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It’s pretty common for people to associate Yelp with online reviews or even as the modern equivalent of Yellowpages. They developed a mixed reputation from users of the app as well as from business owners that list and advertise on the platform. 

Many lawyers wonder if it’s an effective way to advertise and it will work for them as an effective channel for acquiring new clients.

Should Lawyers advertise on Yelp? Yelp has excellent SEO and a massive presence in the local business search industry. While results may vary, at the very least practices and law firms should list their info on their platform. They should also experiment and measure results from ads.

If your firm has the capabilities to measure their internal results and intake data fast enough, then you’ll be able to experiment and measure the exact ROI Yelp offers your practice via its ads and sponsored placements.

In the rest of this article, we’re going to see exactly how many leads Yelp generated for one of our clients – a small law firm handling primarily family legal matters.

Case Study – Family Law Firm Yelp Results

To give some context of the law firm we’re investigating, our client’s practice is situated in a relatively small market where the target metropolitan areas sum to a population of approximately 500,000. The law firm handles civil litigation and family law, but the majority of new files they open is for family.

The results below are spread over nearly a full year – 12 months (January 1, 2019 – December 31, 2019). What we see in the above image taken from Yelp is the overall activity for this firm’s listing over that period and the yellow bars in the graph indicate the periods we were running ads and sponsored listings.

Breaking Down the Data

According to Yelp, from the image above, we can see that there was an increase in activity and views of our listing on Yelp during the period we paid for placements. However, we want to see how many lead transactions this generated rather than just what their platform says.

There are 3 different actions that users could take to get in touch with this firm:

  • Make a phone call
  • Submit a contact form via the law firm’s website
  • Send a message through the Yelp platform

Yelp’s message platform is the least desirable of the 3 actions, but we’ll discuss why that is later on. For now, let’s dig into the results that generated 1 of these three actions. All 3 actions are tracked, so everytime a potential client called the firm from the website or filled out a contact form – after finding us through Yelp – we recorded that action.

Totals – Organic + Paid Periods

This screenshot shows visitors that Yelp sent to our website and how many goals they completed, in addition to the conversion goal values. The platform generated 64 total goal completions and $13,150 in value from contact form submissions and calls made from the site.

We can also see that Yelp made up 3.7% of all traffic value to our website.

These results account for the phone calls and form submissions seen during that period of time. However, doesn’t account for the direct Yelp messages.

This tacks on another 22 leads that messaged our client’s firm (roughly 2 per month) over the course of the year.

How Did the Paid Ads Perform?

Throughout the 12 month period we’re analyzing, we advertised on Yelp for 3 of those months; March through May.

For that period, we had set a budget of $300 per month on their platform. The total spend came to $889.74.

It’s supposedly CPC, but the platform lacks transparency by way of displaying how much you’re paying per click and how much you’re estimated to pay going forward.

The results for this period can be segmented in Google Analytics for March to May:

This shows that during that 3 month period $5,450 in goals (calls and forms) were submitted and 30 goals overall were completed. We can also see from the image that during that period of time, traffic from Yelp made up 6.37% of the site’s total traffic value (compared to 3.7% over entire 12 months). This means that this period contributed to lifting up the overall average and made 41.4% of the total goal value achieved throughout the year.


12 Months3 Months (March – May)
# Goals Completed
645.33/month64/yr3010/month120/yr
Goal Value Sum
$13,150$1,095/month$13,150/yr$5,450$1816/month$21,800
Site Traffic Value %~ 3.7%~ 6.4%
ROI %(Return on Ad Spend ONLY)N/A512.5%

Seeing the stats annualized and normalized to a monthly scale helps put things into perspective. There’s a substantial difference between the revenue earned annualized over the 12 month aggregate versus the 3 month ad period. 

Keep in mind when evaluating using ads or not, the 12-month aggregate contains ad spend. So the ad spend is already baked into the results above and increase the averages.

However, even with the aggregate 9 months organic and 3 months paid, the paid period resulted in a positive ROAS (return on ad spend) at 512.5% and saw a 65.8% increase in traffic value ($1816 vs. $1095) using sponsored placements.

Remaining Period – 9 Months on Organic Listings

To get an ever better understanding of how well the ads performed in contrast to the period we weren’t advertising, we need to look at annualized figures to make it clear how organic, free traffic to our Yelp listing performed.

So, by subtracting everything earned from the paid periods, we can look at how the 9 months performed on an annualized and monthly basis.


9 Months (No Ads)3 Months (March – May)
# Goals Completed
343.77/month45/yr3010/month120/yr
Goal Value Sum
$7,700$856/month$10,267/yr$5,450$1816/month$21,800
Site Traffic Value %~ 2.2%~ 6.4%
ROI %(Return on Ad Spend ONLY)N/A512.5%

When we look at the annualized metrics for the 9 months of free listing expose on Yelp, it tells a very different story than the 12-month aggregate. The annualized goal value sum estimated for paying $300 per month in ads ($21,800) is more than double that of the annualized 9 months at $10,267. The site traffic value portion is nearly 200% higher than the organic period and the same is true of monthly goals completed.

Yelp Works with a Well Optimized Profile

You may be looking at the results for the free listings and think that’s a pretty good deal. It sure seems like it. If you want to replicate our results, then FYI we didn’t do anything fancy or technical. 

We simply had filled out our client’s Yelp profile to completion:

  • added some images of the office
  • wrote a thorough description
  • Listed the services and legal categories relevant
  • Listed the areas served and business hours
  • Inputted any other extra details the registration setup asked

Additionally, we didn’t even have any reviews (although we strongly encouraged our client to request Yelp reviews from their clients via email).

All of the results shown were with 0 reviews.

Signal vs. Noise – Know What Metrics to Trust

So by this point, you probably think Yelp is a pretty good value – all things considered. And for the most part, we tend to agree. However, there are some gotcha’s and caveats to relying too heavily on all the information it gives you.

Yelp’s Metrics
Yelp uses the term “lead” very, very loosely. As we can see from the photo, Yelp somehow thinks it generated 108 leads in 2019. 

What’s interesting is how Yelp defines a “lead”. Yelp uses all of these activities to count as “leads”. In our world, we don’t count a website visitor as a lead. If we did and it were true, all of our clients and ourselves included would have retired by now…

Some of these metrics such as a mobile call is a slightly better metric, but still not entirely accurate. It says that it generated 13 mobile calls over the 12 months, but in reality, Yelp doesn’t have call tracking built-in, so there’s no way to know for sure. 

Instead, what Yelp is measuring here is how many times someone clicked your phone number on your firm’s listing and counts that as a call. However, it doesn’t mean that the person who tapped your number actually initiated the call.

Control & Define your Metrics

If we can’t rely on Yelp’s metrics, then how can we track our results from their platform? 

The answer is to use a website analytics tool like Google Analytics. This is the tool featured in the screenshot in our report. It’s extremely powerful, customizable and robust to meet virtually all of your tracking needs. When we referred to goal values such as $13,150, these values were generated inside of Google Analytics.

Within Google Analytics (GA for short), you can configure custom goals based on actions people take on your website. If someone taps on a phone call button on your website and initiates a call – GA can track that. Same goes for filling out a contact form or any other action you could imagine tracking.

So, everytime a person makes a phone call from the website, that records a value of $150 for this client. A form submission is worth approximately $500. Each time a goal is completed, the total goal value is automatically updated.

While nothing beats your in-house metrics of case signups and intake records, Google Analytics provides a way for you to define your lead conversions and valuable actions and allows you to see what each channel provides in terms of value (i.e. Yelp, Facebook Google, Bing, etc.) in realtime. It’s a powerful tool to use in any serious law firm’s internet marketing strategy.

Seasonality – Noisy

Keep in mind this would discount any seasonality that may have been present over this period. We tend to find that there are up and down months and during Q3, there’s a fair amount of activity via Yelp.

However, we see many more leads coming from direct messages rather than calls or form submissions during Q3 2019. Seasonality is noisy because it’s difficult to tell if its due to the time of year or something has changed on Yelp’s platform (now they’re prioritizing direct messages over sending potential clients to your website). 

It’s tricky to tell, which is why we’re presenting this as a potential error.

Why Yelp Messages Are Less Desirable

Finally, before we wrap up, we wanted to discuss why Yelp direct messages are less valuable than conversions that occurred on our website (i.e. calls and form submissions).

When someone fills out a form on our site, our client collects most of the relevant information necessary to qualify the lead and follow up with them. 

Our forms generally collect:

  • First and last name
  • Phone number
  • Email address
  • Message about their case or legal matter

With Yelp direct messages, the platform only requires people to enter their first name and the message they send to your firm. 

So you don’t collect their phone number or email. There’s no way to follow up with this person other than through the platform.

This means you have to send them a message telling them to call, which results in a significant drop-off in leads and entirely leaves the ball in the prospective legal clients’ court.

Conclusion

In this hybrid article-report, we looked at the results we achieved for a small law firm in a relatively small market on Yelp. The platform shows a lot of promise when we look at the results – both in terms of just creating a listing for free and the significant potential benefits to lawyers advertising on Yelp. If you’re considering running sponsored listings on their website and app, remember:

  • Don’t trust Yelp’s lead metrics – have your own systems for measuring results (intakes + GA)
  • Drive traffic to your website rather than Yelp direct messages
  • Fill out and optimize your Yelp listing for maximum organic visibility and exposure
  • Do what this lawyer didn’t – ask your past clients to leave you a review on the platform

If your practice needs help setting up their internet listings and taking their web marketing strategy to the next level, contact a consultant at Zahavian Legal Marketing today.