Full disclosure: Yelp competes for the same marketing dollars that 1sixty8 media does. I know that many small businesses cannot afford to pay for Yelp and also employ my services. This is not a “Yelp scam” or conspiracy post. I’m not going to debate their business practices. I wrote this to present a logical option to those considering locking into a contract with Yelp.
In my other life as a small, local, brick-and-mortar merchant, I’ve quietly sat back and watched a group of folks whom I admire discuss committing $350/month to Yelp (min. six-month contract). The opinions run from “Yelp delivers tons of business” to a lot less flattering views of the online review and referral site. What is very encouraging is that these folks are willing to spend a nice chunk of change on online marketing to improve their operations. This is great to see, because I firmly believe in the power of the Internet to drive real customers to brick-and-mortar businesses. My goal is to present a better alternative to signing a long-term contract at $350/month.
First of all, I have no doubt that Yelp delivers clients to some business types, particularly in major markets. However, as the owner of a small retail store in a rural market, I can honestly say I have never had a single client tell me that they came to me because of Yelp. I’m sure some have and they just didn’t say so, but we do ask every new client where they heard of us. Having a very strong web presence in my market and my industry, I find this a bit concerning.
The Problem with Yelp
The single biggest problem that I see with Yelp and other services like it is that it only works when you are paying for it. You are not buying anything you can keep (I know … if you make a sale, you keep the profits, but that is another topic entirely). You are not building anything. You are buying impressions. When you stop paying, you stop getting the impressions.
Option 1 – Google Adwords
If you are interested in a model like this, I would recommend Google Adwords as opposed to Yelp. When set up and executed properly, you only pay for success there. You only pay when a prospective client clicks on your ad – that is a hot prospect actively looking for what you do, which is better than an impression. Assuming you have a good website, when they click, they are exposed to the story that you want to tell without limitations of any kind. But alas, when you stop paying for Adwords clicks, you also stop seeing results.
Option 2 – Quality Content and SEO
I would argue that hiring an online visibility service like 1sixty8 media is a much better value and is priced very closely to what Yelp charges. Companies like mine work very hard to develop relevant, quality content that drives organic traffic to your site. This is content that you own. It becomes part of your site and is searchable today, tomorrow, next month and next year. A post that I wrote for my retail store in 2008 still brings in more than $25,000 per year in sales. There are many posts like that on my site. Even better, these posts are not viewed as advertising. They are informative and educational, and prospective clients appreciate the value they give. Which brings me to the next point.
You control everything. There are few restrictions to what you can post to your own site. Part of your website strategy should be “Branding Yourself as an Expert in Your Field.” Yelp cannot do this effectively, but a well-structured website with quality content can and does.
Your investment with 1sixty8 and similar services compounds over time. The more content you publish, the easier you are to find. Stuff that you published six months ago does not just disappear. It is there for as long as you want it to be.
In a perfect world, things like Yelp, Adwords, and a great SEO and content plan should be part of your online strategy. But if you are working on a budget and have to make a choice, I submit that 1sixty8 media offers much better long-term benefits than services like Yelp that stop working when you stop paying. Food for thought!
If you are interested in learning more about what 1sixty8 media can do to improve your online visibility, I encourage you to give us a call at 1-855-416-8669 or contact us today. We look forward to working with you!