Yelp Advertising Autocharged Me $265.58 Without Notification

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An Expensive Lesson

If you’re starting out as a small business, you’ll likely make mistakes. Often those mistakes cost you money! Symo Social was no exception.

When I first started out as a digital marketing freelancer, I registered my business online and received a bunch of offers for new businesses. One of those offers was for $300 in free Yelp advertising credit. I liked Yelp, I was even a Yelp Elite reviewer when they first began many years ago and attended Yelp events. As a marketer, I was well aware of Yelp’s powerful SEO, often coming up as one of the first results on Google for a business (and a very important reason to control your digital presence online!)

Signing up for Yelp Business was easy! Within a few minutes, I had begun my Yelp advertising journey. A few days later, I logged in and saw it was active but I wasn’t getting much in the way of traffic to my website or any leads. The only major thing that happened was I started getting calls at least once a day from Yelp’s San Francisco office asking me to sign up for more ads.

Imagine my surprise when about a week later, I saw that Yelp Advertising had charged me $265.58 without any notification.

How’d That Happen?

When you sign up to redeem your Yelp credit, a huge red flag I missed is that I didn’t see a place to set a maximum ad budget. I suppose I was lucky that I only got charged $265.58 after my $300 credit. Yelp Advertising Terms of Service (which only shows up in the fine print of your ad confirmation email, as far as I could see) largely focuses on how they can AND WILL charge you up to $750 per month automatically.

It’s all worth it because of the great leads you get, right?

On other platforms, like Facebook, a lead is….a lead! You get info from people who opted-in to be contacted by you. On Yelp, a lead is…this….?

Here’s the breakdown straight from Yelp:

Ad Clicks


Cost per Click


Ad Spend


In addition, 1 person clicked for direction on my website and 4 people clicked through to my website. For comparison, cost per lead on Google or Facebook should cost you between $4-$7.

Business Owners Hate Yelp

If you go online and search “Yelp Business Complaints” or “Yelp Advertising Reviews”, you’ll find A LOT of angry, angry, angry people.

Better Business Bureau


There are actually a number of websites and Facebook groups dedicated to hating Yelp:

Yelp Complaints

Yelp Pissed Consumer

Yelp Victims Facebook Page

And there have been prominent media outlets covering Yelp’s shadiness for years, including this gem:

Businesses on Yelp

Yelp will usually add your business to its site, whether you want it added or not. What are some steps you should take as a business?

  1. Claim your business on Yelp. As long as you don’t enter a credit card, you won’t be charged anything. You will likely start getting calls from Yelp Ad sales. Just ignore them…for me, they went away after a few weeks. Every few months, you’ll get a new account rep and the calls will start again, but I block the person as soon as I get the first one.
  2. Be sure your profile is filled out, ask customers to leave a good review, and politely and promptly respond to bad reviews. If you generally have good reviews, as long as you leave a very professional, apologetic response to a bad review, you shouldn’t worry. In fact, having a bad review where the reviewer seems unreasonable (or has a lot of bad grammar or says really awful things that are out of line) and a great, professional response from you can actually benefit you as a business. People will see that you respond quickly and professionally to complaints and even feel sympathetic towards you.
  3. Claim your business on Google My Business and be sure to give Google some love. Google reviews are Yelp’s biggest competitors, so be sure all your info is up to date, you’ve got great photos, and direct people to give you a good review on Google.
  4. Be an SEO champ. Be sure that your website and online presence ranks strongly on the first page of Google search results. For example, if you’re one of 2 Mexican restaurants in Maple Grove, MN, be sure you’ll come up in the top of results when people search for “Mexican Maple Grove”. You can also try for “lunch Maple Grove”, “dinner Maple Grove”, and “restaurants Maple Grove”. A lot of small businesses still don’t believe in investing in an online presence, so in many cases, it is easy to dominate search results.

Of course, if you’d like help setting up or managing your online digital presence, don’t hesitate to contact us!


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