Is It Time For Dentists To Start Advertising On Yelp?

I’ve had several conversations with clients lately about a blog I wrote back in 2014 about Yelp advertising. They wanted to know whether they should be paying to advertise on Yelp. That made me think there might be more of you out there with the same question. I figured I should update my thoughts on Yelp as well as give you some insight into how they work if you decide to advertise. Keep in mind this is my opinion based on my experience.

First, let’s start with what Yelp is…

Yelp views itself as a search engine. This recent graphic from Quantcast shows you what they mean:

Yelp Advertising For Dentists

Here’s the positive. There are a lot of users that engage with the Yelp platform. The graph on the left is desktop usage results and the second is on mobile results. They obviously do much better on mobile since most people view Yelp as an app.

In my media mind, I view this more like the cable company talking about its overall viewership VS what a specific channel is getting. If you’re a dentist you’re an extremely small portion of this audience. When people go to Yelp, they are generally brought there while looking for a specific dentist or when the “top 10” shows up which just leads to their Yelp page.

My Take: There are a lot of users on Yelp, but Yelp is not a search engine like Google is.

What is Yelp then?

Yelp is an interactive map with profiles and reviews. This is certainly helpful for a dentist in the fact that being local and having great reviews is typically what someone wants when searching for a dentist.

But let’s take this a step further since we’re talking about a social location app and ask instead…

Is Yelp something I should be doing right now? To answer that I always refer to the pyramid of marketing each dental practice needs to make for their marketing plan. Basically, it’s listing out all the mediums in your local area you can engage with. Then figure out which of those mediums have the most value RIGHT NOW! An example would be SEO or PPC online or it could be billboards, register tape at a grocery store, church bulletins, television ads, community events, Pandora, direct mail, etc.

Where Yelp falls on your list would depend on the usage of it in your area. In the areas where my clients are I haven’t seen Yelp be adopted by too many consumers for dentistry. I’ll get to why I say that in a minute.

It’s important not to think about how you use Yelp but to think about how your community is using it. Never evaluate a medium based on your personal beliefs.

How do you find out if people are using Yelp to search for a dentist in your area?

First, look on Yelp. Look at the number of reviews dentists NOT advertising on Yelp are getting. The ones advertising seem to have a lot more than the ones that don’t. I asked a Yelp rep about this and they told me it’s because people that used Yelp for dental services are more likely to leave or provide a review from the Yelp App. Alright, I’ll buy that but it’s very disproportionate.  Look at the others, if there’s only a couple for each dentist in your area, I would say it’s not very reliable. 

The second is to ask your Yelp rep how many local searches for a dentist are happening in a five-mile radius and a ten-mile radius around your practice. I talked with several Yelp reps to try and find this answer for my own clients.

The first rep told me: “Well there are 45,000 searches a month in that area. We don’t want you to miss out.” But I wanted specifics. I asked him of those 45,000, how many of those are dental searches and what are the search terms. “We go more on the volume in the area because these are people on Yelp searching.” That didn’t answer my question either.  Numerous attempts didn’t get me any further.

This has been a common theme and concern over the years with Yelp. Unfortunately, without that data point, everything is basically a shot in the dark. That’s why I have been selective placing any of my client’s money into Yelp advertising. 

That changed some on my last call with a Yelp rep. This rep was very knowledgeable and indeed could provide that in “broad terms.” Hey, that’s better than nothing. She explained in my area there are 3,000 dental searches a month. That’s great, but when I got off the phone I realized the way they sell their packages is based on clicks. They need an actual number, so they can elevate your package of “clicks” to justify that they are actually going to be possible dental patients. More on that later.

How do you find out if your patients are using Yelp? A good trick to find out if your own patients are using it is if you use Demandforce, Lighthouse, Revenue Well or a similar system, they should have a feature to include Yelp reviews. Turn that on. When people are starting to use it as much as Facebook, Google, or other social sites, that would make me feel a lot more comfortable investing my dollars there.

Bottom Line: A little research will help you here, but you need to have some solid numbers before making the decision to sign that annual contract with Yelp.

Back to consumer adoption. Last year I signed a client up because they wanted to test it out and I’m a big believer in testing. This dentist regularly sees over 150 new patients a month, so they have a lot of activity online already.

When they paid for Yelp it was in hopes to get more reviews. They averaged 4 visitors to their webpage from Yelp in the first six months. In all honesty, if all 4 converted to new patients that might not have been a bad investment but for a practice that size, there are better mediums to get the attention their practice is looking for. In full disclosure, they bought the least expensive “package.”

I called a dentist down the street from me who looked like they were using it. Their office manager explained they had not seen much from it. I would take that with a grain of salt since most office managers are more concerned with how the office is running than how Yelp is performing.   

That’s obviously a small sample so again, it’s important to do your own research.

That being said, there are advantages when you pay for an ad:

Ability to get Call to Actions on your page (CTA’s are very important!)

Yelp Advertising For DentistsMore Reviews

Yelp Advertising For Dentists

You can also put more pictures and get videos for extra if you like. Video is extremely important in today’s media.

But what about those suggestions?

Yelp Advertising For Dentists

This I don’t get. Yelp tells me the biggest advantage of a paid ad is that other advertisers won’t show up on your page. This is true. However, why do they allow suggestions for other dentists in your area on your page? This includes dentists that aren’t even paying for Yelp. Would you be upset at your web developer if they put suggestions for other dentists on your homepage?

Their Pitch:

Part of the pitch from Yelp included this blog about small business impact from their platform. This article had some positive information on revenue for small businesses from Yelp. I believe this to be true but again this is a four-year-old article and doesn’t specifically talk about dental. Since this article was written, more dentists have started focusing on Google and Google reviews. That would certainly have an impact on the data in this article. 

What Is The Cost?

Yelp charges $125 in what they call their fixed pricing. You can save some money each month by not getting call tracking -$25 or declining to do videos -$50. In my opinion, if you’re going to do it include these. Videos will lead to more leads and I would want to know how many calls I’m getting.

From there you buy their monthly packages that range from $400 a month for 25 clicks or 198 clicks for $2,250. Most people buy 67 clicks for $850 a month.

I appreciate their honesty about how many clicks you can get but I would have to also know how many of those clicks turn into patients. That’s always the most difficult part to determine with any medium.

Now, I apologize for this coming across like a sales pitch but any dental marketing consultant or company that sells online marketing should have better success than gaining a mere 67 clicks for $850 a month.

On average, our clients that spend between $1,000 and $2,000 per month almost always see over 100 phone calls and over 175 potential patients clicking to their request an appointment page. This is how we determine success. These numbers consistently lead to 50 or more new patients a month.

Call tracking for DentistsCall tracking for Dentists

As a consultant, I would suggest placing your marketing budget in the areas where they will get the most attention, exposure, and ultimately the best return. Part of my job is to always play devil’s advocate in regards to each medium I evaluate. Yelp is a medium that I consider on the rise, unlike some other advertising platforms. Yelp is something I would keep my eye on. However, at this time, make sure you have other online sources in place to compliment it.  

If you decide not to advertise on Yelp, I would suggest going in and modify your listing to get the most out of it for free. Be sure to add as many pictures as possible.

I understand the timeliness of this article is important. The first one I wrote in 2014 was to get people looking at Yelp as part of their strategy. I still feel it has value, but at the current expense, there are other online options that I feel will bring stronger results.  

I do feel Yelp is beginning to be a player in the dental industry, so I’ll update this topic with new information as it becomes available and when it’s time, make suggestions on how to properly execute a Yelp campaign. Until then, keep in mind people will still find you on Yelp regardless if you pay for it or not.

Ben Shaver
Lead Strategist & Consultant

Ben Shaver is a dental marketing consultant for Dental Inbound. He works with practices of all sizes.

His main focus is to develop strategies that provide congruency between traditional media sources and new media platforms.

You can email him at