What is Yelp Strict Category Targeting and Does It Work?

July 29, 2019

If you currently run ads on Yelp, did you know that Yelp Ads offers a feature called strict category targeting that allows advertisers to strictly target their Yelp ads toward one business category? 

What is Strict Category targeting?

With this feature, advertisers can list up to three business categories on their Yelp profile but limit their ads to target only one of their listed categories. This is a benefit for advertisers that only want to target their paid ads towards a single category but at the same time want their profile to feature other services they may offer. 

The strict category targeting can be beneficial for certain uses cases. For example, a law firm may want to feature their contract law, employment law and personal injury law services on their profile but may only want to run ads targeting personal injury law services because it is the most lucrative. 

Note: This feature is not offered in the Yelp Ads user interface but can be enabled by sending a request to your Yelp Ads representative.

Testing Strict Category Targeting

At the suggestion of our Yelp representative we tried the strict category targeting feature for one of our clients who wanted to receive more leads in a particular business category. This was intended to increase sponsored actions and generate more ad clicks from Yelp searches related to their target category. As a test, we ran this feature for a one month period. Our hypothesis was that it would help increase their number of leads for the targeted category and reduce leads for the other categories.

The first week after turning on the strict category targeting our client received one sponsored action related to this target category. No keywords related to their target category appeared in their Yelp keywords report which means that their ads did not show for Yelp searches related to their targeted category. Our client did receive fewer sponsored actions related to the business category they were not targeting.

Surprisingly, for the remainder of the month our client continued to receive sponsored actions related to the business categories outside of their strict target category. They received these sponsored actions at the same volume they had received them prior to turning on the strict category targeting. What is also important to note is that during this period their Yelp ads did not receive clicks related to the target category.

We contacted our Yelp Ads representative to inquire on why our clients’ ads kept appearing for categories outside of their strict target category and why our client was still receiving sponsored actions for outside categories. We also wanted to find other ways to generate more leads related to their target category. We learned there is actually little else we can do to help our client generate more leads in their targeted category other than Yelp’s suggestion of changing the client’s profile category and ad copy to only feature their strictly targeted category. This is intended to give Yelp users the impression that our client specializes only in this category in hopes of attracting a higher volume of potential leads. We decided not to move forward with this suggestion as we felt this would not appropriately reflect our client’s range of services and expertise.


Ultimately, the strict category targeting on Yelp did not provide any leads in the long term in the targeted category and we continued to receive leads outside the target category.

If you are running Yelp ads and only want to feature your ads towards certain user searches, we recommend frequently updating your list of blocked keywords that appear in your Yelp keywords list that you do not want your ads to appear for. 

As for receiving more sponsored actions related to your target category, it is important to note that there is little you can do to help generate more leads for your target category other than increasing your Yelp ads budget to generate more traffic and hopefully more leads. In a future blog we’ll go over Yelp features that may help improve your Yelp Ads performance.