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5 Steps to Using Yelp to Grow Your Business

As you focus on ways to advertise your small business website, you may consider signing up with Yelp. If you’re not already familiar from your own personal experiences, Yelp is a type of social networking site and mobile app that allows its users to discover, research, rate and review small businesses. They receive over 135 million visitors every month, and as of 2015, they have accumulated over 75 million reviews.  

Yelp is a quick way to spread the word about your business – good or bad – and the type of buzz can actually have a surprising influence on sales. According to a 2011 study published by Harvard Business School, a one-star increase in review can lead to a 5-10 percent increase in revenue.   Yelp works best if your company has a physical location. While it caters to an incredible number of industry categories, from law offices to laser tag, it’s most frequently used for shops and restaurants. Here’s how you can get started on Yelp.  

Design Your Profile  

Just like Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and any other social media site, taking time to develop your business’ profile page is an absolute must. Viewers will use this information to learn about your products and services before deciding if your company is something they’d like to try. Link to your website. Provide your email address.  Choose your category wisely. Plug in your store hours and payment methods – this is often the information customers are looking for. Make sure the map that’s generated for your location is accurate.   While it may seem like a bit of a pain, yes, you do want to spend those extra minutes carefully writing out your specialty, your history and your bio.

While some marketing experts recommend that you keep the wording the same from site to site so others more easily recognize your business, others would argue that differentiating your wording illustrates more effort. What’s really important is that you have at least 150 words for each section that’s there. Screen Shot 2015-09-28 at 10.09.10 AM 

Upload Photographs  

While part of designing your profile includes uploading paragraphs, doing so is so crucial to your success on Yelp that it deserves to be recognized with its own step. It has been estimated that viewers spend more than twice as much time looking at company profiles with photos than they do at those without. It’s generally recommended that you upload at least a dozen photos, which isn’t as many as it sounds. You can include photos of your office space, headshots of important people, action shots of employees working, pictures of certificates or awards, copies of signage, images of products, sketches of renovations, and snippits of happy customers.

It probably goes without saying that a picture is worth a thousand words, so while your photos don’t have to be the work of a brilliant mastermind, they should reflect your business in a positive way. Study your pictures before you post them. Save the shadows, filters and frames for Instagram. As food is notoriously difficult to capture well, restaurant owners may want to consider hiring a professional.  

Encourage Reviews  

Yelp strongly discourages you from blatantly asking your customers for reviews (they want to keep the site’s critiques genuine and the mood authentic); however, there are still ways you can encourage others to leave feedback on your profile. And you should. Not everyone will think to write a review when they’ve had a positive experience, but many people will be eager to get their hands on a keyboard or touchscreen when they’ve had a negative one.   Including a button to your Yelp business page, or a link with the words “Find us on Yelp!” on your website is one way you can invite customers to review without actually inviting customers to review.

You should also let customers know you’re on Yelp through your print advertising, such as at the bottom of brochures, on the back of business cards, or somewhere in your newsletters. Including a link in your email signature could be helpful as well. If a customer takes the time to call or stop in to let you know how satisfied they are with your service, there’s no reason you can’t remind them then that their feedback would be appreciated on one of your many review sites.  

Respond to Customers  

A sizable collection of positive reviews is a great start, but it will only take you halfway to your company’s overall potential on Yelp. By setting aside time to respond to feedback, both good and bad, you’re presenting your customer service skills to the public eye. Studies have shown that regardless of how great your coffee tastes, how unique your handmade purses are, or how fast you’re able to print a t-shirt, the way you treat customers will have the strongest influence on their overall impression. The way you handle praise as well as conflict extends beyond your shop location.   When handling complaints, publically or privately, you want to respond with the upmost professionalism, regardless of what they may have said in their review.

While it can be difficult, keep in mind that you’re talking to a person who has friends, family, jobs, pets, hobbies, good days, and bad ones just as you do. Regardless of who’s right or wrong, as a business owner, it’s your job to fix the customer’s impression.  Just by listening to someone’s concerns and validating their feelings, you can greatly improve their perception.   While most “Yelpers” aren’t out to get you, don’t get too wrapped up should a review contain a list of mean-spirited comments or a personal attack. By responding with kind words, other viewers will see right through their rudeness and in turn, be attracted to your friendly service.  

Set Up Campaigns  

In addition to setting up your free business profile, you may choose to sign up for a paid account. While some business owners are not impressed with what these paid subscriptions offer, others report them having a significant impact on their customer base. Paid accounts of small businesses (1-9 locations) allow you to set up a slideshow of your photographs, highlight positive user reviews, and create ads that will appear in search results as well as on your competitors’ business profile pages. According to Yelp, nearly 90 percent of its visitors are conducting research with the intent of making a purchase within the next week, so paid ads on compotator pages can go  along way with customer acquisition. Paid ads are also visible across all devices, including computers, tablets and smartphones.


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