Getting your Business on Yelp

Yelp is a local review site with more than 30 million user-generated reviews and active communities in 15 different countries. Their reviews range over a number of verticals, including restaurants, retail, hotels and travel, real estate, education, and more. In the second quarter of 2012, they averaged 78 million unique visitors per month. With the launch of Apple Maps in iOS6 it is probably more important than ever for local businesses to start paying attention to Yelp and improving their engagement. By hooking into Yelp,

Apple Maps can not only show you nearby restaurants, but can also help you decide which one you want to eat at based on star ratings and reviews shown within the listing.

Over the past few months I’ve been participating in my local Yelp community and I decided with the recent developments I should reach out to my local Yelp community manager, Rowena Harris and ask her a few questions about her role and how businesses can be more active on Yelp.

What does your role as a Yelp Community Manager involve?

I could go on and on! Essentially, the key is in the word ‘Community’ – so I manage everything from welcoming new folk to the site, arranging off line events that help the Community bond, promote the independent business community of Leeds and even write a weekly newsletter to highlight all things awesome in the city!

Basically, Yelp is website that connects people to great local businesses, and anyone can sign up to read/write reviews about what’s great (and not so great) in their city. I’m the Community Manager for Yelp in Leeds. On a day to day basis the role involves writing the newsletter, engaging with the community online and I partner with events, to promote things going on in the city. I also organise events to promote the best of Leeds’ independent businesses to our Yelp Community and beyond.

How can people can become part of the Yelp Community?

All folks need to do is visit the Yelp! website to get involved – whether that means browsing reviews for suggestions of where to grab a craft beer, for example, or creating their own account to pass on recommendations of their own!
You can also sign up for the weekly newsletter on the site, have a natter on the Talk threads, put up cool local Events, make friends, and download the Yelp app to get involved on the go (checking in, leaving tips, and such like), so there’s tons of ways to join in the Yelping!

How can a business improve their visibility on Yelp?

From the Community side, which is where I’m at, the first thing I’d recommend to a business owner is to unlock the free business tools for their page – this is entirely cost free – to highlight themselves to the Yelp Community. Yelp aims to connect people with great local businesses and Yelp Business Accounts allow businesses to share information with the Yelp Community. Simply put, it’s word of mouth — amplified. To learn more check this page. If you are listed and your listing is unclaimed, click on the “Claim Local Business” link on the bottom the page and follow the instructions.

Another Community route that I deal with is in ‘word of mouth’ opportunities, via the exclusive Yelp events that I organise, which is a fantastic way for businesses to showcase their passions offline, in real life, to active and influential consumers (i.e. Yelpers). It’s always so much more engaging to have a real life taster and/or unique experience of a business and this is one of the best ways that I promote local independents – getting locals in the door and experiencing what they’re really about!

I also encourage any business owners to let existing or prospective customers know that they’re on Yelp, be it via the ‘Find Us on Yelp’ stickers, via Twitter/Facebook, and any other means that they wish. However, there’s a subtle, but really important difference between saying ‘find us on Yelp’ and ‘please give us 5 stars on Yelp’! After all, Yelp is all about authentic, unbiased consumer experiences, and we have systems in place to protect both Yelpers and businesses.

In addition to the above, really recently we’ve started to offer local business advertising solutions in the UK.

How to Optimise your Business Listing on Yelp

Fill out ALL the information on your business page. Add photos, business information, hours, website and contact info. Make sure you use your primary keywords too! By having a complete and search optimised Yelp profile you will increase the chances of customers finding your listing via the major search engines.

Post Announcements and Offers Frequently. Yelpers have a high rate of activity, so they will notice updates to your listing.  Also, your activity will appear in the directory for your city for everyone – not just people who visit your page – so this is a great opportunity to gain new clientele and reach out to people who haven’t heard of your business before. The more you post, the more people will notice your business, so start posting!

If your Yelp Business URL is long, you can create a short link redirect using a service such as bit.ly to make the process of typing in the URL seem less daunting, and quicker to accomplish.

As Rowena mentioned above Yelp have ways of checking if reviews are legitimate – therefore I would recommend you DON’T encourage your customers to leave reviews if they are not already signed up as a “Yelper” as there is a strong possibility that their reviews will be removed and if you get to many reviews by non “Yelpers” your business may become flagged.

You can’t please everyone all the time, and sometimes a negative review will get posted due to misguided customer frustration, or a member of your team making a mistake. As an owner Yelps gives you have the opportunity to respond to reviews to explain your side of the story. Unmerited negative reviews are usually very easy to spot. Be professional when responding to bad reviews as ultimately future customers will want to see that  the situation is now resolved and there are systems in place to prevent them from having a similar experience.