If you are a small business owner, especially one with a Yelp listing, you have no doubt received emails or phone calls from Yelp promising you credit to advertise your business to their website visitors. A free no-risk trial with such a large ad credit from a seemingly reputable company sounds enticing. But you’ll soon find yourself one of the thousands of small businesses who have been scammed out of hundreds or thousands of dollars by Yelp with no new business to show for it.
Our experience with Yelp at Webvolve started years ago. I personally had used Yelp to look at reviews for local businesses and posted reviews of my own experiences at businesses over the years. It seemed a no-brainer to setup our own free listing at their directory.
Occasionally we would get emails and calls from Yelp to advertise, and we finally decided that the offer was “too good to pass up” and agreed to move forward in November of 2022. Yelp says their accounts are “self-serve”, but their account managers (sales reps) are adamant about walking you through the process of setting up the account. During this process, they advise you to click on various options for maximum effectiveness and to fill out more of the profile later. Only one of these options gives you an upfront price – the upgrade package – but you don’t see the other fees until your invoice later.
About a week or so into the trial run, the rep was pretty hands-on until they stopped responding and directed us to their support which is practically non-existent. And then to our surprise, we received an invoice for almost $500 about a month into the ad run. This is despite the offer of the advertising credit. It turns out they did not apply the credit and their support was adamant about not applying it even after we provided written documentation. We were fortunate not to have a credit card on file or we would be on the end of a business trying to get its money back.
We found out that we are not alone. At the Better Business Bureau, Yelp has received 1,818 complaints in the last 3 years. The pattern of complaint mirrors ours to the point that BBB has a note at the top of the profile that reads:
“Based on BBB files this company continues to have has a pattern of complaints. Complainants on file state that information told to them by sales representatives regarding offers of “free credit applied to account” or a “free month” and how they would be charged was not accurate.”
To top it all off, we received zero new business from the ad. The few consultation requests were for services we did not even offer like the printing of brochures and other marketing materials.
A better use of marketing funds would be to contact a local marketing company that can use on-page and off-page SEO to help boost your business organically within Google. You’ll get the benefit of long-term targeted results that will only get better as your business matures and grows.
This blog post was written by Micheal Garza, the owner of Webvolve.