Yelp Business Listing: How (and Why) to Get Started

August 18, 2016 • 7 min read
Dustin Renwick

Businesses not on Yelp may well feel conflicted about adding a Yelp business listing. On the one hand, it’s increased visibility; on the other, you may have heard some horror stories from owners who’ve had bad experiences. There are a couple of good reasons to have a Yelp profile, the main one being that you don’t want potential customers visiting the digital equivalent of a boarded-up storefront—or worse, no store at all. But consumers’ increasing reliance on peer reviews is another one businesses should take into account.

In the last few years, a crowdsourced opinion from a large number of peers has become more important than the viewpoint of a single professional. A recent survey reported that “online reviews impact 67.7% of respondents purchasing decisions,” while over half of the respondents said online reviews are “fairly, very, or absolutely an important part of their decision-making process.”

For consumers, Yelp is royalty among a bevy of review sites like Angie’s List, Foursquare, TripAdvisor, Google Reviews, Facebook.

“The number of Yelp-powered connections is growing faster today than it was a year ago,” said Jeremy Stoppleman, Yelp co-founder and CEO, discussing the company’s latest earnings with analysts and company executives. “And it’s this robust activity that drives our business model, with over 108 million reviews.”

The Yelp review controversy

But even though the reviews giant wields a powerful influence on small business reviews, the company has dealt with its fair share of controversy. Algorithms can filter reviews in ways that sometimes give prominence to the dissatisfied customers. Another point of criticism from business owners has emerged around the site’s advertising.

Yelp’s website states that business owners who advertise report revenues of $15,000 more than owners who only claim the free page for their business. However, the company’s aggressive sales practices have led some small business owners to call the tactics outright extortion. Some business owners have claimed that Yelp pressured them to pay for advertising, and that, if owners declined, “‘good reviews were routinely hidden and bad ones displayed,’ until [businesses] became paid advertisers.” Wired reported last year that while these “allegations have haunted Yelp for years…none of them has resulted in a successful lawsuit against the company.”

Meanwhile, the company has worked to improve its own negative reviews. Yelp has hosted webinars to help business owners better understand the platform, entered an official partnership with the U.S. Small Business Administration, and held forums in cities across the country to talk shop and confront criticism.

Yelp FAQ

Of course it’s helpful to know as much as you can about who is on Yelp and what those folks do. Yelp provides a handy fact sheet that’s updated regularly. The current data is from June 30, 2016. It might be comforting, for example, to know that four- and five-star reviews make up 67 percent of the reviews on the platform.

Yelp ratings distribution

It’s also useful to know how relevant Yelp is to your customers. If your business falls in to Yelp’s “Shopping” category, which seems to be pretty much any retail shop, you definitely want to have a Yelp presence, because your competitors almost certainly do. Twenty-two percent of the reviews on Yelp are of retailers. Unsurprisingly, restaurants come in second with 18 percent of the reviews. Check the fact sheet for other industries.

Whether, as a business owner, you’ve used Yelp for years or claimed your business page yesterday, the insights here from Townsquared members will help you become a pro Yelper, in addition to all those other hats you already wear as a small business owner.


The Yelp Business Listing: How to do it right:

Don’t Be An Egg

On Twitter, when you don’t select a profile picture, the social media platform provides a default gray egg. Don’t let the Yelp equivalent be the first thing your potential customers see.

no results yelp


Claim and complete your profile. Start with something free. A few clicks and you can claim your business profile. Voila. Even if you have your own website, you should claim your Yelp page. It’s going to be there even if you aren’t.

Start with the essentials. How do people find you? Keep in mind that your business may well come up in a Yelp search even if you haven’t claimed the page.

So, since you have a place to call your own in the vast online reviews ecosystem (whether you want one or not), make sure you’re not doing the equivalent of inviting people over to an empty house. This is your digital business card, so at minimum it had better have your address, phone number, and website.

The Harvard Business School tried to quantify Yelp’s impact. The team found that adding one star to a restaurant’s reputation on Yelp led to revenue increases of 5 to 9 percent. That kind of effect doesn’t happen without the simple necessities.

copy specialist yelp


Add important details. Go ahead and answer customer questions so they’re not working hard to find the information they need.

Where are the nearest public transit stops? Does your restaurant serve alcohol? Is your store wheelchair accessible?

“Be as detailed as you can,” said Tony Matura, manager at The Copy Specialist, a print shop in New York City. “Make sure everything is accurate. All that can have an effect.”

Post pictures. Humans are visual creatures. According to Yelp, users stay 2.5 times longer on business pages with pictures.

Satisfy your customers from the start by sharing your business. Fix bikes? Show your workshop. Serve the best soup? Let’s see it.

“Get on there and post a lot of pictures,” said Kent Whipple, of Unexpected Productions, an improv theater in Seattle.

Join The Conversation

Imagine a room full of people talking about different aspects of your business. None of it is likely to help your bottom line if you’re out in the hallway.

Respond to positive reviews. When someone gives you a compliment, don’t walk away.

Unexpected Productions Yelp


“We respond to every review,” Whipple said. “People are taking time out of their lives to write about your business. If we get a positive review, I say ‘Thank you for coming. I’m glad you enjoyed whatever show it was.’ If you have any opportunity to respond to a client, take it, use it.”

You can quote positive reviews on your own website or share them on social media. Provide easy ways for customers to share their experiences, like a link in a thank-you email that says “Check us out on Yelp!” Even something as subtle as a Yelp sign in your business shows you participate in the reviews conversation.

“You do want [positive reviews] to happen organically,” Whipple cautioned.

That means don’t offer rewards for reviews, a no-no according to Yelp’s site rules. In any case, the algorithms will likely filter out the positive sentiments if they show up in a flood.

“That’s a fine line,” Matura said. A reward “can come across as a solicitation depending on how you go about it.” Matura explained that if a customer is enthusiastic about his shop’s work, he’ll offer a business card and tell the person to check out the Yelp page.

“Not, hey I’ll give you 10 percent off if you leave a review.”

Respond to negative reviews. But not when you’re emotional.

“I kind of have a rule,” Whipple said. “If we get a negative review, I don’t respond for 24 hours. Or even 48. We all love our businesses. It’s easy take it personally. It’s not personal. Step back. Take a breath.”

“It’s human nature if you get 10 reviews: nine of them are five stars and one is one star,” he said. “What’s the one you think about? If that person has a valid point, you need to hear it. If something was wrong, own it, and apologize for it, and fix it.”

Consider the context as well, Matura said. What is the complaint and what service or product did your business provide? Respond accordingly, and know that Yelp rarely removes negative reviews for any reason.

“You never want to be accusatory,” Matura said. “Avoid that at all cost. I thank them for taking the time to give us their feedback. Then I come at it from an angle of, give us a chance to serve you again in some way. Or say, I’m aware this is happening, and we’ve made this adjustment.”

Nobody can offer perfection Monday through Friday and twice on the weekend. But sometimes the negative review itself doesn’t carry the most weight.

“Clients are not necessarily reading the bad reviews,” Whipple said. “They’re reading how you respond.”

If your business has a Yelp page that needs some sprucing up, you can try Go Fish Digital’s Yelp Improvement Calculator, which tells you how many more positive reviews you need to reach your desired rating.

Dig Deep—for Data

As your online reputation takes shape and you become more familiar with Yelp, make sure you take advantage of all the tools and data the site makes available for business owners.

Go digital. Yelp has made their mobile experience more robust, including an app specifically for owners, different from consumer version.

“Yelp sends me a report: how many people clicked on my business, called from the Yelp page, used the map, used the Yelp deals,” Whipple said. “It’s great data that I get basically for free.”

Users can even enable an option that allows owners to see demographic information. Whipple said he’s used the information to write better copy for his website and press releases.

The app pairs with the dedicated web version which can provide estimates of how much revenue Yelp has contributed to your bottom line.

Yelp for Business Owners, that web page is open all day, every day,” Matura said. “I’m looking at the activity feed. I can see where people are when they’re looking for us, how many views from mobile devices, if they clicked on our website.”

Offer a check-in. This Yelp-specific offer drives people to a store’s location.

“Being able to create a check-in offer is free, and it gets people to show up here,” Matura said. “I’ll use social media — Instagram, Twitter — you get 10 percent off any printing with Yelp check-in. But the key to it is that they have to physically come here to redeem that offer.”

Likewise, Whipple has used check-in deals to drive ticket sales on slower nights at the theater.

“I saw a spike in business,” he said. “It brought some folks who weren’t coming to my theater.”

Try the Request A Quote tool. If you sell services, this provides another way to connect with customers.

This is a new tool that Yelp is still tweaking—a recent test allowed users to upload photos to help businesses give more accurate quotes. This is definitely an advanced tool that you’ll want to play with before implementing full scale. Matura used the service for a while, but opted to direct people to his own business website instead. He wanted the flexibility to handle the requests in his own system.

Find a routine. You’re now officially a Yelper, so find your groove.

Any good business tactic requires persistence. Spend time with Yelp and find the ways it complements your business to make it a successful tool for you.

“Make sure you use the platform,” Whipple said. “Online reputation management is here. It’s here, and it’s here to stay.”

From a West Coast theater to an East Coast printer, the advice remains the same.

“You have to work at it every day,” Matura said. “You have to make time for it. It has to be part of your routine, like your coffee.”

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