12 Keys to Success on Yelp

Yelp is a tough nut to crack for most small business owners. One bad review from a customer can turn away thousands of potential ones. That's rough! And it's certainly not fair. Isolated, anecdotal accounts from unhappy people with a predisposition to complain shouldn't have so much weight in shaping our overall reputation. And yet, here we are. Luckily, if you're willing to put in the time to learn about the Yelp ecosystem and all the dos and don'ts, there's a lot that can be done to tame this wild beast into a docile creature. Let's talk about that.

1) Create or Claim Your Business Listing

Faced with the uncomfortable reality presented above you might be temped to think: "Yelp is a pain. I'm simply not going to create a listing on it and avoid it altogether".

Well, it doesn't really work that way. It turns out anyone can create a profile of your business on Yelp! And once they do, others are free to post reviews on it to their heart's content. As you might imagine, a profile created by anyone but you is bound to include errors in key parts such as hours or contact info. (Very not good.)

So, definitely avoid this by taking the time to create your business listing yourself. If you find that someone has already created one, claim it by following these steps.

2) Make Your Listing Attractive

Yelp values businesses that complete their entire profiles and rewards them with better search rankings. This one's a no-brainer as it will only take a few minutes with lasting, positive results.

Be sure to include images of the inside and outside of your business as well as action shots of employees hard at work, when appropriate. Images are probably the most important parts of your profile as they transmit a lot of information in an easy-to-consume format.

Beyond including nice pics, don't forget to fill out these fields as well:

  • Company Hours
  • Website
  • Locations
  • Link to your Google Map
  • Detailed description

3) Make Offers and Announcements Regularly

Yelp allows you to post special offers and announcements. When you create an offer or announcement on Yelp it gets featured in the offers and announcements directory for your city. This allows you to reach new people who may not have even heard of your business before and is a great and free little marketing tool.

We recommend posting at least one of these every 1-2 months. This will keep your activity level high and also increase the probability that you'll connect with a new prospect.

4) Encourage But Don't Solicit Reviews

It's kind of a semantic distinction, I know, but Yelp is very particular about what it allows for as it relates to acquiring new reviews. In Yelp's words:

"There are ways to let your customers know you're on Yelp without being overly solicitous. There is an important distinction between "Hey, write a review about me on Yelp," [BAD] and "Hey, check us out on Yelp!" [GOOD]."

What Yelp is trying to do here is avoid the bias that could result from us only asking our happy customers to leave [positive] reviews. If Yelp gets any indication that a review was solicited, it will filter it out and not display it.

So, stick to the verbiage that Yelp likes and encourage folks to "check you out" on the site but omit any explicit request for a review.

5) Make Sure Positive Reviews Aren't Being Filtered

Yelp uses an algorithm to hide reviews that it believes to be inauthentic but, unfortunately, a significant number of perfectly genuine reviews routinely get filtered out as well.

To find out if some of your reviews are being filtered out, scroll to the bottom of your profile page and look for a link similar to the one shown here.

Filtered reviews :(
Online reviews blocked on Yelp

If you do find some filtered reviews, here's a couple of things that you can do to try and get them published:

  • Begin "following" the person who created the review. Sometimes this enough to make the algorithm reclassify the review.
  • Reach out to the reviewer through the Yelp messaging platform and ask them to perform an update to their review. This sometimes helps signal to Yelp that the review is real and will get it removed from the filter.

If neither of these work and you feel comfortable asking more of your customer, you could try the following:

  • Ask them to add a profile picture. Yelp sees images in a review as a sign of authenticity because they indicate that a higher level of engagement on the part of the reviewer.
  • Ask them to "check in" on their mobile phones from a few local places. Again, this helps indicate to the Yelp algorithm that they are a human being and that their review is authentic.
  • Ask them to be active. It helps a lot if the Yelper is a frequent user. If they write a handful of other reviews, it's likely that Yelp will reconsider its original penalty.

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Review Advantage allows you to finally gain some control over your online reputation and the quality of your ratings and reviews. You'll be able to turn satisfied customers into positive online reviews while turning unsatisfied customers into valuable internal feedback that you can use to improve customer service.
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6) Share reviews on Facebook and Twitter

Broadcasting your reviews on social media will encourage others to visit your Yelp page and possibly leave a review of their own. Moreover, it shows customers that you're engaged and that customer service is a priority for your business.

Consider sharing less-than stellar reviews as well! Only posting positive reviews will draw suspicion from your more savvy customers and reduce the effectiveness of this tactic. Ironically, a somewhat negative review with an effective, courteous response from you to the reviewer can help inspire trust among your potential customers.

7) Respond to All Complaints

Responding to negative reviews has several benefits.

  • It communicates to Yelp that you are an active member of the community, which they like, and reward.
  • It could result in the Yelper updating their review to a more positive one.
  • It shows a certain degree of confidence and professionalism that could be enough to neutralize the review's negative effects.

Remember to be courteous and deferential in your response and let the person know that you value their feedback. For more tips on how to handle negative reviews, check out my other post: How to Get More (and Better!) Online Reviews.

8) Add a Link to Your Listing in Your Email Signature

This is a great way to get more Yelp reviews. Just remember to use Yelp's preferred verbiage by saying something like "Check us out on Yelp!".

9) Display Yelp Badges on Your Website or Blog

Yelp offers several badges that you can feature on your website. These are great because they show review averages and counts that update automatically as new reviews come in.

Yelp provides some code that you simply paste into your site. To get yours log into your business account and click on the Review Badges link in the "Your Business" menu.

Online reviews blocked on Yelp

From there, simply pick the badge that you prefer.

Available Yelp badges.
Online reviews blocked on Yelp

If you don't know how to edit your site's code, reach out to a web designer with reasonable hourly rates to knock this out for you.

10) Put a ‘Find us on Yelp’ sign in your place of business

You can create your own by using Yelp's branding assets or request a sticker from Yelp.

11) Share your ‘People Love Us on Yelp’ recipient status

The "People Love Us on Yelp" sticker is a semi-annual award program in which Yelp selectively recognizes businesses that meet certain criteria. Stickers are mailed twice per year to all qualifying businesses.

If you get one, definitely take advantage of it. Yelp also recommends prominently displaying your letter of commendation somewhere highly visible, such as behind the cash register.

12) Use reviews in marketing materials

Feel free to toot your own horn! Yelp encourages quoting reviewers in your marketing materials. Just be sure that you do the following, as per Yelp's guidelines:

  1. Don’t take it out of context (e.g., don’t excerpt a positive quote from a negative review)
  2. Stay faithful to the reviewer (e.g., no word substitutions or deletions)
  3. Only use Yelp’s recommended reviews (i.e., do not use reviews that aren't currently recommended)
  4. Get permission from the reviewer and provide attribution
  5. Attribute Yelp as the source using the logo guidelines above

Yelp is somewhat infamous for the reasons outlined at the top of this post. But if we adopt some best-practices and are pro-active in monitoring and managing our reviews, Yelp can be a really effective ally in our marketing. Remember, the new word of mouth is not spoken, it's posted! If you follow these steps you'll be well on your way to harnessing the power of online reviews to grow your business.

Got any questions? Feel free to drop us a line here. We're always happy to hear from our readers.


- Fernando Vela
Review Advantage Guy

Related article: How to Get More (and Better!) Online Reviews