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Restaurateurs: For Web Advertising, Think Bing and Google, Not Yelp


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I was in the process of renewing a Bing/Yahoo (BY) advertising campaign that had expired a bit ago and thought restaurateurs who think about web advertising, and/or are badgered for advertising from Yelp might want to consider other alternatives.

I've included an article reference from earlier this year....that doesn't compare yelp to bing and google,but it does compare google and bing  (Interesting...our experience with comparing cost per click on BY vs Google are very similar to what the article shows....and I got confirmation on that from somebody who runs a bunch of bing/yahoo and google ad campaigns)

What spurred this was a recent quick look at the impact of Bing/Yahoo advertising in costs and results versus Google adwords advertising or yelp advertising.

Here is what I saw:

One of our smb's had dropped Bing/Yahoo (BY) advertising some months back, simply because the CC we used for payment had expired.  Renewing the BY campaign had fallen below the radar screen.   I noticed that in that time web traffic from Bing/Yahoo had fallen a bit compared to same months previous year when we were running the campaign.

Why had the BY campaign fallen below the radar screen?   Costs were less than 5% of what our google advertising cost.  5%.   That is ridiculous and cheap.  Our ability to track the campaigns and our effectiveness showed that BY gave us sales per visitor at just a wee bit lower rate than Google.  So at 5% of the cost its well worth our while.

Why was it so low relative to Google?   Costs per click were about 1/3 of the cost on Google. (see the above referenced article)  That is our rough experience with several BY campaigns for several businesses.  I ran the story into a web community of people who specialize in web marketing.  Not many of them do advertising but at least one person responded and posted that his cost per click costs between BY and google were similar.

Now the other reasons were because probably 9 times as many people search on Google than BY combined.   So there are less searches and of course less clicks.

But the costs were low.

Now why BY and/or Google versus Yelp?    here are some reasons.


There are DRAMATICALLY more searches on search engines for local services on search engines than Yelp.   During that time period when we were running BY the number of searches for terms for our business on BY were about 3 TIMES as many as Yelp reported.  Tons more searches on BY than Yelp and BY has tons less searches than does Google.  Both are used INFINITELY more than Yelp.


BY and Google allow you to vary your costs.  Its not a set fee such as Yelp.  If the Yelp cost is going to be $300, 400, $500/month.  You can choose to spend less on BY or Google.  You can change that amount.


With BY or Google you can start the campaign in a day and end it any day you wish.  No term commitments as with Yelp.  You can try it for a day, a week, 2 months, or for ever how long.  If its not working or you don't want to spend the money any more.   End it.  No Term Commitments.  Much better than yelp.   Not all advertising campaigns work.  I hate term commitments.


You can focus the campaign with precise keywords and keyword phrases.  People who use search are sort of like users of the old Yellow Pages and more.  They use phrases to find things with intent.  Some of them are buyers and some are searchers...but they have INTENT.  That is more effective than a Facebook Campaign, where people use it to see what your friends are doing.  It is like most of Yelp (but not all of Yelp).  Search with intent leads to purchases.


The main premise of yelp advertising and its premium rates is simply that people who read reviews are likelier buyers.  Should I read or scan the reviews to buy or not.   That is 90% of the purpose of reading reviews.  So review readers are likelier buyers!!!!

FLEXIBILITY including featuring reviews!!!

Meanwhile if you set up a BY or Google campaign its going to a page on your website.  You pick the page.  You can design a landing page for the ad campaign that features reviews!!!!!   You can design the landing page with a discount.  You can design the page with a sign up for the discount and a request for their email.  You can send it to an existing page.    Totally flexible.  Up to you.

Tons more people look at Bing/Yahoo and especially Google.

Google and Bing/Yahoo have billions of visits.  Yelp doesn't.  They have billions of visits for local services and goods.  Yelp doesn't.   They are used far far more!!!

We looked at our "impressions" or "views of our sites or ads and compared Yelp traffic and Yelp stats versus Google, Bing and Yahoo.

Yelps stats show "times our Yelp page was "seen" by Yelp visitors.   That doesn't mean they are looking at us.  It means they may be looking at our category or they may be looking at a category where our yelp page shows.  Our Bing/Yahoo and Google Statistics from ad campaigns show us which search terms are used when our ads turn up.  It could be VERY PRECISE or it could be broader.  We have control.

AND ALMOST FINALLY...THERE IS "NO" COMPETITION for ads for restaurants on Google, Bing or Yahoo.  That means two things:

1.  Ads will be cheap.

2. Your ad and business get highlighted at the top of the search page.  Better visibility.

AND THE LAST POINT that tickled my fancy...at least with BY.  You can get the first $100 of Bing ads for free  (get a credit toward your spend).  You can possibly get $200 for free.  Often you can get $50 of Google ads for free.

Now I can go on about this stuff.  We've used advertising for our businesses for years.  They are services.  We've used print, radio, TV, classified, etc etc...and we've used the web.

Now I don't have an involvement with Google or Bing or Yahoo or Yelp.  I couldn't care.  We "almost" advertised with Yelp for one business for one purpose a while back.  Frankly it was a little expensive per month for what we wanted to target.  We didn't think it would draw TONS of sales...but we were planning it for a particular web visibility issue at that time.   So I've advertised w/ Bing/Yahoo with Google with some other web vehicles but never with Yelp.

But I liked that FREE $100 from Bing Yelp.. and was blown away at how inexpensive it is...and how it reaches more people than yelp.

If you need guidance on this type of thing, DM me here...but frankly setting these things up aren't rocket science and you can control it, and turn it on and off at your call.  Those are great options.

Good luck.

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I wanted to update this for the restaurateurs:

Over the years there have been so many complaints about Yelp, and I'm sure most of them have been with very good reason.  I don't say that google advertising and/or bing/yahoo advertising are "nicer" but they might be more effective, more wide reaching and they are probably less expensive.

What is different is that they don't have google sales teams, or yahoo/bing sales team that pester and sell to you.

Yet their visibility for search phrases that are relevant is probably significantly greater possibly by a factor of 4 or 5 times as much to possibly 20 times as much.

While I've never run a restaurant web site I know from our different bar schools that certain types of phrases are searched at high volume on the web and particularly in google and less so bing and yahoo.   Phrases such as Pizza DC, Seafood Arlington, Mexican restaurants Bethesda,  have a lot of search activity.

The different bar schools in different cities "hooked into" different websites in different cities that captured that traffic.  We had reasonably visible links on those sites to our different schools and I had enough contact with those website owners that I understood the traffic, the patterns and how it worked.   In our cases those different "bar" type sites would get lots and lots of traffic mostly from google or bing or yahoo for phrases such as DC bars, Georgetown bars, bars in Adams Morgan, etc etc.  It was the same thing in different cities.   The traffic was very very high on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.   Same thing in every city.

The sites we "hooked into" got a lot of traffic and then the readers would read about specific bars or bars in neighborhoods etc etc.   Its the same thing readers do with OpenTable, Yelp, TripAdvisor and other review sites including DR.com

Clearly though the search engines had by far and away endless more traffic than any other source.    The result is there are a lot of eyeballs from possible customers looking at the search engines;  google, bing, and yahoo.

Advertising in the search engines is different than in Yelp.  In Yelp one pays a flat fee per month for a set amount of "views"* (more on that later).   The pricing seems to be around $1 to more like $1.50 or closer to $2.00 per view.

The Search engines (SE) are different.  Typically one pays per click.  If a visitor hits your ad you pay.  You primarily determine the amount you pay per click (subject to bidding from other advertisers).  You determine how much you are going to spend per day or month.

In yelp you have to do a term agreement;  It mostly starts at one year.  They seem to be more willing to drop that to 6 months (possibly 3 months).   With the SE's you can turn an ad campaign on in a day or off in a day.  No term limits.

What I keep seeing is that search engines have INCREDIBLY more visits and views than do yelp.  Its by an extraordinarily high number.    In the last few days the Bing/Yahoo campaign had about 5 times as many views as did Yelp for our business that renewed the campaign (per Yelps own reports).

Now it could be that restaurants might drive a higher number of viewers in Yelp than other types of businesses.  Could be.  I don't know.  I don't see the data.

Still, views are not all equal.  Here is how it works in Yelp.

Suppose you have a restaurant called Tony and Angie's Meatball Palace on H Street, NE in DC.   It could show up for all type of yelp searches including Italian food Falls Church, Imperial Palace in Rockville, and lots of Yelp searches that aren't focused on the restaurant by name, or location, or type.    So one is subject to "views" that might not be relevant to the restaurant.

Of course nobody knows what consists of all these views.  Yelp does not reveal the data.

In Bing/Yahoo and slightly less so in Google you can advertise on very specific phrases or phrases that have pretty tight parameters.

You can pretty much restrict when your ads will show to phrases that include just "H Street" or "Capitol Hill".   or whatever you wish.  You have more control.


Cost in search engines is a bid process.  Its where I believe restaurants have an opportunity in SE's.

Very few restaurants advertise in Google and far less so in Bing/Yahoo.  They never have.  National chains advertise and locals mostly stay away from it.   With fewer competitors, there are less bids and the bidding is less aggressive.  Costs are low!!!!    Really costs can be very low with no competition.

I'll use one example.  I was working an experiment on a travel site.  We discovered a phrase wherein I believe we were bidding at less than $0.30/click.  There were no other competitive ads for the phrase.

The rough cost per click came in at $0.10/click.  There were about 20,000 impressions.  The ad surprisingly got a very high click through rate of about 20%.   (probably because it matched the search phrases in a very remarkable and unique way.)

We got 4,000 clicks at about $400;  about $0.10/click and about $0.02/impression or view.   Compare that one to the cost of yelp at $1 to $2.00 per view.   GREAT GREAT DEAL.

In any case with few competitors, advertising in Bing/Yahoo or Google can simply be a better price deal, get seen by more people and might stick out in a very favorable way.

Again, setting up these things isn't rocket science.  Frankly the Bing people are amazingly helpful and will walk you through the process.

Finally, I've been hit up by yelp salespeople over the years for a couple of different businesses probably about 20 times in total.  I've never bought yelp ads.  I almost did one time and didn't act on it.   (Another story).   I just put off the yelp sales people each time.

I think If I was hit up again and was in the position to contemplate advertising with yelp, I'd tell them I'm advertising with BingYahoo or Google and its a lot less expensive per impression.   Then I'd ask the yelp salesperson if I can get a discount because I'd have to cut other effective advertising.  I'd see if they bend.  Who knows???  :)

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