Is Yelp Getting Better For Businesses?

    June 30, 2013
    Chris Crum
    Comments are off for this post.

Yelp has always been about helping local businesses find customers, and helping potential customers find local businesses of interest. Despite the general functionality of the service, there have been plenty of complaints from businesses who feel that Yelp has hurt their business more than helped it. The company has been making moves lately, which would seemingly make it an even more valuable tool for businesses, and it will be interesting to see if the controversies fade or linger and whether or not new ones arise.

Do you like the moves Yelp has been making? Do you feel like Yelp is becoming a better tool for businesses? Share your thoughts in the comments.

A few months ago, Yelp launched the Revenue Estimator tool. This lets local businesses compare their Yelp-driven business to the national average. It does the math by multiplying customer leads sent from Yelp each month by the business’s average revenue per customer lead. It also includes the average spend per customer for each business category for reference.

“We think this new tool will be helpful to business owners for two reasons,” Yelp said upon the tool’s release. “First, it helps quantify the revenue opportunity Yelp is already sending to each business. Second, it establishes a revenue baseline for prospective advertisers, from which they can later evaluate the impact of their investment in Yelp Ads.”

Yelp Revenue Estimator

CEO Jeremy Stoppelman recently discussed plans for launching ecommerce tools for businesses.

Yelp goes “far beyond restaurants,” he said at the Le Web conference earlier this month. “I think the number one category right now is shopping, so boutiques, places to buy different things…and so it covers the full range…the Yellow Pages traditionally didn’t cover things like shopping and didn’t really cover things like restaurants, but Yelp obviously cover those pretty well, but goes into the traditional Yellow Pages categories too, like doctors and hair salons, and plumbers.”

Interviewer Loic Le Meur noted that the next logical step for the company could be to start actually selling products.

After saying, “mmm hmm” and nodding his head, Stoppelman added, “I think that is an interesting direction, and it’s one we’ve got a toe in the water, but I see a lot of potential, and that is, we have all these people that are essentially shopping online for something offline, and so why not offer those consumers a way to close the transaction? We already do that with OpenTable Top Tables, so you can book your reservation from your iPhone or your Android device.”

“This is an area that we’re interested in,” he added. The way to think about it is “Yelp as a platform,” he said.

“We’re aggregating all these consumers,” Stoppelman continued. “They’re doing their shopping today, and the problem is that they’re just not closing their transaction. And so you can imagine that you might be able to plug in services like OpenTable for all sorts of verticals, and that could be a really interesting business for us.”

Last week, Yelp launched a feature that encourages transactions. That didn’t take too long. It’s called the “Call to Action” feature, and is available to Yelp advertisers.

“It will allow biz owners to promote a desired transaction of their choosing directly on their Yelp business listing,” a spokesperson for Yelp told WebProNews. “For example, Ticketmaster, one of the companies we’re launching with, has been using the feature on Yelp listings for over 2,000 live entertainment venues to guide consumers seamlessly from Yelp directly to the Ticketmaster page where they can purchase tickets.”

“According to a recent BCG study, advertisers on Yelp report seeing an average of $23,000 in annual revenue from the site,” the company said in a blog post. “Yelp’s Call to Action feature, available now to Yelp advertisers, is designed to increase the revenue potential Yelp provides to business owners, with the ability to promote a specific action they’d like consumers to take. The Call to Action feature will take consumers seamlessly from a business’ Yelp listing to the the business’ own website to complete the transaction — be it scheduling an appointment, printing a coupon, buying tickets to see ‘N Sync (still holding out hope for a reunion tour!), or any other action a business wants to promote.”

Business owners who want to try out the new feature are advised to start at Yelp’s advertising page.

Even since then, Yelp has added another feature, adding user-uploaded photos in-line with review text on business reviews. Yelp matches the photos and reviews that are contributed by the same people and displays them together on the business’ Yelp page.

“We have always said that what sets Yelp apart from other review sites is our community of Yelpers who come to the site to contribute rich content,” said Yelp UI designer Allison Shaw. “Not only are they writing reviews about their experiences with all types of local businesses, they’re also uploading photos. We’re continually working to make the content on Yelp as helpful as possible for people looking to make a spending decision.”

This month, Yelp also started using more data for “nearby” suggestions in its iPhone app (the update will come to Android in the coming months). This makes Yelp a more effective local search tool for users. Suggestions are based not only on location, but also on previous Yelp check-ins, reviews, Yelp friends, time of day, weather, etc.


Today, Yelp shared some findings from a Nielsen survey, indicating that four out of five Yelp users visit the site when preparing to spend money at a local business.

“Why is this important?” asks Matt H., VP Revenue & Analytics at Yelp. “Because it reinforces what we already know – that Yelp users are searching for local businesses with the intent to spend money, and they’re using Yelp to decide where to do it. With a monthly average of 102 million unique visitors (as of Q1 2013), that’s a lot of spending power channeled through Yelp. In fact, just last week we introduced Call to Action, another new feature that helps business owners close this loop between discovering a business on Yelp and making a transaction.”

According to the survey, 99% of Yelp users have made a purchase at a business they found on Yelp, with nearly 90% of them doing so within a week.

Do you think Yelp is getting better for businesses? Let us know in the comments.


    Yelp keeps filtering my customers’ reviews. I just opened my business in January so I have only received 3 reviews. They were all positive, and all were filtered. I know the 2 customers left reviews on another site so I assume that’s why for them. No idea about the last, I do not think he left a review elsewhere. It would be nice as a small business if one of the reviews were up there.


    • Jason

      As a consumer, my issue with Yelp is Selection Bias.
      The people who take the time to go home after a meal or a purchase and write a review tend to be people with an axe to grind. Or they are Yelp’s “preferred reviewers” who appear to be people auditioning for a job in journalism. Regardless of their motivation, they are not a representative sample of the business’ customer base.

  • Sharon Moak

    No, this absolutely does not make Yelp better for businesses. They are grossly incompetent at their core functions and provide zero customer service as it is. Yelp has always stated it holds businesses last in their priorities and it shows. I will never use this function, as Yelp’s sole purpose is to boost its own profits, not ours.

  • http://www.frontlineweb.biz Mick

    To be completely honest have found Yelp not much help in sourcing new leads. There are so many directories out there its hard to pin down down the best ones.

  • Kimberly

    Yelp definitely messes with real reviews. My friend had a bogus review (I think it was an ex-girlfriend), and Yelp leaves it online, yet they have ignored at least 3 good reviews that we know of, by real clients.

    Plus they say they answer all emails, but I am still waiting…admittedly I had emailed them about this issue before and there was an answer that time. They just refuse to get into an honest discussion about their tactics I guess.

    We are now focused on making ‘real’ connections on LinkedIn and not a rigged site like Yelp.

  • Nick

    Yelp was GREAT for my Business!!!

    I had MANY LEGITIMATE Reviews , GLOWING reviews on Yelp and the Calls came in regularly because of it. We LOVED Yelp and got many people to join up.

    The we got ” The Call”

    We were not ready for the new pay model yet but planned to look at it seriously for the next year as part of the budget.

    ALL but ONE of our LEGITIMATE reviews were screened 2 weeks later after YEARS of no problems.

    We get maybe a call every other month now.

    Why is no one going to Prison? Isn’t it THAT Obvious?

    Or are well all just experiencing a MASSIVE coincidence?

    Sorry to say but if you are writing a POSITIVE story about Yelp helping big business I would REALLY like to see the name on the check that paid for it.

  • http://thecomputergal.com Nora McDougall-Collins

    Is Yelp a review site or an advertising site? If Yelp is not about accuracy in delivering real customer reviews, then Yelp does not have an organic product. Personally, I’m not as likely to believe anything on Yelp as I used to be.

  • Rob

    Yelp is terrible for business, they filter reviews like crazy but seem to favor negative reviews, they rank high on google so 1 bad review becomes front and center on google searches killing your reputation and undermines all internet marketing efforts put forth by a business costing very real $$ in damages. There practices should be illegal for all the damage they cause.

  • http://www.nortonwestandco.com norton west

    YELP has great potential; however, even as a paid advertiser I have two issues that make me question their value for any business partner:
    1. Their primary success is in the food and entertainment industries where reviews are rather spontaneous based on your store visit. Their metrics (check-ins, your business reviews etc) make sense for these type of businesses and transactions. For professional service businesses who may not have a retail store or showroom, these listing and promotion method are not well adapted. As a home repair-remodeling contractor, my prospects and clients make a more contemplative decision process that does not fit the current YELP listing and promoting program. The review algorithm does not lend itself to the keywords or whatever it is YELP is looking for. Even as a paid advertiser, they kicked out my legitimate customer reviews. These reviews are exceptionally important to distinguish yourself in a small metro area such as Portland ME. By any statistics I will only get a few “leads” per month so the reviews count to get the phone call.
    2. As I stated the Review Algorithm is faulty. Problem is they seem to be operating a closed management system that leaves out any feedback from clients that could improve their products including the secretive review algorithm. Their account manager in my case acted my like a bouncer at the door of YELP to prevent clients from communicating with supervisor or tech support. For example, notice the difference between the YELP approach to FEEDBACK (all anonymous) and that for a company like Intuit which welcomes feedback and even invites accountants and Pro-advisors to participate in improving their accounting and tax products. If I had known about their being so closed to any customer feedback, I never would have signed up for advertising.

  • Jessica

    A group of employees at a local rival restaurant to ours has repeatedly written negative (more like foul, nasty, and completely inappropriate) reviews on our page. We are unsure why all of these fake reviews stick and continue to linger at the top of the page while we watch positive reviews from our loyal customers be filtered within days of being posted.
    We have contacted Yelp several times with no success and feel frustrated, helpless, and like we are being cheated. Our restaurant is a popular destination for tourists, who often rely solely on the guidance of review sites.

    • http://www.garrowmediallc.com Dan

      The best way to get rid of Yelp manipulation of information is to stop using the site and be sure to explain to friends and associates what a scam it is. It may be grass roots but you have to start somewhere.

  • Marco

    Consider the following.
    1). Anyone can post negative reviews on Yelp and they are not held accountable, in fact they are encouraged. This means even a competitor can slam your business. I have seen negative reviews from people who never even visited or purchased from a business.
    2). Yelp says they counteract this with a “truth” detector which hides suspicious reviews. Unfortunately, it often hides new registrant positive reviews and leaves old account negative reviews thus skewing ratings.
    3). You do not have a choice to have a company profile on Yelp. They will not remove it under any circumstances (even when it is wrong). If you do not advertise, Yelp adds competitor ads to your profile. So if you have a well respected business that people look up, it is flooded with alternatives. In other words, Yelp benefits from companies with good reputations by selling advertising space on their profiles.
    Advertise with us or we will send your customers to your competitors is not a nice way to get people to advertise.
    4). The very size and SEO power of Yelp means that it’s pages are ranked above anything a single business can achieve. This has made small restaurant webpages almost obsolete.
    5). Do a google search for “Yelp complaints” and it will be very revealing.

  • http://www.garrowmediallc.com Dan

    I have tried Yelp as an advertiser for three different agency clients. What a joke and what a boiler room operation. I think it was Charlie Rose I first saw the CEO or COO of Yelp talking about how great the product is and how consumers and advertisers love it. The experience of setting up the trials was a total fiasco, once they obtained and charged my credit card there was virtually zero followup. I ended up chasing them for several months to get done what they had promised only to see horrific results. Not poor results, awful. It is amazing to me how Google’s algo continues to feed back trash results from sites like Yelp organically. It’s hard to believe that consumers are as ignorant to these mega marketing sites but obviously these models of enterprise work. It’s really pathetic that from Angie’s List to the BBB to Yelp that people really as so foolish they don’t see these for what they are….mega advertising platforms that can easily be manipulated. It’ll be interesting to see if Google can cleanup their search results with truly relevant content or if they will continue to be manipulated by the likes of Yelp and company.

  • http://www.CasinoPartyCA.com daniel

    BAN YELP !! ARE THEY HURTING YOUR BUSINESS TOO? Yelp FILTERS ALL MY POSITIVE REVIEWS. This has been going on for over a year. I have over 20 Positive reviews on Yelp at each of my locations in southern California. In last 10 years I have received less than a handful of complaints online. From 300-500 events a year with a 99.8 percent success rate. See the link below and ask yourself why Yelp has filtered these customer positive reviews. Did Yelp call you trying to extort money from your business just to show the positive reviews?


  • http://www.DaltonPhoto.com rick

    I am a wedding photographer, and got a negative and libelous review on Yelp from a wedding I photographed over 5 years earlier. While I made a mistake at the wedding, it wasn’t near as bad as described. I replied to the negative review, and within a week or so, Yelp deleted their negative review.

    When I see my Yelp numbers, I don’t see alot of traffic via the Yelp site, so that is a bit disappointing, but I am not a paid advertiser.

  • http://www.ChefLeeZ.com Chef LeeZ

    We tried today become a member and could not sign up error message “Yelp is overworked right now”. We’ve signed up for a hundred similar accounts and never before encountered such a message. It also looks like YELP is restricted to Canada and USA business listings.

  • Christie

    Yelp is horrible. They are nothing more than the online equivalent of the mafioso. I know many small business owners who, not being to afford to advertise with them, suddenly see positive reviews disappear. I had positive reviews for my business, legitimate reviews, filtered for no reason. I could never get an explanation from Yelp other than their standard line, ‘we have our model’ or whatever it is they say to justify their nonsense. I do not trust anything from them, whatsoever.

    • Charlie


      I hit your thumbs down by mistake and tried to fix it and did it again. Sorry.

      Yelp is horrible!

  • http://www.linkyiwu.com/ Yiwu

    YELP? have no good impression with it…O..

  • http://www.villagecab.com VillageCab

    What about YELP? Well, we are a what one might term a Micro business that has been slugging it out, in what every knows has been a rigorous economy, since 2004. When our Yelp page was “free” it seemed to be a fair representer of both GOOD & BAD commentaries…BUT within 24 hours of becoming a PAYING premium subscriber paying over $250 per month ( which is huge for a small fish like us ) ALL of our 5 STAR comments DISAPPEARED (to the almost invisible Filtered Page) and only our 2 and 1 star commemts remained. So, we were in effect Paying for TOP SPOT in order to show ourselves off as a LOW STAR business. so all I have to say is that YELP for us has proven itself to be a Captain of the BAIT & SWITCH starship, out to swagger its own name and force us to pay and then worry about an image that THEY manipulate with their Secret Sauce algorithms. for us, THEY have turned out to be a DESPICABLE marketing mistake.

    • Charlie

      I feel the same way you all do. Yelp was a huge mistake – especially if you’re new in business. Go to your bank or credit card company and tell them you want a replacement card. They will not be able to extract any money from your account after you change the credit card number. Or close the checking account you auto-pay them out of and reopen a new account – At least they will not have access to your money that way.

      I have added this .pdf to my website which I felt was the only recourse I had:

      Yelp has not posted or removed at least 3 legitimat
      e and verifiable positive reviews from my listing!
      There are others I’m sure that I’m not aware of. In
      reaction, I will not reactivate my ad.
      I feel compelled to inform readers of Ratings and R
      eviews of what the score really is. Since there is
      online rating system or website for users to rate a
      nd review online listing services such as Yelp:
      Yelp empowers anyone willing to slam anyone else fo
      r any reason without any accountability what-so-
      ever. It is nothing short of an adult version of sc
      hoolyard bullying or text bullying. (For which youn
      have been prosecuted)
      Legitimate good reviews have been removed from my l
      isting. Horrible accusations have been let remain
      which are not even about myself. Reviews have been
      left by persons who are not customers. Customers
      use your reputation as leverage to get something th
      ey are not entitled to. (And after being treated to
      free service none-the-less) Competitors use it to m
      ake others look bad in the eyes of the public.
      Employees use it to stick it to the man. Complaints
      of the inconsolable are wildly disproportionate to
      damage and financial loss which is incurred by the
      actions of the tantrum thrower. Thus, an owner is
      denied the fundamental right to cure a problem befo
      re permanent public comments are hung around
      their head like a noose. Then, even if the owner tr
      ies to have it removed, the corpse swings in the wi
      stinking up your hard earned reputation for an eter
      nity -because Yelp will never remove ratings and
      reviews (as other providers will) or discontinue a
      listing until you’re out of business –which they co
      care less about causing! They seem to want control
      over your business.
      Some business persons manufacture their own reputat
      ion by writing their own reviews or paying others
      to write them, or well meaning friends and family d
      o so… Not me!!
      Please don’t believe everything you read on ‘rating
      s and reviews’, they can be more like ‘rantings and
      refuse’. Many times you are not reading anything fa
      ctual or reliable to say the least.
      It has been well
      documented, good people from all walks of life, all
      sorts of professionals and service providers alike
      are the victims of slanderous defamatory fiction on
      If you are sincerely interested look at these revie
      ws of Yelp:

    • Charlie

      One more thing that might help all of you out with negative comments:

      You can modify your customer contracts, especially if you’re a service provider. I modified a section of mine to read:

      … “customer agrees that all unresolved disputes shall be resolved privately through binding arbitration (BBB) between the contractor and customer. Customer agrees not to make or cause to be made any negative, derogatory, or character damaging comments on any public forum for any reason prior to or during any dispute or disagreement.” …

      -I hope that’s helpful. It can give you some time to resolve customer issues without being harassed during that process; and legal rights if they’re crazy.

  • https://zaawi.co.uk/ Mike Milord

    People need to start thinking of alternative to Yelp. there a few good services out there, which can help your business and get a good relationship with your customers. Don’t get me wrong I am believer of review, i think that can help any business to succeed (Good or Bad reviews both are good). Good reviews allow everyone to see how good you are and bad reviews allow you to know what is going wrong with your business so you can take actions as long as you keep an open communication with your customers based, they will understand your shortcomings. Always keep it honest and offer a solution to any problem which arise.

  • http://www.critterschoice.com John Corey

    Yelp is dangerous, people can say whatever they want and when you contact yelp they blow you off. Only negative we ever go was on yelp and bogus. meanwhile on Angie’s list we have dozens of great reviews. Run from Yelp do not walk run. do your business a favor and get hooked up with something legit like Angie’s List it has actually gotten me a number of new customers. People actually use the service and call.

  • Jewl

    No, yelp is not getting better for business, they are just getting better at marketing themselves and making excuses as to why their services are the way they are. Their review filter is a complete scam. I had one colleague say that all of her 5 star reviews were filtered and it was because they wanted her to advertise. She then said yelp contacted her to let her know there was a way she can pay to have her reviews come out of the filter. Seems a bit fishy to me, and yes, this has hurt my business extremely in the past.

  • http://www.jamesmusicstudio.com James Weinberg

    It seems that users of this forum OVERWHELMINGLY hate Yelp. Guess what? SO DO I!!!! I’m a member of the Yelp Sucks Facebook page and strongly encourage boycotting the Yelp site. Despite almost 2 dozen good reviews of my piano studio, they have kept the one and only negative review online and filtered out all the rest! I’ve written to them multiple times and have received no help. Thankfully the one negative review (written by a mentally disturbed person) is clearly not to be trusted, so I feel any rational reader will dismiss it. But still, it hurts because that’s the review quoted in search engine results. DOWN WITH YELP!

  • http://Healungconnections.info Kelly Haber

    First of all, this article was very difficult to read in my smart phone with all the lines jammed up together. If that is the norm, I’ll stop opening this Ezine.
    And Yelp does nothing for my practice. I think it’s more for high traffic businesses, not a solo-preneur business like mine.

  • Susan

    I do not believe YELP has any real value to businesses or customers. Anytime folks are free to comment anonymously is a fertile field for outright BS. If you have a complaint, be man enough to make it to the business owner’s face, not on some website where he or she has no ability to resolve or respond to your issue. Any fool can say whatever they want when they do not have to put their name to their statements.

  • http://bathandbeyond.com J. Burton

    As so many others have stated…YELP HURTS our business. Their “secret” algorithm continues to remove ALL 5 star reviews (29 so far) and leave fake 1 star reviews. WHY? I have asked to speak to someone at YELP who could explain why the good reviews were hidden in the filtered section. I was told that NO ONE could tell me as it is a “secret” process. It took years to get just one of the many fake reviews removed. Our 5 star reviews started disappearing years ago when we first declined to advertise with YELP. At that time they told us that if we advertised they would put any bad reviews at the bottom until they disappeared. A fact that many businesses were told and YELP now denies. We finally decided to see what would happen if we paid to advertise…nothing changed. I know they intentionally remove our good reviews as I have been interviewed by ABC on two occasions over the bad business practices by YELP. When I asked YELP why a person has to decipher 2 code words in order to read the filtered reviews, I was told that they want to make sure a robot can’t read those reviews! REALLY….they couldn’t come up with a better lie than that. The truth is they don’t want people to see the filtered reviews that they have chosen to remove. I have repeatedly asked why they want to hurt businesses – still no answer. YELP is bad for business. The “new revenue and leads” are a joke. They state I have over 800 leads…not true.

    • Priscilla

      I have had the same problem we have a bad review by someone that has NEVER been to our business he doesnt even live in our area ,,yet YELP will not remove it and the 9 good reviews are all hidden . Yelp is a business destroyer !!

  • Spook SEO

    I think these new moves will improve Yelp’s value to its users and therefore boost its popularity. Its “Call to action” feature is really a smart addition for consumers to make a quick decision to transact rather than give them time to hesitate or forget.