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How To Succeed on Yelp (Without Even Really Trying)

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WebRanking is proud to present the following guest blog post by Don Bourassa, the Portland Community Manager for  We wanted to personally thank Don for taking time out of his busy schedule to put together this informative post featuring 8 tips to help local businesses find success on Yelp.

Take it away, Don…

As the Portland Community Manager for, the number one question I hear from business owners is: How do I make Yelp work for me? The value of positive consumer reviews (and even some negative ones) to sustain and grow business is beyond obvious, but in a social media market dominated by broadcasting tools, Yelp’s model for business/consumer interaction can be a learning curve for some. Here are some do’s and don’ts to help you reap the benefits of the lush information available in consumer reviews.

1. Do: Join the conversation!

Last month alone, Yelp had more than 38 Million Visitors

Last month alone, Yelp had more than 38 Million Visitors

Every day on Yelp, millions of people (38 million last month alone) are searching, reading, and writing reviews of businesses like yours. They’re discussing your products, your service and really everything about your business. And as with any conversation, you have two roles to play: listen, and respond. Yelp gives you the tools (for free) to do both.

How, you ask? By unlocking your Business Owner Account on Yelp, you have access to a bevy of tools that allow you to do things like track page hits, post special offers and announcements, respond to reviews (both publicly and privately), add and correct information about your business like address and phone number, complete an About This Business summary, recommend other businesses, and share your business’ history.

2. Do: Share your story!

Any good SEM/SEO master will tell you that search indexing is key to would-be customers finding your business. By claiming your business and filling out your Specialties and Business History on Yelp, you’re adding key content that’s indexed by Yelp and accessed by major search engines. While of course nobody knows the secret sauce for crawling up the Google and Bing result ladders, you have to start somewhere, so round out the About This Business profile with compelling info about your business. This info also displayed on the first page of your Yelp listing until the reviews start rolling in.

3. Don’t hide!

Over 30% of all Yelp seaches come from Mobile!

Over 30% of all Yelp seaches come from Mobile!

The age of mobile search is upon us. Smart-phones dominate the market, and more than 30% of all searches on Yelp come through mobile. This is a staggering number, and very telling of things to come. Consumers want to be able to instantly find out about your business on the go. Having the correct address, hours of operation, links to your website, phone number, and categories in Yelp is crucial to ensuring a vast community of consumers can find you when and where they want to. If you needed a single reason to claim your page and update your info, this is it. If your correct info isn’t out there where people are searching, you’re effectively hiding from a large number of consumers.

4. Do: Show us the goods!

Add compelling business photos to your profile. While that default orange question mark silhouette may be appealing to you, prospective customers can be sold on photos alone. Show off your delicious food, sexy ambiance, happy customers, or shimmering products. Of course, always add a photo of your store front in the mix, so people know what to look for when they track you down.

5. Do: Make us an offer we can’t refuse!

Have a bangin’ happy hour deal? Want to clean out that clearance rack? Time to liquidate last year’s models? You can post special offers for free, and let the Yelp community know what’s hot or not. It will help you be found in search results, it will post both on your page and on a special offers page that links right from the Yelp home page. And if you hadn’t already heard, Yelp is rolling out a new feature that will allow you to offer special deals to mobile users who “check in” to your business! Stay tuned for more.

6. Don’t: Solicit reviews!

It’s natural to want to get that first blush of positive reviews by sending out an email to your customer list asking them to do so. DON’T! This can have 2 negative effects on your business:

  1. It can harm your image amongst the Yelp community. What does it look like from the community’s perspective when a whole bunch of 5-star reviews from anonymous reviewers appear on your page in a one- or two-day span? It looks like SPAM. Yelp readers can smell it from a long way off. Yelp works because users trust it, and the most trusted content comes naturally. Trusted reviews bring customers, untrustworthy reviews drive them away.
  2. Those solicited reviews may get filtered, and it will make you crazy. Yelp has a review filter in place that keeps the site as free from spammy and solicited reviews as is algorithmically possible. It tends to filter solicited reviews because, as noted above, they look from the outside like, well, SPAM.

“Well there’s the rub,” you say. “How do I get those reviews?”

7. Do: Let people know you’re on Yelp!

If people love you on Yelp, let them know!

If people love you on Yelp, let them know!

The best, most trusted reviews grow organically. You get good reviews by doing good business. Period. And of course by remembering to tell people “hey, we’re on Yelp.” The kind of person that’s going to take that statement to the internet and write a review is a lot more likely to continue to contribute to the community in a way that builds trust – thus backing up the positive words they’ve written about you, and bolstering your reputation within the community. Hopefully you can see the difference between “Please write us a review on Yelp.” [NOT okay] And  “Hey, we’re on Yelp.” [YAY!].  Since you’ve taken the 30 minutes or so to claim your business listing on Yelp and build a strong profile, when your customers do find you, they’ll write great reviews, and the Yelp snowball is in motion. And once those reviews are rolling in…

8. Do: Engage the community!

That’s your customer base talking. Respond to negative reviews as you would respond to someone in the middle of your busy store or restaurant. Exercise those customer service skills that have made you so successful over the years. Thank your fawning happy customers and offer to make it right for the ones who are less than stoked. Reply privately and/or publicly to those reviews, and if you see something popping up often in reviews, address it! For more hints on how to keep it real, check out our responding to reviews page.

With just a short amount of time investment to make sure your presence on Yelp is complete and your business is visible to the world.

If you should have any questions for Don, please feel free to write them in the comments below, or he can be contacted directly via email at [email protected].

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Reader Comments

  • Jeff Pohl | January 20, 2011

    I somewhat disagree about soliciting reviews on yelp. I do agree 5 – 0 – 1 reviews are not destined to stay long. However, it is important to note that those can come back as those people review more places. The way I promote my brick and mortar business is to ask for reviews in a non-incentive but unique way. You can read about it at online but I have no problem with it as I feel I am not telling people to do something that they haven’t already told me. I am also promoting yelp.

  • business owner | September 26, 2011

    Yelp doesn’t show filtered reviews on the mobile app. and all the legitimate, positive reviews from clients for my business are filtered out except for the one negative one from 2 years ago. My response to her doesn’t show on the mobile app. either.
    The positive reviews are unsolicited and a surprise to me when they come. I think if anything clients go overboard with praise because they see that negative review is the only one that is showing. Their review will show for a while but then ultimately it disappears.
    One client has reviewed 16 places and all her reviews show on business’ pages except the one for my business. So if you look at my business on the mobile app. I have no positive reviews.
    Also, even on a desktop computer the filtered reviews button is so tiny and you have to enter a code to see the reviews, making it doubly hard for anyone to see the good reviews of my business.
    I think Yelp is very anti-business. I hope you take the initiative to fix these problems.

  • Glenn t | October 04, 2011


    We have recently implemented a system to outsmart yelp from hiding our filtered reviews:

    Step 1- first of all, if you’re advertising with yelp, stop doing so and shift that money to optimize your own web site instead

    Step 2- have a graphic designer make a yelp badge that is placed on your web site. It should say “we have …… filtered and unfiltered reviews on yelp”. 

    Step 3- when a visitor clicks on the badge, it will go to another page ON YOUR OWN WEB SITE (instead of going to yelp’s. (why help them get traffic and rank higher anyways)? 

    Step 4- on this page have your graphic designer get a screen capture (picture) of all your filtered and unfiltered reviews and have them pasted together onto one page.

    Now, all your reviews (filtered or not) will be visible to all your web site visitors. 

    5- put a note on the top that says, “for your convenience we have placed all our filtered and unfiltered reviews on one page to see. If you’d like to go to our live yelp page, click here …………”

    Make the whole page clickable to your live yelp page  so no-one will say you’re trying hide something or to be dishonest 

    Advantages of doing this: 

    1- your visitors will stay on your web site instead of being directed to yelp’s

    2- your visitor can’t click on your competitors 

    3- no more being a slave to yelp’s algorithm

    4- yelp would not benefit from getting traffic from you and higher rankings on google 

    5- this whole process cost us less than $150 to implement 

    Just be sure to shift that $300 per month on yelp advertising and put it into KEYWORDS that people will search for. 

    Please pass this along !

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