Photo courtesy of Dee on Flickr

We all know why Yelp is important for businesses, especially brick-and-mortar shops, so I won’t get into the more than 100 million monthly unique visitors to the site on desktop and mobile and how using Yelp will help drive them to your business.

And I won’t even mention Yelp reviews getting vaulted to the top positions of SERPs and how it’s one of your best social media marketing tools because people love reading and writing reviews and it’s easy to interact with them on the platform.

Not even gonna talk about those things. What I am gonna talk about is how to best optimize Yelp for your business. Here are a few simple steps to help you get the most out of Yelp.

Claim your business listing

You’ve probably done this already, but if not, go and do that now. Seriously. Just stop reading for five minutes and go do that. We’ll still be here when you get back.

To claim your business listing, you can either create your own business listing or unlock a business listing that has been created by someone else for your business by entering in some personal information and agreeing to Yelp’s terms of service (after carefully “reading” them, of course). It’s a simple process.

Completely fill out your profile

People visit Yelp to read the reviews, it’s true. But while they’re on your business listing, they may also want to have a gander at your business info to find out some stuff about your place. So, give ’em what they want. Fill out as much information as possible.

Include:

  • Full physical and website address
  • Phone number
  • Business category
  • Map location (make sure it’s correct)
  • Logo
  • Photos
  • Price ranges
  • History
  • Menu
  • Delivery and take-out information
  • Whether or not your business is family friendly
  • How many parking spots you have or where people can park
  • Whether or not you takes reservations
  • What kind of payments you accept
  • Whether or not you have a dress code
  • Your business’ Wi-Fi availability
  • Etc.

The “About Us” section is where you want to stuff insert keywords. Yelp, much like any other web service, wants to keep things pleasant for humans to read, which means eschewing SEO content that is meant only for machines. They keep an eye out for keyword stuffing, so use keywords intelligently.

How do you know what keywords to use or even what words qualify as key? Do a little amateur SEO sleuthing to find out what keywords apply to your business.

Make sure you use the most keyword based version of your actual business name (no shortcuts , no initials etc.). The first few sentences of your business description, specialties and business owner information are important. Make sure to use good keywords as organically as possible.

And remember that categories matter. Choose a couple of good ones that best represent what you do. Don’t list too many.

Add great photos

You know the old saying words something something a thousand pictures (I’m paraphrasing here). Give people the visuals they desire by putting awesome photos on your Yelp page. Research has indicated that people spend 2.5 times more time on a Yelp listing with photos than on a listing sans photos.

Don’t just put up a photo of your storefront. People love seeing people in photos, so put up photos of your staff and employees, your products, or people performing whatever service you offer and events you’ve hosted or been involved in (especially charity events). And don’t forget to include captions, particularly things like pricing if you add photos of your products.

And I’ve said this before about photos, but it’s worth mentioning again: a couple of amazing photos are much better than a dozen meh photos. Look at the photos you have with a discerning eye and only put up the ones that make people go ‘wow.’

Customize your Yelp page URL

Create a shortened, customized link that leads to your Yelp listing to make it easier for people to find you, remember you, and give you a review. You can use a tool like bit.ly, which, lets you create custom URLs and lets you analyze link stats like number of clicks, social media referrals, and geographic information.

Share your custom Yelp page URL on your business website, blogs, social media accounts, printed advertising, promotional materials, business cards, press kits, and in other search engine marketing material so that it will be better linked. Provide a link to your Yelp page from your website and other social media accounts.

Have a call to action on your Yelp page that leads to a good landing page on your site where you can collect contact information so you can get the most traffic out of your Yelp visitors. Make sure that page is mobile optimized since mobile use among Yelpers is high.

Encourage customers to write reviews

The more positive reviews you have on Yelp, the better. And you’ll get more reviews if you give people a bit of a nudge in that direction. Put up some signs near the check out reminding people to give you a review, get your cashiers to remind people to give you a review, have a friendly competition among your cashiers to see if any of them can get their names mentioned in a positive review on Yelp and put a reminder on your receipts to stop by your Yelp page and leave a review. Just don’t offer any incentives for positive reviews. Yelp penalizes that kind of bribery.

One thing you can offer an incentive for is checking in on Yelp. If you have some inexpensive gift you can give away to people for checking in, it will get them thinking about Yelp when they’re in your business. Yelp itself has check-in offers that businesses can use to encourage check-ins. As a bonus, Yelp doesn’t filter reviews from people who have checked in nearly as much as it filters reviews from people who haven’t checked in.

Put someone in your office in charge of Yelp initiatives so they aren’t forgotten about and make it a regular practice to check into these initiatives to make sure they’re working and tweak what isn’t.

Consider hosting a Yelp Elite event. But do your research first. It can get you high profile reviews quickly if it is done right.

Respond to and learn from negative reviews

Businesses have varying philosophies when it comes to dealing with negative reviews, which are pretty much guaranteed to happen sometimes on Yelp. You can’t please everyone and it’s the ones who are angry or insulted who are likely to complain, sometimes vehemently.

Some businesses take the ignore approach, some get defensive and start a flame war and some get overly obsequious with their apologies and come-back-to-us deals as they try to make things right.

The best approach is to respond calmly and politely to a negative review. Thank the person for their feedback, apologize for the negative experience they had and promise to do what you can to rectify the situation in the future.

Dealing head-on with a negative review will show others that you pay attention to what is being said and act on these comments. Be wary of making any promises to the person who wrote the negative review or offering them discounts, as this may prompt others to write negative reviews in the hopes of garnering discounts. If you want to offer a negative reviewer a discount to try and win them back, it’s better to do that via private message to them.

Often, being proactive in handling negative reviews will prompt the negative reviewer to update their review and say that you handled the situation, thus balancing out the negative review. Don’t ask people to do this, though. Just consider it a bonus if they do.

Ultimately, you should pay attention to negative reviews and learn what areas of your business could use some work. If people are constantly complaining about the customer service, it may be time to have chat with your staff. If people keep talking about how awful the bathrooms are, maybe some renos are in order.

It’s not just the negative reviews you should respond to. Be active in the Yelp community in general. Answer questions, give out some thank yous for good reviews (you don’t have to do that for all reviews) and engage your customers.

Promote your deals on Yelp

If you’re having specials, you can use your Yelp page to promote them. Change them often enough and people will repeatedly come back to your page to see what the new deal is. This may even inspire them to write a review. A good deal will also look good to comparison shoppers who are using Yelp to compare businesses.

Track your efforts

Doing all this is only going to be worth it if it actually works. And how do you know if it’s working? By using Yelp for Business Owners, you’ll be able to see the amount of traffic you’re getting on your Yelp page and monitor traffic to your website that comes from Yelp via Google Analytics.

If you want to get fancy, you can employ a review tracking tool, which keeps track of all your reviews across the web.

Use this information to tweak your Yelp SEO campaign. Try new things if something isn’t working. Offer a new deal. Finding what draws people to your page is a matter of trial and error.

Lastly, consider getting the basic premium package from Yelp so that competitor links are removed from your Yelp profile and you get to create a call to action. It is a good investment.

By using these tips, you can rocket your business’ Yelp page to the top of the SERPs, right where it belongs.

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About Rob Swystun

A former journalist, Rob has been writing professionally since 2006 and now focuses on copy writing, website content, articles, blogging, ghost writing, editing, proofreading and public relations. Currently an Athabasca University student studying for a BA in Communications, Rob holds a Journalism Diploma from Langara College in Vancouver.

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Advice, Internet Marketing, Lead Generation, Social Media

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