Yelp, a local business directory site with reviews by its members, is becoming increasingly popular in metro markets. It’s influence can be seen in both San Francisco, Chicago and New York where many shop owners display a “Yelp” sticker on their storefront windows.
As online directories take a certain market share away from traditional Yellow Pages – and even search engines – the rise in the popularity of website surfers looking for reviews has increased dramatically since 2005 (when Yelp first launched).
Yelp is also becoming a place where restaurant owners, plumbers and even professional services providers like attorneys can advertise. They have three ways of getting your local business listed – by advertising at a flat monthly rate, by paying $3 per click, or simply being listed for free.
Here’s how to be listed for free (it’s not as easy as one would hope).
Search to see if your business is listed on yelp. If you’re in a smaller city, you may not show up, although this is good news since it will be easier in smaller cities to add your listing. If you do see that your business is listed, you can unlock your business on yelp here. In more crowded cities like San Francisco, it can take weeks for your listing to get approved.
Want to know a secret? Letting them know you are thinking of advertising with them will let you speak to an account manager, who can then “turn on” your business listing within a day or two. But be honest and let them know if your free listing works out well to drive new customers, you will seriously consider calling them back and upgrading your account.
You can upload pictures of your business or staff, and it’s encouraged to load as many as possible.
a) For the sake of hoping your yelp page ranks higher in the search engines, name your photos files with keywords in it. For example, a picture of the front of your store would be named something like “Johns-Pizza-San-Francisco.jpg.”
b) If you’re a retail outfit, upload a special offer with a coupon – these help drive interactions and phone calls to your business. If you’re professional services, offer a free hour consultation or some other special unique to yelp visitors (yelpers) only.
c) Make sure your address and business category is correct.
Do not, I repeat, do not write a review of your own business. Yelp can detect things like this easily and will simply filter out such reviews and make placing future reviews harder. Instead, find others you know who have already signed up for yelp to say great things about your business. Here’s a few quick rules on getting reviews –
a) Don’t have friends new to yelp sign up and leave their first review for your business. Yelp can detect this and will filter their reviews.
b) Don’t have too many reviews too quickly. Timing the solicitation of reviews is important.
c) Feel free to let reviews grow organically, or consistently ask your customers to rate their experience with you on yelp.
d) It’s ok to have a few mediocre or bad reviews. They add a sense of authenticity to the rest of the good reviews. No one bats 1000 in life or business!
Climb the rankings. When people on yelp search for a business, the search results are not random, meaning that they have their own algorithm for sorting the order in which local businesses appear. While the number of reviews and star ratings is not the only determinant in your business profile’s rank, they are strong factors and the more reviews you have, the higher generally your business should be listed in any given search.
This is the most important step to determine how well yelp is working for you – get a local DID and place it on your yelp account. Instead of placing your current business phone number, getting a local DID which forwards to your local number will tell you how many phone calls your yelp listing is generating. It’s super easy to set up on services like Halloo (yes, I’m biased :). If you see that yelp is working for you, you have three choices –
1) Upgrade to a paid plan at $325 per month with a six month commit.
2) Upgrade to a paid plan at $300 per month with a one year commit.
3) Pay $3 per click.
Those can all be expensive options, so go ahead and try the free listing first, but please do have a local DID listed as your yelp number, otherwise you won’t know whether you should upgrade to a paid plan.