Two customers complete a small business review.
It’s important to have an active Yelp account where you can engage with customers and run ads. — Geber 86 / Getty Images

Sites that compile business reviews such as Yelp and Angie’s List play a key role in informing consumers of nearby businesses and generating new sales opportunities. In fact, research suggests about 90% of customers read online reviews of some kind before deciding on a purchase.

While business on Yelp has decreased because of COVID-19, the site remains a popular option for people looking for local restaurants, coffee shops, home services, professional services and retail stores. Because of this, it’s important to have an active Yelp account where you can engage with customers and run ads.

Here are five ways to get started with Yelp and use the site to promote your business.

Set up your profile

If you’re just getting started with Yelp, the first thing you’ll want to do is complete your profile, which features basic information about the business such as location, phone number, website, current health and safety measures, COVID-19-specific updates and more. To fully set it up, you should:

  • Claim your business: It’s important to claim your business directly on Yelp, as it gives you control of most aspects of your profile and page. Once claimed, your page will have a blue check mark indicating to the Yelp community that you are who you say you are and that you are willing to engage with users.
  • Verify your address and contact information: Double check that all of your contact information on Yelp is accurate to make sure customers can find you. From the Yelp mobile app, for example, your profile can allow you to call the business directly and provide real-time directions in Apple Maps or Google Maps.
  • Add compelling photos and videos: Providing potential customers with photos and videos that show the exterior and interior space, and your products, can help convince customers to visit your business. For example, restaurants should showcase some of their most photo-worthy dishes and drinks, while a nail salon could display some expertly detailed pedicures and manicures. Don’t forget to add descriptive photo or video captions as well to let your audience know what they are viewing.

Manage and respond to reviews

As Yelp’s user reviews are the site’s main attraction, you’ll want to take an active role in managing reviews. You should expect that both negative and positive reviews will accumulate on your page over time, but it’s advised to respond directly to especially negative reviews. Keep your responses professional and ask for a chance to change their mind, which may encourage them to try visiting you again or even change their initial review.

In rare cases, you can also request the removal of a review altogether in limited circumstances. For example, if a review is clearly for the wrong business, contains false information or was posted by a competitor, you may be able to request it to be taken down. But don’t do this too often or your page may be penalized.

Yelp's new Ads Dashboard includes features like ad goals, blocked ads and audience size estimator.

Get to know and use the new Ads Dashboard

Another important way to use Yelp is to run strategic advertising campaigns on the platform. In September 2020, Yelp announced major improvements to its Ads Dashboard and it took the step of integrating the Ads Dashboard into Yelp’s profile management. This meant businesses can do everything related to page management and ad services in place.

The new Ads Dashboard offers a wide variety of advertising services, which includes appearing as a recommended store or restaurant in specific keyword searches. Your business can also become a local recommendation when its searched in your neighborhood.

The three newest features included the September 2020 update to the Ads Dashboard are:

  • Ad goals: Businesses can choose which type of engagement they want from customers, such as phone calls or website visits, and Yelp will optimize ads with those goals in mind.
  • Blocked ads for specific keywords: Advertisers can block their ads from appearing on keyword searches that aren’t relevant or that they don’t want to be associated with. For example, if you are a Southern barbecue restaurant, you may not want to be included in searches for Korean barbecue.
  • Audience size estimator: Businesses can see how their ad settings will change their potential audience size with this new tool. An Ads Dashboard widget tells you the estimated monthly audience based on what ad settings have been selected.

Optimize your Yelp page for SEO

When it comes to Yelp and search engine optimization (SEO), there are two optimal scenarios you should be working toward. First, you want to rank highly in general Yelp searches when people search for common keywords related to your business. Second, you want your Yelp profile to rank highly when people do searches on popular search engines like Google and DuckDuckGo.

Thankfully both of these are achievable by following many of the same steps including:

  • Keyword optimization: Brainstorm the top keywords you want to be associated with searches for your businesses. (For example, if you are a hip burger restaurant, you may want keywords such as “burgers,” “burger joint,” “cheeseburgers,” and “Impossible burger.”) Once you know the keywords, make sure those words appear frequently in the copy on your profile but be careful not to come off too spammy.
  • Business classification: It might sound simple, but make sure your business is classified properly in Yelp.
  • Get as many reviews as you can: While you should not explicitly offer someone compensation for a review, try to encourage your best customers to leave reviews on Yelp. The more detailed, authentic reviews you have attached to your profile, the better off your SEO will be.

Post in-person Yelp signage and provide “check-in” offers

The final part of engaging with Yelp is through in-person visits. You can request free Yelp signage that reminds people to leave reviews online or even earned signage that says "People Love Us on Yelp.” Additionally, as part of your in-person engagement strategy, you can offer the ability for people to physically “check in” on Yelp in exchange for a special first-time offer. Check-in incentives can include things such as 10% off your first purchase or a free appetizer with the purchase of an entree.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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Published October 14, 2020