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Yelp for Small Businesses: From Setup to Success

Pam Neely
Unsplash image of person taking photo of food

Yelp started out as a city guide to San Francisco back in 2004. It’s grown quite a lot since then.

Now one of the two primary local business review sources in the United States, Yelp’s website attracts more than 77 million unique visitors every month. Its mobile app engages another 37 million. Yelp reviewers have submitted more than 192 million reviews as of the close of Q2 2019.
 
There are also Yelp sites for nearly 150 American cities. Yelp is international, too: it has hubs for over 50 international destinations. So whether you’re in Austin or Turkey, Yelp’s website and its app are available to help you find the best local services. 

Even if you aren’t near one of the cities on Yelp’s locations list, Yelp is still there. For example, Yelp’s locations list doesn’t mention any cities in New Hampshire. But if you’re in New Hampshire and you search for services via Yelp, you’ll get plenty of listings back... at least as many as their primary competitor, Google My Business

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Even if you are that proverbial business in the middle of nowhere, you should still claim and maintain a Yelp listing. Fortunately, claiming and completing a Yelp business listing is easy. It’s free, it doesn’t require any technical skills, and you can probably do it in half an hour or less. 

In this post, we’ll show you:

  • How to claim your Yelp business listing
  • How to complete your Yelp business listing
  • How to get and manage reviews for your Yelp listing
     

So if your Yelp listing looks like this – unclaimed and undeveloped – let’s get that fixed right away.

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How to Claim Your Yelp Listing

1. Go to the “For Businesses” section of Yelp.com (sometimes shown as “Yelp for Business Owners”).

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If you don’t see a link for it in the top navigation, there’s another link for Yelp for Business Owners in the footer. 

Here’s what the primary Yelp for Business Owners page looks like if you aren’t logged in:

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Note: if you need help claiming and setting up your Yelp listing, there’s a number to call: (877) 767-9357

2. Look up your business to be sure there isn’t an existing listing for it. 

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3. If there isn’t an existing listing, you’ll be asked to fill out some basic information about your business.

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Note that you can include up to 3 categories for your business. 

If your business legitimately belongs in more than one category, use more than one category. But don’t stretch the truth – it’s important to describe your business accurately. We’ll work on getting maximum exposure for your business later. 

Yelp has an exhaustive category list, so you can probably find at least one category that fits your business. And don’t be too concerned about getting this perfect; you can edit the categories of your business listing later. 

4. Sign up as a Yelp user. 

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5. Verify your listing.

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If you verify your account via email, you’ll see a page like this after you’ve clicked the confirmation link:

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But not so fast… Yelp has to manually approve your business listing before it will appear in the search results. 

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While you wait for the Yelp moderators to approve your business, you can complete the set up and add content to your listing. 


How to Complete Your Yelp Business Listing 

Here’s what the main dashboard of your yet-to-be-approved listing will look like:

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Let’s complete the business profile for this listing. As Yelp will remind you, “On average, businesses with complete profiles receive 5 times more customer leads per month.”

1. If you’ve just gone through the process of claiming your listing, Yelp will automatically prompt you to update your business hours.

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2. Then they’ll ask you to describe your business’ specialties. 

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3. Next you’ll be asked for your business launch date and to give a brief summary of the history of your business. 

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4. They’ll ask for details about the person who owns or manages your business. 

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5. Then they’ll ask you to upload a few photographs of your business. 

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Don’t skip this step. According to Yelp, if a business has photos on their listing, consumers will spend 2.5 times as much time on that listing compared to those that have no photographs.

Yelp also lets you add a caption for each image. Use this field – people read captions while they tend to skip over body copy.

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That’s it - you’re done!

That’s the basics of updating a Yelp business listing. There’s certainly more that we can do but this is a good start. It took less than 20 minutes to claim the listing and complete this information. 

Speaking of other things you could do… there’s also the issue of reviews.


How to Get and Manage Reviews for Your Yelp Listing
 

The most important thing to know about Yelp reviews is that the platform does not want you to ask for reviews. That limitation is directly contrary to what most articles about online reviews will tell you. But that is Yelp’s policy and if you’re caught violating that it might not work out well for your listing. 

Yelp has several other noteworthy policies about reviews that also conflict with most of the advice small business owners hear about reviews. Here are those policies, verbatim, from the Yelp website:

“Don’t interfere with the natural flow of reviews.

 
So any advice you’ve heard about asking for reviews, posting reviews on your site, offering incentives for reviews or getting a service to work with past customers to amend their reviews is a no-no on Yelp. 

What can you do? You can post the “People Love Us on Yelp” sticker near the entrance of your store and near your cash register or you can add Yelp review badges to your website. To add review badges, log into your Yelp business account and look in the bottom left navigation column. You’ll see the “Review Badges” option there.  

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If you already have Yelp reviews or you are worried about getting negative reviews, it might help to know the percentages of the different star ratings for reviews on Yelp. Here’s a pie chart of how that breaks out. As you can see, most reviews are positive. Only about 34% of the reviews on the platform are three stars or less.

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For more ideas on how to get and manage reviews for Yelp specifically, listen to an interview with John Carroll, Senior Manager of Business Outreach at Yelp, recently shared on the Convince and Convert podcast. 


Wrap Up
 

Many small business owners have had a love/hate relationship with Yelp over the years. The platform has taken meaningful steps to address most of the issues. Given how major a platform Yelp is, it’s critical for every small business to have a presence on it. 

Yelp’s free listings are actually very generous. If you want to spend money with them, great – features like Business Highlights, Check-in Offers, a paid business listing, and advertising might really help. But you can also drive quite a lot of business with a free account. Just fill your profile out completely, respond to every review you get, and keep your business’ information updated. 

 


Image Credits

Feature Image: Unsplash / Eaters Collective
All screenshots taken by author, August 2019.
Image 1-19: via Yelp