Yelp Has a Strong Future Ahead

Yelp is a long-term growth story. It can grab a bigger share of the local search advertising market from Google and other web-based search platforms.

Jun 13, 2014 at 10:20AM

Specialty search platform Yelp (NYSE:YELP) has gained a lot of users, and it's growing its core business metrics across the board. Yelp is doing well in terms of growing revenue and advertisers. The company has immense long-term potential to become a major player in local advertising, working with small businesses. Yelp intends to become a much larger player by having operations around the world, and these factors will drive a lot of upside for the company's earnings and stock price.

Poised to get more mobile search dollars 
Yelp gets 46% of its total monthly traffic from mobile devices, and as consumers do more of their browsing via smartphone, Yelp stands to benefit considerably. Yelp provides a genuine utility to consumers when they are looking for a restaurant, a doctor, a hair salon, etc. Local advertisers can reach many more customers by placing mobile ads on Yelp's platform. 

Google (NASDAQ:GOOG)(NASDAQ:GOOGL) has been the leader in local search because of its highly targeted advertisements placed upon customer-driven actions. Google has built an empire with this search ad business model. 

Mobile search advertising is expected to grow significantly in the next few years in the U.S. According to eMarketer, the mobile search ad market is expected to grow from $9.02 billion in 2014 to $28.41 billion in 2018. Google dominates the category, with an expected market share of 65.7%. Yelp has a market share of only 1.3%, according to eMarketer. However, Yelp is growing its platform heavily, with robust growth in user traffic and reviews, so the firm can gain a lot more market share in the years ahead. 

Big long-run prospects
Yelp operates at the crossroads of three major secular trends in the Internet space: local, mobile, and social. With monthly user traffic of more than 132 million visitors, and more than 1.5 million listed businesses, Yelp has immense long-term potential. 

The company now has online review platforms in 27 countries and has plans to expand in the future. Yelp's low-cost content supply from users has led to a high gross margin, which should lead to profitable business in the near future, as the company is on the brink of moving into positive earnings territory. In addition, Yelp has made advertising arrangements with YP.com, which should significantly increase the number of advertisers on Yelp. 

Newer revenue streams
Yelp is also coming up with other avenues for maintaining its top-line growth. In the last quarter, Yelp got 85% of its total revenue from local advertising. The rest was made up of brand advertising and other services, which includes revenue generated from Yelp deals as well as fees the company collects for reservations on restaurants. 

With an eye on growth, Yelp acquired SeatMe last year. SeatMe offers reservations to restaurants and offers much more competitive pricing relative to current market players, such as OpenTable. Yelp can also earn more revenue from Yelp deals that give merchants the opportunity to offer Groupon-like deals on the Yelp platform. 

Also, brand advertising makes up a small portion of Yelp's total revenue, and if the company can continue to grow its traffic on desktop and mobile devices, there is potential that large brand advertisers will be inclined to chase those eyeballs. Clearly, the company is making a push to not only grow by also diversify its revenue. 

The company is worth a lot more
Yelp is getting a lot of strategic partners in growing its users and driving traffic to its platform. It has been integrated on mobile devices as an app for a long time, and Yahoo! is utilizing Yelp's content in its search results.

The big decline in Yelp's stock price has created a very interesting opportunity for investors. The company trades at lofty valuation of 9 times its 2015 revenue estimates of $524 million. But the company has a strong track record of consistent revenue growth, and is adding local advertisers on its platform. Yelp's market value will be far greater than its current market cap of $4.75 billion. Investors with long time horizons should consider Yelp. 

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Ishfaque Faruk has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Facebook, Google (A shares), Google (C shares), and Yelp. The Motley Fool owns shares of Facebook, Google (A shares), and Google (C shares). Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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