Yelp Inc. (YELP), Mid/Small Cap AI Study of the Week

Yelp Inc. (YELP), Mid/Small Cap AI Study of the Week

May 16th, 2024

Weekly AI Pick from the Mid & Small Cap S&P 400 & S&P 600

Company Overview

Yelp Inc. connects consumers with local businesses through a platform boasting over 260 million ratings and reviews. The company's primary revenue stream is advertising, particularly cost-per-click (CPC) ads, which make up 95% of its revenue as of the end of 2023. Yelp also offers premium features through Enhanced Profiles, Branded Profiles, and Upgrade Packages, and engages in partnerships like the one with Grubhub for transaction revenue. Additional revenue streams include subscription tools such as Yelp Guest Manager, data licensing programs like Yelp Knowledge and Yelp Fusion, and content licensing deals with companies like Apple and auto manufacturers.

Future revenue growth for Yelp is expected from investments in product and marketing initiatives aimed at enhancing user experience and optimizing advertiser value through advanced technology. The company is focusing on expanding its multi-location advertising budget and enhancing its suite of ad products and attribution solutions. Yelp's customer success teams and self-serve platform have contributed to record customer acquisition by helping local businesses optimize their presence and advertising campaigns. Technological advancements in machine learning, AI, and mobile solutions are being deployed to improve search capabilities, ad targeting, and content moderation.

Yelp places a strong emphasis on combating misinformation and deceptive behavior to maintain user trust, using automated recommendation software and human moderation to filter unreliable reviews. Community engagement is key, with initiatives like the Yelp Elite Squad and the Consumer Alerts Program to promote authentic content and warn users about manipulative practices. The company employs Community Managers and Ambassadors to grow local user communities and raise brand awareness through events and networking.

Yelp faces intense competition from various online platforms offering similar services, necessitating continuous innovation and effective marketing. The company relies on intellectual property protections to safeguard its business, though this remains an ongoing challenge. Yelp's strategic focus on efficient sales channels, a remote workforce, and cost structure improvements aims to drive profitable growth and enhance margins.

By the Numbers

Annual 10-K Report Summary for 2023:

  • Annual Revenue: $1.34 billion (12% increase from 2022)
  • Net Income: $99.2 million
  • Adjusted EBITDA: $330.5 million
  • Services Advertising Revenue: $793 million (14% increase YoY)
  • Home Services Revenue: 20% increase
  • Self-serve Channel Revenue: 20% increase
  • Average Cost-Per-Click (CPC): 9% increase
  • Ad Clicks: 5% increase
  • Total Advertising Revenue Growth (3 months): 11% increase YoY
  • Total Advertising Revenue Growth (12 months): 13% increase YoY
  • Paying Advertising Locations: 1% decline YoY
  • App Unique Devices: 31,909 thousand (3% decline)
  • Desktop Unique Visitors: 36,301 thousand (5% decline)
  • Mobile Web Unique Visitors: 60,282 thousand (2% increase)
  • Active Claimed Local Business Locations: 7,056 thousand (12% increase)
  • Net Revenue Growth: 12% increase YoY
  • Income from Operations: 35% increase
  • Net Income Attributable to Common Stockholders: 173% increase
  • Sales and Marketing Expenses: $54.5 million increase
  • Product Development Expenses: $26.8 million increase
  • General and Administrative Expenses: $15.7 million increase
  • Depreciation and Amortization Expenses: Decrease due to asset retirements
  • Other Income: $12.4 million increase
  • Provision for Income Taxes: Decrease due to favorable tax benefit
  • Stock Repurchase Program: $554.7 million authorized remaining as of February 20, 2024

Quarterly 10-Q Report Summary for Q1 2024:

  • Net Revenue: $332.8 million (7% increase from Q1 2023)
  • Net Income: $14.2 million (compared to a net loss of $1.2 million in Q1 2023)
  • Adjusted EBITDA: $64.5 million (up from $54.0 million in Q1 2023)
  • Advertising Revenue from Services: 11% increase YoY
  • Request-a-Quote Projects: 20% increase
  • Ad Clicks: 8% increase
  • Average CPC: 1% decline
  • Paying Advertising Locations: 4% decrease
  • RR&O Categories: 12% decline
  • Costs of Revenue: 5% increase
  • Sales and Marketing Expenses: Slight increase
  • Product Development Expenses: Increase due to higher labor costs
  • General and Administrative Expenses: Overall decrease
  • Other Income, Net: Increase due to higher interest income
  • Provision for Income Taxes: Increase due to higher pre-tax profit
  • Cash Flow from Operations: Slight decrease to $72.9 million (from $74.2 million in Q1 2023)
  • Net Cash Used in Investing Activities: Decrease to $6.4 million (from $37.3 million in Q1 2023)
  • Financing Activities: Increase in cash outflows
  • Stock Repurchase Program: $492.2 million available as of May 3, 2024
  • Shares Repurchased in Q1 2024: 1,526,366 shares for $62.5 million

These figures highlight Yelp's financial performance, growth in key revenue segments, and operational expenses, along with the impact of strategic initiatives and market conditions.

Stock Performance and Technical Analysis

Based on the technical indicators provided, the analysis suggests caution when considering an investment in this stock. The current stock price being 24 percent above its 52-week low and 21 percent below its 52-week high indicates that the stock has seen better days, but it has also rebounded from its lows, suggesting some resilience. The fact that the price has remained relatively stable over the last month and three months could be interpreted in two ways: it may be seen as a consolidation phase before a potential breakout, or it could be a sign of a lack of momentum and investor interest.

The volume analysis shows that recent daily volume is slightly below the longer-term average, which could be a sign of diminished investor enthusiasm or simply a quieter trading period. This doesn't provide a strong buy or sell signal but should be considered in context with other indicators.

The money flow indicators suggest that the stock is under moderate selling pressure and is under distribution, which means that more investors are selling the stock than buying it, potentially leading to a decrease in the stock price. The MACD (Moving Average Convergence Divergence) being bearish, with a value of -0.06, confirms this negative sentiment, as it indicates that the short-term momentum is weaker than the long-term momentum, and the stock could be on a downward trajectory.

In conclusion, the combination of stable price, slightly reduced volume, selling pressure, and a bearish MACD would lead to a recommendation of caution. This stock may not be poised for significant growth in the near term, and the technical analysis suggests that there could be further downside. Investors should closely monitor any changes in these indicators and consider other factors such as the company's fundamentals, industry trends, and broader market conditions before making an investment decision.

The ‘Bull’ Perspective


  1. Robust Revenue Growth: Yelp Inc. has demonstrated a solid 7% year-over-year increase in net revenue, indicating resilience and potential for further growth.
  2. Profitability Turnaround: The company's shift from a net loss to a net income of $14.2 million showcases effective cost management and operational efficiency.
  3. Innovative Product Development: Yelp's investment in AI-driven features like Yelp Assistant and Yelp Fusion AI API positions it at the forefront of technological advancement in its sector.
  4. Share Repurchase Program: With $492.2 million available for stock repurchases, Yelp's commitment to returning value to shareholders is clear.
  5. Resilience to Macroeconomic Challenges: Despite the broader economic concerns, Yelp's strategic focus and operational adjustments have allowed it to maintain steady growth.


  1. Robust Revenue Growth:
    Yelp Inc.'s revenue growth of 7% in the latest quarter is not merely a number but a testament to the company's robust business model and its ability to monetize its platform effectively, even amidst the backdrop of inflation and interest rate hikes. With a net revenue of $332.8 million, up from the previous year, Yelp is navigating the "high for longer" interest rate environment with agility. This growth is particularly impressive given the 4% decrease in the number of paying advertising locations, suggesting that Yelp is extracting more value per advertiser – a positive sign for investors looking for companies that can do more with less.
  2. Profitability Turnaround:
    Transitioning from a net loss to a net income of $14.2 million is a clear indicator of Yelp's operational turnaround. The company's ability to pivot and manage its expenses, resulting in an adjusted EBITDA increase to $64.5 million, demonstrates fiscal prudence and a strategic approach to cost management. This profitability is crucial in a market where investors are closely monitoring corporate earnings for signs of sustainability and growth potential.
  3. Innovative Product Development:
    Yelp's investment in AI-driven features underscores its commitment to staying ahead of the technological curve and enhancing the user experience. The development of Yelp Assistant and Yelp Fusion AI API not only improves the platform's functionality but also increases the effectiveness of advertisements, providing a dual benefit to users and advertisers alike. This focus on innovation is a significant growth driver and positions Yelp well within the competitive landscape.
  4. Share Repurchase Program:
    Yelp's share repurchase program, with a substantial $492.2 million remaining, reflects strong confidence in the company's future prospects. The repurchase of 1,526,366 shares for $62.5 million signals to investors that management believes the stock is undervalued and that they are committed to enhancing shareholder value. This program also provides a cushion against market volatility and demonstrates prudent capital allocation.
  5. Resilience to Macroeconomic Challenges:
    In an environment where economic data and Fed policy heavily influence market sentiment, Yelp's steady performance is a beacon of resilience. Despite the decline in traffic and user engagement in certain categories, Yelp's strategic investments and focus on efficient channels have allowed it to forecast sequential increases in both net revenue and adjusted EBITDA. This resilience, even as inflationary pressures and rising interest rates loom large, should give investors confidence in Yelp's ability to adapt and thrive.

In conclusion, Yelp Inc. stands out as a compelling investment opportunity, with its demonstrated revenue growth, return to profitability, innovative product development, shareholder-friendly initiatives, and resilience to macroeconomic challenges. While risks such as competition and changes in search engine algorithms persist, Yelp's strategic focus and operational adjustments position it well to navigate these headwinds. With a forward-thinking approach and a solid financial foundation, Yelp is well-equipped to continue its growth trajectory, making it an attractive option for investors seeking robust returns in a challenging market landscape.

The ‘Bear’ Perspective


  1. Macroeconomic Headwinds: Rising interest rates and inflationary pressures could significantly dampen consumer spending and advertiser budgets.
  2. Declining Traffic and User Engagement: A 4% decrease in paying advertising locations indicates potential challenges in sustaining revenue growth.
  3. Technological and Competitive Risks: Yelp's reliance on AI-driven features and third-party partnerships introduces operational and competitive vulnerabilities.
  4. Limited International Presence: Yelp's strategic decision to focus solely on the U.S. and Canada markets may restrict future growth opportunities.
  5. Employee Retention and Operational Challenges: Competitive pressures in the labor market and the necessity of adapting to technological changes pose risks to Yelp's operational efficiency.


  1. Macroeconomic Headwinds:
    Yelp's recent financial performance comes amid a backdrop of economic uncertainty. With the Federal Reserve continuing its "high for longer" interest rate policy to combat inflation, consumer discretionary spending may take a hit. This could directly impact Yelp, as businesses, especially small and medium-sized ones, tighten their advertising budgets. The company's modest 7% year-over-year revenue growth might not be sustainable if inflation does not ease and interest rates remain elevated. Moreover, the company's net income turnaround, while commendable, could be threatened by these macroeconomic factors as they strain Yelp's primary revenue streams.
  2. Declining Traffic and User Engagement:
    Yelp reported an 8% increase in ad clicks, but this was offset by a 1% decline in average cost per click (CPC) and a troubling 4% decrease in the number of paying advertising locations. The decline is more pronounced in the Restaurants, Retail & Other (RR&O) categories, dropping by 12%. This suggests that Yelp's core user engagement metrics may be weakening, which could lead to a further erosion of its advertiser base. Given that advertising revenue is the lifeblood of Yelp's business model, any continued downturn in user engagement and paying locations could spell trouble for future revenue growth.
  3. Technological and Competitive Risks:
    Yelp's investment in AI-driven features such as Yelp Assistant and Yelp Fusion AI API highlights its commitment to innovation. However, this technological pivot introduces significant risks. The company's future success hinges on the effectiveness of these new tools in enhancing user experience and ad performance. Additionally, Yelp's reliance on third-party partnerships (e.g., Grubhub, AWS) could expose it to unforeseen operational risks if these partners face disruptions. With tech giants like Google dominating the search landscape, Yelp's visibility and traffic could suffer if it cannot maintain a competitive edge.
  4. Limited International Presence:
    The decision to wind down international operations confines Yelp to the U.S. and Canada, limiting its global reach and potential growth avenues. As the company focuses on these markets, it may miss out on opportunities for diversification and revenue expansion in a digital age where international presence is often key to long-term success. This strategic choice could be particularly detrimental if the North American market becomes saturated or if Yelp faces increased competition from other local search and review platforms.
  5. Employee Retention and Operational Challenges:
    Yelp's ability to innovate and adapt to rapidly changing market conditions is contingent upon retaining a talented workforce. However, the competitive labor market poses significant risks to employee retention and operational efficiency. As the company navigates through technological shifts, particularly in mobile device usage and advertising targeting, it must ensure that it can attract and retain the necessary talent to drive its strategic initiatives forward. Failure to do so could lead to operational disruptions and a decline in the overall quality of Yelp's offerings.

In conclusion, while Yelp Inc. has demonstrated some positive financial results in the short term, the array of risks and challenges it faces should give investors pause. From broader economic headwinds to specific operational and competitive threats, the company's future profitability and growth prospects are far from certain. Prudent investors should carefully weigh these factors before making any investment decisions regarding Yelp's stock.