How Yelp Works and What’s New?

Just 3 months ago I departed Boston with the excitement of moving to New York. I have found NYC to be truly different than Boston when it comes to entertainment. New York contains a variety of diverse restaurants and boutique stores, a multitude of flea markets and street vendors and a plethora of large shopping centers. All these different options help make my city life that much more exciting but sometimes it can get a bit overwhelming!

With the mass amounts of places to go in a city of over 8.3 million people, how do I know where to go, who’s going where for hot spots and what to see in the epicenter of business, fashion, media, Wall Street and even tourism? I’ve started to use Yelp and become a Yelper! I’ve searched and discovered great new places and eateries through this app, which is known as the specialty search platform and business site guide. Yelp, you are my life saver! I’ve been relying on Yelp, OpenTable, Zagat and Google Places to name a few in finding and exploring the best entertainment places to go to. Here are the top 3 must haves in mind when looking for a new place to try out:

  1. Food (taste, affordability)
  2. Service (friendliness, attentiveness)
  3. Environment and cleanliness (ambiance, location, establishment look and feel)

*I must note that this ranking varies depending on what you are rating. It could be anywhere from restaurants, spas, bar, hotels, hair salon, events, tourist attractions, auto-body shop, stores, photographers, products etc.) I usually rate restaurants since I am a foodie!

What is Yelp?

Yelp is a social networking site that operates an “online urban guide” and business review site much like a large online bulletin board featuring user-generated content. The site is geared towards the users (Yelpers) writing reviews based on experiences at local businesses, check-ins and can link to social media accounts. Owners can create business profiles, create discounts and announcements and networking, events.  It has over 36 million collected reviews in which data can be compiled to help users find the best local restaurant or services in their area. For more info go to:

Why I use yelp?

Yelp is one of the most user-friendly sites and is also both fast and fun. This app allows you to write reviews in an easy and quick way while you can also give compliments to other reviews. It has pictures of the food/places and its reviews are detailed and community-based.

Yelp Review Buttons

You can also connect with your social circles: Facebook and Twitter friends to see where they are checking in and rating around your area.

Why should businesses use Yelp?

Any business wants to attract more customers by gaining visibility and getting up in the search engine results pages (SERPS). Yelp receives high priority in Google search engine results. Therefore, many users who are looking for places to eat, shop, go to bars, or use other related services are discovering the top businesses on the 1st page when typing in their keyword for the SERPs. The businesses with the highest amount of positive ratings and most reviews come up first (combination of reviews from Zagat, Yelp, Trip Advisor, OpenTable Google Places).

Yelp on SERP

Search Optimization Tips for Businesses

Below are some tips if you are a business or a user looking to optimize a business page and add reviews to Yelp:

Tip 1: Create, claim and optimize your business profile:

1. Find your business if your business is already listed, YELP can detect the listing! (you just have to enter your business name and location).

2. Complete all fields in the “Add your Business” section with adding pictures (picture of your business), business details, location, hours and main contact info.

Yelp for Biz Owners

*Make sure to click the email you received from Yelp and confirm for verification.

3. Lastly, view your business on Yelp to see the listing. Below is a good example of an optimized business page to one of my favorite neighborhood restaurants that has followed all the appropriate steps to list their business page:

Yelp Page Example

Tip 2: Reviews > Utilize Keywords on Page and Advise Users to use Keywords

Using targeted keywords for a website helps increase higher rankings, but this is also applied to YELP. Optimizing your Yelp business listing is the same as optimizing your website for search engines. The difference being taking out the technical on-page elements and adding linking to earn backlinks through any guest posts, PR. You want to utilize keywords in your business listing that applies to your business, and try to earn backlinks (from reputable source) wherever you can, either through guest posting, press releases, or other social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter.

Popular Items: If your business is known for a good “brunch” for example, encourage customer/reviewer to write about it as the reviewer is rating a proven service or product.

Example: If you type in “Brunch Food” or “Best Brunch” (tip: use the free Google AdWords Planner to research top keywords searchers are using)

Adwords show the highest searches are for “brunch food,”  “best brunch” and “best brunch nyc”

Yelp AdWords keyword planner

For one of my favorite places, I provided a review incorporating what a yelper is more likely to type in when searching for brunch places in Astoria, NY.

Yelp Review Example

Reviewer Tip: Once you find the business you want to leave a review for, click on accounts – then put in “star rating,” add description (if you have set up FB and twitter – in which you can have it automatically post so all your friends will see the review; this helps create more visibility for the restaurant/place).

Get higher visibility with Positive Reviews – Pigeon Update

Getting and maintaining a good reputation is important! If your business has good positive reviews, it’s likely that yelpers and users will seek your establishment out. The higher in search rankings the review is found will yield a higher CTR which will lead to a higher conversion.

Relevant real user experiences (non-fake, purchased reviews) are crucial to help optimize business listings in the SERPS, especially based off the new pigeon update that Google released which has affected local businesses in the SERPs. The new update is helping Yelp and directory sites get higher visibility which helps guide users searching for local results on their interests, find the top rated places with reviews. If you are a business, without that relevant information or user generated content reviews or even a YELP and directory site accounts, it maybe be more difficult to rank in the search results page after this update occurred.

Study of Pigeon Update that Benefits Yelp:

Yelp Case Study

Based upon the first round of update researches from SEO Powersuite, they have seen a high amount of boost in rankings within the SERPs for Yelp and other local well-known directory sites (OpenTable, Zagat, Trip Advisor) in which businesses are receiving higher reviews and ratings.

What this means? It’s important to build online visibility and credibility using these directory sites and build that positive business experience with customers as this will help with your search rankings.

Check out your competition: Don’t forget to check which websites and directories the businesses around you or competition are ranking high for targeted keywords. Use the free keyword difficulty tool in which you can add your targeted business keywords into. This will show the top 10 ranking pages for your specific set of keywords so you can discover where your competitors are outranking you on your keywords.

Tip 3:  Responding to Reviews

Business > Maintain Online Reputation: Make sure if you’re the owner to continually maintain your account and respond to any negative and positive reviews. You don’t have to respond to all but providing feedback and responses shows your customers how attentive your business is and thus helps with the customer relationship.

When a negative review is posted on your business page, be sure to always respond in a timely manner and with having a client-centric approach. Address how the review will affect your business and apologize to the customer for the experience. That one negative review could turn away hundreds of customers from visiting your establishment so being able to turn the review around could help impact your ranking on Yelp and retain that customer to come back.

Users > Negative and Adding Reviews Businesses seem to offer deals, discounts, contests and incentives if you check in online through YELP. Some businesses will even have a sign (example: write a review or check in on YELP to receive 5%),

So, you always need be careful when leaving reviews or as a business asking for reviews check-ins, as Yelp has implemented tactics to track against phony reviews. When I’ve left a negative review for a restaurant that has bad service and awful food, I was offered coupons, meal discounts and apologies from the owner to come back and try the establishment again. I did take advantage of the offers but the experience and food was still the same so I did not regret my first review.  Another example is the unethical business practice of how a hotel in NY threatened customers to implement a $500 fine for every negative review customer made on Yelp: “Hotel’s $500 bad-review fee blows up in its face.” Hotel management said it was a joke but a Yelp member really did get emails from them asking to remove the review. There was nothing funny about the joke as the hotel received bad publicity and additional negative reviews.

At the end of the day, offering a great product and service should be your #1 business goal. Yelp has been more active in catching these business owners as FTC deems this activity review solicitation, unethical and illegal. A consumer alert will also pop up in business listings, if they have been caught notifying the consumer of unethical tactics. Nothing can beat getting great reviews, videos and picture from actual diners, not even the phonies! Read more in “State of Online Review Moderation blog: For more information about online reviews.

Responding to positive reviews is also helpful as it can help aid in increasing your overall rating.  This enables the customer to come back or add more reviews about your business. Most importantly, it’s a great way to learn and build relationships with your vocal customers.

Below is a great example of a tip I left for another favorite restaurant, in which I received an immediate “thank you” response from the owner. This shows how attentive he is to customers and verifies the importance of customer satisfaction to ensure his staff is providing quality food and service!

Yelp Reviews

Tip 4: How to get More and Writing Reviews

Business: Having a high number of reviews shows that your business is more established and reputable. But, it can be a challenge to get reviews and to incorporate popular items, keywords related to your business.

Here are some simple tips to help speed up and guide your Yelp Search Optimization strategy:

Yelp Sticker

  • Display the Yelp logo directory listings on your store’s window or doors so it is visible to the customers.
  • Add Yelp Badge Link on Website: Add a link to your Yelp page on your company’s website. Make sure the button is above the fold, and don’t forget to include other social media icons to help increase CTR.
  • Yelp Link in Signature: Add the Yelp link in your email signature when you send out email communications so all your contacts and customers know you are on Yelp.
  • Create Flyer/Add Insert to Products or Menus: Consider creating and passing out flyers to explain how to leave a Yelp review and why it matters to you
  • Encourage Check-Ins: Check-ins occur within the app and also can be linked to your social media accounts. It allows customers to check-in to wherever they are and then post that check-in to all social media for all of their friends to see creating even more visibility for the business.
  • Promote/Advertise on Yelp – Mobile ads: Businesses can place special deals and coupons on Yelp, in return helping more customers visit your Yelp page. Once they visit, they can write a review as the coupon/deal needs to be pulled up on the yelp app.

Yelp Mobile Coupon

  • SEO for Yelp: As discussed above, you want your Yelp business page to rank just like you want the pages on your website to rank. You can do this with the keywords that appear on your listing as well as by trying to earn some backlinks for your page.
  • Use the Social Features (more for users than business): Find friends or your customers who are leaving the reviews about your business. Yelp offers social features for users to help them find their friends and see what they have been reviewing and what they recommend in any given area. This is a nice feature for businesses as well as for checking out what people are saying about your competition in the area. Just go social features “Find Friends” at the top of a Yelp page.

What’s new for Yelp?

Yelp Trends: A new graph that came out (date) shows the keywords people are using within the reviews showing the high-low trends across each year for a specific city – Yelp Trends.  Yelp is searching through words people are using in the reviews as to what is trending (reviews compiled over the last 10 yrs.) in each of the major cities, who started the phenomenon first, and whether it will trend into 2015.  For example, Boston vs New York is shown below. To experiment with my own interests, I was curious as to how fitness and yoga are popular in New York and Boston.  The graph below shows that for fitness and yoga in New York, the interest was high from 2006 to 2012 but slowly decreased for 2014. Whereas yoga, seems to be trending more in Boston vs New York year over year.  Each city has different trends but overall both search terms are trending both up and down year over year.  In the end, it appears that Boston has more fitness and yoga interest.

Yelp Trends 1 Yelp Trends 2

Users and Business > Video Reviews:

For those of us who have an iPhone, a nice new feature that Yelp just released is a “free” mobile app in the app store on July 29, 2014! Reviewers can now take 3-12 second short videos with snippets of their experiences at favorite places to share via the mobile app. Now you can see an interactive live view of the place’s ambiance (through a video – a feature that a photo can’t provide!  This will be helpful to see what a live consumer experiences in a business without scrolling through pictures, commercial, webpage or YouTube, and the best part about this is it syncs in with the reviews, highlighting the uniqueness of a local business to help users make an even better decision on where to go.

Future Outlook for Yelp:

With the new Yelp features with trends and mobile app along with the Pigeon update, these benefits will help boost Yelp visibility, increase the amount of new users to write reviews to help grow new customers for local and national businesses along with an increasing amount of new business Yelp accounts. Yelp, has also become a social media giant in advertising and search. There is also a good amount of strategic partners teaming up with Yelp to help gain better visibility worldwide with search engines like Yahoo using content in its search results. Yelp and other business directory sites will not be going away anytime soon. In the future, all of our consumer decisions on where to dine, shop, go out will be made easily and automated with these sites like Yelp.

As a business if you follow these tips, you will be sure to gain maximum exposure in the SERPS and a trustworthy online reputation with retainable customers. As a Yelp reviewer, continue to add value to your local businesses by visiting and providing reviews each time you go dine, shop or get services at your next place. The more reviews, engagement and feedback you provide, the more online presence you create for your own reputation with other Yelpers along with businesses trusting you as the reliable source on where to go!

Please feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions or comment below on your thoughts and experiences with Yelp. For a list of restaurants, bars, theatre, coffee shops, spas, events, beaches, studios, shopping and different places I’ve reviewed, follow me on Yelp!

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