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?
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.”
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.
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#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:
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.
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#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!
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.
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 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.
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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