong says:

    Natalie, I was going to type something intellectual and typoo0-free but then, um, I just carried on living my life. (Besides I just figure it would fall on deaf-ears.) Good luck to ya & have a good day :)

  62. Natalie says:

    First to Ray- you are right, you never claimed to be a business professional and I don’t dispute that fact. You are someone who thinks they are well informed about online advertising and can throw out a few industry terms so as to sound educated. At the end of the day, you need to use spell check for your sloppy mistakes. You actually spelled “spelling” wrong in your last post. Good work.

    You are making some tremulous, but interesting accusations here about Yelp’s business practices. In this city, with a climate so friendly to local business owners it would seem that large number of lawyers would be eager to file suit against Yelp for these grave injustices and line their own pockets with some of Yelp’s filthy lucre….and yet there are not. It seems that Yelp’s audacious flaunting of the first amendment has not drawn any formal legal action.
    Furthermore, the due diligence required for an IPO would have cast a glaring light on any “illegal” practices. Investors do not want to put stock in racketeers.
    Your claims are bogus and unsubstantiated, you utilize one poor example wherein you were only involved with the company for a month. During my time at Yelp, I helped plenty of small businesses through the advertising platform that is offered, and never forced any of them into it. Not one of these businesses dropped out of the advertising, and not because we “locked” them into it.
    Find another goat, you’ve gotten yourself covered with cheese on this one.

  63. AK says:


    You’re correct, the reason why people are angry at Yelp is because it does have an effect on businesses–but not because it’s some honest discussion of the businesses. That’s the whole reason for the outrage–because Yelp conducts seedy at best and illegal at worst practices to extort money from businesses listed on Yelp. The actions of other companies that had similar services to Yelp are inconsequential to the accusations (and in my humble opinion, truths) that Yelp plays games with business listings, reviews, and customer service (or lack thereof) to extort money from them.

    Do you honestly believe that the shared common experiences of business owners who refused to give in to a subscriber dues with Yelp and then subsequently have an overwhelming majority of their positive legit reviews “filtered,” while the neutral or negative reviews are coincidentally not “filtered” is just a simple coincidence uncorrelated to purposeful business conduct practices by Yelp? If you do, then that’s a very, very ignorant outlook on businesses. It’s racketeering, plain and simple.

    Lastly, I fail to understand what’s so creepy about looking someone up on LinkedIn–isn’t that the whole point of the service? Oh, right, let me open up an account and put together my public profile so that NO ONE will look me up…

  64. Raymond Fong says:

    Natalie, again… where did I claim to be one? What does that even mean? And let’s assume YOU know what it means, does that make you one?

    So you are claiming I “stalked” you… does that mean you are “stalking: me here? ::lol::

    So Citysearch isn’t as big as Yelp is, what’s your point? Still doesn’t justify the shady practices Yelp is accused of engaging in (much like how it doesn’t justify Citysearch engaging in them either if that’s your claim).

    The question is, why are you so defensive and angry about this blog post (which is my personal observations and studies)? Why are YOU so angered by this post and all the outcries by local business owners?

  65. Natalie says:

    The conversation continues….

    Ray, if you don’t know what a business professional is by now, then certainly you are not one. And yes, I saw you stalking me on Linkedin, so creepy.

    Oh and Jeremy, yes, I did work for Yelp. It was a fun year of working in a start up environment, helping many business owners understand the decisions made by Yelp. Did citysearch filter untrustworthy reviews? Did they allow for many shady reviews of people with fake names and no photos post only one review on the website? And where, might I ask, is Citysearch now? Exactly.

    The reason you are angered by Yelp is because you understand that it makes an impact on your business. No. Matter. What.

  66. DK says:

    I am very upset with YELP. They have NO PHONE SUPPORT unless of course it is for sales. What company has NO PHONE. I called a corporate# 415 area code and they clearly say there is no phone contact.. ONLY EMAIL.. They dont even have a phone# to call the sales person back. We had posted a new biz listing .. we got 1 bad review from the 1st review where a potential caller complained we didnt follow up with a scheduling.. we had called her back leaving a message and we responded to her immediately trying our best to rectify it. Then we had 3 POSITIVE REVIEWS that their system filtered.. WHY?? We have asked our customers to post a review and then their system filters them. YELP says there is no way to repost a filtered review. there is nothing you can do. ARE you kidding 3 NOT ONE will they POST..

    What is frustrating is that business owners are seeing the BAD ISSUES with Yelp but users have no clue what is happening.. KARMA .. What comes around goes around. I hope they get it back big time.

  67. Robert says:

    I have been contacted by Yelp reps to sign on for 12 months for 350. Or 6 months at 325 wthout the video. I was contemplating ot until read your forum. Thank you. Your Impressions vs. Visitors / Clicks breakdown makes total sense. I was almost fooled. Thanks again.

  68. jay says:

    Been battling Yelp trying to get off of it. Are any lawsuits getting anywhere?

    Remember What Yelp means:
    Noun 1. yelp – a sharp high-pitched cry (especially by a dog)
    yelping, yip
    cry – the characteristic utterance of an animal; “animal cries filled the night”

    When i posted this to one of their pages it was gone in less that 2 hours but fake negative reviews on my page took 3 months to get removed….

    YELP is a SCAM. And to any of these people pushing is proactively, why do owners have 0 control? I can’t even change some of my info that is legally mine by their contract if Yelp doesn’t approve….

    Lots of traffic to a site that makes you look bad is not helpful! Especially when a bunch of whiney complainers are posting because someone wasn’t tending to their every whim perfectly… it’s called life… grow up! Try working in the service industry for 1 day then say something! Some of the idiotic, uneducated rants I see on yelp sites make me sad….

  69. Ken Lehman says:

    Raymond, I just read your article about and I can’t tell you how helpful you were. I read it because I’m a small business owner and I needed to research the worth of paid advertisement with yelp. In fact, I’m just a one-man operation and once again, another yelp sales person tries to solicit me for their very expensive premium package (after one of my clients gave me a 5 star review) under the guise of “trying to help increase my business.” Of course, I refuse but then I’m basically told by the sales person, “how are you going to get business without us” and “reviews and word of mouth aren’t good enough. You can’t control them.” Bottom line, your article confirmed my feelings that although yelp is great to use on a free basis, it is a small business destroyer to pay for it. Thank you so much for writing that article.

  70. Raymond says:

    Hello everyone! I need business owners who like to participate in a TV live show in Fairfax Public Access. I am talking to a great supporter of our restaurant which is very upset with the Yelp extortion games and would like to help. He is the best producer and the anchor of the show also is a lawyer that both are ready to help. You can either come to the studio and or dial in via Skype…

    Mr. Raymond, I am going to need your help as well. You have my personal email. Please contact me so that I can give you my phone and we try to work together on this important matter.
    The idea is to explain to the public how “Cyber Extortion” is hurting small businesses and taking over our life without producing anything and more…

  71. Our green housekeeping business in los angeles has a yelp listing and I get calls from them all the time. Thanks for this!! I knew it sounded like a crappy idea and now i know why.

  72. Raymond Fong says:

    Hi Martha, I am not sure… I suppose you can try contacting them and ask to be removed. But internet laws are sketchy at best, not sure how successful you’ll be, perhaps even consult your lawyer. Good luck and keep us posted!

  73. Raymond Fong says:

    Hi Raymond, what do you mean participation? What is that show about?

  74. Martha says:

    I have a new business how can I avoid yelp? I just don’t wan to be on Yelp’s list please any ideas?

  75. Bitten says:

    Very Funny Raymond… Embezzlement and extortion are pretty close… great analogy. as far as the stock goes….ummm I hope you are not still holding on to them, or as Cramer said: “no prospect for profits, no assets, it is a sucker bet, knock it off, would you?” LOL….

  76. Raymond says:

    Raymond, I used to be a producer in local Fairfax County Public Access. I am talking to some high end producers who I showed the Yelp reviews of Vespucci and they all agreed that they have to warn the public. The plan is to do a live show. Are you interested to participate via Skype when we ready to do the show. Please let me know by calling me personally! Thank you in advance

  77. Raymond Fong says:

    lol Jeremy, Enron’s stock did well at one point as well… what’s your point?

  78. Yusef says:

    Yelp is a giant joke. After letting them talk me into merging my old company with my new, all of my 17 reviews were filtered down to 8. They convinced me to advertise and this would help the algorithm bring them back. WRONG! I now have 2 reviews and I am locked into their contract. My visibility is going DOWN month by month. Complete BS and the CPM cost is way too high. Dont waste your money. I am going ot try to cancel my contract. I wish I would have found this forum earlier.

  79. Jeremy S says:

    You guys see how good our yelp stock did yesterday?

    That’s the answer to all you yelp haters

  80. Jess Avalon says:

    Thanks for the great article, Ray. We have a new local hair salon, and yelp has been pressuring us to start advertising. We’ve been thinking we would sign up for a 6 month contract, but you’ve really made us think again. It seems like such a shame for such a useful website to resort to tactics like this.

  81. Bitten says:

    I guess Barbara is in the “do the right thing and you will be rewarded” mode. I was a firm believer in this principal for the longest time, but Sadly, this is not the case anymore.

    If Yelp is not extortion scheme (which I believe it is), it is an extortion enabler that sell you the fix for your damaged reputation enabled by them.

    I will not go into a lengthy details, but I have been blackmailed on a weekly basis by customers that want free stuff, or unrealistic expectations. I have had people calling our business asking if we are willing to give them 50% off (below our cost) in exchange of a good review, or 25% off in exchange of not writing a bad review…keep in mind that is all before any service is rendered. when I rejected both offers I got hammered with bad reviews from people with large number of yelp reviews (go figure). obviously they have been getting their way using Yelp as a blackmail tool.

    we contacted Yelp after seeing that honest 5 star reviews are being filtered, while blackmailing and competitors unlawful reviews are sticking, and the answer to my surprise was: there are ways to fix all that, you just have to be a paying subscriber.

    well, I refuse to budge to blackmailing as well as arm twisting. to me it is simple, this is similar to the US not dealing with terror, which I totally understand now.

    for your amusement, here is a yelp review pasted below (copied from yelp). I can’t blame the guy for using the system to get the best possible deal, but it is definitely a sign of what I am talking about:)

    Here it is:

    7/10/2011 3 Check-ins Here
    I may have manipulated the situation a little but hey, what good is yelp if I can’t leverage its influence?! My wife and I walked in here and were immediately greeted by a friendly sales man. I explained that we were looking to replace the carpet in a home we are looking to purchase and are pricing things out. He showed us some samples and began touting the stores prestige and standing with other review sights…to which I answered, really, well let me check in on Yelp and read some of your reviews. Well the store isn’t doing horribly but it doesn’t have the greatest marks either. I proceeded to read off some of the less palatable reviews and wow, the free stuff started flying off the shelves faster than I could collect it up. We got a free padding upgrade, free labor, the store will pick up the taxes and got an additional military discount as well! Bottom line, we got great service an incredible price on some top notch carpet…in writing no less…and an over all great experience. Was the whole thing a little forced, perhaps, but it speaks volumes as to the power of consumers coming together and sharing their experiences. Now if I only had a house to put all this great carpet into!

  82. Ed Pollock says:

    M/s Grace: Sorry but thousands of retail businesses, Doctors, Dentists,lawyers, and professional totally disagree with you..YELP as it is run today is an extortion pushed business…paid reviewers, phony negative reviews (when you reject the pushee , paid by commission, sales people) that just prop up when you reject the offer to advertize. Your statement regarding businesses complaining about YELP , rather then clean up their act…is totally with out fact or proof …go to your glasses on, remove the blinders, and read the truth…it will only hurt for a little while.

  83. Raymond says:

    This is for Ms. Barbara Grace; (I would like to respond to you comments number by number so that we understand each other better)
    1) Yelp has FAR more integrity … >>> having best or worst system is not the question since in US we have a great system as well, but you can see when someone steals 50 billion dollar from us!!! It is interesting to know that you want us to believe their program is not handled by human and they are not making any mistakes. How wonderful thoughts dear!!! how can you say that?
    2) As for becoming a sponsor … >>> several times I tried to change my settings, but yet you can see deliberately they either don’t upgrade it or if they upgrade it there is always something missing. No they don’t have any tools for us; it is their excuse to say that. for example; several times I check marked my establishment as it is good for children, but they never let it go through. Now, think about it dear Barbara … if you see a restaurant saying my establishment is not good for children what comes up in your mind honey. For the record, I have a menu builder for kids that they can make their own dish by ordering their favorite ingredients and do you know how many times I got hugs from kids… many times.
    3) Yelp has incredibly high rankings … >>> First of all their high ranking is not as reputable as you are claiming any more. Second of all, 6 month ago you only could see couple of class action against them in Google and other places, but now everybody are suing them and everybody is upset. Never forget, small businesses are linked to peoples of America and hurting us is hurting America. that is why I call the CEO of Yelp a traitor to our society. You might be so relaxed, but in this economy we don’t have a luxury of waiting.
    4) As someone who has worked coaching … >>> What if you are wrong?! Did you ever think of that too? what if a family who put all their savings in a dream business and been harassed by Yelpers. What if you just kicked out a vendor who was ripping you off and he decides to trash your business. Furthermore, what is wrong with the old school by the way. Haven’t you heard of Soup Nazi in NY… How many great chefs, doctors, engineers and lawyers you know that have a great customers service while their focus is on making the best and unique products…
    5) Bottom line business owners, … >>> I thank you for your advice, but the right thing to do is get rid of the cyber extortionists who is teaching other search engines to be the same way to make billions. I will refuse to be a cow milk for these traitors to small business owners.

    I hope you read this and reconsider your position regarding Yelp and be in our side fighting cyber pirates. Thank you in advance.

  84. barbara grace says:

    As a person very seasoned with Yelp as a longtime reviewer – and a person who has worked in internet marketing and had a business there – I have to add my 2 cents, and in the interest of transparency I started using them when they were in their infancy and I know what I’m talking about here.

    1) Yelp has FAR more integrity in their review criteria than most other sites (Amazon and TripAdvisor being the heavy hitters who have shady review policies). Yelp actually goes overboard at times in their filtering, and they have programs that do the filtering aside from actual people. For example if you do not regularly USE yelp, your review will be ‘filtered’ after about two weeks. If later you start using yelp again (it has many features aside from reviews), your review will reappear. They are able to recognize servers and patterns that indicate the reviews are being prompted or coming from the same address.

    2) As for becoming a sponsor — if you are in a niche that is not used much for reviews, or if you have little to no competition in your niche – it makes no sense to become a paid sponsor because yes, they have many tools for business owners that is free.

    3) Yelp has incredibly high rankings so a business lands right up top on google if someone is searching for your service, the bad news is if you have only negative reviews or too many bad reviews.

    4) As someone who has worked coaching businesses professionally, and being a business owner herself, I can assure you that a lot of the yelp gripers are those who just want to operate in the ‘old school’ way – that is f..the customer service and basically ‘doing the right thing.’ If over time you provide a good service, your reviews will reflect that…all businesses may be expected to have a few malcontents who will complain about inconsequential things, but in the main, appreciative customers, especially the younger savvy ones, WILL review you positively.

    5) Bottom line business owners, JUST DO THE RIGHT THING! and managing your reputation will take care of itself. Don’t cheat people, provide a fair service/product, and do it with a good attitude! That is all….

  85. Ed Pollock says:


  86. CFM says:

    Same thing has happened to me, they keep filtering all of my reviews from actual real clients. There is no rhyme or reason as to why they keep doing this. Meanwhile my competitors who are advertising with them have their reviews (less than my filtered ones) up and running. It seems to me like the filter chooses to filter reviews for people who refuse to give them money. I guess it is the age of cyber-extorsion.

  87. wiseking says:

    I would not touch this IPO with a ten foot pole. YELP is a known extortion scheme whereby businesses who decline to advertise wind up with their positive reviews filtered and their negative reviews made prominent. A cadre of so called elite Yelpers (chronically unemployed losers) are Yelps hired guns who do the dirty work of defaming small businesses for them and shilling for advertisers. Thousands upon thousands of Yelp reviews are actually reviews of big chains like Starbuck and Chipotle rather than being genuine reviews of small businesses who lack advertising and p.r. budgets. If you look at the numbers for this IPO they simply do not add up. After all, how can YELP expect small businesses or especially professionals like dentists or doctors to advertise and risk driving traffic to a bulletin board which has already defamed them or threatens to do so? Keep in mind that this MONEY LOSING BUSINESS relies on advertising for over 60% of its revenue! Yelps advertising rates area a complete ripoff. While other online advertisers are charging 60 cents per 1000 impressions, Yelp is charging $600!!! To make matters even worse there are numerous class action lawsuits which have already been filed, one of which has been dismissed but there are many, many others in the works. The nail in the YELP coffin? GOOGLE is a powerful competitor which recently acquired Zagat. The removal of links to Google searches will considerably reduce Yelp traffic.No wonder Jeremy Stoppelman and other top brass absconded with 36M in Series E funding by dumping shares in advance of this sham IPO.

  88. Rick says:

    My YELP reviews keep getting filtered as well.

  89. boycott

    Tired of these phoney reviews?

    LIKE us on facebook and pass it on

    Thank you!!/pages/Boycott-Yelpcom/265268986857835

  90. Raymond Fong says:

    According to what I pieced together, Natalie doesn’t work there anymore, although she did work there for 14 months at one point (according to her LinkedIn) where among her duties included:

    * Made a high volume (80+) of outbound sales calls to a variety of local business owners daily
    * Managed leads and drove the full sales cycle from prospecting to closing deals
    * Educated clients on the power of online advertising with Yelp, and the existing impact it was having on their business
    * Made local business clients successful with the advertising program

  91. Yelp Reviews says:

    Yelp is ripping people off with their ads!
    Get back at them by getting positive reviews posted on Yelp for a low cost.

    Buy Online Positive Business Reviews.

  92. So, Natalie, how long have you been working for Yelp? lol

  93. Raymond Fong says:


    I don’t have a direct answer for you but the only other review site that comes to mind is… although Yelp is more popular and gets more traffic. I think is a great site that is trying a unique approach at the search landscape, if you can be active in there and find related questions to your business, that might become worth it for you (However, I believe your business is local right? So this might not work as well.)

    The other options that might work for you is Craigslist and eBay (but they are not “up and coming”). Have you tried groupon and livingsocial? And of course, there’s search engine optimization (SEO) if you can think of related profitable terms to go after (and PPC).

    And if you are interested in going deeper with your marketing, you can always check out our internet marketing consulting firm,


  94. Danny says:

    (Raymond, thank you for sharing your insight ….. I respectfully disagree with you on some things, but I enjoy understanding your opinion)

    Raymond, I would like to hear your opinion on something:

    As stated earlier, yelp has been good for my business…..however, I believe that yelp will eventually lose popularity and we won’t get the amount of “free” leads that we are getting now.

    So is there any up and coming sites that I should keep my eyes on? I always try to be the first in my industry to try new things.

    Thank you for your time….

  95. Raymond Fong says:

    Sounds like you have a sweet deal going on.

    And these Yelp customers sound just like me – I don’t write reviews but I do go on Yelp to look at feedback (although I know to take the reviews with a grain of salt knowing what seems to be going on with Yelp).

    This review model can benefit businesses (such as yours) but also hurt businesses. Those who are hurt are angry that the public results show a bias towards “negative reviews” while their good positive reviews are being filtered.

    So yes Yelp CAN make sense for some business owners depending on their business models… but that still doesn’t excuse some shady behaviors that are being observed by quite a few business owners (although again, no concrete evidence has been afforded yet).

    Furthermore, I don’t appreciate how their sales team go about selling their paid advertising program (especially to business owners who aren’t marketing savvy)… They make sweeping generalizations and imply huge promises – it’s dishonest at best.

  96. Danny says:

    You’re very astute Raymond :)

    I’m in the high-end retail antiques and estate jewelry business, so it would only take 2-3 yelp extra leads ($600-800 per solid lead that made an actual purchase) to break even with my advertising dollars.

    However, currently I’m getting an average of 1-2 yelp leads per day (out of those, apprx 12-15 leads make a purchase from us).

    I should add too that most of the yelp leads are NOT from registered yelpers. They’re mostly from non-yelpers (that do not write reviews) doing research to find the better place to shop at.

    I’m assuming that the reason many people research my industry is because reputation and word of mouth is everything. And because they’re not experts in high-end jewwlry, that they would rely on this research to help them not get ripped off.

    So in summary, yelp has been good to our business (thank you yelp) but that’s because we have over 65 unfiltered high quality reviews (with only a few “orange heads”) without spending anything on yelp advertising.

  97. Raymond Fong says:

    What I meant was how much was the value per lead? I.e. if the average value of a customer to your business is $1,000 and say… you get 1 new customer out of every 100 leads Yelp sends you, then the value per lead you get is $10 (1,000 divided by 100). Thanks for sharing this info Danny and chiming in.

  98. Danny says:

    Raymond, exactly. The cost per lead was much higher than what I was getting.
    (I was paying alot because I was trying to dominate the yelp market in my category).

    Right now, I’m still getting plenty of free business from yelp (thank you yelp) and I’ve only lost apprx 10% from paid leads. In our case, having plenty of good reviews helps.

  99. Raymond Fong says:

    Danny, right, there’s no empirical evidence of “extortion” (either Yelp would have to release their data or someone would have to hack their servers but even then they’d be hard pressed to draw any concrete correlations and prove that in court…) which is why Yelp is still around 😉

    But again, all the noise that’s being made by quite a few business owners is hard to ignore.

    As for $2,400 a month on Yelp – I would wager to say that your average value per lead/customer is fairly high? Which would go to my point about how Yelp’s paid advertising might work for some businesses that have higher value per client but do NOT make sense for smaller businesses (which many of the companies on Yelp are) such as restaurants.

  100. Danny says:

    Natalie does make a good point….

    My experience:
    I used to spend apprx $2400 per month on yelp advertising. And it did work. It brought in many leads….

    However, once my contract ran out, I noticed only apprx a 5-10% drop in the leads.

    This proved to me that yelp advertising DOES bring in business, but your advertising dollars are best spent on many other choices out there. (we do have plenty of good reviews however, and this is the driving force behind our yelp leads).

    With regards to the “extortion” claims, in my opinion they have no merit. But there is empirical evidence of IMPLIED EXTORTION in yelp, which causes fear in the business community. And I believe the fear is part of their overall strategy to get business owners to advertise.

  101. Raymond Fong says:

    lol Natalie, thanks for chiming in. What exactly is a “business professional?” And where do I claim myself being one?

    Please enlighten us on the “facts” that are “very wrong” and how you are qualified to make those claims. We here would all appreciate your insights.

    This post had to do with the paid portion of Yelp – NOT the free service they offer in case you missed that while you were so busy looking for my splling erors. :-)

    Even the integrity of the free portion of Yelp is being questioned as evidence is mounting that Yelp engages in some shady practices having to do with them filtering out reviews which result in negatively impacting business owners. This is pretty much extortion. This is also why some are complaining and voicing their concerns.

    As for gaining perspective, yes, that’s what we are all here to do. Perhaps you should try doing the same.

    Have a wonderful day!

  102. Vincent says:

    You have to so very picky on choosing who you advertise with. Aftr a while you spend more money then it brings in. Yelp is a joke. I had people leave feedback and yelp removes them? then you read other yelp reveiwes and it is someone who works there??? crazy. I use yelp for yellow pages and never buy the ratings unless there are over 50 of them. For ads i think you can do better then p
    PAYING that per month…..

  103. Natalie says:

    What a bunch of complainers. Especially you, Ray. You call yourself a business professional and use the word “sucky?” Please also correct all of the spelling errors you made in your crazy rant. Also, you have a number of different “facts” very wrong. You should be ashamed for putting out lies like this.

    And to the business owners that have been “burned” by Yelp. Your business is on a website that attracts over 61 million visitors a month FOR FREE. Wait, let me repeat that, FOR FREE!!! You are getting FREE BUSINESS FROM A WEBSITE YOU DON’T SPEND A DIME ON. Why are you complaining? Gain a little perspective people, jeez.

  104. I thought I was being a cry baby about our company being filtered. I so appreciate Glenn T’s announcement. If you listening I would really appreciate a call 303.691.9484. I’d like to use your services.

  105. Raymond Fong says:

    No Kirill, we used a coupon tracking system that tracked folks who found the restaurant via Yelp. Hardly a perfect system but gave us an idea.

  106. A&M Car Service says:

    I have owned 4 Taxi company’s in the Lowell mass area.I went to check my listings out online due to a decline in business.That was the first time i ever seen Yelp or even heard of it.On yelp it says my company is closed but before posting it if anyone ever called it or sent mail to it they would see how wrong they are.Today it still says i went out of business and i have done everything it has asked of me to correct this.I didn’t advertise on Yelp and now two months later i still can’t get a live person to speak with so i’m at a loss not only on how to correct this but also the daily damage that bad info has caused my company and those employed here as well.
    I hope anyone who reads this avoids them cause the bad info they provide shows their lack of interest they have in posting accurate info.

  107. Kirill says:

    Ray hi,

    In first Q I’ve just asked have you used 800.. or other solutions during Yelp campaign or not.


  108. Tina C says:

    Raymond says

    “Hi everyone, long time ago I said that CEO of Yelp is a traitor to this country and I am saying it again. as others mentioned, we have to attack him verses yelp… have his pictures published in funny ways instead of doing it to the yelp’ logo. He defiantly works for foreigners. Yelp is a terrorist site terrorizing small businesses so that corporations can benefit from. Ladies and gentlemen follow the money and you will see that Jeremy Stoppelman deserved to be put out for ever”…

    ^^^^ this is EXACTLY how I feel about Jeremy Stoppelman, and what I want everyone else to do.

    Make his life difficult.

    Right now, many people criticise “yelp” as if its a person. Instead, put the heat on this guy, and see what happens.

    Ive said before that some local businesses in SF should join together and boycott SPECIFICALLY jeremy stoppelman.

    Make him feel uncomfortable.

  109. Raymond Fong says:


    I can’t say for sure but if you can live with $70+ a lead then yeah, Yelp MIGHT work (you’d have to test it). Again, the example here is that restaurants whose average value per customer is at like $20 CAN’T afford paying $70+ to acquire that customer – doesn’t make sense.

    But let’s say you are a big shot lawyer and your average value per customer is $1,000… THEN you can up your lead-acquiring budget, does that make sense?

    P.S. I would be cautious to say Yelp is a “good option” because fundamentally, their marketing platform and practices are still flawed in my opinion (but then again, there is not “perfect platform”) but I’d be curious to hear your results if you do test it.

  110. Raymond Fong says:


    1. just do a search on Google for 800 numbers or VOIPs or perhaps just get a Google Voice number that you you use EXCLUSIVELY for say… your Yelp campaign, so you know whenever that phone rings it is BECAUSE of your marketing efforts on Yelp.
    2. I have not
    3. what do you mean by “customer sources?” as in where they are from? word of mouth and finding the restaurant online (Google maps, corporate site, the restaurant’s SEO’d website)


  111. Very insightful article! Just to be clear, if your business has a high-value-per-customer, Yelp! would a good option for adverting?

  112. Lou Betti says:

    Ray, you make so much sense! My kudos to you! I made the mistake of posting some reviews at Yelp, only to have them all filtered. At 53, I’ve been around the block a bit, and my reviews are honest. I’m not doing favors for friends or trying to hurt any business. I just tell it like it is. My reviews were between 3-5 stars, and all the stars were “relative” to the business and location.

    I’m a web master for a restaurant that has 5 reviews on Yelp, of which 4 are filtered. The only one that shows up is by a Yelper with 61 reviews and 26 friends (surprised she isn’t “Elite”!). Her slogan is (excuse my language) “Fuck you and your Pomme Frites”. Wow what class – a real Yelper there! This is what they post at Yelp, people with slogans like this?. If you have “friends” you get posted, if you have none you don’t. Why she only gave them 3 stars is beyond me, as they are definitely a 4, and I never posted a review of them. All but one of their filtered reviews are 4-5 stars except for a 1-star, which I could see also. I’m fair. Everyone has an off day!

    How does one deal with Yelp? Well, it was posted above. Otherwise, don’t deal with them and do not pay them a penny!

    Otherwise, Yelp and their “social networking” isn’t working!

  113. Raymond says:

    Hi everyone, long time ago I said that CEO of Yelp is a traitor to this country and I am saying it again. as others mentioned, we have to attack him verses yelp… have his pictures published in funny ways instead of doing it to the yelp’ logo. He defiantly works for foreigners. Yelp is a terrorist site terrorizing small businesses so that corporations can benefit from. Ladies and gentlemen follow the money and you will see that Jeremy Stoppelman deserved to be put out for ever.

  114. Kirill says:

    Ray hi,

    Several short questions to get 100% picture:
    1) Have you put a “fake” phone number on to track people who seen ad of your client and booked table simply over a phone?
    2) Have you used “booked a table online” function on yelp? How it went?
    3) Have you measured your customer sources “on the field” (in restaurant), what where the sources of them?


  115. Tomas says:

    hi ray, i’m a business owner and i’ve been following your thread sometime back while i was doing my research on Yelp. i had customers writing positive review on us and subsequently ‘filtered’ out by yelp for unknown reasons. a yelp sales person has since been calling me every now and then eventually managed to get hold of me. to cut a long story short, they couldn’t explain how their filter system works technically but kept trying hard sell me on advertising with them. at one point, i felt a sense of ‘extortion’ in her tone of voice in a passive aggressive manner. after hanging up the phone on her, i came back to this review and confirmed my decision that i want nothing to do with Yelp. even though i have the budget to sign up with them, but i can’t have my business held ransom by some review sites. i find they review/filter engine very shady.

  116. Jay says:

    This is real, my friend was tricked by one of their representatives, and the only way out is reduce the plan to the min. 125 a month instead of 300

  117. Mike The Handyman says:

    Yelp really hurt my business. It allowed a competitor of mine to post some negative reviews which it then focused on for some reason.

    My SEO guy helped me combat this by introducing me to This site allows only compliments. Now I promote this website without fear of having some anonymous person who is probably a competitor destroy my business with fake negative reviews. At least what I am promoting I have control over. The concept is simple let people make a decision based on the amount of good you have.

    It helped me so I figured I would share it.

  118. There is an error.

    Yelp’s “highlighted” review was *one* specific review you could bump to the top, but they got sued and aren’t allowed to do that anymore. The “review highlights” you marked are on every single business, not just paid. Just FYI.

  119. Raymond Fong says:


    Overpriced compared to CPM – yes, ASSUMING you can get the same conversion rate AND there’s enough UNIQUE clicks happening.

    I get your point, and you’re right, CPM trumps PPC in terms of cost assuming all else is equal – but there are a lot of variables at play. Before diving into CPM, I would ALWAYS test PPC first. And also, just because a campaign is profitable with PPC doesn’t necessarily mean it will be profitable with PPM.


  120. Raymond Fong says:

    Hi Dex, we might be talking about two different things. To answer your question directly, PPC can work withOUT branding. I’ve in the internet marketing and affiliate marketing industry for a while now (started back in 2004) and have done all sorts of PPC (and continue to do so). Some of the products we sold/sell are affiliate products for which there is no branding whatsoever.

    If you are able to home in your message to the client (good copywriting) and structure your sales message (i.e. via a good salespage AND good followup process such as an autoresponder) you can overcome this “lack of branding” challenge. People will view you as an authority and a credible source – this is part of marketing.

    Branding is important, but at what cost? For small businesses on a low budget, I’d focus more on offering value and earning that trust/rapport after acquiring a lead.


  121. Arny says:

    That’s just completely wrong. PPC is ALWAYS overpriced. You should get a solid ROI with the same message whether it’s PPC or CPM. PPC is always more by definition, so claiming you don’t have a budget for something that costs less is just a completely broken argument.

    The argument that if you get a low PPC your ROI is good because you’re not paying as much is an empty one. If you’re not getting a good PPC then your message is a not appealing. So your answer only appeals to those with bad products or unappealing messages, in which case it’s lose-lose

    PPC is like, where restaurants grossly overpay for advertising with the promise that they only pay if someone buys something. They could run a coupon for half the amount of money, and they won’t be losing money on every sale by giving a 50% discount on food with a 35% margin.

  122. Ed Pollock says:

    Over 10000 business and professionals have joined the coalition at http://www.yelpscam, not one has found the advertising useful or got them new’s just extortion. Each has a story of how they were forsed to advertise, if not they got flooded with bad reviews and all their good reviews were removed. This is a your adv $$$$$

  123. Dex says:

    One thing I do disagree with is the brand marketing aspect. For a customer to make a purchase, they must first trust the brand. For example, PPC can be great ,but if they dont know much about your brand will they buy? That’s why brand marketing and impressions are still important. Some may disagree, but Yelp customer reviews still plays an important part in establishing that brand just like banner advertising. PPC before branding is putting the cart before the horse especially in the case of small local businesses.

    Raymond, I’m sure you had to build your brand through other channels before you saw significant returns. Have some of you ever considered the reason why some business on Yelp may yield a low conversion rate? There is not much business info in the listing itself or trust in the brand. ROI is important, but unless your brand is trustworthy, then there is no ROI. So Yelp may not be a rip off depending on your perspective. Here is an interesting video I found.

  124. Dex says:

    All good points. Don’t get me wrong, I’ m not defending Yelp nor would I use it. I am just comparing it to other forms of marketing which are much more costly.

  125. Raymond Fong says:

    Hi Dex,

    Totally agree. The worst number in business is one.

    At the same time… you have to look at your ROI. I challenge small business owners to project/analyze their potential ROI with Yelp… and then what that same expense can do for them elsewhere, i.e. PPC, SEO, etc.


  126. Raymond Fong says:

    Hi Arny,

    Yeah, banner advertising for the sake of branding is great – if you have the budget for it. However, my clients (and I imagine most small business owners) are more concerned about direct ROI on their advertising campaign – they don’t have the budget for branding campaign. PPC is perfectly fine as long as you can track the returns on it… obviously as long as you are getting back more than you are paying, it’s a winning campaign. THEN you go to work on whittle down the cost of the click or possibly shift to CPM (paying per impression…) Per per click isn’t overpriced if you can turn in a profitable campaign… if there’s a slot machine that charges you $1000 to play every time but your return on it is always $200 profit, is that overpriced? No. As a matter of fact, I’d play it over and over again! :-)

    The problem with Yelp is that they don’t even offer CPC, they force small business owners to jump right into CPM – the results? Hardly spectacular, as a matter of fact, for most, downright rip off.

    In the internet marketing world, we have done tons of PPC (AdWords, Bing, LinkedIn, Facebook, and several other smaller networks) and while not all of our campaigns went well, we definitely had and have profitable ones.

    PPC, like just about every advertisement medium, has a time and a place… and a price. Yelp should allow for PPC to test the network and not force PPM on the unknowning small business owners.

    While yes, Yelp is a “social network” (just about anything can be construed as a social network… even this blog you are reading), and therefore, it’s a matter of “opinions”. But that’s not the reason why so many are upset… so many small business owners are upset because Yelp, behind the scenes, practice what is essentially extortion.


  127. Dex says:

    I want to make another observation. Yelp and other local searches are only a small part of an ad campaign and adds to the whole. When you consider the cost for print, radio, television and other local searches, its not that expensive. Google PPC may be a much better way to spend your advertising dollars but it’s only one part. Diversify, don’t put all you eggs in one basket as there is no magic bullet.

  128. Arny says:

    I agree with your conclusion, but I think you’ve missed the main reason that Yelp is a bad value. The reason is that Yelp is a social network; it’s not primarily a resource. So many (or most) of the people viewing a particular review are just other yelpers reading their “friends” reviews. Yelp is more about young people socializing with restaurants as the focus than it is a resource to get real information. Most non-yelpers don’t consider Yelp to be a reliable resource.

    Also the entire content base of Yelp is noise. Ads don’t stand out; they blend in with the other noise. Ads in such an environment are worth less, not more.

    I disagree with your “opinion” that pay per click is better; pay per click is by definition over-priced, and it disregards the purpose of doing banner advertising in many cases; which is branding. It would be nice to say that when someone sees your banner they’re looking for that exact product, but the purpose of branding is to sear your product into the brain of the reader. Best Buy, Best Buy, Best Buy. So when someone is looking for your product, they Google your company name because they remember it. I rarely click on a banner; in fact many people don’t even know that a banner is clickable. I remember seeing “Kenny’s BBQ” and then when im in the mood for BBQ I remember the name and Google it.

    Pay per click is always overpriced because the vendor had to eat the cost of bad ads. Each view has a value; there are only so many views per site. An advertiser with an unappealing product is lost money to the site; why should the site lose money because an advertiser has an unappealing product? If you get a bad click rate; it may be ok if you are branding well, or maybe you need to come up with a more appealing message. Advertisers shouldn’t be rewarded for having a poor message by not having to pay for the views. In order to make up for bad ads (most ads are bad ads), vendors must overcharge for clicks. So you always overpay for pay per click.

  129. Jessyka says:

    I almost bought the program but when I heard her say impressions I was not impressed to say the least. In addition contracts!!!. No thanks.. I know that with advertising you have to stick with it and wait, but if the upgraded program really makes that much of a difference, let me have 1 or 2 months to test drive it.

  130. Glenn T says:

    The technique below has worked VERY WELL for us and some of the other budinesses who have already done what we have.

    So I’m hoping that it’s ok with Raymond to re-post my message again and help others out as well.

    So here it is:

    Glenn t says:
    September 21, 2011 at 3:17 pm

    We have recently implemented a system to outsmart yelp from hiding our filtered reviews:

    Step 1- first of all, if you’re advertising with yelp, stop doing so and shift that money to optimize your own web site instead

    Step 2- have a graphic designer make a yelp badge that is placed on your web site. It should say “we have …… filtered and unfiltered reviews on yelp”. 

    Step 3- when a visitor clicks on the badge, it will go to another page ON YOUR OWN WEB SITE (instead of going to yelp’s. (why help them get traffic and rank higher anyways)? 

    Step 4- on this page have your graphic designer get a screen capture (picture) of all your filtered and unfiltered reviews and have them pasted together onto one page.

    Now, all your reviews (filtered or not) will be visible to all your web site visitors. 

    5- put a note on the top that says, “for your convenience we have placed all our filtered and unfiltered reviews on one page to see. If you’d like to go to our live yelp page, click here …………”

    Make the whole page clickable to your live yelp page  so no-one will say you’re trying hide something or to be dishonest 

    Advantages of doing this: 

    1- your visitors will stay on your web site instead of being directed to yelp’s

    2- your visitor can’t click on your competitors 

    3- no more being a slave to yelp’s algorithm

    4- yelp would not benefit from getting traffic from you and higher rankings on google 

    5- this whole process cost us less than $150 to implement 

    Just be sure to shift that $300 per month on yelp advertising and put it into KEYWORDS that people will search for. 

    Please pass this along

  131. Raymond Fong says:

    Dex, sure, send it over and I’ll take a quick look :)

  132. Dex says:

    Hello Ray. Yelps marketing strategy was always questionable to me. Our neighborhood network offers something much better. I wonder if you can take a look at it and compare?

  133. Andrew Broderick says:

    I have also had the pitch from yelp and since turning advertising down our positive reviews have also vanished. Something no one here appears to have noticed is that Yelp are using small business owners brand names and company names in their description Meta tags. A practice that has been succesfully challenged in other cases of “passing off” in courts. Just something to think about.

  134. Lin C. says:

    Just readings these postings gave our company validation to not advertise on yelp. All of our reviews have been filtered and some of our clients have already decided to no longer patronize yelp. I would be surprise if the sales reps are the ones who reviews are actually credited. It seems that have a lot of them who probably work on commission base, because one sales rep called us from his cell phone. Also, in my personal opinion I don’t think it’s wise to advertise with a company who sale reps calls people “idiots”, etc. This Susan person, you can’t really believe leaving negative comments and going back and forth on this forum looks good or professional for yelp. It’s truly unprofessional and unethical. Susan please learn the proper etiquette regarding responses to customer or potential
    customer complaints or concerns.

  135. Scott Nelles says:

    Hey Ray, thanks for the article. Awesome. Factual. Funny. Or sad, if you just signed up with Yelp. We just got done turning down the advances of a Yelp salesperson. She was really slick, but something about it seemed too expensive. Using Yelp for free is almost just as good. And I noticed something else. If you run a “deal” it looks like they advertise it on your competitors that’s like free advertising right? $300 bucks is a rip off!

  136. RS says:

    I am the owner of a dance company in New York City which sees over 300 new customers per month. Earlier this year, I created my listing on Yelp thinking that it would legitimize my business by having great reviews. I had no idea there was a review filter. Everytime I get a positive review from a customer, it gets filtered within a day or two. I have a total of 42 reviews, the distribution of which is 5 1-star reviews, 2 3-star reviews, 4 4-star reviews and 31 5-star reviews. However, if you went to my business listing you’d see only 6 reviews with an average 3 star rating which makes my business appear to give mediocre service, when in fact we give exceptional service. I find that whenever we run a daily deal on Living Social, our listing get’s tons of hits, only to distort everyone’s perception of our company, and which I am sure impacts our sales results. I can’t stress how much yelp sucks and deserves to go out of business. It will only be a matter of time before Yelp falls off of the map. Eventually more and more people will catch on to the review filter and realize their is no value in posting a review which will be filtered in less than 24 hours. Visitors searching Yelp for information about a company will soon realize that reviews (good or bad) appearing on a listing will be elite-yelper reviews that bypass the filter and linger on a listing, and therefore tend to be outdated and not reflect the current level of service rendered by a company. And thanks to blogs such as these, new businesses will not create listings on Yelp, while existing businesses will draw attention to reviews from other sites that don’t utilize filters.

    A yelp salesperson recently bragged to me that the filter keeps yelp in business. Talk about delusional, this guy sounded like a brainwashed cog. As if though somehow Yelp is the top dog by making great businesses look bad. Once people find an alternative platform to “mouth off”, yelp is going to go the way of MySpace when facebook came out…. i.e History!

  137. Victor says:

    oh snap, I just sign up w/ them today. they gave me 15 days window to make a decision. But I made a bubu by giving them my personal credit card information and those 15 days window to change it to my corporate credit card. I have a mixed feelings about YELP. I followed them grew over the years but still think the turnaround conversion for small biz owners seems to be questionable. Raymond is dead on about how do we track those clicks, whats the conversion rates? and whatsup with the 12 months contract? how can we get an in-depth analysis like google analytics does. oh man, Im confused now, my business is dying and I need traffic really bad.

  138. Simon says:

    Thank you Raymond for saving me thousand of dollars. I expressed similar concern and compliant about Yelp advertising scheme. I will add to this list is to fore warn business’s owner if they do choose to go with Yelp ads that the pricing varies dramatically as they trying to reel you in. My friend got a deal similar to what you’ve described but only in 6 months term. However the initial offer was $1050/mo for 4200 impressions. That is just not right.

  139. Tricia J says:

    Raymond, I agree with ALMOST all the criticisms that are put out against yelp.

    But you want to know what gets me?

    “Yelp” is not a person. Its a web site.

    Instead of criticizing “yelp” as if it’s a person, people should criticize the PERSON who is running it, Jeremy Stoppelman.

    I believe if and when people will start to critize HIM instead of criticizing “yelp”, he will feel a more personal pressure on his easy, rich-boy life and maybe make some positive changes.

    And by “positive changes”, Im not talking about removing the review filter.

    On the contrary, I believe that a filter IS needed.

    But all he has to do is move the “filtered reviews” link to the top menu bar, like where everything else is currently located.

    But I doubt that he ever will make that kind of change, because yelp thrives on CONTROVERSY.

    Every time an upset business owner types in “” in the search engines (to check and see what negative things have been written about his small business), it will rank yelp higher and higher on google, bing, and the like.

    Also, its a natural human instinct to talk about negative things. “Did you read what he said about xxx restaurant the other day”? And this also drives more traffic to yelp.

    So its not in yelp’s (excuse me, I meant Jeremy Stoppelman’s interest) to reduce controversy.

    He is a selfish ass and a greedy CEO.

  140. Raymond Fong says:

    I listened to an interview about a month and a half ago (live on a local radio station: with the VP of Yelp, Vince Solitto and they had live callers. Lots of angry business owners hopped on sharing the VP with stories very similar with what’s been shared on this blog. Not only did he NOT own up to this happening (understandably so…) he was flat out denying that this is even a possibility (that business owners are getting extorted)!

  141. Ed Pollock says:

    It is so very unfortunate that this problem with Yelp keeps getting worse for small businesses and professionals , as we wait for the class action suit to be heard. Yelpscam gets over 100 complaint per week, and numerous business have had to close their dooes or scale back and lay off employees. Yes, this so resembles the Mafia’s old protection racket, that yelp should change their name to “Mafia”.
    Besides , several sites have recently appeared, placed by businesses around the country, with all the same complaint.
    Where is the FTC (?) , they have all the information, they are aware of the problem, but as far as we know they haven’t openned an investigation.
    The internet has given all of some great things, but with it came the bad, and Yelp is the worst of the worst.

  142. AK says:

    I found this to be 100% accurate and relevant.

    And to offer my own testimonial, I’d like to point out another dishonest thing yelp does to businesses. And in response to skeptics and yelp advocates, no one needs to link to a business that has been done wrong by yelp–there are already plenty of stories to be found by just googling the situation, along with at least one class-action lawsuit against yelp for its actions. The situation is clear and present.

    My father recently moved and opened a store–a business he’s been doing for the better part of 40 years–and he’s always been independent and self-employed. When yelp saw his business posted on their site, the salespersons initiated calls to him, asking if he’d like to join their business program. Being old, and never really needing direct advertisement in the past, he said no thanks. Yelp continued to call, and responded by saying that his business would really benefit from it, and that he shouldn’t pass up the opportunity. He never signed up, and within the past year, 28 unique reviews have been written on his business–and 25 of those–all of which are 4 and 5 stars–have been “filtered” by yelp. Leaving one 5-star review from an “elite” yelper (I would assume that “elite” yelpers’ reviews are automatically bypassed by their “filters”), one 3-star review (the lowest his business has gotten), and just yesterday a new 5-star review, which I’m sure will get “filtered” in just a few days. I’m sorry, but 90% of the reviews for a business mysteriously get “filtered” by yelp? No…I’m sorry, that’s just not right.

    Yes, unless you pay yelp, they will most definitely hide your business’s shining, 4- and 5-star reviews, counting only their “unfiltered” reviews for the “star” rating, and they will most definitely not “filter” the lower-star reviews. If you do decide to sign up with them, they will allow the more-positive reviews to be shown. I’m just glad that the lowest review rating for his business is 3 stars–the only redeeming quality is that the average of the unfiltered reviews still yields him 4.5 average stars. What if there were 100 reviews, and a few very dissatisfied or disgruntled people left 1 or 2 stars, amidst a flurry of filtered 4 or 5 star reviews, it would appear that he had a very poor business.

    Yelp is dishonest with everything they do. Of course, they’re a business and they want to maximize their revenue–but at what expense? Sabotaging poor, independent business owners? Strongarming them for positive reviews? What, are we back in the roaring ’20’s, where gangster behaviors are tolerated and expected?

    Personally, I will no longer use Yelp’s services now that I understand just how they function.

  143. Phil says:

    Hello Danny, though you never mentioned your own business, I will be glad to mention mine. I run a graphic design and print shop called The Business Card Shoppe in Salinas, CA., We have a strong local following and we rely heavily on word of mouth. Yelp is not a great concern to my business. I did not mention my own business because I did not want my posts to seem self serving. Which I believe WOULD discredit my “credibility”.
    I am an actual case of what Yelp is doing to small businesses. Go ahead and Yelp “The Business Card Shoppe” in Salinas. You will see one negative comment posted by an absolute idiot that threatened to post negative comments across the internet if I did not print a third set of business cards for him. Read his complaint and my comment to him for details.
    I had 2 positive reviews on the front page for months before the negative comment came around. Then came the call from Yelp. After I turned down Yelp for advertising, my positive reviews just disappeared, just 2 days later! How were the first two reviews suddenly “filtered” by their system? And ALL positive reviews since then have just disappeared.
    Regardless, I am not worried about damage or backlash from Yelp. We have a strong local following. We talk with business owners everyday and we STRONGLY recommend our clients NOT advertise with Yelp.
    I have never been so angry at an internet company! I will be a part of every conversation from here on out. I will do whatever I can to educate new business owners about Yelp’s practices. I guarantee no business that comes through my office will advertise with Yelp. I have gone as far as to create a very simple website to help those wronged by Yelp vent their frustrations

    NOTE: I am posting this on October 10, 2011 – I would not be surprised if suddenly random negative reviews show up on my business page after giving my business name in this post. Thus the reason Raymond gave for other businesses NOT posting their company name. We’ll see what happens.

  144. Raymond Fong says:

    Danny, thanks for chiming.

    Let’s not forget that it was “Susan” who came in trying to discredit me with such phrases as, “guy who wrote this article is completely bias because Yelp is a competitor for him” (ironic she accused me of being bias when well… wow, she’s the one working for Yelp ::lol::), “By posting this article he is only trying to bash a competitor and get more clients for himself”, “this guy is only attempting to knock down his competition”, and (my favorite) “he is trying to recruit all you business owners out there who are feeding into his BS”. All the name-calling came from our beloved Yelp rep, Susan. I am not going to just sit here and allow her to bash my post and discredit me without demonstrating some sort of sensible reasoning.

    There have been others who came in here saying Yelp has done them good – I approved their comments and congratulated them (so to say I maliciously attack folks because their opinions differ is unwarranted).

    Again, no… Steve Jobs was referring to APPS and used Yelp as an example. Based off of that YouTube video alone, he makes no mention of endorsing Yelp as Susan likes us to believe. His statement, “When people want to find a place to go to dinner, they’re not searching; they’re going to Yelp.” is merely saying folks are using Yelp… It’s not an promotion of Yelp, it’s a statement. Just like, “When folks want to search for information, they are going to Google it.” is a statement and NOT a promotion of Google.

    Google has brought countless of my clients and myself results and it offers a great advertising program to model after (from a purely marketing and scientific approach as my post shows). Is it the ONLY thing I advocate? No, I use plenty of other traffic and lead generation method.

    Informed business owners who can absorb the stats I demonstrated, which is ~$72 a client Yelp brought my client in my example, will see that as long as their value per customer is GREATER than $72, then Yelp just MIGHT work for them (most likely, that was the case of the mechanic where a visit as it averages out is probably well worth more than $72). That gives them a baseline and a starting point… this is more than what I can say of the Yelp sales team who had NO CLUE as to this sort of test data I was asking for (c’mon… are you seriously going to tell me Yelp doesn’t have this sort of data?)

    I of course have to rely on the analytic skills of the reader to decipher if ultimately Yelp can work for them.

    Having said that, I still stand by the fact that their marketing practice AND their sales tactic are questionable at best.

    Not sure how you can go about saying “Yelp is attempting to help the little guys” but Google isn’t when you have such thing as Google Places and Google Maps… Not to mention the added exposure local businesses get after registering for Google. Based on your logic that “Yelp is growing so they must be doing something right” well then… Google MUST be doing something right then (considering how much THEY are growing) – even more so than Yelp. With that said, not sure how my advocating AdWords as a good marketing model should be of concern to you or any others who read this post…

    Finally, yes, totally agree with your last sentence. Use your best judgement.

    P.S. What business do you own Danny? I reckon some are afraid of posting their company names for fear of backlash from Yelp.

  145. Tara S says:

    Danny Huggs = Jeremy Stoppelman (CEO of yelp)

  146. Danny Huggs says:

    One thing I find interesting about this forum is that not one person has posted the name of their business, making their credibility seriously lacking.

    Susan, or whatever her name is, comes in and finally makes this blog interesting by giving a different perspective and she is immediately attacked by the author Raymond Fong. In her defense we have to give her some credit. She might not have presented her argument in a strategic mannerism but she did provide a relevant link to a satsified business owner as well as a link to a well respected technology leader who clearly does state that Yelp offers a good advertising opportunity, even if it is on their mobile app.

    I think this blog would get a lot more credibility if people admitted what business they owned and listened to differing opinions. That way, we might all actually learn something.

    A word of advice to Raymond Fong, you shouldn’t mailicously attack people just because they have a difference of opinion. That is exactly what makes a blog interesting. Nobody wants to read an entire thread of anoyomous posters all complaining about the same thing but not giving any specific information as to what their business is or why they think there advertising efforts failed on Yelp.

    I’ve heard good and bad things about Yelp advertising but with the way their company is growing they must be doing something right. The one thing that does bother me is how much of an advocate Raymond is for Google adwords. Google is the Walmart of the internet world and if they continue to try and crush every start up our economy is only going to experience more job loss and destruction.

    At least Yelp is attempting to help out the little guys, i.e local businesses, by giving them more exposure online. Being a review site is going to bring a lot of criticism but if a business provides good service the positive reviews will come naturally.

    To the business owners who are reading this when trying to make a decision in regards to joining the Yelp advertising program, my advice would be to interpret your decision as an individual. Don’t base your decision on the advice of anoymous posters but more so on the content of your current listing and traffic.

  147. Raymond Fong says:


    Susan was too afraid to post this I guess which is why she decided to email me, I’ll post it for her sake. After all, unlike Yelp, I let the “good” and the “bad” come to surface.

    Of course you want me to go away , I make you look bad. Raymond, I didn’t misinterpret anything in relation to Steve Jobs link because I have seen the emails he wrote Yelp so you’re an idiot and you don’t know what you’re talking about

    I never tried teaching anyone about how to run there business , all I did was defend a program I believe in.

    You don’t know anything about me so please stop acting like you do.

    On and wasn’t the links I included actual evidence ? What evidence have you presented other then you claiming that your basing everything .off one client who you disclose nothing about ?

    You’re a walking contradiction

    Sent from my HTC on the Now Network from Sprint!

    You gotta stop “Susan” seriously. My “evidence” within the context of my article came in the form of scientific study based off of the marketing protocol Yelp follows – it’s horrific, end of story.

    If you mean “evidence” that Yelp paid program isn’t what it profuses to be, then the countless number of business owners (including those that spoke out on this blog) who have been wronged by Yelp would be what you are looking for.

    Again, Yelp must be so proud to have you on their staff – I bet you fit right in with the other Yelp reps :)

    P.S. Okay, seriously, you promised to leave me alone already, please do so now, thanks!

  148. Raymond Fong says:

    Thanks for chiming in Phil. And you are absolutely correct. The separation between mere consumer and business owner (within the context of Yelp’s program and model and also outside of it) is huge. Consumers will all naively say, “Yelp is great” because they have no idea what goes on behind the scenes to some unfortunate business owners and how Yelp is essentially extorting them.

  149. Phil says:

    First off Raymond, whatever you do don’t keep any of this information private, share it, post it, tweet it, do whatever you feel will help bring awareness to those that are naive, ignorant and just plain unaware of what is happening at Yelp.

    Susan, you need to open your eyes and read the thousands of posts from business owners around the U.S. alone that are extremely unhappy with Yelp’s business practices. You work on a daily basis with consumers. Anyone can be a consumer but only a few can be business owners. Business owners tend to risk much more in their lives to get their business on the right track. Whereas, any consumer with a hair up their ass can become a vital tool for Yelp. Yelp uses these negative reviews to their advantage to extort businesses out of their hard earned dollars for the opportunity to highlight their good reviews.
    Susan I dare you to try your hand a becoming a business owner some day. Take everything you have, your life savings, your time with your family and friends and throw away your yearly vacations to actually have a business of your own. Then, post your business on Yelp. What will your answer be when Yelp calls you to advertise? Think about it!

  150. Raymond Fong says:



    You hid behind your “alias” (and failed…) You were incapable of understanding my post (that other business owners understood). You took things out of context. You misinterpreted Steve Job’s YouTube video that you shared with us (seriously… you have a BA in Journalism, how do you misinterpret that?) You made sweeping claims without backing any of them up with actual evidence. The fact that you brought up AdWords as an example goes to show once again you failed to read and understand my post and the position I am taking concerning the paid portion of Yelp’s business model (yet, you continue to spout off like you do). You have ZERO business experience yet insisted on “teaching” other business owners how to do business.

    Yelp should be ashamed at how you are representing Yelp – acting purely out of emotion and with complete lack of reason and logic. You failed to bring “a fresh perspective” whatsoever.

    Now, please go away you silly Yelp rep you.

    And have a wonderful day :)


  151. Susan says:

    I never denied that I work at Yelp, if anything I think this brings a fresh perspective to the conversation.

    I wrote a quick response from my phone earlier so the predicted text must have messed up. Are you really going to call me uneducated because of a few spelling errors.

    The reason I believe so much in the program is because I have so many clients who do so well. I see the positive highlights and responses everyday. I’m not going to sit here and say that every person who signs up does amazing, and my friends who work for adwords tell me the same thing.

    I’m sorry that some people didn’t have as positive of an experience but overall 90 percent of my clients see an increase in business from Yelp. I get referrals almost every week.

    Good riddance Raymond Fong.

    Also, as a warning to everyone who is writing on this forum Raymond Fong does not keep your information private.

  152. Ed Pollock says:

    Susan: Of course Raymond is well qualified to defend his own position, but I must add my feeling and those of hundreds of businesses, doctors, vets, dentists and lawyers from all around this country.
    Yelp is evil, it is a form of extortion from businesses and professionals all over the country.
    This week we will be closing the doors of a company that for over 30 years has provided a service and assisted over 10,000 people in finding better new jobs and careers. Our Yelp site, contains numerous negative comments from people who were never clients of our company, many never even came to our office, but not one negative statement from any of our clients. Over 100 positive statements were and continue to be removed by Yelp, after we decided that paying them $12,000/year ($1,000./month) was not a good form of advertising . Most of the negative reviews popped up after we rejected their offer to advertise. Do you realize that (1) Yelp pays people to write reviews, (2) their sales people are paid a commission on their sale of advertising,
    Positive reviews are very difficult to find, burried on the bottom of the site, most people never read all the reviews, therefore never see those that they have dropped..
    Advertising on Yelp gives them the money to continue the extortion of thousands of business and proffessionals around the country. Would you donate money to the Mafia if they promised to help you grow your business??? Think about it !!
    Visit and see the complete problem with yelp. Thanks to Raymond’s site business all around the country rejected advertisin on Yelp. THANK YOU RAYMOND for getting out the truth.

  153. Raymond Fong says:


    Yep, “Susan” is indeed a Yelp rep (and her name isn’t Susan but for her sake, I won’t reveal it…)

    in case you are curious how I found out, I googled her email address (that she used to register for my blog), which took me to her Twitter account ( which has the SAME photo as her avatar on my blog ( and showed her full name, from there I googled her full name and found her LinkedIn profile ( and lo-and-behold, her title is indeed “Account Executive at”

    Ahh, don’t you love social media and the internet. LOL.

  154. P Fisk says:

    I love the grammar and spelling errors in your “educated” post Susan. Funny.

    Keep it going Raymond, great work!

  155. Raymond Fong says:

    Okay Susan, thanks again for your “contribution” as you like to call it.

    Have a wonderful day! :-)

    P.S. Steve’s comment refers to “apps” not Yelp… but that might be too convoluted for you to grasp.
    P.P.S. Your online resume shows that you graduated in 2010 with a BA in Journalism and have ZERO business experience… yet you are trying to advise actual business owners how to do business. How interesting.

  156. Susan says:

    Raymond- Your business model is to gather clients and help them get more exposure online, which does make you a competitor to Yelp. You don’t have to be in the business of having reviews to be a competitor. That makes no sense at all.

    I have read your article and you are one big walking contradiction. You say that Yelp as a free option is good for business owners because people use the site, obviously to find great local businesses. Yet, then you say don’t go through the advertising program in order to get more exposure on the site. So, in your opinion what should the businesses who don’t come up on the first and second page supposed to do in order to rank higher in Yelps search results? Are you going to tell them to come use your services? Ha.

    Also, are you seriously saying that Steve doesn’t refer to advertising on Yelp? Maybe you should watch that video again because at the end Steve clearly says “this is where the opportunity to deliver advertising is.”

    Raymond, I am no longer going to contribute to your stupid forum because everytime someone disagrees with you you just attack them. You call me uneducated? That is a pretty big assumption to state about someone you have never met and no nothing about, but then again you based this entire forum off of one example so this must just be the type of person you are.

    To all the business owners out there who are basing their business decisions off of comments from random postings on line, they are most likely not operating a very successful business. It’s one thing to try out a restaurant based on strangers comments and it is another when you’re allowing strangers, who you don’t even know if this is just Raymonds friends comments, to chose your advertising budget.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if half of these “business owner examples” were from Raymonds friends. After all, he clearly states in his profile that he is all about partying. Which is so professional and educated of him.

    OH and here is a video I found on youtube from two business owners who are seeing great results in the program

    Good riddance Raymond, next time you chose to start an entire forum bashing a competitors company I hope you start off with actual examples’s (plural) and relevant numbers.

  157. Glenn T says:


    FYI, I used to be a VERY HEAVY advertiser on yelp. My contract was equal to at least 7-8 merchants advertising.

    It was a big mistake.

    Yelp only works if you only have good reviews and LOTS of them. It has nothing to do with advertising.

    Also, yelp recently announced that they had surpassed 20milliom reviews. But what they’re not disclosing is that they’re combining the number of unfiltered reviews with filtered ones. Those are the same filtered reviews that they feel are not legitimate enough to show on a business page. But I suppose they feel it’s legitimate enough to hype up their own numbers.

  158. Raymond Fong says:

    good pun there Liz, lol, thanks for chiming in :) glad I could help

  159. Liz says:

    I couldn’t help but laugh after reading Susan’s post. It gives me the er, impression (pun intended) that just maybe, Susan could be a Yelp sales representative herself! I mean, she’s apparently not a business owner with firsthand experience with the Yelp ad program. And if she’s simply a Yelper, why give such glowing remarks about Yelp’s advertising program?

    As a consumer, I enjoy reading Yelp reviews from time to time, but I don’t care whether a business is a paid advertiser or not. I actually find it annoying to see those “Yelp Deals” that pop up on competitor/related business profiles.

    On the other hand, as a business owner, I’m certainly open to all avenues of advertising and taking advantage of social media marketing. As such, I’m thankful to have come upon this blog. A Yelp sales rep is supposed to call me next week, supposedly to upgrade us from the free profile to the paid one. Now that I’m better informed about the pitfalls of the paid program, I think I’m ready to rightfully object to the ad program … at least until they drop their price to $30/month instead of $300+!

    Raymond, thank you for your informative article.

  160. Raymond Fong says:

    Susan. ::lol::

    1. no… my business model is NOT about about allowing folks to post business reviews which makes your statement that “Yelp” is a competitor kind of silly
    2. my article breaks Yelp’s paid advertising down into how marketing works very scientifically (learn more about marketing before making these blasphemous and frankly, offensive, claims)
    3. read my article again… but put some thought behind it this time, Yelp for FREE is good. Yelp as a paid option nets little ROI for most. please put some intellectual effort behind your reading of my article
    4. please enlighten us on your friend’s “HUGE profit” from the paid Yelp advertising program. please enlighten not just me but also the many others on this thread who have first-hand negative experience with Yelp.
    5. go watch that youtube video again (and please, this time put some intellectual effort behind your viewing), Steve says NOTHING about Yelp’s paid advertising, he’s saying consumers use Yelp (much like how I use Yelp) – how you came to the conclusion that he “recommends advertising on Yelp” escapes me…

    Please be more educated and studied before coming in here and spouting off your obviously uneducated, ill-informed, and naive comments.


  161. Susan says:

    There isn’t one advertising program out there that can “guarantee” anyone results. The guy who wrote this article is completely bias because Yelp is a competitor for him!

    By posting this article he is only trying to bash a competitor and get more clients for himself.

    The one thing he admits is that he uses Yelp all the time…so how are you going to turn around and claim that it isn’t a good idea to get more exposure on the site?

    Look people, this guy is only attempting to knock down his competition. Why do you think he has been so active with responding to posts? Because he is trying to recruit all you business owners out there who are feeding into his BS!

    Yelps popularity is only continuing to grow and it is a great place to market your business. I have several friends who advertise on the site and they all make a HUGE profit off the program. Also, for $300/mo it isn’t just the impressions that you are getting, you also get a video, photoslide show, business owners account with tracking and personal account manager.

    If you want some good advice from a reliable, third party unbias source, check out this video from Steve Jobs who recommends advertising on Yelp!

  162. SarDo? says:

    I created a Yelp account and added my website to their directory. After receiving some positive reviews, I got a call from a Yelp sales person. He claimed that he could bring in more customers to me with the Yelp advertising. After thinking about and reading this page, I came to a conclusion not to do any advertising with them. A day later, all my business reviews (positive ones that I had received 1 month before being contacted by Yelp) magically disappeared. I don’t believe it is their “filter” that removed the reviews because all the reviews were 1 or 2 month and untouched. After experiencing this, I realized Yelp is not worth a penny with their strategy of gaining your money. Thank you for the post.

  163. David E says:

    Yelp just tried to sign my company up. We are a local based Accounting firm in NYC. I was uncertain based on the sales person “Why a 6 month contract is needed pitch” but your critique has reaffirmed by decision to NOT SIGN WITH YELP. Thank You.

  164. Chris V says:

    I put my biz on YELP…..after receiving a few positive reviews the YELP sales people started calling. The first few times I told them “No” and that I only do local Google AdWords…Then I noticed I was getting alot of Adword CLICK$ from AZ(yelp office) and I’m in Chicago…Hmmmm. After I fixed that problem and after turning down 10 sales calls from YELP all of my reviews disappeared off of my front page to “Filtered”. LOL

  165. Phil says:

    Our story is the same as 1000’s of others out there. We chose not to pay, we lost all of our good reviews. But of course the one negative continues to remain regardless. What a horrible company Yelp is. Check out for several resources to help you has a consumer or business owner take action.

  166. Glenn T says:

    Thank you Raymond, Im always trying to think out of the box.

    fyi – Yelp recently annoouncedf that they had recently surpassed “20million reviews”. But what they dont disclose is that they are combining both the number of filtered and unfiltered reviews together. Those are the same filtered reviews that are not clegimitate enough to be posted on a business’s yelp page – but for yelp’s numbers its ok to use them. They’re definitely hypocrites.

    It also seems to be that they’re trying to pump up their numbers for their future IPO early next year.

    Have a nice weekend !


  167. Raymond Fong says:


    Yeah, it’d be awfully hard to come up with a bias-free article encompassing ALL industries… If you can come up with that article, feel free to post it and share with us 😉

    Your example of the chemo therapy as an analogy to the fast-acting internet is fuzzy-logic. Have you done any form of internet advertising such as PPC? If so, then you’d understand the 24 hour back out clause, it’s very standard practice. As is TRACKING your clicks… That’s to say to Yelp, don’t come off as an PPC (or guess in this case, CPM) model which is what they are trying to do, if you can’t offer tracking on your clicks to justify the CPM model. Get it?

    Let me clarify… you haven’t used the program yourself but have “talked to a couple people”… Just wanted to see where your perspective comes from.

    Lastly, yes, folks who come to this article IS probably doing their on research, I’d encourage those same folks to continue doing their research.

    Thanks for your input Gabe.


  168. b bell says:

    If you hate Yelp, you will absolutely love this web site. Please pardon the French.

  169. Gabe says:

    I’ve talked to a couple people using the program and they said it has been working for them. Your arguments are lmisleading as readers will tend generalize your findings to all industries.

    As for tracking conversion rates, how hard is it to ask people where they heard about you? Ever done an experiment in your life?

    The 24 hour back out clause – Yeah it makes sense that you should be able to cancel if you’re not satisfied. But seriously, would you cancel a campaign after using it for just a day? “Yeah, he’s been on chemo for about 2 days now and he’s not feeling any better…just quit the therapy.”

    Rankings- (within the site) I haven’t used the program myelf but common sense tells me if you’re clients of the people who built the thing, potential customers are going to find you a lot easier. Example: one company I talked to went from about 10 page views a month to around 100 a month. Hmmm I wonder how that happened?? Plus, think about brand recognition, you think Disney expects a visit everytime you see one of their ads?

    I just want to end with the “control” you’re talking about. I got some conversion rate analysis for you. step 1: Ask yourself- is business picking up since we used the program? step 2: When I ask new customers where they heard about us do they mention Yelp?

    I think if your considering something like this do your own research, find someone in your industry who used the program and see what they say. If Yelp won’t give you some people to vouch for them because of privacy or whatever, just find them yourself. Look for the listings with videos or the ones that look like they’re using the program.

  170. Glenn t says:


    We have recently implemented a system to outsmart yelp from hiding our filtered reviews:

    Step 1- first of all, if you’re advertising with yelp, stop doing so and shift that money to optimize your own web site instead

    Step 2- have a graphic designer make a yelp badge that is placed on your web site. It should say “we have …… filtered and unfiltered reviews on yelp”. 

    Step 3- when a visitor clicks on the badge, it will go to another page ON YOUR OWN WEB SITE (instead of going to yelp’s. (why help them get traffic and rank higher anyways)? 

    Step 4- on this page have your graphic designer get a screen capture (picture) of all your filtered and unfiltered reviews and have them pasted together onto one page.

    Now, all your reviews (filtered or not) will be visible to all your web site visitors. 

    5- put a note on the top that says, “for your convenience we have placed all our filtered and unfiltered reviews on one page to see. If you’d like to go to our live yelp page, click here …………”

    Make the whole page clickable to your live yelp page  so no-one will say you’re trying hide something or to be dishonest 

    Advantages of doing this: 

    1- your visitors will stay on your web site instead of being directed to yelp’s

    2- your visitor can’t click on your competitors 

    3- no more being a slave to yelp’s algorithm

    4- yelp would not benefit from getting traffic from you and higher rankings on google 

    5- this whole process cost us less than $150 to implement 

    Just be sure to shift that $300 per month on yelp advertising and put it into KEYWORDS that people will search for. 

    Please pass this along to everyone you know

  171. patrick says:

    Dear Raymond
    I have to say that your feature is well researched GOLD. and i have forward it my my clients along with Hub spot and fellow brits conversion rate experts u shall be following your erudite posts with great anticipation. Re the real eate Industry comments have a loog at my blog which gets many thousands of visits i think that as a Asian American u will find it interesting… regards

  172. b bell says:

    These guys must be stopped. I didn’t sign up for Yelp and first heard of it when a customer of mine commented on our 1 star rating. We had two one star ratings. One was of from a guy that called in and got voicemail. He suggested that my company should be avoided and everyone should use Ebay. This guy didn’t spend one nickel with us, and thus wasn’t a customer, but he can trash us on “customer review site”? The other one star came from a guy that brought in a computer with dead hard drive. We used our best magic on his hard drive for two weeks but couldn’t recover any data. He admits in his review that he didn’t have a back up of his data. He goes on to trash us for not protecting his data and taking two weeks to work on his computer. We didn’t charge the poor schmuck because we felt sorry for him that he lost all his pictures and pirated mp3’s.

    The dirty secret to Yelp are the “filtered reviews”. We had two 5 star ratings but they were filtered and not visible! I would not have cared about the one star reviews if the five star reviews were visible because anyone that read them would see how ridiculous the one star reviewers were.

    BTW – The voice mail reviewer. His picture next to his Yelp profile is of a child flipping the middle finger!

    Finally, there is no way to take your company out of the Yelp universe and there is no review process to weed out malicious, inaccurate or unreasonable reviews.

    I can’t imagine paying these idiots one dime for advertising.

  173. Raymond Fong says:

    Hi Edwin, that’s a VERY good point you made… I tend to use my iPhone Yelp app a lot myself.

    As for what I’d recommend, well, I am big fan of SEO and as you can see in the link at the bottom of the post, we do offer internet marketing consulting services where we don’t just get you more clicks (clicks without conversion is meaningless) but also how to convert those clicks to actual patrons. If you are serious about increasing your online visibility, feel free to look us up at :)


  174. Edwin says:

    Hi Raymond,

    Thanks for your insightful article. I have recently been contacted by Yelp, and they have lowered the bar a bit. Originally, you had to sign up for 6 months and they will make a “free” video. To get their paid ad, you can now sign up for 3 months for $575 per month, and get no video. Its less of a committment but still rather high. I also asked about mobile results, and the ads you pay for don’t even show up on mobile devices. Any idea what percentage of Yelp users are looking for somethign on the spot from their mobile phone?

    Anyway, I agree that its not a great deal, so I think I will pass.

    What do you recommend small business users to do with their marketing budget to increase the number of click throughs to their site?


  175. Raymond Fong says:

    in your case it *might* because your value per client is that high, but it is still a gamble, do some quick calculations to see how many clicks you’d need to at least break even

  176. Ed says:

    I agree with mr. Fong. this article is great in terms of marketing analysis and what one must expect from marketing campaign.
    for anyone who has any clue in direct response marketing. the most important thing happens to be the ability to track your results. that is KNOW how many dollars you get back when spending every dollar you invest.
    I talked to two people on yelp about this and neither one has gave me any information about tracking. I asked specifically to give me an average number in the particular industry of what a CLICKTHROUGH rate is on the monthly ad they are offering. and when pressed into corner they still don’t give it to me. or if they did it was very vague and off top of their heads.
    however that number is the most important number in the whole campaign as mr. fong has explained. if I am gettting 1000 impressions a month on an ad. I want to know what the average clickthrough rate is. that is how many people out of a 1000 actually click on the ad.
    because if its only 1. its not worth spending $300 a month for it in most of the businesses.
    if its a 999 out of a 1000. it probably is.
    So my guess is. the reason yelp doesn’t want to tell you that number is – because its very LOW. and if they did. you could do the math and realize its not worth paying $300 per month if only 10 people click on your ad.
    because if 10 people click on ad, that doesnt mean all 10 are going to call you. and even if they call you doesn’t mean they are going to bring you money.
    so definitely number one step in yelp advertising program is to know the clickthrough rate, then we can talk about conversion.
    In general I can say, they have really good sales people there who talk fast and they know a lot of catchphrases and techniques (that sound pretty convincing if you don’t know much about marketing) that almost make you want to buy what they sell.
    but in reality these people are not selling genuine service and they don’t care about your results at all. they just care to sell u questionable advertising. no one knows (but yelp) if it works.
    and when I asked to give me some testimonials of happy clients whom they mention so often during conversation, they can never give me any numbers.
    ask me to give you some clients from my business who are happy with my service and I will give you a bunch. hey you don’t even have to ask. they are on yelp where anyone can see them.
    bottom line. is it worth for you to spend extra $300 a month. if you already get business from yelp as is for free (I do). I guess you won’t know until you try. because they don’t want to give or show you anything in advance.

  177. Ed Pollock says:

    You hit it right on the nail ….visit our website and join the class action law suit, infor on first page of site.

  178. david vega says:

    I have a moving company in los angeles and been YELP sponsor for about 2 months in a 6 months contract not doing good paying $325 to get one call a month .before I signed was doing good until they start deleting my good reviews and leaving only the bad ones and calling me to sign with them ,because I got good jobs before with them I signed but tell them to put back my good reviews they never did it thay said they used the algorithm and thay dont have control over that, bull shitt Im very upset with the way they do business and is really affecting my business and thousand others like me ,need to know if somebody know how to cancel my contract with this maffiosos and how much I have to paid thanks

  179. mike t says:

    hey guys

    so this yelp ad person contacted me after i asked about their advertising (impressions). part of me wants to try it out. initially, they try to sell me the annual then when i said i was so sure i want to commit to that long, then she said they had 3 and 6 month deals too.

    well, what do you guys think? my business is that i do kids/family entertainment like birthday parties, weddings, magic shows and balloon twisting. do you think it’s worth trying. Typical show is like $250-500 depending on the add on’s (balloons, goodie bags…).

    do you think yelp advertising (impressions) is worth it?

  180. Yelp is horrible, simply just underhanded extortionists.

    My post is a commentary on a business structure that exists with-in a public domain supported by taxpayer money. As a society we have rules and laws that govern public domain to make sure it remains free and equal for all without corruption. The internet is the modern day version of the industrial revolution and we are still in it. Rules, laws and customs grew out of the industrial revolution that our society embraces as normal today. The same is going to happen as we progress through the information revolution.

    Hazardous waste was transported across roadways without regard to public good until we regulated that activity. The internet is our modern day version of the roadways of the industrial revolution. It is the infrastructure that is being used to distribute modern technology as well as methods of communication and production. As distasteful as it is to me as a capitalist I do believe we need to regulate the internet for the common good; keep it a fair and level playing field without corruption. A Business structure such as Yelp should not be allowed on the internet. Of course a customer should be free to speak about their personal experience anywhere and anyhow they choose. That would be a facebook model or chowhound or cruise critic or Google reviews etc. Any business, even the legendary Nordstrom, or Stew Leonard’s would have a customer that they could not satisfy once in a while. No human and no business; which is nothing more than a bunch of humans working together; is perfect. I want to know when a customer is not happy. Give me a chance to make it right.

    But this is a business structure that is exploiting a negative review that I have no reasonable way to respond to. I have no right to verify it. I have no opportunity to make it right. They are deriving income from it by selling it to my competitors and they are perfectly willing to make it a level playing field if I pay them. Upon payment the positive reviews from my customers, irrespective of the fact that they are yelp users, would be left up on the site in a visable manner. If I don’t pay them than me and most of my customers are blocked. I have a demographic that does not use social networking, certainly not Yelp, so they will never have an opportunity to present all the views.

    I can understand Yelps justification built into their software that only regular yelp users can post reviews. You have to invest some time and prove yourself and that is how they weed out posts with suspect credibility. But we should be able to see that freely as consumers. Let us read the posts and discern for ourselves if we’re reading the post from the business owner disguised as a customer. That is not sufficient justification to be able to derive profits from slander without regulation.

    The same way we wouldn’t allow businesses to transport hazardous waste on our roadways unregulated we should not allow businesses on the internet to sell services in a corrupt or monopolistic manner. Yelp utilizes the internet, a public domain, to exploit small businesses by demanding payment in order to avoid being hurt. This is wrong, this should be stopped, and that is why class action suits have been filed, have made a certain amount of progress, and will eventually prevail. However a lot of innocent, hardworking small business people are being hurt along the way.

  181. Pete says:

    I wish I had looked for ‘Yelp ad reviews’ before I signed up. I run a very small business in the construction industry. I only need one good phone call to make my month. Even that has been hard to come by lately so I listened to the salesperson.
    I refused the 6 month contract and negotiated for 3 months. I have a 5 star Yelp rating with very few reviews, my business has been word-of-mouth for 20 years. I have followed all the suggestions of the Yelp helper regarding my pictures and sales pitches.
    As of the now, nearing the end of the 2 month my results are as follows. I am able to follow traffic to my page and it has gone up, I think I had 20 visitors last month compared to 7 before signing up. There has been no calls. Not one. Well, maybe one junk call from somebody who was looking for somebody to tell him what he wanted to hear (for free)so he could get the contractor he had already hired to do it. Not sure, I didn’t ask where he got my name. Meanwhile, I did get 2 fresh calls from Google, probably the result of some SEO I did on my own.
    So far, it has been the single worst marketing decision I have made in the 22 years I have been in business. I wish I had just used the $1k and went to Vegas, it would have been more productive.

  182. Raymond Fong says:

    Thanks for chiming in Matt! Glad Yelp is working out for ya. And no, I don’t “sell Google advertising solutions”… I don’t work for Google and don’t make a single penny for referring folks to them. I am merely stating an alternative to Yelp that I’ve found, as an internet marketer, to be more effective for my clients than Yelp.

    Nothing is black and white… of course do your diligence.

    And yes, thanks for reminding people about that last sentence at the end of the article! Appreciate your promotion :)

    Oh… and don’t believe everything you read on “Better Business” either :)


  183. Matt S says:

    Do not believe everything you read on the internet. Go look at Yelp’s A+ better business score. I just started advertising and I paid for 6 months of advertising in a week of advertising on yelp. Also, you should note that the person who wrote this article is clearly trying sell Google advertising solutions.

    Remember at the end of the article when he says “If you are looking for real trackable result, I’d like to recommend you take a look at our internet marketing consulting company which specializes in helping local businesses gain more exposure, get more leads, obtain more customers, and ultimately add to their bottom line leveraging the internet.”

  184. Raymond Fong says:

    Right. If Yelp had better tracking, then my “experiment” wouldn’t have been necessary. However, that was the best we can do. I’ve provided the readers all the pertinent details necessary, and bear in mind that this is a blog and I am not charging my readers a penny while Yelp is charging an arm and a leg for a “professional service”. You are comparing apples to oranges…

    (And let’s say we double the numbers… that’s still some crappy ROI.)

    Once again, like I’ve made perfectly clear in my post, Yelp for free is great, Yelp PAID advertising is shitty as reflected by my post and many others’ opinions on this thread.


  185. John Sim says:

    Your experiment using the in-store coupon to gather analytics on your page’s performance is flawed – it’s assuming that anyone affected by your campaign would want to print your coupon.

    What was the coupon for? Without those details it’s hard to tell whether or not the issue stemmed from the platform or the campaign itself. You’re complaining that Yelp did not provide you with enough details and you in fact are not providing your readers with enough details either.

    You are also taking for granted that you gained new customers from this campaign. While you are saying that you can only “tell” of 9 new customers, that number is almost definitely higher as I’m sure you’re not asking every customer who walks in the door if they found you on Yelp. You also need to account for the influence these new customers will have on their friends and the reviews they might write for your business. You really need to take into consideration the butterfly effect these new customers will most definitely have. When was the last time your recommended a business to a friend? How many friends?

  186. Raymond Fong says:

    That’s great Sean! Was this from just enrolling in their free program or did you sign up for their paid advertising?


  187. Sean says:

    Mr. Fong

    I bought into yelp ads because my restaurant was not coming up on the first page when people searched cafe in my area. After joining yelp ads my listing is now on the first page, resulting in an increase of 200 views a month of my yelp page. Which I can track using my business owners account. My business has never been better. Everyone that comes in comments on our video too. Which also comes free with the ad package.

    So I just wanted post my success story with yelp. It does work.

  188. Rita says:

    My experience with Yelp goes back years. I’ve gotten great clients from Yelp, but when I “bought” their first program two years ago, and realized that it was costing me about $200 per click, I wanted out… and then all hell broke loose. My positive “Yelps” — maybe 35 just vanish, and one yelp, written by a malicious, jealous woman who used to work with me, still stands. Even though it’s the ONLY TIME she ever wrote anything. So much for their “policy” of just having “Yelpers.” That’s bullshit. Because they have a minor monopoly… and they can hurt your business, I advise to tread lightly. Just play nice with them. I don’t know if because they saw my name on this website, the didn’t single my Yelp site out. I now only show 4 positive 5 star reviews, and that one written by an unethical competitor. Be aware. Play it safe, and don’t use your real name on this site, I’m sure they watch it.

  189. Alejandra says:

    Thank you for this fantastic post! I was contacted by the Yelp people about their ad program and listened to their pitch which also sounded suspicious to me based on the impressions and the ridiculous minimum commitment. I asked the woman if she could direct me to some references in my area or industry who have used the ad program so that I could find out their experience and she laughed at that saying “I can’t let you talk to other clients.” She then offered to send me some article links and videos (all at least 2-4 years old) about the program. I told her that I would really prefer to talk to actual people to get their personal review and experience–you know since that’s essentially what Yelp is all about! I want to hear from people who have actually signed up what they got from it; not from the company selling me the program or from articles featuring quotes from the company. I got off the phone with her and got online to find your article, which confirms my suspicions that this is not a good advertising program. I’ll definitely not be signing up with them. I’m going to be focusing my efforts on PR and publicity, which I’ve found infinitely more effective than any kind of advertising. Thank you for your honest review!

  190. Andrea says:

    I was contacted by a Yelp representative regarding Yelp ads. I was willing to at least hear what he had to say, and I set up a meeting. He never called as he said he would, nor did he answer my call.

    A solid day passed before he contacted me via email and apologized for this and asked to reschedule. I gave him a second chance and set up a call again. He didn’t call AGAIN. Just like round one, he followed up over 24 hours later and tried to reschedule again.

    Did I give him a third chance? Absolutely not. I was incredibly skeptical to begin with, and now after reading this article, I am pleased to see my skepticism wasn’t without merit. Thanks for posting.

  191. Raymond Fong says:

    Sam, for free is awesome.’s advertising program blows big because the ROI from it for most local business owners is well… non-existent.

    This isn’t bashing “yelp”, it’s bashing their business advertising program. This post was also base on numbers, and like you said, “numbers don’t lie”.

    This was the point of this post. Your point about it being the largest directory etc. all have no relevancy to the point of this post. Yes, it’s a great directory. Yes, lots of folks like to “yelp” it. But just because we as consumers love it doesn’t mean that as business owners, it naturally lends itself as a wise investment for paid advertising as my post demonstrates.

    Please make that distinction – Yelp as a free platform for business owners, Yelp as a PAID platform for business owners, and Yelp for consumers. I like 1 and 3 but do not advise 2 for most.

    Thanks for your input.


  192. Sam says:

    Its great that you have your partners back on this Ferny. I find it humorous in fact. The bottom line is that local is one of the hardest nuts to crack thus far. Hence why Google and all these other companies have tried to find a way to put their foot in the door to get a piece of it. While most have failed Yelp does seem to be the one place people turn to these days. While other businesses seem to be going belly up, Yelp seems to be expanding, what 50 million visitors and 23 million reviews to date. Does that make them the largest local directory? I think so.

    Like yourself I use Yelp all the time to find the scoop on nearby restaurants and to find an electrician. To answer the question, do ads work, well only you can be judge of that yourself. I can say this about Yelp, the results are relevant to what I am looking for. Their engineering team is spot on when tagging relevant keywords to the industry of a particular business. As my memory serves me correctly, didn’t Google try to buy them out? For a guy who loves Ad Words so much and says that people don’t click on ads well why is Google the super-power that it is today??? Ads right? Hmmmm. Lastly I will say this, businesses, like myself advertise on Google because they want to be on the largest website in the world that has the most people flocking to monthly(well who knows anymore with Facebook in the picture now, but that’s another can of worms). Business owners try to accomplish the same when they consider targeting local customers in their backyard on Yelp. The only difference is that when people search on Google half the time they are being redirected around to another website. You will love this one Ray…eg. Coin the phrase “Google it” I rarely if at all go there to transact. The interesting thing and most important thing I believe is that you can only do one thing on Yelp, find a business, a local business in fact. Can’t find info, how to do’s, or directions to, etc. Just businesses. Pretty simply and direct right?

    So if I am a business owner I think I would rather be in front of people looking to make a transaction today, just like yourself when you say for yourself “ is awesome, I use it all the time to get the low down on new restaurants, find a plumber, etc.”

    Why my opinion and why so much? Well since everyone in this blog seems to be bashing Yelp, I figure I’d give another perspective and share my observation and experience with my fellow bloggers. Being that I use Yelp personally, have my IT company listed Yelp, get tons of business from it all the time, I love it! Does that make me biased? Maybe perhaps, but numbers don’t lie. I guess people can do their own research when deciding to advertise or not on Yelp or anywhere else for that matter, but when your client (a restaurant owner) doesn’t do well on a website that has 25% of its content in restaurants. I find it hard to believe. Nonetheless. People will form their own opinions and make their own decisions.

    Til then. Signing off….

  193. Eric says:

    Hi Raymond,

    Thank you for the info, this was a great article. I am researching different advertising programs for websites because we are looking to add advertising to our website and I wanted to see how Yelp worked… so thank you!

    What do you think is the best way to cater to businesses when offering advertising on a website? Should we do it the Google way, and now the Facebook way, where they bid on clicks? I want our website to be legit and do right by business owners, but also give them the opportunity to promote themselves to our visitors. Any quick guidance you can provide would be great.

    Thanks again for the great article.

  194. Cross says:

    Detailing specific negative behaviors by Yelp is fair play. It reminds me of another shakedown organization known as the BBB. Problem is, these companies–make no mistake, that’s what they are–are simply OVERWHELMED by the desire to drain more and more money from anyone they can, even if it means doing shady shit that directly conflicts with their supposed mission.

  195. Our spa has not gotten our moneys worth. For $300 a month we could of mailed post cards on a monthly basis to our local residents. In six months we could of canvased our entire area of Manhattan.

  196. obama says:

    yelp is the most terrible web sit out there….
    however they are getting punished for what they have cause to millions of people…it is one of those horrible racial web page

  197. Ferny says:


    It’s because he’s not ignorantly bashing. If you actually read the article, he’s offering a critique based on his expertise as a marketer.

    There’s no need to read between the lines at all.

    Raymond does consulting, gets paid to get results, is openly offering business owners help and warning against trusting Yelp.


  198. Raymond Fong says:

    Hi Todd, thanks for your comment :) Have a wonderful day!


  199. Todd says:

    No one else noticed that this guy bashes a local advertising platform and then has two links to a local advertising consultant group under his signature…?

    Where is the expertise behind this knowledge when a single location restaurant owner won’t even trust your recommendation to not sign up?

    Read between the lines people.

  200. mark says:

    Thanks for posting this. I was thinking about signing up. I had my doubts and after reading this I gained a little more knowledge and will not pay 300-500 a month.

  201. J. Cross says:

    Yelp is terrible. Just terrible. They represent everything WRONG with the internet. They are slowly being replaced with similar (but less deceptive) websites.

    Adios, Yelp. We won’t miss you.

  202. Sarah says:

    As a former member of yelp I can write that I agree it is an unscrupulous, not well managed site.
    There are many fake reviews. And I would say the age of the average yelp member is under 30.
    I never search for business’, places to dine, plumbers, etc, all come through word of mouth. The one time I used yelp this year was when I was looking for an address of a restaurant and yelp came up first on google.
    I didn’t even read the reviews, why, because the place was highly recommended by my friend.
    Its difficult enough to have ones own business, I say the more businesses that skip over yelp, the faster yelp will disappear.
    And that would be goo.

  203. Ed Pollock says:

    To: Robert E ..I would suggest you read , you are not alone ..all of us have joined the class action law suit.

  204. Raymond Fong says:

    Thanks Catherine, please feel free to link to it :)

  205. Robert E says:

    I foolishly signed on to the $300/mo advertising package with Yelp. A week after signing on, I received my first 5 star review from a client of my business, I was happy only to see it vanish because of Yelp’s “filter engine”. A week later, I recevied a negative review from a person with a fake name with whom I made contact to try to remediate and satisfy with no response. The information contained in the review was malicious in nature and seemed to be coming form competition. It was form a user who had just signed on to Yelp with no past history, something that was supposedly considered unreliable by the Yelp “Standard.” My next review was againa five star review form an established client (they actually contacted me to let me know about the review because they saw the negative one online). Sure enough, it was filtered out by the “engine” within a day.
    I am now paying for Yelp to show a 2 star rating and for people to turn away to a different merchant. Yelp is not willing to investigate and confirm the client is real.
    I don’t know what to do – I am committed to another year of Yelp’s useless services!! Help??

  206. Catherine says:

    Hello M Fong,
    This article is amazing, really I love it!
    Thanks for the insight and so well written, even a newbie can understand it!
    Perhaps next time you can encourage your client and he will do the opposite?!
    Makes me feel very qualified (normal I was taught by you guys!)
    Thanks & can I link this back to my website???!!

  207. Darin says:

    Yelp’s offer…
    450 impressions for $350 per month.

    Yes you get a professionally done video but let’s leave that bit out for the time being.

    Now let’s do the math…

    If you are lucky enough to garner a 3% click-through rate, which is unlikely, you will be paying a whopping $25.93 per click.

    Compare that that to Yelp’s cost per click program which is just $3.50 per click.

    Impressions improve branding, no doubt. But clicks result in sales which puts money into the bank accounts of small business owners like myself.

    There are two places your ad will appear if you chose to accept Yelp’s offer. First, it may appear at the top of the search results. Great! But not so fast, it will also appear in the middle of your competitors business page where it counts as an impression as well.

    Be careful folks and do your research!

  208. Brian says:

    SO glad I found this article! I was absolutely shocked at the advertising prices that Yelp charges compared to other industry sites for Pro services. Thanks for putting the word out!

  209. Anna Jensen says:

    As a business owner, I am currently paying for Yelp’s services. I cannot believe how they have removed all good comments and have left up comments that are negative. I have told everyone to write comments and they are taken down day after day. I am worried about stopping paying them but I guess things can’t really get any worse since everything is negative anyways?

    Has anyone had any experience in stopping payment to them? What is the worst thing that can happen? How do you beat these negative reviews that they promote?

  210. Ed Pollock says:

    YES…Yelp is a scam ..its the same as the old Mafia protection service. Thousands of businesses and professionals (Doctors, Dentists and Lawyers) have joined the class action law suit.They all have basiclly the same complaint. Go to and join us.

  211. Tracy S says:

    I wish I have found your article before I signed up for Yelp Ad program. After 2 months on the program, We are not getting much of conversion. Called the Rep many times in order to cancel the program, no return of emails and calls till today 16th which he claimed that we pass the due day to cancel the service this month….!!! Be aware this scammer.

  212. Gerry says:

    I had as many as 24 5 start reviews on Yelp. About 5 months ago the calls began. The sales team wanted to sell me a $300 per month service. I praised the Yelp results I had gotten and told them than being a mom and pop business, we were doing just fine. Guess what! each time I declined to buy, by ratings went down. As of this post, I am down to 5 reviews. That is from 24 and the filtered reviews have been removed too.
    I am wondering if anyone else has had this results. I am going to find out if I can file a complaint with the Federal Trade commission or other state attorney general department either here or in their home state of Calif.

    I think this is a form of leverage or black mail.

  213. Ferny Ceballos says:

    I just spoke to a friend who runs a business in the Valley. His positive reviews were pushed down and his negative reviews were pushed up.

    A Yelp rep then tried to get him to pay to have the positive ones elevated and the negative ones pushed down.

    It’s extortion and if I didn’t personally know this business owner, it would be very hard to believe but seems to be true. Others on this thread have a similar story.

    Yelp realized that the true value of what they had was in the free listings of businesses (not in their advertising), so it seems now they are intentionally manipulating the reviews in a negative way to extort business owners to pay and clean them up.

    I see a class action lawsuit coming their way.

  214. Kevin says:

    I am strongly against over paying for a service that advertises other businesses on my page that I am paying a lot of $$$ for. We need to help small business not steal their money. I am a young business owner and seeing how they conduct business is just wrong in some cases. Overpriced, doesn?t work, charging people to take off bad reviews?!? Deleting good reviews???. Add a slide show only $25 a month… that?s a little messed up in my eyes stop milking the cow! That?s why a friend and I started something you will all like :) based on business owners requests in my town and former yelp businesses. I took it in my own hands as a young entrepreneurial. I saw an issue solved it and expanded upon it. I?m not selling anyone anything (yet) I?m just saying the way they do business needs to change and they need a better ethic department if they even have one.

  215. Ed Pollock says:

    …on and on ..the extortion of businesses continues. All we can hope for now is our day in court, and that the class action law suits is won. Yelp is a there phoney advertising and you have good reviews on top, don’t and all your good reviews disappear. We have heard at YELPSCAM of businesses all over the company that have gone broke because of this crap. Our day in court should be coming up soon. Hang in there.

  216. Jeremy says:

    Great stuff. I refused to do business with Yelp and they decided that I didn’t need any of my positive reviews on our page, that company is shady.

  217. michael says:


    here is another sucker. We were convinced that the Yelp Advertising program will work for our business. We were told 6 months is a minimum duration, so we did. After 2 months, we have no new customers to our business from Yelp. More from Google Ad words. We emailed our account rep and left 3 voice mails for him and he has not returned any of our calls. We are canceling our credit card and see if we get any response from them. We have to pay a month penalty of $350. It was a waste of money. It is a good thing we did not go for the video.

  218. Raymond Fong says:

    that’s tough… it’s a contract and I reckon they have their lawyers covering their bases. you can TRY charging back, but that’s a toss up because of the contract you have in place. perhaps you can try asking for proof that they delivered on what they promised?

  219. TK says:

    Thank you so much. What you just shared confirmed that I should stick with what works. I own a personal training business in Los Angeles. I get new clients from facebook, craigslist, (yelp for free), and word of mouth (referrals). They first told me that a one year minimum was all there was available. I told them I didn’t want to be subjected to a contract and not knowing how it would turn out. I definitely didn’t like the cost per impression vs. the pay per click.
    Also in my business, (until I start to hire trainers under me and expand) I can only take on a number of clients at a time. So during those months when I can no longer take new clients, I would still be paying $300 per month to keep the service that I wouldn’t necessarily need. There were too many drawbacks for me to sign on, but having some sales background, these guys are good with trying to sell you what you may or may not need.
    The only thing I liked was they would make a 3-4 minute video for your page (costing $500 bucks of so? not sure), which you wouldn’t have rights over…well never mind, come to think of it, that sucks. I’d want to put the video up on my website but it would be yelps property…so never mind, nothing good about this service…

  220. Aisha says:

    Yelp is unethical.

    They never called me until I messaged a client via Yelp to resolve her negative review and give her a refund. Yelp read the private messages and suddenly a rep started calling me out of the blue.

    I didn’t return the calls because I was afraid of Yelp and their reputation for harassment. (In fact I am not putting my web URL on this comment because I think they would stoop to that level of tracking and harassment.)

    Voila! After three weeks of not returning the Yelp rep’s calls, ALL of my positive client reviews are gone overnight. They are hustlers.

  221. pat says:

    hello all,

    here come another sucker!

    i signed up for 1 year contract, $350/month for 450 impressions over the phone and email. now i want to cancel because i fell like throwing money out the window everymonth.

    what can i do to cancel without the penalty ? ( i think it’s $1000)

    can i cancel my credit card?

    please advise…………

  222. Liz says:

    I love this article! Someone from Yelp keeps calling and leaving me messages that it’s “an urgent matter pertaining to my Yelp account”. I’ve been ignoring them because I refuse to “advertise” on Yelp’s page. Thanks for this informative and candid article!

  223. Ms. Michelle says:


    I have been utilizing Yelp for several years now as every business owner should. I absolutely agree with your article about impressions and have the stats to back up your findings. Last year I paid $350/month for 2 months and got less clicks then the month prior in which I paid for their CPC campaign. When I asked the girl over the phone WHY? She had absolutely no answer!

    YELP PRO: Because I track my clients and pay attention to my google analytics very well, I now know that YELP is one if my highest referral websites. Last year they started offering the CPC option so I decided to try out the CPC campaign at $3.50/click per day to see if it was a fluke prior or if it actually works. Now remember…I only choose ONE click per day.Guess what? It DOES WORK! I received 50-55 clicks on their site this past FEB/MAR & last year in the same months I received zero clicks! In addition I have noticed that alot of my negative reviews have fallen way below where they used to be! Amazing!

    In short tell your clients this:
    Maximize your Yelp profile for FREE & include a “call to action” or discount for 1st time clients, pay for the clicks they can afford, & add the slideshow for $25/month! This actually works!

  224. Ryan says:

    Just got a call today from a Yelp sales rep. After his 45 minute pitch, I told him I needed to do my own research. Glad I found this blog! If I am going to invest $$$ into advertising, I need to make a profit from said advertising. Thanks for the heads up.

    And to “Scammed By Yelp”, do not use Citysearch, they were a complete rip off as well. They continued to bill me for 5 months (auto withdraw) after I repeatedly tried to cancel my account. I had to have my attorney mail them a letter to get them to stop billing me and refund my money. It got ugly.

  225. Ed Pollock says:

    Sorry Vincent, but we have all been saying that for a long time. Just hope you now don’t have a problem with some negative reviews popping up, and your good reviews start to slowly disappear. Those of us at have all had that happen.

  226. Vincent says:

    Just got out a yelp ads program, 325/mo 500impressions, with less than 1% click through rate and 1% conversion rate. To be honest with you, it is a rip off from yelp.

  227. Robbie Rogers says:

    I’m so glad I read your article Raymond! Everything you and everyone are saying is right. Me and my father have a carpet cleaning business in southern California and have 4 differnt locations being advertised. As mentioned in other articles I started using Yelp to advertise and got great feed back from it until they started calling me. Yelp wanted me to advertise and I declined very nicely. Well of coarse most of my people who took the time to rate me were filtered out like mentioned probably cause they were not frequent users and what not. Also the ads were knocked down and as a reult I went from being the second carpet cleaner to the fourth or below in most areas. Still with getting some more ratings it has not been moved higher. I think what they try to do is get you higher on the food chain and there for more people call you making you want to advertise with them and then bumping you down and going on to the next. Again your article is great and I still think Yelp is a great tool if your looking for a local business but I do agree with you on how they try to sell you a service that doesent work to your advantage..

  228. Ed Pollock says:

    The scam continues and businesses are being hurt, some having to close, because of Yelp. All the bad reviews from on our site are from people who were NEVER clients, some never evn came to our office. All popped up after refusing to pay $6000/year for adv.(Extortion). Our day in court is coming, join the class action law suit..see info on

  229. Yeah we had 5 legitimate star reviews and since we decided not to invest in the campaign they slowly started filter our reviews. Now we magically have 0, yes ZERO reviews on yelp because they got “FILTERED” Is CITYSEARCH worth investing in?

  230. Elbee says:

    I love the summation of what was a lesson learned the hard way for me – through CitySearch, who has (or at least had) a similar model, I burned through some quick cash with absolutely zero ROI! Review sites exist and people contribute honest opinions – you just have to better your business practices and take the good with the bad, if you are offering a good product, that will be reflected! I would encourage your satisfied customers to write reviews – put a link to your review page in an email newsletter or on your website, and up your review count.

  231. Ed says:

    It really could be a joke if they were not hurting and in some cases putting companies out of business with their’s a modern day Mafio protection racket. Join us at and join the class action law suit.

  232. When you know crooks are running the show, don’t give them legitimacy. Our business signed up and we were getting 4 and 5 stars across the board and then came Yelp with their hustle. Deleting honest post and trying to get us to sign up for services to return the good post. Suddenly we were getting a few post with 2 and 3 stars. We knew based on the post that the person probably never walked through our doors. Yelp posted the bad reviews to scare us into purchasing their services. This service is a joke and we don’t use it as a measure of performance at all.

  233. trent says:

    Great post Raymond. I just got off a similar call for a client and while some things have changed with their product (they now have a video produced for you, rating breakdown from what I can tell no longer shows) the fundamental problem still exists. You are paying per impression vs. client actions, and who knows what it comes out to per client acquisition. The guarantee impressions and searches and sell you that Yelp is more transactional than Google, Facebook etc. I think you’re right that you don’t need to pay to get the bene’s of Yelp, but I’d imagine as more merchants sign-up competition will heat up and you’ll feel like you need to pay to compete. Thanks for posting your (and your clients) experience.

  234. Raymond Fong says:

    Hi Betty, glad to help :) If you are interested in getting more exposure for your business, definitely let me know since I, along with my business partner, do internet marketing consulting specializing in search engine optimization.

    Looks like your website, has been around since 2006 which is great as it has a lot of history but I can see there’s of course room for improvement. Talk soon!


  235. Betty says:

    Raymond Fong, YOU ARE THE MAN…! I hope you read this comment because I rather do business with someone like you than to give my money to Yelp! And I don’t even know you!

    I have a page on Yelp for about three weeks now and a Yelp rep recently contacted me. He went through the whole sales pitch as you describe above. I don’t have a degree in marketing, but understand it value, need, and how it works.

    I’ve had this question on my mind for a very long time. Are these online reviews for real or are they paid for? Because I’m one of those people that have to hear a review straight from the horses mouth for it to really count for me. I come from the “old school” word of mouth!

    I want our business to receive sincere reviews with merit, not because I have to be dishes and pay for one with money or free product. The dishonesty of the whole thing is a a subject that really get my water HOT..! What are your thoughts on this? Merit is a must for me and my personal and professional integrity is a very valuable thing for me.

    Branding is very important and we invest a lot of time, energy and money on branding. As CEO and creative director product branding is a must for me since our business is visually stimulation business. I’m very and grateful My partner (President) found this post and forwarded to me. Can’t wait to give that rep the boot but good! Thanks Raymond Fong!

  236. Maria says:

    Wow! Thanks for this post. I just received a slick postcard from Yelp inviting me to get started with their annual Yelp Ad program for which they are offering a free 3-month upgrade. They didn’t list a webpage outlining their program, only a toll free number, which means you HAVE to talk to a salesperson. A red flag in my book.

    Thanks for your insight on Yelp’s ad program. I suspected it was overpriced for the ROI, and I’m glad you saved me money and a headache.

  237. Odd_path says:

    thank you Raymond for your analysis on Yelp Advertising, You can lump Yelp and CitySearch together into being a waste of advertiser money. Be warned… ODD PATH is better than yelp

  238. christine says:

    I wanted to thank you Raymond for your analysis on Yelp Advertising. I am a small business owner and i list my business on Yelp, ask my customers to write review in hope of attracting new customer.. No big deal, i did it on,, and merchantcircle. The only difference between Yelp and these other website is that Yelp is relentless, calling all the time and pushing you to pay to advertise with them.. Just when you think they get the message that you do not want to pay.. I Told Bob, Yelp excutive marketer that i cannot afford $300 a month on adversting and im not wiling to pay for it. Yet he keep on pushing. I so sick of them..

  239. JoeR says:

    Raymond, thanks for this excellent article. I have heard from a few bar and restaurant owners who found Yelp advertising to be a bad move and your post reiterates this very well.

    You can lump Yelp and CitySearch together into being a waste of advertiser money. Be warned – steer clear.

  240. Raymond Fong says:

    Howie… yes, there are MANY aspects of advertising. And like my previous comment stated, Yelp preys on most business owner’s lack of knowledge and experience. They MISREPRESENT what their advertising program is all about. They speak to the business owners tossing numbers as if they were clicks that had a direct correlation to how many customers they’d get through the door.

    This is misguiding and THIS is the part that pissed me off (and why I wrote this article).

    The product here isn’t the problem, the problem here is that Yelp salesman misled my client and misrepresented their services.

    Lots of other business owners felt the same way (go through the rest of the comments).

    And for the record, I told my client to give Yelp a big F-U… but alas, they already locked him for six months contract. Go figure right?

  241. HaroldG says:

    What about advertising on CitySearch?

  242. Ed says:

    I agree that advertizing on Yelp is a very poor investment for any business, but what has been over looked is that most businesses sign the advertizing agreement due to a form of extortion. Advertize or watch your good reviews disappear, and the bad ones, plus additional bad ones pop up over nite. Without the extortion, few if any would ever fall for this advertizing ploy.

  243. Lynn Barnett says:

    Hi Raymond and thank you. First I must commend you on such an excellent site. Well written and very easy to understand.

    This morning I did a search on Google > yelp paid advertising and their you are 1st page – 1st line! cool. Your site has confirmed all of my suspensions about yelp – Praying on small business owners who think they (yelp) are going to save their business by bringing you more “qualified customers” who want to spend $$ with you – Bull. That’s what I was told yesterday on the phone by one of their “smooth talkers” they have been calling me once a month for about 6 months now.

    The same guy keeps calling and seems like a nice fella but I kind of feel sorry for the guy, working for such a bad company. Just counted about 8 pages in Google with every line about yelp’s law suits and phony reviews. Wow

    My experience as a small business owner:

    I own an auto upholstery shop here in southern California. It was Est. in 1947. I have been here for over 30 yrs. Owner since 1978. When the economy failed, we were hit pretty hard.
    Purchased a computer about 3 years ago. We were still advertising in the yellow pages. Yellow pages said they could build us a site and put it on the internet. How much is that, it’s only $169 per month, that sounds good OK. (more later)

    I had to go on a Super cram course on how to use my new computer. Eventuality learning how, I went around the net – calming or business and adding to all of the free sites. I started adding text and photos now this is really fun.

    Then I started to notice that some of my free sites were showing up on Google 1st page. But wait, I don’t see my yellow page add. I said,”I have free sites on page 1 in Google and why should I give you money and can’t find my add”.
    Yellow = Useless – canceled
    We also did pay per click at Super ” why would I want to place an ad on a site in Texas” = Useless – canceled
    Took about 1yr. Now we now how It all works.

    I did find a site that really works for us –
    If your client likes to mess around on the net, he mite want to take a look at this site – very easy & lots of fun. Free
    No, I do not work for MC & not affiliated in any way. Only a free site that out performs all of my competitors.

    Now Raymond, I think you’ll get a kick out of this – this is what I’m going to do:

    The yelp guy is suppose to call me back on the 29th, Monday, of this month. He will be calling. This is what I’m going to tell him. “I’m really sorry and don’t feel comfortable with your Advertising Program – Why is that?

    Yelp has a ton of – “BAD REVIEWS” – now is that way cool

    Thanks again for posting this site – good job – L

  244. Howie says:

    It seems that your premise is that if an ad doesn’t get click-throughs that its because the advertising space isn’t worthwhile. There are 2 aspects of web advertising (at least): first is whether the message/ad is seen by users, and the other is whether the message is compelling enough for the user to want to learn more.

    The truth is that advertisers with a good product and a compelling message will get more bang for their buck with CPM advertising on a medium where their ad is likely to be seen. If your client has a bad product or a non-relevent message then they’ll benefit if they only pay for the few who are interested.

    Of course its possible that an advertiser has a good message that doesn’t get properly noticed. But thats your job as an advisor; to determine those sites where the ad is most likely to be seen by people who might be interested in the message.

  245. Howie says:

    You also have a one-sided view of business. As a provider, my space has value. If someone wants to put an ad up for chocolate covered rodents; he’s not going to get any clicks. So why should the vendor provide free space for advertisers to test their messages? The answer is that they shouldn’t. Each ad space has an opportunity cost. Its up to the advertisers to provide a message that works.

  246. Raymond Fong says:

    when a restaurant is selling $13 entrees…. they can’t afford branding at such a steep price, and my client who got roped into this Yelp thing was the perfect example.

    you might be talking about an upscale restaurant with big budget which can afford these branding campaigns because the value of each client = $$$, however, this is not the case with all the restaurants and certainly wasn’t with my client.

    clicks do not equal conversion, but clicks gets you CLOSER to conversions… instead of paying $1 for a “competitor’ to click on your ad, you are paying $1 for competitors to see your ad… so it’s still $1 :) the difference is that if you do CPC, then you’re only paying on an action that has a higher probability of bringing you an actual paying customer (think of it as, ‘window shopping” vs. someone actually walking through the door).

    furthermore, if Yelp was upfront and in their marketing TOLD businesses the benefits is branding, then fine, that’s cool… the problem lies in the fact that they throw all these numbers around about visitors, clicks, etc. without distinguishing impressions, clicks, and actual customers. this to me is underhanded and what pissed me off about Yelp – they aren’t upfront.

  247. Howie says:

    Also, you have to bear in mind the value of low-cost advertising. CPM is a fixed cost for the business. A good restaurant only needs 1 conversion perhaps to break even on a $100 campaign. So its a no-brainer to just put your name out there without worrying about every employee of your competitor clicking through once a day on their cell phone and costing you a bundle.

  248. Howie says:

    I understand the PPC model. But your argument that restaurants don’t care about branding is just wrong. I’m rarely so excited when I see an ad then I’ll click through. But I’ll remember the name and google it when I am interested in it. Particularly a new restaurant. Both models can work; CPM works well with localized sites where *most* or all of the readers are potential customers. It doesn’t work on Amazon. It doesnt work on Facebook because everyone knows that nobody pays attention to ads on facebook.

    Clicks do not equal conversion. I don’t want to pay $1 for my competitors and curiosity seekers to check out an ad.

    You’re right that it doesn’t work on yelp; 1) because they’re charging too much and 2) because the ads aren’t effective and 3) there’s so much noise on Yelp that nobody pays attention to the ads.

  249. Raymond Fong says:

    Actually facebook charges for clicks… Amazon charges for clicks, LinkedIn charges for clicks, LOTS of advertising services charges for clicks instead of impressions because they know at the end of the day, that’s what brings visitors to your website. This is called PPC… and it’s a huge business.

    You don’t want to go CPM, cost per thousand (impressions), until you are sure your ads are converting as is your sales funnel. I know all of this because well… I make a handsome living doing this for myself and clients :)

    As for Yelp, frankly, most business on yelp are local businesses who 1. couldn’t care less about branding 2. can’t afford branding campaigns (they aren’t Nike…) 3. are on Yelp to get the CLICK

    Furthermore, Yelp is selling impressions which do not bring you traffic (and again, that’s why most businesses are on Yelp). In my case study, $70+ a click is RIDICULOUS.

  250. Howie says:

    Additionally, unless you’re Google, you can’t run a business charging for clicks. You have to plan your revenue. You’d have to turn down ads that you thought wouldn’t be effective in favor or ones that would get more clicks.Your revenue would be largely random. Its really not a plausible way to run a business.

  251. Howie says:

    Your disdain for “impressions” is not necessarily fair. You are building your brand even if people don’t click on an ad. The issue here is the price. We run a local, very targeted restaurant site and we charge $.03 per impression for a targeted impression, $.02 for general site rotation and $.05 for an exclusive impression (only 1 ad per page, normally 2). Our minimum buy is $100.

    The big problem with Yelp is that its mostly kids, so its a lower income demographic. Its not worth anything close to what they’re charging.

  252. Ed says:

    Lou I agree completely withwhat you say, that was why we withdrew from their adv program, its a total rip-off. “I must tell you one thing, we did what you said. We told all our active clients about the Yelp web site, and the negative crap on their either from people at yelp or former employees, competition, or mostly people who never came to our office and instead made assumptions. One person complained about the building fire rules and regulations and when we answered her, accused us of lieing and being dum. The building, at our request, posted on yelp , word for word regarding the regulations in case of fire..that was removed by Yelp in 3 days.
    Further we asked our clients, who used our services to comment on Yelp..guess what ..all were removed, since they weren’t Yelpers, and didn’t normally have time to write reviews. In an way to confuse people, they removed the reviews from our page, but didn’t want them to know it, so they left them on the clients yelp page..what a hoax.
    Based on some of the numbers on Yelpers, some do as many as 5 a day.and one woman did 2 reviews of Law Firms that specilize in Imigration problems in one day.
    Atleast the class action law suit is moving forward and the companies will have their day in court, something that Yelp is trying to prevent.

  253. Lou Storiale says:

    I agree 100%. I wrote a similar article, but less comprehensive about 5 months ago. They agreed to end my contract. I spent $750 and received less visits to my profile page than the month before with NO ADVERTISEMENT.

    The ad model is the same as in the 1990’s. They make you pay for impressions, not clicks. This is insane. If i would have received one proposal because of YELP it would have been worth it, but in 2.5 months time, I received not one single call. I figured the average cost per click was over $110.00. Google Ads would have been less than $3.00.

    The folks at YELP are insane. Their salespeople are brainwashed. I recommend to all my clients NEVER, EVER Advertise with YELP.

    Their listings and algorythms are good and I do recommend that all small businesses (especially if you have a lot of customers with average sales between $20-$400 per sale) put their profile on YELP and make requests of customers to begin using it and post a review – BUT YELP’s Advertising model is 12 Years Antiquated.

    YELP ADS are the biggest rip off I’ve seen related to online advertisement.

  254. Well Informed says:

    David–I just checked out your Yelp Page and I am very confused. You claim you have 47 reviews in total and that 42 have been filtered, leaving you with 5 bad reviews. Currently on your page you have 13 mixed reviews (5 of them are 5 stars!) and you only have 19 filtered reviews (6 of them being 2 stars or less). Therefore nothing of what you claim holds any truth!!!!!! Get your facts straight before you post them on a public forum where people can easily double check what you say.

  255. David says:

    Let me start by saying that I am a business owner and whose business is obviously listed on My business is called Kis Kiss Mediterranean Cafe & Hookah Lounge. We had good & bad reviews as any other place, but more good ones, total of 47 reviews sine we’ve been in the business for over 6 years.
    Couple of months ago I got a phone call from a sales representative (whose name was Mathew) offering me to advertise on for about $300 per week, which I of course declined. A couple of days later removed 42 of my companies’ reviews!!! Leaving us with only bad reviews…this type of activity is clearly fraudulent so please sway away from!!!

  256. David says:

    Let me start by saying that I am a business owner, whose business is obviously listed on We had good & bad reviews as any other place, but more good ones, total of 47 reviews sine we’ve been in the business for over 6 years.
    Couple of months ago I got a phone call from a sales representative (whose name was Mathew) offering me to advertise on for about $300 per week, which I of course declined. A couple of days later removed 42 of my companies’ reviews!!! Leaving us with only bad reviews…this type of activity is clearly fraudulent so please sway away from!!!

  257. Stephanie says:

    Hi Tim … I’m not a Yelp rep. Stephanie Riseley is my name. I’m a hypnotherapist and I do Past Life Regressions. Fairly specific, yes? And I just got a call from a prospective new client, and I asked her how she found me, and she said, “Yelp.” And considering I pay $30 a day to FaceBook, and $400 a month to NetBiz… and nothing to Yelp, that was nice.

    Oh, and the “filter thing” – I did get a really nasty review from my former, and jealous boss… and they removed it. Sorry you’ve had other experiences.

  258. Tim Gilmour says:

    I’ve been dealing with clients and yelp for about the last three years, and all of this rings true. Actually, none of it has changed at all since the first time a client said, “Hey is this a good idea?” – it wasn’t then, and it isn’t now.

    Another client just got hit up this week, almost the same identical pitch, and the same numbers / rates as three years ago, which is really odd, since the whole internet ad industry is still hurting right now, and rates are down across the board.

    The main reason I commented here is that i’m suspicious of “well informed” – Yelp has gotten a ton of bad press in the last year, and I would be stunned if they weren’t doing aggressive online reputation management work (astroturfing). The comment above reads exactly like a rep management script, even down to the blaming of the review filter, which is Yelp’s party line right now. Sorry if that isn’t the case, but since I’ve worked with over 100+ businesses in concert with Yelp, that experience is NOT the norm.

  259. Stephanie says:

    Treat Tree didn’t read “Well Informed” and he should. I, too, get many clients from Yelp, and they have changed their ways! So, I’m thinking of using their pay per click system now. When I “signed” with them, and we had serious “issues,” there system was flawed. But everyone deserves a second chance, and figuring out what works in this online advertising world is like setting out on the Colorado River in a canoe… ready to ride the white water rapids. What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger, yes? But you’ll get wet! ;^)) So good luck to us all, yes? I use FaceBook Advertising, NetBiz, and Google Ad words… but I survived the worst economic environment in 70 years, and don’t bitch about not having a job, or making a living! I created my own job! Through advertising, and Yelp helped me tremendously!

  260. Treat Tree says:

    WOW . . . thank you. I was looking into using yelp to promote the website but after reading your article it doesn’t make sense to use the paid version. I will have to find a way to use the free profile to promote the business. Thank you fro saving me the time of having to figure out the systems and experience the flaws and costs that come with it. At the end of the day, if they changed their program to be more like Google I would use it but for now it doesn’t make sense paying such a high cost for impressions and no garrentee, tracking or control. Keep up the good work!

  261. Raymond Fong says:

    Good for you :) From a purely scientific marketing perspective, Yelp has a ways to go.

    How much are you paying a month for Yelp? Have you compared that with the results you’d get with other forms of marketing? Or maybe even NOT paying Yelp and stick with the free program they offer? Curious to know.

  262. well informed says:

    Wow, I can not believe how incompetent all of you are. First of all, let me say that I am a small business owner, I have been advertising with Yelp for over 2 years and have seen amazing results–just the other week, I had a record number of new clients, all who found me on Yelp (I know this because to get my special offer, the client must mention they found me on yelp). The program has paid for itself since month 1 and some of my best and highest valued clients came from Yelp. THANK YOU YELP! Never in my 2 years+ with Yelp have I ever had anyone tell me they would take down negative reviews and they have always been very transparent when I request numbers and explanations. Sounds like all of you have no idea about their review filter?! HELLO–this is why reviews disappear and re-appear over time, regardless of the rating given. They do this so that shady biz owners can’t go on and write 100 5 star reviews about themselves, nor can a competitor go on and write negative reviews on another businesses profile. This maximizes the integrity of their site, and I truly appreciate it, because when you go onto Citysearch and see a business that has 100 5-star reviews, it looks fishy and people don’t trust it. This is also why Yelp is kicking everyone’s ass right now with over 38 million unique users each month and tens of thousands of advertisers who love the program–because of their trustworthy content.

    So, I only feel bad for all you and you’re extreme misunderstanding–as the rest of us who actually have a clue, are banking big time off of the YelpAd Program. Keep up the good work, Yelp! I love your site, and you have turned my business, as well as several others I know (and tens of thousands I don’t know) into gold :) And so sorry for all of you wasting your time with silly class action law suits. Yelp isn’t going anywhere–that’s a fact. :)

  263. michael says:

    i am so happy to see sites like this and i emailed them today. i had no idea but like the bulldog i am i caught on to this nonsense quick when i noticed my 5 star reviews leaving as quick as they came.
    and i spent a good half hour with their slick saleperson. its obvious they are extorting business. it is like some magical formula removes the reviews and then the magically come back.
    and 4-500 a month? hahaha i call bs

  264. db says:

    Been a while since I’ve posted, but have an update on my Yelp experience.

    The owner attempted to cancel and was informed there was a 1000 cancellation fee. Makes more sense to just let it expire. I’ve been monitoring Yelp and noticed that the hidden reviews are restored as new reviews are written. It seems really good or poor reviews that were hidden are ofset with really good or bad reviews being written. In other words, if a 4 star review is written, a 2 star review may be restored.

    The above has happened several times and the overall review of the business, even with 5 recent excellent reviews, has stayed exactly the same.

    Some weird stuff going on in dem der hills.

  265. Lisa Galasso says:

    We have a predominate salon in Los Angeles for the past 10 years and have been written up in over 60 magazines worldwide for being the “best of” and are on countless TV shows. We did not know what Yelp was until 2009 nor did we care. When we looked at Yelp and noted many good reviews. Then we started getting calls to “sponsor”- a sponsor is when you willingly give money to sponsor an event or charity. Lets use the real term when it pertains to Yelp- “pay to play buy having your name come up first on the search site”. We declined because in the past 9 years there has been no need to advertise on a search engine like Yelp to get our business. Then shortly after the decline a horrible review came on, then another two. We knew something was odd because the review referenced having their hair done by the owner during a time when the owner was out of the country filming. And one review that personally attacked the owner for his conduct outside of the business while he was working out at his gym. I contacted Yelp to have the reviews removed based on the reviewer’s violation of the Yelp’s Terms of Conduct and reviewers numerous unfounded accusations and inaccurate statements. The reviews were removed. However, shortly after that another review came up that stated “several years ago I got my hair done at…” Most all of our good reviews were gone and only 3 remain. So, we “sponsored” or should I say payed the extortionist for 3 months, good reviews returned however no increase in revenue from Yelpers patronizing the business. Then as any smart business owner seeing no increased revenue we terminated the “sponsorship”. Just recently there is an update by the bad reviewer stating blatant lies & last week a scathing 5k plus review. Moreover, if you look at the stats on the “business trends page views” it has gone from sponsorship period of 148 clicks to 45 clicks, please note prior to sponsorship we were at 177 clicks per page. We just find this fishy. Our City Search is vastly different than Yelp’s, although we understand our business cannot satisfy everyone and there will be disgruntled clients that need to vent, Yelp’s conduct is unacceptable.

    We confider Yelp the modern day SCHOOL YARD BULLY. Its amazing how our business can be selected as on of the “Best Top Ten Cutters in the World” by ELLE UK magazine, “Best Salon” by ALLURE magazine 2007 & 2009 (voted by the subscribers), “Top Ten Amazing Blowouts” by INSTYLE, however on Yelp we only have 6 reviews.

  266. Raymond Fong says:

    Ed… you’ve plastered your yelpscam link all over this post’s comment section. As someone already pointed out, they get it. Please stop responding to every single comment on this thread with the same message which is to go visit yelpscam… Thanks.


  267. Ed Pollock says:

    Hi Nicole: I hope you have gone to yelpscam and seen the full story of how bad Yelp really is …in the old days they called this the “Protection Racquet” This is the sane thing just using the net as the source of danger. There are 4 lawsuits(2 are class action),I hope Yelp is still around when they get to court. The testimony from hundreds of businesses should make governmental agencies take note and start their investigation,if they haven’t already. Some people at the top of Yelp need to serve some real time in jail for what they have done to businesses all over the country…this is criminal..guess some people will do anything just for the $$$$.

  268. Nicole says:

    I wish I had seen this earlier, I worked with Yelp when they were first starting in NYC and it was great for the brand. Now it is utterly wretched.
    I specifically asked questions in regards to their changing platform which I knew about from blogs and apparently their salespeople had no idea about. They literally sold a product through with lies and are now saying too bad there is nothing we can do about it.
    I can not imagine ANY other company doing such a thing and can only imagine how badly they take advantage of business owners who don’t have advertising experience.
    I was a huge proponent of Yelp as a media buyer/planner for NYC tourism companies and as a user and elite yelper. No longer.

  269. db says:


    If you want people to visit your site, which you obviously do by the number of times you are promoting it here, then you need something original on it. I can search Google for people complaining about anything and everything just as easily as clicking your link to do the same.

    If you don’t have anything original or unique on your site, then why would anyone visit it? Currently, you have page after page complaining about how bad Yelp is…..but with factual information to back up your opinions. If you want to Player Hate, back it up with supporting material on your site.


  270. Ed Pollock says:

    If you go to Yelpscam, you’ll find a page with articles from all over the country. If you click on the articles you will see thousands of comments from business.. Ed

  271. db says:

    Hey Ed,

    If you are getting all these letters related to people and their issues with Yelp, why don’t you post them under your letter button.

    I’d like to read them all.


  272. Ed Pollock says:

    I would suggest that you both go to , also on page one is a link to the four law suits (2 are class action)and see the complete story. We have seen some businesses charged as much as $1000/month on a 12 month contract. Don’t be surprised when you cancell your clients contract, for the positive reviews to disappear and a host of negative one’s pop up from So-called)elite yelpers. Most people call that extortion. Yelpscam

  273. db says:

    I started working for a client who owns a restaurant. The client had started a business account with Yelp before I started working with them, the cost 500 per month.

    I started doing an analysis of what he is getting for his money. From their statistics on the business info page, it costs my client around $16 per click for the advertising (they do provide click through info as well as impressions now). If you take the 10% rule, it costs around 166 per customer gained from the Yelp subscription.

    Since this is a new business, the increased visibility doesn’t hurt, but the cost can be better used elsewhere. I don’t really see the issue with Yelp and screwing with reviews. I do see a program that just isn’t worth the cost for the limited benefit.

    In short, client will allow subscription to expire as I submit his business to the myriad of free sites all over that do the exact same thing for free. The 500 spent on Yelp will be redirected to Opentable and other sites with a much better cost benefit ratio.

  274. Danielle says:

    I just got off of the phone with a Yelp salesperson and I did my usual “[XYZ product] sucks” google search and found this site. Thank you! Thank you!

    I help my husband with the business side of his electrical contracting business and the entire Yelp pitch made me uncomfortable. I am not a web marketing professional, or anything close to it, but I do have a grad degree in psychology – so I’m comfortable with statistics and research. That said, my warning bells went off when I asked the salesperson for 3 things to help me make our decision: (1) a copy of the research she cited saying that yelp users view 3 company profiles before making a decision, (2) an analytics report from yelp showing how often “electrical contractor” & “electrician” was used as a search term by Yelp users in the Austin metro area, and (3) a written description of the ad packages & rates she was verabally describing. She replied that she had to talk to a manager to find out copies of numbers 1 and 2 were available and that number 3 DID NOT EXIST. I was prepared for her to deny me access to number 1, since it may be a paid/copyrighted industry report; but, what kind of web-based business can’t pull a simple analytics report? And I simply could not fathom why they would not print and distribute their prices after they’d spent 30 minutes on the phone with me… until now.

    I was quoted $300/mo for 450 ads (“impressions”, thanks Raymond). I see now that that price and number of ads may actually vary — some of you say $300, some say $350, and the video that Nathan posted shows a business owner was charged $310 and change. Why? Further, that is a ridiculously high price given that I can’t track back the leads (thanks again for the quick-and-dirty conversion rate calculation).

    Anyway, no thanks Yelp. You annoyed us when you removed reviews when our company was only 6 months old for being “suspiciously positive”. I like Nathan’s youtube suggestion. I’ll post our reviews on Prometheus Electric’s website.

    Thanks again!

  275. Ed Pollock says:

    and now a 4th law suit against Yelp by a Dentist in San Fran…how much longer can yelp go on before it closes the doors and goes out to find a real job? Yelpscam

  276. Ed Pollock says:

    A day doesn’t go by, that someone doesn’t e-mail with another horror story about extortion by yelp sales people and a complaint about good reviews disappearing, and bad ones popping up after he /she refuses to advertize on Yelp. We refer them all to the class action law suit and suggest they consider joining. I don’t think Yelp has any idea of how many businesses will eventually be part of the law suit and there testimonies will sink YELP.

  277. This is sad…

    “Okay, so I had the opportunity to speak to a Yelp representative on the phone on my client’s behalf. Armed with my knowledge of AdWords, marketing, the works… I came prepared. Sadly for the person on the other line, that’s more than I can say for her. I asked about all the things I mentioned before (about click through rates versus impressions, how I can track my campaign, how much control I have, etc.) and she was STUMPED. She couldn’t understand why we would care about such matters. As a matter of fact, I’d venture so far as to say she didn’t know JACK about marketing, and yet, she’s representing a team that’s suppose to help us market.”

    A business owner can fall for this sort of thing once or twice. But unlike you, who will know the waste of ad dollars was b/c of the way the yelp program was structured, staffed and priced…most business owners after getting burned a couple of times will just assume that all ad reps are liars.

    Makes the job harder for honest media sales people like me and many of my Valpakian colleagues.

  278. Elizabeth says:

    Interesting article Raymond. So the question remains: How can Yelp make their “Yelp for Business Owners” program better? How can businesses justify paying $300 to $1000 per month for premium business listings? Perhaps a call for greater transparency?

  279. Ed Pollock says:

    I guess Yelp has finally started to worry about the the class action law suits (see on link on page one) so they made some phoney changes to how they control reviews. Unfortunately, for a person not involved with this mess,it appears far more than it is in reality. Yelp will now show all reviews that have been removed, BUT have to screen thru all the posted reviews, and then down on the bottom in a place that is easy to miss, you click on removed reviews,and go thru a series of varification codes, and finally they pop up sometimes.
    But when yelp was trying to sell me the adv. crap,I was told by the salesman that studies by yelp, reveal people on an average only ready the first 3 reviews, therefore they would never get to these hidden ones on the far bottom after all the views. Secondly, I asked the salesman, “if I sign up for the adv. ($6000/year) ,could the removed good reviews be restored. He told me once a review is removed, it is gone for ever”. Huh..then how all of a sudden can they reappear now???? Liar ..liar
    Secondly, they will no longer have a businesses favorite review shown on the top, even if you adv. with Yelp. That was one of the major selling points for the sales person, now what will they dream up ..this is not a plus for businesses but a big negative. PEOPLE JUST HAVE TO UNDERSTAND, the new PR release is a fraud…Visit and join the class action law suits.

  280. ralph t.foster says:

    Update from Ralph T Foster–Foster Coin and Stamp 2189 Bancroft Way Berkeley, CA 94704 510-845-3015.: Since my last posting I have talked to 8 businesses I trade with. Six, all big restaurants and busy coffee shops have been approached to advertise with Yelp but will not. I know owners well. After 40 years in Berkeley I have many friends here. One never heard of Yelp. The last was considering advertising, but after our talk no way. GET THE WORD OUT THANKS RALPH

  281. ralph foster says:

    I went into Bank of West today and was told at this time they do not advertise on Yelp. I saw an ad recently that appeared to be a Bank of West advertisement on a Yelp site. If I am in error I apologize to the bank. Be as may if you know someone you do business with that advertises on Yelp cease doing business with them. I ask everyone from now on if the advertise on Yelp and why. Ralph T Foster–Foster Coin and Stamp 2189 Bancroft Way Berkeley, CA 94704 510-845-3015.

  282. Raymond Fong says:

    Fight da good fight! :) Good for you Ralph for taking a stand. I do hope that Yelp takes all of this into consideration and reform… I think they have a good free service (concept anyway), it’s just what goes behind the scenes that seem sketchy.


  283. Ed Pollock says:

    GOOD IDEA RALPH …and go to and click on the link on page one re: Class action law suit and join in with us all. We will post you idea on the site if we have your permission.

  284. ralph t.foster says:

    For 37 years I have owned a successful business in Berkeley. Know as Foster Coin and Stamp 2189 Bancroft Way Berkeley, CA 94704 510-845-3015. Myself and a few other businessmen have begun a boycott of Yelp advertisers. I, as do they, feel the company is far from ethical. As Bank of the West advertises with Yelp I pulled a large amount out of my account, and told the manager why. I will keep a checking account balance with less than $300 in this Bank until they see the errors of their ways. I have banked with this establishment for many decades. Ralph T. Foster I encourage all to boycott Yelp advertisers!!!!!

  285. Ed Pollock says:

    Starting to see the first results of the Class action Law Suit against Yelp. Go to go to the top of page 1 and you’ll find the link to the Law Suit …Join Us !!!

  286. Bart says:

    Here’s what happened to Yelp: “Yelp Reviews No Longer Appear in Google Maps”, source:

  287. Ed Pollock says:

    Hi Elmar: Glad that the comments here helped you decide on not advertising on Yelp. This is an evil company that we hope, after government investigation, will either shut down, or force them to change how they do business. Go to and see just how bad it is all over the country.

  288. Hi guys,

    I have heard about Yelp before but I hesitated to open an account with them without having some research.

    This thread helps me a lot to get to know it well. Thanks for the site, and also thanks for the video Alter’Nathan.


  289. Wally H. says:

    What Scott at Yelp told me will be my biggest benifit was to give me back office control that will allow me to remove negative comments about my business and off-course leave the good ones! How Ethical & responsible YELP!

  290. Ed Pollock says:

    NATHAN: Thank you for adding the youtube video, “…to see the rest of the story” go to YELPSCAM. com . It’s all at that site. Yelp is evil.

  291. Alter'Nathan says:

    Watch (share) this video and then decide if you would ever want to give yelp a penny of your money or your words of review.

  292. Alter'Nathan says:

    Thank you for this clear explination of the yelp problem.

    I see yelp as a cancer spreading across the internet without regard for any one it harms. It is a money eating machine that has no care for anyone except itself.

    Perhaps Google will find a loop hole in the law to shut them down for exploiting their search engines, but I for one belive that a petition to Google asking that yelp search results are removed, or at tne very least a “no yelp results” radio check box ( remeber my choice) be offered as a way to have choice in what I get from a google search.

  293. Ed Pollock says:

    This month we are fowarding the yelpscam site along with a letter requesting a complete investigation of the practices of Yelp.We have over 1000 complaints.Letters will go to the FTC and The Attorney General for the State of California.

  294. chuck says:

    Thanks. I came across this after spending 40 minutes on the phone with a sale person. I wasn’t leaning towards using yelp but I wanted to see what other’s experience had been.


  295. Ed Pollock says:

    go to and see the complete story . ..join the coalition !!

  296. I too was smoothed in by salesman Paul Cebulak from Yelp. This program doesn’t work at all. It is a total scam. And I only get 500 impressions per $300 a month!! At least you got 1500. I haven’t had a single email or call from a Yelp searcher in the 6 months I’ve subscribed and now that I want to quit – they hit you with a $600 early termination fee. I’ve used google adwords for years with much success and not truly understanding what Yelp was offering, thought it might be helpful. NOT EVEN CLOSE.

    DO NOT JOIN YELP. You can use the site for free. I don’t even bother with Yelp anymore. I’m going for complete boycott.

    I also don’t understand that I’m paying for the impression and then competitors show up on my home page when you click through. Crazy.

  297. DAN says:

    A reply to above posting by Chad Bergantz at YOU HAVE TO BE JOKING… Your site is a bigger scam than Yelp, and even more expensive

    And most important, your site actually has to have business listings ! ! ! I Searched IL, IN and I couldn’t find a single business listing. All search windows have the same results
    Business Categories or listing for (IL or IN, PA… Etc. has the same info See below!

    Automotive (10) Business & Professional (10) Health & Medicine (6) Travel & Transportation (11) Shopping (4) Education (8) Real Estate (8) Computers & Electronics (4) Personal Care & Service (5) Arts & Entertainment (7) Community & Government (9) Media & Communications (5) Clothing & Accessories (6) Food & Dining (7) Industry & Agriculture (5) Sports & Recreation (6)

    I like the Yelp site and they actually have business listed. But I wouldn’t advertise on or

    Again… You must be joking, promoting your site!

  298. Ed Pollock says:

    you are very welcome..spread the word appears to me that this is called extortion…

  299. I knew Yelp was sketchy on the veracity of the reviews – but I wasn’t fully aware of how opaque their advertising program was. I have one client that’s quite happy with Yelp, but I don’t think they know exactly how well it’s doing for them. This post has now been forwarded to them. Thanks for the eye-opener.

  300. Ed Pollock says:

    what happened to all the comments regarding YELP ..seems like they were all removed. If anyone is having problems with yelp I suggest you go to and see the complete story …and maybe join the coalition. Google claimed they broke off negotiations to purchase Yelp because they weren’t being transparent…did they really believe they would change their stripes…no way

  301. My name is Chad Bergantz and I am Head of Marketing & Sales for I uderstand now why everyone is upset with yelp. We are actually are their competitors of Yelp and we are nothing like them. We are different and way cheaper with only a 3 month trial at $49 per month and a start up fee of $100. We have a great POPP (Pre Optimization Profile Page) and is definitely worth the price. We treat our customers right and you can work directly with me. If you have anybody else that would like some info, please contact me directly on my email or at my numbers listed below. I will explain everything, walk you through it slowly and give you a great deal. It will greatly improve your business and I will personally help you with anything you need. Feel free to contact me any time. or my office at (949)873-1001 Ext 329

  302. Ashly says:

    If any business/person has been ripped off by Yelp the way I have I want to talk to you. Im trying to get a civil action lawsuit against them. Contact me ASAP. Thank you.

  303. Ed Pollock says:

    Tom , I guess you don’t own a business, that is being hurt by some young elite yelper, who has nothing better to do, then write false and misleading reviews, just to get their kicks. Some of us work very hard for years to establish and build a business, only to have this kind of crap hurt it. Read the site, and feel the anger of the business owners. Every single good review, because they weren’t yelpers, has been removed from our site, Yes, I refused to become a sponsor, and pay $5000/year to have bad reviews removed. It’s no different from the old Mafia protection racket. Eventually government action will shut them down. Paid reviews must be labeled as such, and yes, if you didn’t know, yelp does pay some people to do reviews. Even Google pulled out of considering buying them for lask of “transparency” another words they concealed the true facts.

  304. Tom says:

    Hi Ed,
    When I see your posts I can’t help but think you are just a business owner with bad reviews. So I searched online to find your business and couldn’t find it by your name. Guess I was wrong. All I found were the countless comments you have left on every Yelp related article out there.

    So let me understand… to show how much you think leaving reviews on web 2.0 sites hurts businesses, you have launched a campaign to write reviews on 2.0 websites bashing a business?

    I think you and the people who write 800+ reviews on Yelp need to do the same thing… get a hobby and get over yourself.

  305. Ed Pollock says:

    Read and pass it on to everyone you know…

  306. Ed Pollock says:

    seems like Raymond has left us????

  307. Ed Pollock says:

    Raymond, thank you again for putting up this site, and giving us all a chance to exchange stories, and out of it all, made correct an evil. There are alot of things wrong in this country, and alot of people are suffering today because of the greed of a few people who made billions of dollars, and now we, our childen and probally our Grand children will have to pay for that greed. Maybe if some of us stood up a few years ago, we could have prevented this deep recession.
    Now, in a smaller way, a few people, with greed in their hearts, are trying to use extortion, destroy business, and then take YELP public, and walk away with millions.
    Eventually, the FTC will investigate, Attorney Generals in States like California and New York will bring legal action against Yelp, and Yelp will disappear. The people who bought their stock will loose their investment, but Stoppelman and his”gang of thugs” will be sitting in their off shore huge homes laughing and planning some new fraudulant business. We must alert the public to this scam.

  308. Ed Pollock says:

    I thought that what had been done to my company by Yelp was a single isolated case, done by a few nasty people who had no idea what we did and about the over 10,000 clients we had helped thru the years. But, then i did a Google search, and found web sites from all over the country. I found hundreds, of people in cities all over the country , that Yelp had invaded, and used their form of extortion. Either pay them and become a sponsor, or our litle nasty yelpers will destroy your business. So ,I formed a Coaltion. There is strength in numbers. As Benjamin Franklin once said ” either we hang together, else we shall surely hang separetly”. Come visit our website, , see the full scope of the problem,spend some time and read all the blogs on newspapers, magazine, and NBC Channel 5 in San Francisco . I could feel the pain in the womans tears as she describes what Yelp did to her business. Maybe you will consider joining the Coalition. Yelps CEO Stoppelman must go, and a new CEO must find a better and honest business plan. People jobs are at stake, companies being attacked are forced to lay off employees, and some closed their doors…JOIN US !!!

  309. Sammy says:

    Howdy All,

    Raymond, thank you. Yelp is a service that is causing my business a great deal of frustration. We’ve had dozens of positive reviews go up, and within a week they come down. They do not favor the one time reviewer (because they worry it is an employee or friend going on just to review your business) and so they pretty much take all of those down.

    I have a personal account on Yelp and I have a fairly active profile, with a dozen or so reviews, and I checked it out and none of my reviews are showing on any of the pages I reviewed, ZERO. So I am frustrated for my effort as a contributor and a business.

    It seems that the reviews that stick are from well established “Yelpers”. We’d have a much higher star rating right now, except that the 2 one star reviews we’ve gotten happen to be from users that are very active on the site, so their reviews stick. I thought about having the hundreds of happy customers that we have each month go on Yelp and leave a review, but what’s the point? I mean, they are not the type of people who waste their time leaving reviews on Yelp, and if they go to do it as a favor to us, their reviews just get taken down since the automated system considers them as spammers.

    Yelp is completely F*&%ed. I use other, better services like Urban Spoon for restaurants now. They need to disappear, but likely won’t happen. It is borderline extortion. Yeah, the advertising is not cool, no metrics! Who would pay for online ads without some measurement of effectiveness? So, I thought I would share my story to let everyone know just how shitty Yelp is. And not just from a business owners perspective.

    Imagine you are looking for a great restaurant and you look up the fanciest restaurant in your neighborhood on Yelp. You are shocked to realize they have a 2 star rating. How could such a well spoken, classy place get a low rating? I’ll tell you how. Most of the folks that go on Yelp and review stuff are not in the demographic for a high end restaurant. So when they went there for prom and felt bad about spending $200 on a meal, they take out their aggression on Yelp (that is the name a dog makes when you step on it anyhow, isn’t it?). So your restaurant suffers at face value on Yelp, because some kids can’t appreciate the finer things in life, and it potentially hurts you business. Screw you Yelp!!! I hope you burn!!!

  310. Ed Pollock says:

    http://www.yelpscam. com is now LIVE

  311. Ed Pollock says:

    Avon: Please join with us at . You can reach me direct at . Yelp is hurting businesses and must change what they are doing, it’s called extortion by hundreds of businesses around the country.

  312. Avon says:

    Great article. I too have a restaurant and at one time had around thirty reviews. When yelp contacted me I declined, they continued to call for the next two weeks! I told them I didn’t see the point in spending ad money with them when it was free and I was doing well without them. By the end of that month I was stripped of Many FIVE and FOUR star reviews. I still have a 4 star with the eleven reviews I have but that is just wrong that them stripped me of deserving reviews because I wouldn’t sign up for a paid site.

  313. Ed Pollock says:

    Hi Matt: That is a nice site you put up, we may, with your permission at a later date, added it to the site. If you want check out our site on Sunday, and if you want send a comment with a link to your site, so everyone can visit it. We would be happy to have you also join the coalition. Too many businesses are being hurt by Yelp, they must change how they are running their place, the business model now can only continue by using extortion. WE have all wasted money, during a economical time that most of us can’t efford to throw away a thousand or more.

  314. Ed Pollock says:

    The coalition’s web site will be live on Sunday. I hope every one visits it,and see’s we are not alone. The complaints come from all over the country. The site is you have a place to make comments and a place to join us. Help us and help yourselves..get this out to everyone you think will care..”we have just begun to fight” I will keep all sponsors notified as each new shoe falls. Ed Pollock

  315. Raymond Fong says:

    Wow, I think we should start a riot L.A. style! :)

    Yeah, things do seem fishy. But I gotta say, their salespeople are good… TOO good.

    @Oliver, what do you have in mind?


  316. Richard says:

    Sue SM,

    Not a coincidence, I experienced same. Had a few(3) 5 star reviews after I put up my business and then a fourth 5 star review that was deleted within a couple of days. When I emailed them I got a phone call and explanation that it was automatic blah, blah. That phone call was subsequently followed up the next day by marketing looking to have me advertise. Feeling very suspicious of the deletion I declined and then declined several other calls within the next month. Since then I have received 3 more 5 star reviews and all have been deleted within a day or two. Also they changed the process in emailing you review notifications. It used to be that the content of the review was included in the email notification which was good because at least you had a copy but they must of figured out that you had a copy and could use it elsewhere so now they don’t include the text in the email. Ed Pollock – looking forward to the site. Much needed – this company is a menace to good businesses

  317. Oliver says:

    Ed, I am all for it! I already contacted at least 30 business owners paid advertisers and warning them about the scam! I also heard about them hiring a bunch college graduates and making them do reviews for businesses to look good. Telling them to review lots of places and you get to party for free at clubs. It comes down to this…YELP FUCKED WITH MY BUSINESS AND I PROMISE THEY WILL GO DOWN!!!! MARK MY WORD!!!

  318. Ed Pollock says:

    Hi Oliver: we will be getting out the truth ..the web site will be explosive…and it will reach all the people that we need will be completed very soon. At present we are running it by an attorney to make sure we don’t give Yelp an chance to get the courts to force us to take it down..We also are setting up who will get it first, etc etc hang in their, I’ll e-mail you when it goes on line. Their are thousands of us that were and are being scammed by Yelp.

  319. Oliver says:

    RAYMOND, PLEASE CONTACT ME!! We need to get your site to the forefront in front of every business out there and see the TRUTH!!! I experienced it FIRST HAND! I dont want anybody else getting ripped off like how I did!!!

  320. Ed Pollock says:

    Raymond…thank you for putting up this site.

  321. Ed Pollock says:

    SUE S.M. Save your money, yelp advertising is a scam. It’s like the old Mofia protection racket, if you didn’t pay them you got your windows broken and bussiness vandalized This is a national scam and needs to be stopped, don’t give them a cent. Check out which will be up before Nov.15th, and sent that cite to every business owner that you know and you can join with us to stop this fraud.

  322. Oliver says:


  323. Sue S.M says:

    Hi Raymond: thank you for publishing this article. My business has been on Yelp for years. Thank goodness (a sigh of relief) we always had 4-4.5 stars. Although we did have a few very evil reviews that never moved. Then all of a sudden a few months ago some of the good reviews started to go away, one by one. Now we have ALMOST only negative reviews. Around the same time as our stars started to go down I was approached by Yelp salesman, and I was really really thinking of signing up, but couldn’t afford to at the time, plus I was not sure if i could completely trust them. Every once in awhile we get another positive review ( as notified in my business owners account) and then as fast as they came up, they are GONE! The most number of reviews we have lately is 5-6, while other businesses similar to ours ( who are not neccessarily paid listings) have as many as 14, 75, even over 100 reviews! Apparently it has to do with how many other reviews people have put up and how good of a ‘yelper’ they are, but i am not convinced. Is this a conspiracy against my business? Coincidence? I do not know, but i can tell you that it keeps me awake at night.
    Now some advertising dollars have opened up and i felt compelled to sign up, although now that i can step back and have read your article, I think that I am mostly reacting out of fear…Thank you Raymond!

  324. Ed Pollock says:

    Stephanie…Sorry you got taken, they charged $500/month, and wanted $1000 (2 months ) to release me from contact… Yelp is the biggest rip-off scam ofthem all. Visit, after Nov15th, for all updates.

  325. Stephanie says:

    Then why didn’t they tell that to me? Instead of just charging me $600 to get out to their no-win advertising contract? I would have happily done that, just FYI.. I’m still an “advertiser” just FYI… until Oct 31.

  326. Media Planner says:

    I work for an advertising agency as a Media Planner and we are in talks with a Yelp Rep for a particular client. I explained that I had read online some negative reviews about their advertising services, and she explained that they now offer two different pricing options. The small business owner can Pay Per Impression if they choose, or a more agency-geared Cost Per Click is available. We might do a test with them, I think with this new pricing model it could be an effective move. Ask your Yelp Reps about this pricing model.

  327. Ed Pollock says:

    I would suggest you visit , the site is being constructed at present, and will be up by Nov 15th , the latest It will give everyone a chance to blog on what has happened to there business, FTC violations, California Business lawa violated, and Class action Law suit. We hope this will bring about change, or the courts will get it done. You can reach me directly at

  328. Aly says:

    Thanks for the blog. I was on the phone yesterday afternoon with a salesman from YELP. Very smooth. But something did not seem right about the click-throughs, metrics/measurements, etc. My partner told me to google “Yelpforowners” and thanks for this site.

    I first had a problem with an awful yelp from an ex-employee which took forever to have them remove. Then we moved and the set-up a second site for me although I remained with only one location. In the past few months we have had a number of of good client reviews, and last week, most disappeared, lowering our yelp rating by a full star. The salesman in SF said that nothing can be done about that. So the “YELPERS” who write bad yelps with frequency have priority over “good yelpers” who did not contribute as much. The whole process seems shady.

    Much thanks to you for this blog. Now tell me where to put my ad dollars please.

  329. Jeremy says:

    Thanks for helping me save and keep my money in my pocket!!

  330. Ed Pollock says:

    In an interview, Jeremy Stoppelman admitted that they do in fact hire people to do reviews. Who tells them who to review ? Do the sales people have access to make comments to these people. Why aren’t these paid for reviews so noted on the review, much as the FTC says in will start inforcing companies and people who reccoment products, etc to acknowlege that they were paid for that review?

  331. Stephanie says:

    Worst Business Decision Ever!!! And it cost me $1200 for 8 clicks… Do the math – $150 per click! Unreal. But my fault, entirely. If I hadn’t been swayed by the sweet young girls who sell this site, if I had done the research — come here first — this wouldn’t have happened. People had ‘Yelped’ me, and so I put up a “Business Owners page,” and because of that I got a few clients. Then when the sales rep called, I thought, “Oh, well, maybe I’ll get more clients.” What I didn’t understand was that their system deletes the Yelps… for reasons explained as: the Yelper didn’t use the Yelp system enough. Who knew? But the result was that I had no Yelps! Insane. Thank you Raymond Fong… for putting this out there!

  332. Marco says:

    Raymond, Thanks for the great analysis. I have been considering advertising with Yelp only because they contacted me and were very convincing. I had some concerns until I found your thoughts. You seem right on.

    Thanks again.

  333. Yelpmenot says:

    I noticed this page is at the top of the Google results if you search for the terms “yelp advertising review.” Good job Raymond, you might want to give them a call and see if they want to advertise here on your blog. :)

  334. 37 & 77 says:


    OMG we were so so so so close to sign our contract with Yelp, but my husband had the wonderfull idea to google yelp and see if any reviews came up and here we are. My Yelp sales person definetly wanted to make me feel guilty for not wanting to sign up and now I understand their impressions instead of clicks or actual customer leads, we are getting a lot of biz from yelp and that is why we were considering advertising but $300.00 per month is something to really think about. When I emailed my sales rep to tell her we were not going to do it, she called me over and over and called my husband over and over telling me that I was making a huge mistake not signing up, I was nervous for a while until I read all of the comments in your page.

    Thanks opening our eyes in regards this matter.

  335. Raymond Fong says:

    Thanks for that tip Yelpmenot. I suppose that makes sense. I wonder if Yelp’s doing their best to let the public know about that. That’ll help clear their name a bit.


  336. Yelpmenot says:

    Just a followup, I was about to send them a message and then I found this. So this is all “automated”

    The review may have been suppressed by Yelp’s automated software system. This system decides how established a particular reviewer is and whether a review will be shown based on the reviewer’s involvement on Yelp. While this may seem unfair to you, this system is designed to protect both consumers and businesses alike from fake reviews (ie, a malicious review from a competitor or a planted review from an employee). The process is entirely automated to avoid human bias, and it affects both positive and negative reviews. It’s important to note that these reviews are not deleted (they are always shown on the reviewer’s public profile) and may reappear on your business page in the future.

  337. Yelpmenot says:

    Wow, I just checked out review page after declining to advertise with Yelp a few days ago. We recently had a 5 star review and now it’s gone. I will send a message to Yelp to find out why.

  338. Kristen B. says:

    I found your article interesting. A better option to Yelp is It’s an online review and referral site built upon a social networking platform. Personally, I find its features superior to those on Yelp. It’s a newer company but I think it’s going to be huge and give Yelp a run for its money. You should take a look at all the features it offers a small business owner. I think you’ll be impressed.

  339. Raymond Fong says:

    Yes, John, from a user’s point of view, Yelp can be great, free or paid… but that’s because you don’t have a stake in it. But when you are paying $300+ a month, you expect some damn good conversions (especially when compared to the free services offered by Yelp).

    Or at the very least some sort of conversion so you can test the marketing. But this isn’t the case. So this is why the post is not about why Yelp sucks (from a user’s perspective), but why the Yelp Sponsorship Program sucks (from a paid advertising perspective).


  340. John Pruitt says:

    I’ve helped a couple of people with their free accounts at Yelp. I find it does well and can help with SEO quite a bit through a couple of different things you can do. You only targeted one service in this article though. I would have loved to see your opinion on Merchant Circle, Insider Pages and SuperPages/YellowPages.

    I’ve been to two restaurants because of their yelp ads. They didn’t show up in my initial search for a restaurant because they were not in the target neighborhood I was searching in. Their paid ad showed up and intriged me enough to read their reviews. Between visibility and great reviews (verified after my own experiences) the ad paid off for them. I love them both and recommend them to quite a few friends.

  341. RaymondFong says:

    Hey Yelpmenot, yeah, I don’t know what they are trying to pull but suffice to say, I am not a fan of their PAID service. The FREE service they are offering is fine – the price is just right – assuming they aren’t pulling any of that shady B.S. like manufacturing negative reviews to spite you.

    But for the paid service, stay away :) And this is coming from someone who’s been doing internet marketing for several years now.


  342. Yelpmenot says:

    Raymond, I love your candid and educated opinion. Let me add a few things. A Yelp salesperson has been hawking me for the past week.

    The beginning of the conversation started with the salesperson letting me know how great Yelp has been to our business. Basically trying to make me feel good about how Yelp has “helped” us by having us listed on their site for the past few years. It was almost as if they were trying to give us a guilt trip.

    So I asked how much the fees were and found out it was $300 a month for 12 months with a 2 month penalty for canceling. So a minimum of $900 if you decide to bow out after a month. That didn’t sit well with me and then they slowly inserted into a slick sales pitch that there was a less contractual plan of $325/month for 6 months with a 1 month cancellation penalty. So you’re in it for a minimum of $650.

    I told them no thanks. Next day I get a call telling me about all the hits their site is generating for our own website. I checked my website stats and saw that I got 50 referrals from yelp, about only 17 of them were unique. That STILL doesn’t mean it brought me in any customers. Anyhow, I got offered a package with a shorter contract. $350 a month for 3 months… My, I wonder what they’ll offer next!!! When I first asked about the shortest plan they also told me 6 months but now they’re changing their tune.

    I’m still not going to advertise with them because I think it’s too expensive. Like you mentioned, by them just displaying an ad for me every once in a while doesn’t guarantee me anything. I am a regular Yelper and I don’t pay attention to those sponsored links. Honestly, all the clicks to my site don’t mean anything to me unless it adds to my bottom line.

    Anyhow, I’ve done quite a bit of digging with Google only to find this fantastic blog and some others validating what I’ve recently discovered. Yelp is a business, an unethical business which was once a great resource and now has turned into a thug. They tried to make me feel guilty and act like they are responsible for the success of my business. They allow paid owners to manipulate their business reviews and use slick bedroom manners to try to bully you into subscribing. I’ve heard that they don’t treat you too nicely if you don’t subscribe so I’m keeping close tabs on what happens with our review page…

    Thanks again for your fantastic diatribe…

  343. Raymond Fong says:

    Not sure what you are asking, but Yelp doesn’t suck… their FREE program is good – the price is right, I just would NOT pay them for their paid program unless your value per customer is very high. And yes, I like AdWords.

  344. pecky says:

    so where is a perfect world if yelp is like suck, adword is like ad what?

  345. Raymond Fong says:

    Hey Mari, what makes you say that? Perhaps you can enlighten me on “how Yelp works”…


  346. Mari says:

    Hey Ray. You clearly have no idea how Yelp works. Your blog is amusing though :) lol.

  347. RaymondFong says:

    Bugger. What’s going on that’s making you regret the decision Anna?

  348. Anna says:

    wish I found this article sooner. I got sold the sponsored advertising and am regretting every minute of it.

  349. Lu Martinez says:

    Dear Ray,

    I recently set-up a FREE Yelp business account, but I am not happy with what is going on. My business is very personalized because I help people recover from a myriad of ailments. I don’t have great numbers of people coming through every day like other retail type businesses. Hence, every review is very valuable. Well, I have had a total of 3 reviews and for some reason 2 5 star reviews are not showing up anymore.

    There is no rhyme or reason why the reviews were removed, they just are and the YELP folks give themselves this right. People took time and energy to write the review. Also, this does not give people who are seeking my type of services a true picture.

    I am quite disappointed with this FREE service. This is not helping others (that would benefit from my abilities) or me.

    Thanks you so much for taking the time to write about what you have discovered about their “paid” service. I am going to go for Google Adwords and also have folks review my services on the Google business Ads instead.

  350. Anono says:

    Thanks for the tips, Raymond. This is the kind of info I was looking for.

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