Chances are you’ve used Yelp to find a well-reviewed restaurant in an unfamiliar city or hired a contractor for a big home improvement project. If so, you know that Yelp is a great tool for consumers looking for accurate information about businesses they’ve yet to visit.
But you might not be as familiar with Yelp’s business benefits, even if you’re a small business owner yourself.
Yelp is a fabulous resource for small to midsize businesses seeking greater exposure in local, regional, and even national markets. It’s free to join and claim your business profile, but there’s another side of Yelp for Business. Should you find its free services valuable, you can choose from a host of paid products and services as well.
Here’s what you need to know to get the most out of Yelp for Business Owners.
Getting Started With Yelp for Business Owners
It’s easy for business owners new to Yelp to add their business to the network, build out their profiles, and begin communicating with current and prospective customers. Here’s how to get started.
Claiming Your Business on Yelp
Your business may already have a Yelp listing created by customers eager to review your company. Claiming your business is the first step in asserting control over your listing and its contents, including contact details and responding to all-important customer reviews.
To claim your business on Yelp, enter the business name and location on the Yelp for Business Owners search page. If your business name is unclaimed, click the “Claim This Business” button and choose your verification method: text or phone call. If the listed phone number is incorrect, you can change it.
While Yelp moderators verify phone number change requests, it’s theoretically possible for anyone to request one. So you should claim your business as quickly as possible. If you believe an unauthorized person has claimed your business already, contact Yelp support or your local Yelp sales team. Yelp will verify your identity and ownership before releasing the claim.
Once you’ve claimed your business and created a Yelp business owner profile, you’ll have full editing privileges for its listing. Your first order of business is confirming that all contact details are correct.
Adding Your Business on Yelp
If your business is new or not well-known, you may need to add it manually. If you can’t find your business through Yelp’s search, click the “Add Here” button and fill out the form on the following page. You’ll provide information such as the business name, address, category, website, and phone number.
Once you’ve added and verified your business, you’re ready to begin fleshing out your profile.
Building Out Your Yelp Profile
Your next order of business is building out your Yelp profile. You already have the building blocks in place, but take the time to confirm that all the basic information for your business is accurate and up to date.
Reviewing this information is especially important if you’re claiming a listing. A single transposed digit in your business phone number or address lowers your listing’s effectiveness. Don’t forget to add a working link to your website and double-check that the URL is correct.
Next, add a few high-quality photos to your listing. Photo-rich listings are more eye-catching than text-only listings. If you’re jostling for visibility in a competitive industry, you need to give your listing every advantage. For example, a few shots of top-selling menu items could be all you need to set your diner apart from all the other diners in your local market.
Free Tools for Businesses on Yelp
- Measure listing traffic by source, including mobile
- View traffic over periods ranging from 30 days to 24 months
- Track certain types of engagement, such as prospective customers calling your business through Yelp
- Estimate the value of your Yelp lead generation through the Revenue Estimate tool
How to Boost Your Customer Reviews
Positive Yelp reviews are priceless, especially for small, local businesses without much budget for paid advertising. A 2016 working paper by Harvard Business School professor Michael Luca found that a one-star Yelp rating increase – say, from 3 to 4 stars – may boost a business’s revenue by as much as 9%.
Because most Yelp listings rank on Google’s first search results page, a Yelp-listed business with a low overall rating or pattern of negative reviews is at a significant disadvantage. To put your best foot forward on Yelp, devote ample attention and resources to cultivating positive reviews and managing customer feedback.
Encouraging Customer Feedback
Yelp’s terms of service prevent listed businesses from paying for positive reviews or providing in-kind compensation for the same. But there’s no rule against encouraging customers to leave feedback. Consider:
- Adding Yelp signs to your place of business and website to remind customers that you’re listed on Yelp and would appreciate reviews.
- Including reminders on receipts and invoices, such as “How was your experience? Share your feedback on Yelp.com!”
- Verbally reminding customers that reviews are appreciated when possible and appropriate.
Responding to Customer Reviews
It’s impossible to please everyone all the time. Your Yelp listing could one day receive some less-than-glowing feedback. How you manage that feedback could have an enormous impact on how customers view your business.
1. Flag Reviews That Don’t Meet Yelp’s Content Guidelines
Yelp’s automated review filter weeds out many reviews that don’t meet the platform’s content guidelines, but it’s not perfect. Back it up by periodically checking new reviews for content that clearly violate the guidelines – for instance, by promoting a competitor or demanding payment to right an alleged wrong. When you find such reviews, notify Yelp’s moderation team.
2. Respond to Substantive Positive Reviews
Don’t worry about responding to every brief five-star review, but do take the time to acknowledge lengthier praise. A simple “We’re so glad you enjoyed your experience, and we hope to see you again soon” can make a difference. It reminds the customer that your brand is backed by a real human presence that values honest feedback. Personalize your response by using the reviewer’s first name if it’s obvious from their username.
3. Handle Negative Reviews Carefully
Negative reviews require extra attention and thoughtfulness, per generally accepted practices of business social media etiquette. Whatever the circumstances, do your best to demonstrate that you believe the customer is always right, even if you know they aren’t in this case. Apologize for any misunderstanding, address specific complaints, and publicly offer to make things right. Don’t worry about saying precisely how you’ll make things right in your public response; leave that for a private follow-up message to the reviewer.
If the reviewer’s complaint isn’t clear from their initial feedback, ask what you or your team could have done differently to make their experience better. Regardless of the outcome of this particular discussion, it’s good information to know for the future.
When in doubt, refer to Yelp’s detailed guide to responding to customer reviews.
Yelp for Business Owners: Paid Products
Yelp offers several paid products and services for business owners. While the following are among the most relevant and useful for the typical small business owner, Yelp is always experimenting with new offerings. Keep an eye on Yelp’s blog for new product announcements.
1. Business Highlights
With Business Highlights, you can choose up to six badges to feature on your Yelp page, two of which will show up in Yelp search results. Yelp offers 30 distinct badges, from generic promises such as “satisfaction guaranteed” to niche perks such as “vegan friendly.” These badges are your chance to concisely and visually communicate what makes your business special, and to help you stand out from the competition.
2. Yelp Portfolio
Yelp Portfolio is a collection of your business’s best work that includes high-quality photos with detailed custom captions. Use this feature to set customer expectations, particularly about service quality and pricing, and to display the work you do. If you’re worried about sticker shock, for instance, find a way to communicate that your products or services are high-quality and worth the premium. Portfolios is particularly helpful for home service businesses who just claimed their page and might not have many reviews yet since it allows you to display successful projects you’ve completed.
3. Yelp Verified License
If you work in an industry where formal licensing is a major selling point, Yelp Verified License is a worthwhile investment. Verified License businesses get a special on-page badge that confirms they have a valid trade license wherever they do business. Yelp manually verifies each license, so don’t bother applying if you can’t back up your claim.
The Slideshow feature highlights the best photos and multimedia from your Yelp page, showing visitors a revolving array of tantalizing images and video. Use it to underscore the aspects of your business you’d like to draw prospective customers’ attention to.
5. Yelp Reservations
Yelp Reservations enables you to take unlimited reservations through your Yelp page and business website for a flat monthly fee. There’s no per-diner charge or other upfront costs.
Yelp Reservations includes a front-of-house management suite that lets you text guests when their reservations are ready. It also tracks key metrics such as wait times, walk-ins, and server sections.
6. Deals & Gift Certificates
Yelp Deals are Yelp’s answer to Groupon’s social coupons. They’re prepaid discount vouchers that confer set discounts, such as a $40 value for $20. Customers can also purchase gift certificates in whatever denominations you choose. Neither of these options cost you anything upfront; the customer simply pays for their chosen product, Yelp takes a cut of the proceeds, and you receive the balance each month.
7. Yelp Ads
Yelp Ads deliver targeted ads where prospective customers are likely to see them, such as search result pages for terms related to your business and competitors’ Yelp pages. Bear in mind that means your own page could host competitors’ ads. Review Yelp Ads’ Master Advertising Terms for more details about what to expect from this product.
Advantages of Yelp for Business Owners
Why is Yelp so appealing for small business owners?
- It’s Free to Add or Create a Business Listing. Adding or creating a business page on Yelp costs nothing and takes just a few minutes of your time, so there’s little downside to doing it. Indeed, business owners should claim unclaimed listings as soon as they can (more on that below).
- It Gives You Some Control Over Reviews (But Not Unlimited). Once you’ve claimed your listing, you have some control over the reviews your customers leave. You can’t delete or suppress legitimate negative reviews, but you do have some recourse to challenge reviews that are irrelevant or contain prohibited content. You can also respond to individual reviews, mitigating the impact of legitimate negative reviews and strengthening relationships with customers who’ve had positive experiences.
- Deals and Gift Certificates Cost Nothing Upfront. Yelp takes a cut of the profits from Deals and gift certificate purchases, but it doesn’t impose front-end costs on business owners who run campaigns using these features. If your campaign doesn’t perform as well as you expected, you won’t be on the hook for a huge upfront investment you can’t hope to earn back.
- There Are No Per-Diner Fees for Yelp Reservations. Yelp Reservations charges one flat monthly fee for its entire suite of booking and analytics tools. Should it turn into a major source of inbound traffic for your restaurant, you won’t be penalized for its success.
- Yelp Verified License Confers Valuable Credibility. Yelp’s Verified License feature is a valuable tool for contractors and other businesses required to carry trade licenses. It quickly tells a prospective customer that you’re licensed to do business in your area, saving them the time and effort of confirming this information themselves.
- Yelp Badges Highlight What Sets Your Business Apart. Yelp’s Business Highlights badges clearly and concisely communicate your business’s key differentiators, whether that’s vegan-friendliness or a no-questions-asked satisfaction guarantee. For better or worse, plenty of prospective customers don’t have the time to read through an entire Yelp listing. Badges ensure they don’t have to.
Considerations for Business Owners New to Yelp
Yelp is a great resource for small business owners. As you get started on Yelp, keep these considerations in mind.
- Advertising on Yelp is best for brick-and-mortar businesses. Yelp is an awesome resource for local, brick-and-mortar businesses, from single-location coffeehouses to national chains with hundreds or thousands of local shops. Its advertising products might not be as useful for online-only businesses that don’t serve specific geographic markets. If you run a business where you travel to your clients, set up a service area.
- Non-Owners Might Be Able to Claim Your Business. It’s theoretically possible for non-owners to claim an unclaimed business by commandeering the owner’s phone or changing the business phone number to one they control. Yelp manually verifies phone number changes and likely has sophisticated procedures in place to prevent fraud. Still, it’s a compelling argument for claiming an unclaimed listing as soon as possible so you can ensure you’re in control of your business information online.
- Yelp Ads Might Not Be The Best Yelp Product For You. Although Yelp-listed businesses are under no obligation to invest in ads through the platform, it’s a tempting prospect. If you’re interested in paid advertising through Yelp, go for it. Yelp does offer some other valuable products at a lower cost, like Business Highlights, custom CTAs, removing competitor ads, and more, which could make more sense for your marketing budget.
- Your Business Page Might Display Competitors’ Ads. Yelp makes it clear that competitors’ ads may appear on free users’ business pages. It does offer enhanced services that remove competing ads for a small fee.
- You Need To Claim Your Business To Have Control Over Your Page Claiming your business listing is the only way to control your presence on Yelp and to ensure that all your business information is correct. Take a few minutes to claim your unclaimed Yelp listing, rather than risk having potentially erroneous or derogatory information about your business online.
Yelp for Business is what you make of it. For local business owners with limited or nonexistent marketing budgets, adding or claiming a Yelp listing is an easy, low-stakes way to increase search visibility and shape the digital conversation around their businesses. For better-endowed enterprises, Yelp’s paid advertising services offer cost-effective marketing support without excessive upfront costs or requirements.
However you decide to use Yelp, there’s little downside to adding or claiming your business today. As your business grows, you may decide to deepen your relationship with North America’s top small business directory. If you do, check back here for the latest on getting the most out of Yelp.
Do you use Yelp to promote your business? What do you like about it?