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More and more customers are going online to find information about a business rather than visiting a traditional storefront. In fact, 3 out of 4 consumers go to third-party platforms, like Google and Yelp, to interact with local businesses.

This migration online for business information has made reviews even more important in our competitive digital world. If a company has lackluster reviews on Yelp, Google, or Facebook, chances are potential customers will seek a company that is more trustworthy. According to HubSpot, 97% of people learn more about a local company through online research. In the face of such overwhelming consistency, it is evidently more important than ever to ensure your reviews are accessible to your target audience.

Enter Yelpthe number one influence in customers’ final purchase decisions among all review sites. People go to Yelp to find reputable and trustworthy companies for specific purposes, making the platform an excellent way to get in front of your target audience’s eyes. Advertising with Yelp is a great way to achieve this goal, but before you spend thousands of dollars, make sure it’s right for your business. Find out if your targeted audience is on Yelp. Make sure your profile is optimized. Then assess whether advertising on this review platform is right for you. And, if all else fails, contact us, and we’ll help you make an informed decision for your business.

Optimizing your Yelp profile is fairly simple, but you might be surprised at how many companies choose to forgo using this platform. As a Yelp Certified Partner, we know the best tips and tricks to help make your profile optimized and stand out from the crowd. We reveal our secret sauce below.

Setting Up Your Yelp Local Business Profile

Standing out from the crowd and showcasing what makes your business different from your competitor’s is essential when building and optimizing your profile. Whether it’s highlighting a unique take on a traditional food dish, writing a quick story about how your business got started, or by stating how your company or service can solve your customers’ needs, there are many effective ways to make your business stand out while remaining authentic to your brand.

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While creating your profile and writing your company information, be sure to include relevant keywords. Optimizing your page this way bolsters your organic search results within the site. This is a win-win: even if you don’t use Yelp ads, your business will still be shown towards the top of search results. If you decide to combine your organic strategy with the paid approach, you’ll have a powerful combination to find more customers through Yelp. 

Claim Your Business

With Yelp, typically you don’t have to start your profile from scratch. In most cases, all you have to do is claim it to start customizing and optimizing it. Even if you personally haven’t added your company to Yelp, chances are it’s already listed there. You’ll want to search for it under the Yelp for Business Owners by business name and address. If your business isn’t already listed on Yelp, you’ll want to find the “Add Your Business” option. From there it’s all about building and refining your profile.

Update Your Information

With 3 out of 4 consumers looking to third party sites (like Yelp and Google) to find information about local business, it’s essential that you create a unified plan with consistent information across all search platforms. An easy way to do this is by enlisting a business listing management service like Yext, which instantly updates your information everywhere across hundreds of business listing websites, including the big dogs like Google, Facebook, Yelp, and more. This can save you a lot of time and headaches down the road if your information isn’t updated uniformly.

Page Upgrades

Utilizing Yelp’s page upgrade options are another way to differentiate and optimize your profile. While not necessary if you’re looking to keep Yelp free for your business, these upgrades do come with a few added perks, including an editable slideshow, CTA buttons, and a highlight bar. But before you dive into these paid options, make sure your profile is fully optimized before you start paying for features. Experimenting with these options first can give you an idea if paid ads will be worth it for your business down the line. We’re also happy to help evaluate if you’re in a good position for Yelp Ads – contact Jack & Bean for a free Yelp consultation.

Photography

Another powerful promotion tool that’s actually free is relevant photography. Professional images that can positively convey your products, services, and location(s) can do more than any quantity of words can – and much quicker – which is crucial when considering the shrinking attention spans of consumers. Whether you’re capturing your amazing food dishes, or the relaxing spa environment your customers can expect, pictures speak volumes and support what you claim through text.

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You can also go above-and-beyond, and hire a photographer to professionally capture the crucial visual elements of your business. This can often be less expensive than you would expect, with many experienced freelancers starting at just a few hundred dollars. If you’re in the Phoenix area, contact us for a referral!

Business Recommendations

This is a free aspect of any Yelp profile that links to other businesses on the platform. You can team up with some local non-competitors and link to each other’s Yelp pages. This gets you more exposure on other company pages, in turn building your reach on Yelp, while also helping out other businesses you support.

Gaining Yelp Reviews

Once you’ve developed and updated your Yelp profile, the next step is gaining reviews. While it’s tempting to start asking people to review your business to jump-start your page, Yelp has strict review policies around how you can acquire reviews from customers to protect the integrity of their platform:

  • Never ask your customers to leave a review. (But you are encouraged to ask them to “check-in” on Yelp!)
  • Never create a competition between your employees to see who can gain the most reviews.
  • Never offer freebies in exchange for reviews.
  • Never use surveys to prompt a review from people who were satisfied with your business or service.

A good rule of thumb is if it’s not a natural review, then it most likely goes against their review policy and is more likely to be filtered out by their algorithm. You can even be penalized within their organic search results, so adhering to their rules is critical to ensure your profile is reaching the most potential customers.

While Yelp’s review policies may seem restrictive, they are there to deter business owners from only soliciting positive reviews, which is against the nature of their platform. Yelp is intended to convey an unbiased spread of business reviews for increased accuracy. Although the system isn’t perfect, it definitely shows more regular criticism than platforms like Google. Google actually encourages soliciting reviews and therefore contain a much larger portion of 5-star ratings, since businesses can cherry pick them through solicitation. Of the two, we prefer Yelp’s approach, honestly.

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Ethical Yelp Reviews

Despite Yelp’s restrictions, there are some easy ways you can start gaining reviews on your business profile without violating Yelp’s review policies.

Yelp’s biggest “loophole” they recommend as a moral alternative to asking customers directly for reviews is to instead prompt them to check-in on Yelp. You’re simply encouraging them to interact with the platform. Yelp will then reach out “objectively” later to prompt them via email or push notification to review their experience with your business. While that may seem like splitting hairs, not being prompted selectively to review by the business directly is quite different from a review platform prompting one objectively due to activity.

Increasing the awareness of your profile and presence on Yelp, through ways like encouraging checking in, is an effective way to grow the number of reviews you get. This is done by including the Yelp badge on your website to keep your profile top of mind. You can also have signs and stickers provided at no charge from Yelp in your physical locations that say things like, “Check Us Out On Yelp!” This acts as a heads up and raises awareness that you’re on the platform, but doesn’t specifically solicit a review.

The somewhat unfortunate reality about reviews is that the majority of people typically only leave a review when they’re really satisfied with a company, or very unsatisfied, with little in between. While negative reviews are never something to look forward to, a good way to handle them is by simply responding. Responding to reviews has several positive impacts that customers will notice:

  • It shows that you’re actively monitoring your Yelp profile
  • It shows that you care what others have to say about your business
  • It shows that you’re willing to accept feedback, especially negative feedback, to improve your company

You can even respond to positive reviews as well, but by staying on top of your negative reviews, you’ll show other potential customers you care and will address any outlying negative experience they might have, which hopefully – according to your ratings – should be rare.

In addition to business listing management, our Yext offerings also provide a unified interface for monitoring and responding to reviews, a crucial aspect to managing your online reputation.

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Local Yelp Business Profiles: Free to Control, Paid to Promote

When you’ve finished optimizing your Yelp profile and start gaining some reviews, the next step in your profile evolution would be to look at Yelp ads. While optimizing your Yelp profile is essential to any business on the platform, it will only get you so far. Advertising on Yelp will help expand your reach more than any amount of optimization. 

While we have a whole article dedicated to the ins and outs of Yelp advertising, there are a few key takeaways to understand:

  • Paid Yelp profiles will appear before any organic search results
  • Your profile will show up on other unpaid profiles
  • Paid Yelp profiles will remove competitor ads on your profile

When it comes down to it, there are many ways to make Yelp worthwhile for your company. Whether you’re looking for guidance optimizing your free Yelp profile, or already have that crucial step complete and want to explore the world of paid Yelp ads, we’re here to help. If you’re looking to grow your business and would like a free consultation regarding Yelp, contact Jack & Bean today! 

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