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Making the Most of Yelp: A Small Business Guide

Mark Fairlie
Mark Fairlie
Business News Daily Contributing Writer
Updated Jun 29, 2022

Yelp is the second most popular online review site in the U.S., with half of Americans consulting it before they make a purchase. Here's how to make the most of Yelp.

  • Yelp is a top review site for marketing local businesses. 
  • Being on Yelp helps you attract new customers and address existing customers’ feedback to improve your company.
  • You can set up a listing for your business on Yelp and respond to negative reviews.
  • This article is for business owners who want to know how to get the most out of Yelp and turn a bad review into a growth opportunity. 

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.

What is Yelp?

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.

How can I use Yelp for my small business?

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.

1. Claim your business Yelp page.

“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.

2. Optimize your Yelp page.

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:

  • Categorize your business correctly. There are 22 main categories and hundreds more subcategories on Yelp. For example, there are 157 subcategories for “restaurants,” from “Afghan” to “wraps.” You can choose up to three categories for your business. Choosing the correct classifications gives you a much better chance of being found by those searching for your products or services.
  • Write a great business description. You have 1,500 characters to sell your business to page visitors. Here, include your specialties, the experience of your staff and reasons consumers should favor you over your competitors. Network by creating a description of a company you’d be happy to connect with.
  • List your business hours. Let people know when they can frequent your business or the best time to reach you.
  • Include additional information. You can add further information to your profile that customers will find useful, such as whether you have Wi-Fi, on- or off-street parking, allow dogs, or offer takeout.
  • Use relevant keywords. You can make it easier for users to find your page by including applicable keywords for searches.
  • Add photos and videos. Consider featuring pictures that showcase your unique enterprise, including the food you sell, clothing you make or the design of your sales floor. Use one of the best photo editing apps to make your pictures both professional and appealing.
  • Provide your contact information. Add your company’s website URL, email address and phone number to your profile.
  • Keep updating your profile. A Yelp profile that has not been updated lately sticks out for the wrong reasons. Keep your content fresh by regularly highlighting special offers and making announcements. 
  • Link to your Yelp profile. You can attract the attention of Yelp’s algorithm by linking back to your Yelp profile from your business’s website. 
  • Reward check-ins. Yelp users can “check in” when they visit a business in person. Incentivize visitors to come to your premises by rewarding them with a freebie or a discount on a future purchase. You could even combine offers with a customer loyalty program.
  • Match your NAP information to your Google Business Profile NAP. “NAP” refers to a company’s name, address and phone number. Make sure the NAP on your Yelp profile is the same as on your Google Business Profile for a better chance of being featured in the “local pack,” which is the listing of three businesses with an accompanying map on a Google results page.
  • Provide all locations. If your business operates from more than one physical site, make sure you create a separate profile for each establishment. 

Did you know?Did you know?: 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:

  • Add a call-to-action (CTA) feature. For $1 a day, you can add a CTA button to your page, inviting visitors to book an appointment, print a voucher, visit your premises and obtain a quote. Learn how to develop a CTA.
  • Remove competitors’ ads. You can remove the “You Might Also Consider” section, which features links to your competition on your profile, for $1 a day.
  • Organize images. For an additional $1 a day, you can choose the order in which images appear on your page. Otherwise, Yelp randomly presents your pictures and snapshots customers upload to your listing when they leave a review.
  • Offer Yelp deals. Offer visitors to your profile a discount on products or services. This can stimulate sales, but Yelp charges a 30% commission.
  • Sell gift certificates. You can also offer gift certificates to visitors, for which Yelp takes a 10% fee.

3. Attract more Yelp reviews.

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:

  • Link your Yelp review page from your company’s website.
  • Add a review carousel to your website to highlight the testimonials.
  • Use Yelp stickers on your premises.
  • Promote your most favorable reviews on your company’s social media channels.
  • Give customers a great introduction to your business with a special first-time offer. 

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.”

4. Rank higher on Yelp.

“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.”

How do I manage negative Yelp reviews?

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:

  • Don’t take it personally. People are entitled to their point of view, no matter how misguided you believe they are. Make the goal to resolve the dispute rather than proving the critic wrong.
  • Never let a crisis go to waste. Although a bad review is not an existential crisis, it might feel that way in the first few moments after reading one. Consider the review instead as an opportunity to learn to avoid making the same mistake. 
  • Respond quickly to the review. Try to respond to the patron within two days – one week at the latest.
  • Be polite whenever possible. Thank the reviewer for bringing the problem to your attention and apologize for their bad experience. Additionally, it never hurts to offer a discount on a future purchase.
  • Address their concern directly. According to a study by ZenBusiness, 1 in 3 consumers will reverse their review if they feel the company has dealt with it adequately.
  • Try to take the discussion offline. Dealing directly – but privately – with the customer will, in many cases, resolve the issue. It’s better to avoid having a detailed conversation in public about your business’ perceived failures. Respond to the review to explain how it has been addressed.

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.

Did you know?Did you know?: It’s worth your time to respond to your customer reviews on all platforms, not just Yelp. Companies that respond to at least 25% of their online reviews – good or bad – see a 35% uptick in revenue, according to data from Womply.

Yelp FAQs

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.

Can you pay to remove poor Yelp reviews?

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.

What are some alternatives to Yelp?

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:

  • TripAdvisor – 36%
  • Better Business Bureau – 31%
  • Apple Maps – 13% 
  • Healthgrades – 12%
  • Trustpilot – 7%

What advertising options are there on Yelp?

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.]

TipTip: Yelp’s reporting platform for tracking your leads and inquiries is a lot harder to use than the analytics you get from Google Ads campaigns. You may want to use one of the best CRM software options to help manage your leads.

Is Yelp good for SEO?

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.”

Can I remove my Yelp listing?

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.

How important is Yelp to my company’s success?

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. 

Image Credit:

Gil C/Shutterstock.com

Mark Fairlie
Mark Fairlie
Business News Daily Contributing Writer
Mark Fairlie has written extensively on business finance, business development, M&A, accounting, tax, cybersecurity, sales and marketing, SEO, investments, and more for clients across the world for the past five years. Prior to that, Mark owned one of the largest independent managed B2B email and telephone outsourcing companies in the UK prior to selling up in 2015.