Despite the fact that Yelp has been accused of dishonest business practices on its platform, such as bullying small business owners into buying into their advertising program or quietly replacing restaurants’ phone numbers with their own so that they can charge a marketing fee, Yelp is here to stay. The first quarter of 2020 brought over 35 million average monthly mobile unique users to Yelp, with restaurants, shopping, and home and local services making up 52 percent of reviews.
Whether you love it or hate it, Yelp is a necessary evil for marketers and small business owners with successful competitors on the review platform. Consumers have moved past using the behemoth Yellow Pages phone directory to find businesses or restaurants, but they continue to use Yelp and other online platforms in a similar manner because it is quick and convenient.
What Does Yelp’s Free Listing Include?
Yelp for Business is free, offering a number of features to enhance business listings.
- Claiming Your Business Page: If your business isn’t already on Yelp, start by claiming your business page. Yelp will guide you through the steps to claim your business page and offer assistance if your page has been claimed by someone else or to add additional locations of a business. Next, you’ll want to set up your name, email and password associated with your business page.
- Keeping Your Page Up-To-Date: Here comes the fun part. Similar to other platforms, such as Google My Business, you’ll need to verify that your profile is accurate. This means providing relevant information such as a hi-res profile picture, your address, phone number, website, hours of operation, special holiday hours, closures, description, high-quality photos of your business, products and logo, and other helpful information, such as restaurant menus and Check-In Offers.
- Responding To Reviews: As we’ve mentioned previously, responding to reviews in a timely manner shows customers that you appreciate their comments and shows potential customers that you care. Always encourage your customers to leave a review on Yelp following their experience. When responding to negative reviews (yes, you have to answer those too!), make sure to acknowledge the issue, take responsibility and apologize, and offer an explanation, if necessary. If you believe a review violates Yelp’s content guidelines, you can report it, and it may (or it may not) be removed.
Increase Your Visibility On Yelp.
If you’re really looking to stand out from the competition on Yelp, it is time to break open the piggy bank.
- Page Upgrades: These are paid Yelp features that business owners can purchase in a bundle or à la carte, to showcase their businesses on Yelp. Bundled Enhanced Profiles cost $90 per month. Business owners with the budget to continue enhancing their profiles will enjoy:
- Preventing competitor’s ads from popping up on their business page.
- Photo and video slideshow that’ll allow the page manager to reorder assets.
- A prominently featured call-to-action button.
A year ago, Yelp announced a range of new paid-promotional tools to give business owners more control over how their pages appear to users:
- Business Highlights: This feature enables owners to choose six badges from over 30 highlights that best describes their business, such as “women-owned and operated,” “eco-friendly,” “locally-owned and operated,” “budget friendly,” and more. Two of the icons will appear in Yelp search results. This feature costs $2 per day, or $1 a day for businesses who also purchase search ads.
- Portfolio: The Portfolio feature allows business owners to showcase projects they’ve worked on in the past through a photo collection. Page managers can also include helpful information such as custom descriptions on the images, request a quote, timeline, and chat functionality. This feature costs $2 per day.
- Verified License: When a business displays a Verified License badge on their page, this means that Yelp manually checked whether these companies were licensed in their respective categories and are in good standing. This feature costs $1 per day.
If it feels like Yelp is nickel-and-diming you, it is because they are. As platforms like Google My Business and Yelp continue to enable customization for business pages, it’ll put pressure on their competitor’s to invest in the same features to ensure they stand out.
- Yelp Connect: Not unlike Google Posts, Yelp Connect allows restaurant owners to publish posts with news and updates, which can be scheduled. Google Posts however, is completely free, while Yelp Connect costs $199 per month.
Pros of Using Yelp For Business
A Yelp business page is free to create and maintain, and using SEO keywords throughout your profile can help your page rank higher, lead to increased exposure, and in turn, create more business opportunities.
With the growing importance of online reviews, businesses need to become proactive and encourage customers to share their experiences. Maintaining your business’s reputation by answering customer reviews will create a trusting relationship with your existing and potential customers. A 2018 Pew Research Center survey found that an overwhelming majority of Americans, or 93 percent, reported reading customer reviews and ratings at least sometimes when buying a product or service for the first time. So keeping your page up-to-date and addressing concerns on reviews is key.
Cons of Using Yelp For Business
Apart from the obvious con of having another platform to monitor, the main con of using Yelp is the cost of upgraded features and advertising. I mean, you’re basically spending a billion dollars a year to let Yelp users know you’re a locally-owned business. Okay, I may be exaggerating a bit, but you catch my drift.
Search Engine Land conducted a case study to find out whether Yelp ads were worth paying for two years ago. Once they broke down their findings, such as the actual leads vs. what Yelp considered leads, they learned that their cost per lead on Yelp was 3.3 times higher compared to Google Ads. They concluded that the ads are a “good option if your customer lifetime value is high enough to justify spending a lot more per lead than you would elsewhere.”
So, Should You Use Yelp To Market Your Business?
If you’re a Mexican restaurant near downtown Austin, Texas, then yes (because we believe there are roughly a million of them). What we mean is, if the competition near you is fierce, you need to find ways to stand out and Yelp ads can be a powerful tool to guide new customers to your business page.
An upgraded profile gives potential customers a more in-depth look at your business and targeted ads help you rank high on Yelp search results. For marketers and business owners on a budget, there is always the option to customize your advertising plan to serve your business needs. Maybe you don’t care too much about Yelp Connect, but you do care about removing your competitors’ ad from your page. Whatever your advertising strategy is, be sure to first narrow down your business goals and what your focus is.