5 Things Yelp Inc.'s Management Wants You to Know

2015 guidance was hurt by difficulties hiring and the end of its brand advertising product.

Sam Mattera
Sam Mattera
Aug 11, 2015 at 8:00AM
Technology and Telecom

Yelp's (NYSE:YELP) management had a lot to say on the company's second quarter earnings call. 

CEO Jeremy Stoppelman and CFO Rob Krolik commented on a variety of factors affecting Yelp's business. Below are five of the most important quotes from that call.

Management is focusing on app users more than website traffic
Yelp stock has performed terribly so far in 2015. Year-to-date, it's down just over 50%.

That said, Yelp hasn't been profitable in its relatively brief history as a publicly traded company, leading investors to focus more on its long-term potential. For that reason, Yelp's traffic growth remains paramount to gauging its success. Unfortunately for shareholders, traffic growth has begun to slow. During the call, Stoppelman downplayed traditional traffic metrics, and outlined how management thinks about measuring engagement.

"We have always measured...unique visitors using Google Analytics, which is inherently limited due to its cookie-based traffic...accessing yelp.com from a computer work, from a smartphone while on the go, and again from a different computer at home would count as three web unique visitors. App usage, however, is measured internally based on the number of unique mobile devices accessing the Yelp app giving us confidence that the number of unique devices is a close approximation to the number of people using our app. We are particularly excited about the increase in our app users, because the vast majority come to Yelp directly and tend to be our most active users."

On Yelp's lowered guidance
Yelp shares fell about 30% following the release of its second quarter earnings. Much of that drop was likely attributable to Yelp's disappointing guidance. During the call, Krolik offered some explanation as to why the company was lowering its guidance.

"For the full year 2015, we are lowering our outlook and expect full year 2015 revenue to be in the range of $544 million to $550 million or approximately 45% growth over 2014. Approximately two thirds of our lower expectations for full year 2015 revenue is due to lower than expected headcount and approximately one third is related to the phase-out of our brand advertising product."

Why Yelp is moving away from brand advertising
Yelp plans to phase out brand advertising by the end of the year, and focus almost exclusively on local advertising. During the call, Stoppelman explained that strategic decision, arguing that it would benefit Yelp in the long-run by improving its mobile app experience.

"it's really a long-term investment in the consumer experience...if you look at how much real estate these brand ads are taking up, it's actually quite large...And if you look to the future of where our business is headed, 70% of our page views are now coming from the app...And so it ends up slowing down the experience where we feel like over time it's just unacceptable. And if you look at it from a revenue standpoint, if you go back to say 2010...25% of revenue was coming from this product and that's now declined to 6%...it feels like now is a good time to actually make that commitment to improve the consumer experience and move our brand stuff by the end of the year and also reallocate those resources."

Could Yelp be acquired?
Yelp has long been seen as a potential takeover target. Before it purchased competitor Zagat, Google was widely rumored to be interested in acquiring the company. Obviously, that deal never came to fruition, but the outright sale of Yelp has continued to loom as a possibility. In May, Bloomberg reported that the company had put itself up for sale, before allegedly changing its mind early last month. During the call, Stoppelman addressed those reports.

We don't comment on M&A. I can't give you really any color there, but rest assured...we pursue our fiduciary duties. And so to the extent [a deal is] ever put forward, we will review that as we have to.

Breaking down Yelp's revenue goal
In recent months, Yelp's business has expanded into new categories. The acquisition of Eat24, for example, gives Yelp exposure to the delivery of takeout food. Still, Yelp's management remains focused on local advertising. During the call, Krolik outlined how the company expects its revenue base to evolve.

"In terms of our $1 billion goal, we are thinking that we would be able to hit that in 2017. In terms of the components...local ad revenue...[will approximate] 90% and then the other parts of the business will make up around 10%. We haven't broken that out U.S. versus international, but you can imagine that the vast majority of that will be U.S. given [the relative size of] our international business."