3 Lessons from Yelp’s Business “Service”
Let’s take a look at the three areas I highlighted at the start.
Businesses die if they don’t sell. And they don’t sell if they lose customers to bad service. Bad service spreads like a cancer. Word of mouth is powerful.
I told one of the many hapless Yelp business reps I was going to write this article if they didn’t end my contract. It didn’t even phase them. I told them I was a copywriter and would use this as an object lesson. Again, my goal isn’t to bash Yelp. It’s to help people learn what good business, sales, service, and SEO practices look like, and what they don’t look like.
Here’s good service – if you want repeat business, then do whatever it takes to make sure your customer is satisfied. I will never be a Yelp customer again.
So they got to collect their one-time-only couple thousand bucks from me. But they won’t ever get another dime.
If they had any sense at all, they would recognize this, and do whatever it takes to work with me so that I will be willing to work with them again. If not now, then maybe in the future.
Do the math. Suppose I find my way to the cheaper option my friend uses, and pay Yelp $100 a month. Suppose I do this for just 2 years at some point in the rest of my life. 2 years, $100 a month. That’s $2400 in revenue for Yelp. More than double what they just bilked me for because they refused to rework my contract when their business model failed.
How much money has Yelp left on the table by treating other customers like this who will never come back? My guess is, it’s in the millions. And counting.
Lesson 2a: SEO – No Subheads Allowed
For an online-only company, it shocked me how little flexibility for SEO options there is in Yelp’s marketing options. I just assumed they would allow these kinds of traffic-boosting methods. I mean, more traffic means more business for me, which means more revenue for them, right?
Shouldn’t they be doing everything they can to get more traffic to their pages? Yes, they’re doing a lot, but they’re not doing this.
You can’t even put different-sized fonts or colors on your own business page!
Google responds to keywords, but especially keywords in H1 and H2 tags – headings and subheadings. For a business like mine that has a few general keywords but many possible specific ones, I need ways to highlight more of my services.
And I need them on the page, as well as in Google’s eyes.
Here’s my analogy for what Yelp marketing allowed me to do:
Lesson 2b: A Mexican Restaurant That Sells Italian Food
As a copywriter, I offer a lot of services that are in pretty far flung categories.
SEO content writing. Ebooks. Sales pages. Email marketing. Website assessments. Direct mail. Case studies.
These are totally different services. They all fall under the interminably broad category of “marketing.” But so does the guy standing on the street corner dancing with the tax-services sign.
And that brings us back to targeting for our audience.
Keywords don’t exist just for SEO. The whole point is to help your audience find you. If I want to go looking for a Mexican restaurant, then I’ll type “Mexican restaurants” on a search engine and see what comes up. Now, what do you think I’d do if I saw a bunch of Italian restaurants on the page?
I’d be pretty annoyed! Wouldn’t you? I mean how ridiculous would that be?
And yet, that’s what Yelp’s marketing system forced me to do. They make you choose categories for your business. There is no category for SEO. None for email marketing. None for content marketing. None for copywriting. None for street corner sign waving.
No, in Yelp’s opinion, all these diverse activities fall under the category of “marketing.” That was my only option for audience targeting.
I went to great pains to explain all this to multiple Yelp business reps. I even gave my simple Mexican-Italian restaurant example to make it easy for them. They didn’t get it. None of them. Their reps do not understand audience targeting. Or if they do, they think photos are more important.
Warning to ALL Business Owners: Yelp does not understand audience targeting.
The thing is, they do have categories for restaurants. So a search on Yelp for Mexican restaurants will in fact turn up… Mexican restaurants. As it should.
But email marketing? I just tried it, as I write this. All that came up were graphic design and print companies. But no email marketing specialists. Even though it’s listed on my page!
What does this tell you? This is very important that you get this if you’re thinking of using Yelp: It tells you Yelp’s algorithm is not geared for proper SEO marketing. It just doesn’t work that way.
If it did, an email marketing search on Yelp in my local area should turn up my page over any and all graphic design businesses. I emphasized email in my paid Yelp ads. It was front and center. Didn’t matter. I suppose if I had some photos of my email account, that might have helped…
Now, the other insight here is something Yelp just needs to be honest about:
Yelp works great for local service businesses like restaurants, accountants, and clothing stores. Places that exist at set locations and sell tangible products that most people can’t or won’t buy online.
For those kinds of businesses, Yelp is fantastic.
But for a service-oriented business where location doesn’t matter, Yelp has no value. Because people don’t go to Yelp to find those kinds of businesses.
Again, some of this was just my own curiosity when I signed up for Yelp. I suspected this might be true from the start, and I was willing to pay a few hundred dollars to find out. Bad service is why I’m writing this, not because my hypothesis turned out to be correct.
But to make sure this point is clear – Yelp could break up the huge category of marketing, just like they do for restaurants. They could allow businesses to emphasize branches of marketing, even including graphic design as ONE of those branches.
Why doesn’t Yelp do this?
Probably because of the third and most alarming lesson learned.