Yelp and Grubhub using sneaky marketing tech to gouge restaurants?

Are Yelp and Grubhub using sneaky marketing tech to gouge restaurants? According to this article in Vice.com,  both Yelp and Grubhub (who partnered up in 2017) have been setting up call tracking for restaurants who are listed on their sites, but say they don’t measure call volume (as in the number of calls). This is an absolute lie. If you are using call tracking, call volume is one of the most fundamental stats in call tracking and is provided by ALL call tracking companies. If you don’t get stats on how many calls you’re getting, what’s the point of setting up call tracking in the first place?

I despise disingenuous marketing and liars. 

Are yelp and grubhub using sneaky marketing tactics?
Image courtesy of xanjero.com, logos copyrighted by their respective owners.


For those of you who don’t know how call tracking works, basically different phone numbers are used for different marketing methods so a business can measure which methods generate the most calls.  They all forward to the business’s phone number so the business receives the calls the same way.  So call tracking in itself isn’t a sneaky marketing tactic, as it helps business owners understand which calls they’re getting from certain sources. Many of these sources traditionally have been “untrackable” because it’s been all but impossible to measure how many calls they actually generate. Many businesses use the same phone number, especially vanity numbers, on all their advertising. While this can make it easier for people to remember the number, it makes it nearly impossible which advertising method led to the phone call being made. But there’s nothing sneaky about using call tracking correctly.

When is it sneaky marketing?

It becomes sneaky marketing when a business uses it unethically, and to inflate their revenues at the expense of their clients. It’s “legal” to charge their paying clients for something they can’t even really measure, such as the total bill amount for a table at a restaurant, even if the call does come through their system. Some businesses might not even know that call tracking is being used with their phone number unless they have signed up for it or their marketing agency has set it up for them.

But just because a call comes through, that doesn’t mean it’s a revenue-generating call – in the article it stated that Yelp was showing two call buttons: one for general info and one for orders & reservations. In this day and age, people are tired of being routed around voice mail boxes, and might choose the “orders & reservations” number to be more likely to reach a live person.

One option that can be used in call tracking is a “whisper message” where, upon answering the phone, the receiver hears a word or two about the source of the call (e.g. a billboard, postcard, video, etc.). This can be particularly helpful for solo business owners where the owner is the person answering the phone. 

Used correctly, call tracking can help a business make better decisions on where to invest their marketing budget based on what really works.  What gets measured, gets managed.

Yelp and Grubhub typically rank on the first page of Google for searches for most business names as well as more general inquiries such as “pizza delivery near me” or “Italian restaurant in Spokane.” Because they have so many listings, so much content, and are considered an “authority site,” plus they probably have a large team of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) specialists, Google tends to rank them highly, often higher than a restaurant’s own website.

What can you as a business do?

Take control of the things you can control. Claim and optimize your Google My Business listing, as it is among the most important, and FREE things you can do. If you don’t have a website (or think you can’t afford one, don’t know how to build one, or haven’t given enough thought to your marketing budget), Google My Business will actually build out a site for you, based on the information, photos and videos you enter, and they’ll generate this at no cost to you!

Also look for other local directories, general business directories, industry vertical directories, and build out your profiles on those sites as well. There are some that charge, some that are completely free, and some who have different tiers of pricing. If you’re cash-strapped, start with the free ones.

Plus, obviously (we hope), show up where your customers are. Build a Facebook Page (NOT a personal profile acting like a business, but a Facebook Page), create business profiles on YouTube, LinkedIn, Instagram, twitter, and more.

Or if you’re “digitally challenged,” hire a reputable agency to take care of this for you. Just know that marketing is an investment, not an expense, and should generate a return on that investment. Sometimes you get what you pay for. Other times you get sneaky marketing tactics that can be a PR nightmare.

What can you as a consumer do?

Double-check the business phone number. Google My Business, which is how businesses control what information about their business appears on Google Maps, displays the real phone number for their business. In fact, it’s recommended that businesses use the real phone number for any business directory / maps listing, because Google uses this info to confirm that it is, in fact, the same business, and this helps them decide to rank a business with a consistent “NAP” (Name, Address & Phone number) higher than those who don’t display the same consistency. Or check the restaurant’s website, Facebook page, etc. I know it can be an extra step, but it may also result in you seeing more accurate reviews than Yelp sometimes shows (they choose to hide reviews from the main listing page based on their “standards” – which some say is hiding good reviews unless they pay Yelp to advertise).