7 Ways to Use Yelp to Improve Your Local Business

social media how toAre you wondering how to best use Yelp for your business?

If you run a local business like a restaurant, Yelp should be an essential cornerstone of your online presence.

Launched back in 2004, Yelp continues to be the go-to resource for millions of visitors looking for information about local businesses.

Is your business doing all that it can to attract new customers from the ever-growing audience on Yelp?

yelp logo

The Yelp brand—your customers trust it, so your business should embrace it!

Whether you’ve been active on Yelp in the past or you’re starting a new business, this article will bring you up to speed on the Yelp of today and offer seven ways your business can improve its presence on Yelp.

Why Focus on Yelp?

You might be thinking, “Shouldn’t I focus my efforts on learning the latest tips about Pinterest and other cutting-edge social platforms? Isn’t Yelp old news?”

With over 60 million registered users and over 20 million reviews posted on the site, it’s fair to say Yelp is still the dominant force when it comes to social review sites.

Restaurateurs know the value of increasing their star rating on Yelp. But other businesses make up 75% of the listings, showing that customers turn to the site to make decisions for all sorts of local businesses.

How to Get Started on Yelp

Before we get into how to step up your game on Yelp, let’s cover a few basics.

If your business is relatively new, the first thing you’ll want to do is see if it has already been listed on Yelp. Chances are it has.

So go ahead and search for your business’s name. Once you find it, click the link that says “Work here? Unlock this Business Page.”

yelp unlock

Does your business page have this message? If so, you should "unlock" it and start engaging.

Don’t go too long without claiming ownership of your business on Yelp. Otherwise, it could be subject to others adding inaccurate information, resulting in an unflattering presentation of your business!

For more information on creating your business account on Yelp, be sure to visit the Yelp for Business Owners section of the site.

Here’s how to take your Yelp presence to the next level.

#1: Immerse yourself in Yelp—read the profiles of your competitors

Before you start fiddling with your own Yelp profile, I highly recommend you first get a lay of the land.

Search Yelp for your direct local competitors and click through to their profiles. Take a close look at those with 4+ star ratings and those with 3 and below.

Try to distinguish the differences between those who are thriving on Yelp and those who are not. Do their photos set them apart? Does their website link lead to an impressive site or one that turns traffic away?

Can you start to see patterns in the types of things mentioned in their reviews? Try to pin down what your local market values highly and what prompts them to leave a poor review.

Learn from all of your snooping around and leverage your competitive research to ensure your own success on Yelp.

#2: Start with the essentials: Complete your business’s Yelp profile

The first step to getting your Yelp presence on track is to ensure you’ve got the essentials nailed down. Having a fully featured profile that gives visitors all of the info they seek is a must.

Be sure to complete these essential pieces of your Yelp profile:

yelp profile

All of the elements that make up a well-rounded business page on Yelp.

1. Name and category: You’d be surprised how many businesses leave a typo in their name or miscategorize their listing. Double-check this. It’s the most important piece of your listing!

2. Detailed address and phone number: Include your street address, along with any important notes about landmarks or cross-streets. Recently changed address? Update your contact info right away.

3. Include the link to your website and menu: This is crucial for converting more visitors into customers. If a Yelper clicks over to your website and likes what they see, they’re much more likely to become your customer. Restaurants: Make sure your website has an online menu. That can be linked here as well.

4. Quality photos: Nothing hurts your Yelp profile more than a blank photo area. Populate this with quality photos. More on this in a moment.

5. OpenTable.com reservations: Does your restaurant take reservations via OpenTable? You can connect this here.

6. Important info: Be sure to accurately fill out all of the info here, like your hours, price range, parking info, outdoor seating, etc. This info can make or break a customer’s decision to choose your business over the competition.

7. About your business: Although this tab is somewhat hidden behind the Reviews section, it’s important that you fill this out thoroughly. This extra info could be the tipping point that convinces customers you’re what they’re looking for.

#3: Create a strong photo gallery

Most businesses on Yelp only have a couple of poorly shot photos, usually uploaded by visitors. Some businesses don’t even have one photo posted. This is a huge opportunity for your business to stand out!

yelp photos

Lots of photos help tell the whole story about your business.

Hire a professional photographer to shoot a handful of engaging photos that inform visitors about what they’re in for when they visit you. Show off your décor, your food (or products) and the overall customer experience.

Important tip: Include a photo or two of the front of your business, or what your customers will see as they drive by and approach. This makes it tremendously easier for new customers to find you and walk in.

#4: Recognize the value of your customer reviews

We all know that positive reviews on Yelp add a tremendous amount of social proof for your business, not to mention increase your all-important star rating. But customer reviews actually hold much more value than that.

yelp reviews

Reviews are the lifeblood of Yelp. Are you taking full advantage of them?

Positive reviews can be leveraged outside of Yelp. You can grab some of the best quotes and feature them on your website, citing the reviewer’s first name. This reinforces the social proof when visitors take that extra step to check out your website.

Believe it or not, negative reviews present a valuable opportunity for you as well. Whether you agree with the critique or not, negative reviews bring up points of concern about your business that you may have overlooked. Use this constructive criticism to improve your customers’ experience.

#5: Respond to reviews

I’m surprised more people don’t take advantage of this incredibly valuable tool Yelp has provided business owners. You, as the business owner, can publicly respond to any review placed on your business profile.

Now, before you start firing away at every bad review that comes your way, stop and consider a more strategic approach.

If you choose to respond to a comment, do it calmly and respectfully. The key here is to show that you care. Thank the reviewer for their feedback, and point out things they may not have been aware of, or explain how you plan to fix or improve whatever it is they were complaining about.

respond to yelp review

You, the business owner, can use this link to offer your response to reviews on your business page.

Respond to positive reviews as well! Thank them for coming in and for their kind words. Use this as an opportunity to highlight the hard work you’re putting toward a great customer experience.

The bottom line is, your visibility as the owner within the Reviews section will do a lot to set you apart from your competition—mainly because nobody else is doing it!

Yelp provides advice and info for business owners regarding responding to reviews here.

#6: Track and use metrics in your Yelp dashboard

Now it’s time to really dig in and take your Yelp presence up a notch.

Business owners on Yelp gain access to detailed behind-the-scenes metrics about their business’s performance on Yelp. These metrics were overhauled and improved in March 2012, so if you haven’t logged in recently, you should definitely take a look.

yelp metrics

Business owners get an in-depth view of the performance metrics of their business page on Yelp.

Here you can gather key insights about your Yelp presence. You can track the amount of traffic your Yelp profile receives and also see how many times your business showed up in search results on Yelp.

Tracking “User Actions” gives you an even closer look at how visitors are engaging with your business on Yelp. Actions include things like clicks to your website, mobile check-ins, photos uploaded, etc.

You can use the info gathered here to inform your decisions on things like “When is the best day of the week to run a special?” or “How important is having a mobile website for my visitors?”

#7: Take advantage of Yelp’s additional resources

You can find quite a bit of helpful resources on the official Yelp for Business Owners section as well as the Business Owner’s Blog, where you can stay on top of the latest tools as they become available.

You might consider advertising your business on Yelp. While I firmly believe you can find great success on Yelp using the free techniques described above, purchasing advertising placements on Yelp brings a few interesting benefits, like:

  • Removal of competitors’ ads on your business page
  • Enhanced photo slideshow
  • Video on your profile

Another idea is to run a Yelp Deal, which allows you to offer coupons to your Yelp audience. Although Yelp keeps 30% of the discounted price, Yelp Deals make your listing more attractive to visitors, and could prove to have a solid return on investment, especially when you use your Yelp metrics to guide the timing of your Yelp Deals.

What do you think? Has your business found success from its presence on Yelp? Let us know in the comments section below!

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About the Author, Brian Casel

Brian Casel is the founder of Restaurant Engine & Hotel Propeller, web design solutions for hospitality businesses. Ask about our Partner Programs. Other posts by »




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  • http://www.blazewebstudio.co.za/ geoffreygordon

    Hey Brian

    This was article was a breath of fresh air, or should I say air that sometimes we have forget is out there to breathe into our businesses. I totally agree while everyone is rushing out there to get social profiles. They have forgotten the  good stalwart advice of being listed on a great directory. Yelp is definitely one of them.

    Its great that you pointed out that profiles are not fully filled out. The value of properly filled out listings make all the difference. If you do half a job,  then those that find you and see your profile will feel that you are going to do half a job as well. It seems obvious but often its over looked.

    Great post Brian. Thumbs Up. :)

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  • http://casjam.com/ Brian

    Thanks Geoffrey :)  

    Couldn’t agree more.  These days, business owners can really benefit by focusing on a few, or even just one, long-standing, trusted, social network like Yelp, rather than trying to keep up with all the new ones that come and go.

  • http://freshfullyrad.com/ Jesse R.

    I just had a meeting with a friend and local business owner who needed some good tips to make their business stand out in the social media realm more. This article will be a great tip sheet for her. Thank you!

  • Zoë Geddes-Soltess

    Hi Brian, I just wanted to pass along how much I enjoyed your article. You put together a great resource for small businesses. Cheers!

    Zoe Geddes-Soltess
    Community Engagement, Radian6

  • Diane Bianchi

    Thanks for the article on Yelp.  I sometimes forget about these types of sites and this is a good reminder of how I can help my clients get themselves up in the search rankings.

  • http://www.franticbutfabulous.com/ Heidi/FranticButFab

    Another reason not to forget about Yelp as part of a small/local business marketing strategy: Yelp reviews now power Bing’s local search results.

  • Margie Arnett

    I’ve seen snarky & inaccurate comments on yelp – but no recommendations on that subject in this post. Business even contacted Yelp & had proof of innacuracy – but Yelp won’t remove.
    Thoughts on this too please.
    PS – I’m @MargieArnett on twitter & there regularly.

  • Carin Galletta Oliver

    The importance of Yelp, especially for restaurants cannot be underscored.  We recently completed a survey to determine how/what and who is most influential in a consumer’s dining decision.  Slightly more than 80 percent of consumers, after receiving a restaurant recommendation from a trusted friend, still go on to do additional research before opening their wallet.  

    The next step the majority (more than 27 percent) is to validate the recommendations on a user-generated review site such as Yelp.  When they receive the initial recommendations, they generally have several options that they are researching.  At this point, the Yelp listing can either win or loose the day for the restaurant.  

    Like your article points out and our data supports, if a restaurant’s listing has few reviews, a poor star rating or is incomplete, the restaurant can be vetoed for a ‘better’ option.   

    I hope that restaurants, many of whom, think Yelp is the devil, will take note of your article and put it to good use.  

    Happy posting!

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  • https://plus.google.com/109008933900993103361/posts Rahul Roy

    How about using Google+ Locals to improve your Business? 

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  • kennettkwok

    Hi Brian,

    This article is very informative and well-written. I never cared too much about Yelp – I guess because I never knew its perks but this article really breaks it down. I’ll be using this article to help some of my friends’ businesses. Kennett Kwok

  • Donadev

    i like ur article

  • OBVAVirtualAssistant

    Wow, lots to digest.
    Thanks for generously sharing this useful info. Especially appreciate the work and effort put in. Yelp had been overlooked but after this blog I am sure the awraeness of its exsistence will increase.

  • TheReason

    Absolutely not. Yelp is an extortionist racket destroying small businesses. Don’t help Yelp. Don’t get involved.

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  • http://casjam.com/ Brian

    Great point – thanks for adding that tip!

  • http://casjam.com/ Brian

    I don’t work for Yelp, so I can’t speak to their official policy on this… But it’s my understanding that people are free to write anything they want as long as it’s not offensive.  If there are inaccuracies in a person’s review of a business, that’s a great opportunity for that business owner to chime in with a public response to that review, to clear the record in a respectful way.  It’s a great way to turn a negative into a positive by showing that the business owner cares.

  • http://casjam.com/ Brian

    Thanks Carin – great info here!

    In my research for a different article, I found a pew research study showing that the Internet is the #1 source people turn to for info about local restaurants and bars.  And it’s a safe bet that Yelp is pretty high up on the list of Internet resources they turn to.

  • http://casjam.com/ Brian

    Yelp is where many local business’ customers go, whether the business owner likes it or not.  It’s my opinion that businesses would benefit from embracing that fact, and engaging on Yelp in a positive way, rather than allow social sites like Yelp to have a negative impact. 

  • http://www.IfSimply.com/ Keith Griffis

    Not getting involved is precisely what got many companies in trouble. Whether or not you agree with the business practices, yelp has an iloact on customer behavior. The tool itself makes it easy to find local establishments or customers. It also presents a great way for businesses to get in front of customers. Using this alongside mobile Seo and search optimization for google places can help businesses access an entire pool of customers that they are currently invisible to.

  • Tane

    The problem I have with Yelp is their filter. On our business’ Yelp page almost all of our filtered reviews are 5 star reviews, from genuine clients of ours. Also, we have 52 reviews that show and 31 that are filtered. I feel with this whole filter system, people aren’t getting a totally accurate picture of our business and how others feel about our business.

  • Carin Galletta Oliver

    I will check that out.   Our data indicates that after a restaurant gets into the consideration set from a friend or family member, then consumers go digital to research their choices.  However, we believe that most recommendations (based on earlier Keller Fay research) are happening on an offline and/or private environment.  

    The digital channels that our survey reported as ‘most influential’ include (in order of importance):
    1. User-generated review sites, such as Yelp & the restaurant’s website (in a statistical tie)
    2. Food & restaurant blogs/bloggers (they outpaced newspapers critics in influence)
    3. Search (although we suspect that will change with Google’s recent content acquisitions)

    I would be happy to share any deep dives into the data that you may be interested in.  And that goes for anyone on the thread.  I am a total data dork.  My contact is first name at angelsmith dot net.

    Cheers!

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  • Dolores Pargana

    The list of business categories is very limited. I tried to add my business to Yelp but didn’t fit into any of the categories.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004061613326 Stephen Olson

    I would suggest sitejabber where you can use similar techniques. I also have been informed that Yelp will offer business to advertise on Yelp and if the business does not Yelp will manipulate the comments on that business. Has anyone else heard this?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004061613326 Stephen Olson

    I also agree that negative comments must be addressed and should be seen as not a problem but as an opportunity to engage customers and to set the positive character of the business. Businesses should remember that even though the comment is made by one customer, thousand of future customer may read that one comment. 

  • http://www.buildandbalance.com/ Michael_N

    Brian,
    I have a good number of clients who use Yelp as a marketing tool and I’ve learned a good deal about it. Therefore, I’d like to add a few tips to add to this great article you’ve put together.1. If you have a great star rating, get the Yelp badge and place it on your website. As your review count grows, the number on the badge will change. This is an excellent way to leverage Yelp off of Yelp.2. If you do advertise you may as well pay the extra amount to get the video added to the deal. It’s not that much more and it is professionally done.3. Yelp will grab one of your testimonials to use in your Yelp ads. Make sure it’s one you like that they’ve pulled. If not, ask your rep to change it.4. On the About this Business tab use your power to Recommend other businesses. And ask those businesses to Recommend you back. This is Yelp’s answer to business owners who want to write fake reviews for their buddies, which will probably get filtered anyway.5. Yelp won’t tell you they offer 3-month ad contracts because they hate to sell them, and it truly may be too short to do a fair evaluation, but if you’re strapped and want to try it anyway, push your rep to give it to you.Hope these extra tips help! 

  • http://www.creditdefinition.net/ Mitevskidavor

    I rely don’t like YELP. its complicated and boring. Facebook and Twitter are so much better :)

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  • Rich

    Tane, I’d be curious to have a look at your Yelp business and see if I could make some recommendations on it. I’m putting together some info on how to best overcome the Yelp Filter and would love to see your case please. 

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  • http://www.w3origin.com/ W3Origin

    Local market matters a lot for the growth of a business but strategies should be up to the mark. I hope this article will help lots of people.

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  • gwdlv

    Yelp seems most suited for restaurants. I’ve done everything you mentioned for a printing company with little luck.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/mrcustomtailor Mario Rojas CustomTailor

    Great Tips!

  • http://www.freedoctopdf.com/ Lucy Toretos

    These tips are extremely beneficial. These are things that anyone can easily do to improve a blog by increasing the commenting.

  • http://www.INSTANTCASHADVANCEPAYDAYLOANS.COM/ Rolino

    Thanks
    for this post. I definitely agree with what you are saying. I have been
    talking about this subject a lot lately with my father so hopefully
    this will get him to see my point of view. Fingers crossed!
     

  • http://www.winterolympics2014.org/ Benly Denver

    Is yelp also good on promoting your website? Thanks Brian

  • http://www.masseffect3.net/ Simon Lopez

    Also, Make offers and Announces regularly. It help not just who visit your page but also the member of the community who might not even know about your business.

  • http://casjam.com/ Brian

    Thanks for these added tips Michael!

    #1 – I couldn’t agree more.  In fact, on Restaurant Engine, we provide the ability to easily add a Yelp badge to your website.

    #3 – Testimonials are huge.  I always encourage clients to showcase their best ones both in social media and on their website.

    #4 – Very interesting idea.  I could see this being very beneficial to businesses… For example a local restaurant recommending a nearby dessert/coffeeshop and vice versa.

  • http://casjam.com/ Brian

    UPDATE:  Yelp just announced “consumer alerts” which crack down on fake (paid) reviews.  

    In other words, it’s more important than ever to optimize your Yelp page the right way, and be authentic.

    http://officialblog.yelp.com/2012/10/consumer-alerts-because-you-might-like-to-know.html

  • Jw Ceruleanleadership

    does anyone know how i list all the areas we service on yelp. i cant find it anywhere! i listed our office address, but we are national and I cant seem to be able to list that
    Jeri

  • Jitendra Kumar

     Hi Brian,
                    Thanks for the article. I have a little confusion, by link building we can increase Google page ranking,  is there any other  technique to increase yelp ranking like link building? Hope you must answer my question….

  • Sean Edwards

    I do believe that Yelp manually manipulates their rankings in order to squeeze advertising dollars out of their customers, them being business owners. That being said, so does google, and i still want my business to rank on google…. so I don’t see your point.

  • Sean Edwards

    Yelp is a local search site, so you will have to put multiple business locations if you want them to rank in multiple areas. 

  • Mark James

    It is absolutely biased and their business ethics are that of crooks. They pick and choose through the comments that come in and sort them in a fashion that dumps on the business. It is psychotic. 

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  • Bill

    Yelp repeatedly hides outlet customers reviews, 7 confirmed. But show 3 negetive ones..of they counted the hidden reviews we would have five stars. What do I do

  • Christina

    Yelp filters reviews inaccurately and unfairly. There has been a lawsuit against them, and there will be another one. I used to be a huge fan of Yelp, but am learning through personal experience of my accurate reviews for business being deleted that I can’t trust the reviews posted on Yelp. If you don’t know what reviews are accurate, and what reviews have been filtered, how can you trust the reviews that are posted?

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  • Jim Leedom

    Thank you for the useful information Brian. I have a tricky question I’ve been struggling to find an answer to.

    I believe my Yelp listing is optimized pretty well and is showing up on the first page of a variety of local search queries on Google. However, the result title shows “Jim – Yelp” as opposed to my business title: Home Health Depot Medical Equipment & Supplies. I love the organic search placement, but no one is going to click on “Jim” when they are searching for medical supplies. Do you know what triggers the “Jim – Yelp” as opposed to “Home Health Depot – Yelp”?

    A search query that will populate this result is as follows: “wheelchair batteries san pedro”

    Thank you again for the wealth of useful information!
    Other info:
    Website: http://www.hhd1.com
    Yelp: http://www.yelp.com/biz/home-health-depot-medical-equipment-and-supplies-lomita







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