Local Business Ads Compared: CityGridMedia vs. Yelp Advertising
If you're looking to drive more foot traffic into your business, you'll need to learn how to use the local online search engines, aka online yellow pages sites. The two leaders in this space are Yelp and CitySearch - both sites get tens of millions of viewers each month coming to their sites to search for local businesses from restaurants to doctors to massage therapists and real estate agents.
Any business can get a free listing on these services - if your business is not already listed you can submit your business information and provided you are a real operating business at the location you specify, you can get a free page and start showing up in the search results. Users can also start writing reviews about your business and either you or your customers can upload photos of your business. You can get started and get a lot of new leads this way, completely free.
However, once you've become comfortable with Yelp and CitySearch and know how much business they can send you, you may want to begin a more focused marketing effort and sign up for one of the business advertising packages. As a business customer, you get enhance your business profile with much more information, you get more control over the content on your page, customers can contact you in more ways, and you get priority listings in search results. Overall, by subscribing you'll get more people viewing your page and more people contacting you through the site - so more business vs. your competitors (if you run your own local website you should check out this guide to local business website SEO).
CityGridMedia (aka CitySearch)
Overview: You're familiar with CitySearch as one of the leading local yellow pages sites. CityGridMedia is simply the business advertising group within CitySearch that handles relationships with small businesses. When you subscribe with CityGridMedia, you get advertising on CitySearch.com as well as CitySearch's network of 150 local sites such as InsiderPages, TripAdvisor, MerchantCircle, and The Travel Channel. However, the bulk of your traffic with come from CitySearch.com, which has 7 million monthly users on its site.
What you get: With CityGridMedia, you pay a base $19.95 listing fee to become a business advertiser. Once you subscribe, you get the following extra features on your business profile page:
- Post coupons and special offers
- Post photos / slideshow
- Post news messages and announcements
- Make a reservation link
- View your restaurant's menu link
- Email me link
- Website link
As customers "interact" with your business - e.g. call you, send you emails, view your menu, make reservations - you pay a "per connection" fee for those interactions. The fee varies by location and business type. You set your monthly budget each month, at a minimum of $250 per month.
Overview: Yelp is another leading yellow pages site with around 9 million monthly users on its site. Its known for its active community of reviewers, reviewing everything from restaurants to barber shops. Users love the site, but Yelp has gone through some rough patches in the way they deal with businesses. They once ran a campaign asking businesses to pay thousands of dollars per month in exchange for Yelp "deleting" negative reviews about them - creating backlash and an online campaign demanding that they end the "extortion" of small businesses. Since then, the company has curtailed its aggressive marketing practices and has a much more reasonable and fair advertising package.
What you get: With Yelp, you sign up for one of three advertising packages:
- $300 / month - advertise to 1,500 people
- $500 / month - advertise to 4,000 people
- $1,000 / month - advertise to 10,000 people
By "advertise" what Yelp means is that a link to your business will show up in a priority listing box on search results and on competing business' pages. You pay whenever your link shows up, not when it is clicked on, which is an important distinction. As a subscriber, you also get more features on your business profile page, including:
- Upload a photo slideshow about your business
- Upload a video about your business
Comparison and conclusion
Features: CityGridMedia offers a much more rich set of features than Yelp in its advertising package. For restaurants the direct menu view link and the direct reservation link will lead to higher conversions to people making reservations. Also the ability to post coupons and announcements allows local businesses to create events and time-based discounts to drive foot traffic at the right time. Yelp also allows reservations and announcements, but it costs extra beyond their normal subscription rate.
Traffic: Both CitySearch.com and Yelp.com have a lot of users, at 7 million and 9 million monthly unique users, respectively. Yelp is known to get a lot of traffic for restaurants, and has a slightly younger audience, while CitySearch is strength for being a well-diversified yellow pages site with an older audience. You'll get a lot of traffic from both sites. Yelp may have more traffic in highly urban areas like SF and NYC. However, CityGridMedia partners with many affiliate sites like TripAdvisor which target travelers, so if that's important to your business you might consider them.
Cost: Both Yelp and CityGridMedia have similar minimum monthly prices at $250 (CityGridMedia) and $300 (Yelp). However, on CityGridMedia you pay only for connections with customers. If someone just sees you in the search listings but does not click on your site, you don't pay anything - you just pay when someone calls you, emails you, or makes a reservation. On Yelp, you pay whenever you show up in the search results - so you don't know whether the customer you paid for actually looked at your page or not. This can make it difficult to judge the effectiveness of your advertising dollar.
Overall: Both sites can be powerful marketing vehicles. As online marketers, however, we feel that CityGridMedia provides more value for the dollar, and provides more transparency and measurability in what you pay for. For us, we don't feel comfortable not having a detailed view into where our ad dollars are going. That said, Yelp is a very popular site and can't be ignored as a powerful advertising channel. We suggest you check out both and decide for yourself. We'd love to hear your thoughts and experiences here in the comments box.