Nearly 4 in 5 Americans regularly read reviews of local businesses before visiting or making a purchase and, according to BrightLocal, an even higher proportion of consumers are likely to use companies that respond to their online reviews. That’s why it’s extremely important to take advantage of top review sites like Yelp to successfully market your business locally.
Yelp is a crowd-sourced review site that launched in 2004, and is accessible online and via its app. The website features listings for millions of companies and targets customers in a specific region. Users can rate local businesses and leave comments on their performance. [Related article: How to Reach Your Target Customer]
Yelp does not verify user reviews; however, it uses a sophisticated algorithm to detect fake or malicious postings. Yelp is a popular website, generating more traffic than YellowPages.com and WhitePages.com, so it’s a great way to attract potential customers and convert them into buyers.
Yelp can be a great resource for small businesses, but you have to be proactive to get the most out of it. We recommend following these four steps to utilize Yelp for your company’s growth.
“Chances are, if you haven’t already created a Yelp listing for your company, someone else has,” said Rochelle Sanchirico, global director of SMB marketing at Spotify. She suggests doing a search to see if a listing for your business has already been created, perhaps by a customer.
Yelp also prompts you to find your business at the beginning of the registration process. “If your business is already listed, Yelp allows business owners to claim or ‘unlock’ their business page,” Sanchirico said.
To claim your business name, go to the Yelp claim page and enter your company’s name. Yelp will search its database to see if it already has a listing. If it does, follow the on-screen prompts to claim it. If it doesn’t, click “Add to Yelp for free” to begin registering. You’ll then be taken to an account creation page where you can enter your business details. Then you’ll receive a code either by email or phone to verify your identity.
Setting up your Yelp page takes minimal effort, but it’s just the beginning of the process if you truly want to take advantage of your listing. After all, a basic, no-frills listing is unlikely to attract many customers. Yelp offers a number of customization and optimization options that can enhance your page from a marketing perspective.
“A picture is worth a thousand words, especially when someone is looking for a good restaurant to eat at or something they might be interested in purchasing,” Sanchirico added.
With this advice in mind, consider adding imagery to your page that shows off the products you offer. Optimizing the platform won’t just help paint an accurate picture of your business, but it can help customers easily find your company. Here are some of the most effective, free ways to apply your profile:
Companies featured in Google’s “local pack” receive many phone calls, email inquiries and web visits because they’re at the top of the search results page. Since Google chooses the “local pack” based on the number of “citations” with matching NAP information, Yelp listings with the same NAP will work in your favor. Learn more ways to make Google work for your business.
Some of Yelp’s tools do have a price. It’s often worth paying for at least some of these functions, because they present some huge optimization opportunities:
Yelp will not reach out to customers requesting reviews; the platform has even gone as far as “outing” businesses that break this rule. But there are plenty of ethical ways to subtly encourage customers to leave positive comments on your page. Here are the best ways of build your Yelp reviews:
Bradford Hines, a digital marketing strategist and founder of YumDomains and HungryKids.org, suggests posting reminders to leave your business a review throughout your website and store.
“[Place] a sticker on your window, a friendly reminder on your menu and marketing materials, and then the Yelp review plugin in the footer of your website,” he said. “Try linking your Yelp listing in your email signature or on your company website. … If you include a link to your Yelp profile on your ‘thank you’ page after a user fills out a form, you don’t have to worry about hurting conversion rate.”
“One of the best ways to ensure that your Yelp listing ranks well is to get as many reviews as possible,” said Brandon Seymour, SEO analyst and owner of Beymour Consulting. “This is particularly the case with search engines. For instance, the more reviews and online presence your business has, the higher it will appear when customers do a search on Google.”
Business owners naturally worry about handling negative customer reviews on Yelp and other platforms. Bad reviews are unavoidable and more important than ever to address, especially after a 2010 court ruling that gave Yelp the legal right to manipulate the order of reviews.
The good news is the ruling clarified that Yelp can control how prominent bad reviews are on your Yelp profile. The bad news is you have to pay to advertise with the company to get those bad reviews pushed to the bottom of the pile or removed.
If your business receives a bad Yelp review, here are the best – and most cost-efficient – ways to address them:
Remember that most people will ditch a company over bad customer service, so set the course for a positive relationship right from the start to lessen the chance of earning a negative review. Consider offering a future discount to customers who write a review – they may appreciate it and offer a positive one.
As you build your Yelp page to attract and retain customers, you may have additional questions about getting the most out of the platform. Here we answer some of the most common questions from Yelp users.
Yelp typically will not remove poor reviews upon request. However, you can appeal for a review to be removed if it contains hate speech, lewdness, harassing content or threats. Consider engaging in the Yelp Advertising Partner Program to boost sales.
Besides the digital marketing opportunities through Google and Facebook, according to BrightLocal, these are the main Yelp alternatives for business reviews and the percentage of consumers who use them to evaluate local businesses:
You can pay for your business to be listed at the top of relevant user searches for your products or services. Users reviewing your ads can be targeted by both location and keywords. With Yelp you’re charged every time someone clicks on an ad, just like a Google Ads campaign. Consequently, separate solutions are available for local and national companies. [Learn the difference between advertising and marketing to make the right choices for your business.]
Yelp will probably not help your business rank higher in search results, as all links to your website are no-follow links. However, Google is likely to consider a Yelp page a reliable citation source for Google Business Profile purposes. If your NAP details on Yelp are identical to your Google Business Profile, it may increase your chances of being featured in Google’s “local pack.”
Yelp often lists businesses in its directory without seeking the owner’s permission first. You don’t really have a choice about whether your business is on Yelp or not – it will not remove your listing even if you request it.
If you’re not taking advantage of the platform, you’re missing out on opportunities to market your company to local customers. If you aren’t engaging with users who leave reviews, your business will seem disconnected from its clientele. Although if you claim your business page, optimize your profile, encourage and respond to reviews, Yelp can be an impactful marketing tool.
Sara Angeles contributed to the writing and reporting in this article. Source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.