How to Take Advantage of Yelp

If you own a small local business, you may be familiar with Yelp, a location-based website that allows users to post reviews about the places they've visited. If you're not familiar with Yelp, you should be. In December 2009 alone, 26 million people visited Yelp to help find local restaurants, boutiques, auto mechanics, etc.

By combining an open forum with a fun social networking element, Yelp encourages more and more reviews which, in turn, can influence the decisions of local users using the site to decide what to eat and where to go. Although more widely used in major cities, Yelp's usage is beginning to mushroom in medium-sized cities as well. Here's how you can harness the power of Yelp as part of your social media strategy to cultivate your local following.

Create or take ownership of your Yelp profile.

If there isn't a listing for your business, go ahead and create one. If there's a listing for your business already, claim it as your own. This way, you can make sure the information listed about your business is accurate and complete, respond to reviewers, monitor viewing statistics and post special offers. To unlock your already existing Yelp profile, you will need to fill out a few, quick forms online and verify your identity by phone, all of which can be done in a few minutes.

Provide as much profile information as possible.

Once you've created or taken ownership of your Yelp profile, make sure it's filled out completely. In addition to basic information such as your business' name, address and phone number, provide your website, hours of operation and identifying tags to help your business land in more Yelp search results. Yelp users look at this information to decide whether or not to visit your establishment, so the more accurate, up-to-date information you can provide, the better.

Respond to negative reviews constructively.

On Yelp, business owners can respond to reviews publicly and privately, even negative ones. For positive reviews, simply thank the reviewer for providing their views. For negative reviews, the tone of your response should always be cordial and helpful; ripping apart a snarky reviewer may seem satisfying, but it will do absolutely nothing to serve your business. If a customer had a bad experience at your establishment, apologize and see how you can help the situation. More often than not, your empathetic attention will help change the negative reviewer's perspective.

Post announcements regularly.

Yelp business owners can post 140-character announcements about new products, special events and promotions. These announcements appear on your business profile, in search results and in the offers and announcements directory for your city. Take advantage of this feature on a regular basis to promote happenings in your business and help your business stand out I the search results.

Display a Yelp badge on your website.

Just like you would for your Facebook page or Twitter profile, provide a link to your Yelp profile on your business' website. This not only shares positive reviews with potential customers, but it can encourage existing customers to leave a review as well, helping to influence even more customers your way.

For extra exposure, consider advertising on Yelp.

Although you can easily build a following on Yelp without spending a penny, buying advertising on Yelp will expose your business to a large audience. For between $300 and $1,000 per month, your sponsored listing will appear at the top of search results and you can make sure the first review visitors see when they view your is a positive one. Particularly in big categories in large cities, guaranteeing a spot on the first page of search results could be very valuable.

Building your Yelp profile is just one way we suggest to gain exposure in your city. Contact us to find out how you can increase your local following.

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