Managing and Optimizing Yelp Business Listings


Yelp is one of the most popular business listing platforms that connects businesses with over 145 million monthly visitors. Generating revenues through Yelp is a lot more than just creating listings and waiting for customers to come. Although optimizing Yelp listings does take quite some time and effort in the beginning, things become easier down the road. This guide covers the initial setup and fundamentals of managing and optimizing your Yelp listings.

Getting Started

Many people think of Yelp as a restaurant-only platform, but it also covers other types of businesses. As a matter of fact, the top category on Yelp is shopping. Other poplar business categories on Yelp include restaurants, home and local services, beauty and fitness, arts, entertainment and events, health, auto, travel and hotels and nightlife.

Yelp is available to business owners as a free as well as a paid service. The free services give you access to basic tools, which are good enough for small and budding businesses. Premium upgrades offer more customization options, while Yelp Ads put your local business in the spotlight through targeted local advertising and premium placement. This guide focuses on Yelp’s free services that business can use to gain more online exposure and connect with new customers.

Why Yelp?

Yelp is more like a necessity for small local businesses and helps them connect with local customers who are searching for similar businesses. If your business is not listed on Yelp, you might be missing out on new customers and revenues. Yelp allows you to:

  • Showcase your business to millions of new (potential) customers
  • Get more online exposure
  • Reach the right people at the right time
  • Interact with customers
  • Answer questions and respond to reviews
  • Strengthen the brand image
  • Improve SEO and build authority
  • Communicate important business information without having customers to dig deep into your business website

Claiming a Business

Adding a new business on Yelp is very easy and there is no reason why small businesses should not list themselves on the platform. All you need to get started is sign up and provide Yelp with all the basic information about your business such as name, phone number, address, working hours and website address.

Chances are good that your business is already listed on Yelp even if you never registered with the platform. That’s mostly because a large number of customers leave reviews for businesses that are not yet claimed by anyone.

You can claim an existing business if you can see it on Yelp. Claiming your business is extremely important even if you don’t plan on using the platform in the long run. If you don’t claim it, someone else can and get ownership of the name without you even knowing about it. Claiming your business also allows you to add additional and up-to-date information.

To claim an existing business, just search the name of your business at the business owners page and click claim business (if no one has claimed it yet). You have to provide your email address to claim a business and it’s recommended to sign up with your official email containing the business domain. Yelp will make an automated phone call on the number you provided for verification.

You can update your listing once the verification process is complete. If you don’t see your business on Yelp, you can add a new business but make sure to choose the appropriate business category. Your listing will start appearing in the search results after account verification and approval by moderators.

You can start adding business information after approval including basic information such as name and neighborhood and additional information such as payment methods, working hours, history and specialties. It’s recommended to provide as much business information as possible, which can customers from guess work. Adding highly relevant keywords not only helps in optimizing SEO, but also makes it easier to understand your target market using Yelp analytics.

Adding Photos

Customers are more likely to spend time on a listing with original photos than listings with no or generic images. Listing managers should try to include images that show the experience customers are going to have at your location. Properly focused photos taken in well lit environments grab attention and make it easier for customers to decide whether they should come at your business or not. In addition to your storefront, you can also use images of:

  • Employees
  • Events
  • Photos of different departments
  • Behind the scene photos
  • Specialty products
  • Special promotions and other marketing materials

Yelp Reviews

Reviews play a very important role in establishing authority of your business and help customers decide if they should trust you or not. Yelp prohibits asking customers to write positive reviews or bribe them with free products/discounts. You can however use the social media, email campaigns or your business website to spread awareness and encourage people to engage with your business. Outstanding customer services is the key to generating great reviews on Yelp and there is no substitute for that.

You can let others know about your presence on Yelp through the social media, email campaigns, ‘We’re on Yelp’ sign on the business front and Yelp banner on your website.

Managing Reviews

It’s not practical to expect positive reviews all the time. Replying to negative reviews is a great way to resolve issues and establish goodwill. Customers are much more likely to consider revising their negative reviews if you respond to them and offer a solution. Not replying to negative reviews does no good to business reputation and leaves potential customers wondering if you even care about them.

You can reply in-private to negative reviews and try to resolve customer’s issues. If things don’t work as expected in private mode, you can respond publicly to negative reviews and explain the situation. This shows customers that you care about them and have at least tried to address their problems. Don’t get discouraged by a few negative reviews as more than 2/3 reviews on Yelp are 4-stars or above.

Asking Customers for Reviews

Asking customers for reviews is more of a grey area, but many businesses do that anyway. It’s better to let your products and services speak for themselves. But if you have decided to go ahead and ask customers for reviews, make sure not to post ANYTHING on your Yelp profile/website that suggests you are offering bribe/incentive for reviews. Although Yelps does not allow asking customers for reviews, you might still want to ask customers who have already reviewed you elsewhere such as Google+, Facebook etc.

The ‘Not Recommended Reviews’

Sometimes Yelp automatically moves reviews it suspects as biased to the ‘Not Recommended’ reviews section, which is accessible by clicking a link at the bottom of a business listing. You cannot get them removed or moved around even if you were willing to pay Yelp. The problem with that is that Yelp’s system is not always right and sometimes legitimate or positive reviews get pushed down there.

Yelp puts reviews there based on several factors, including one-time user reviews, users who always give 5-star reviews, reviews generated from the same computer and reviews that are extreme. There isn’t much you can do about this except reaching out such reviewers and letting them know that their reviews aren’t doing any good or bad to your business (or try to engage them as an active user, which is again a violation of Yelp’s policies).

Free vs. Paid Services

You can claim your business and maintain a presence on Yelp using its free services. However, you don’t get complete control over your content and reviews. A free Yelp profile allows you to update information, add offerings, upload photos, reply to reviews/quotes/appointments and create check-in offers.

Yelp’s paid services called ‘Page upgrades’ help businesses turn visitors into buyers. It provides more customization options, removes ads of you competitors from your page, add call-to-actions, customize photo slideshows and includes access to the customer support.

Yelp Advertising is perhaps one of the most expensive online advertising platforms, but it helps businesses reach highly targeted customers. You can set your own budget, customize ads and start or stop an ad campaign at any time. Paid ads appear at the top of the search results with a little green icon that differentiates ads from regular listings. You cannot opt for paid ads if you have low ratings on Yelp as Yelp Ads feature highly-rated businesses.

The free version works well for small businesses owners who are willing to invest time and effort into maintaining business listings, including taking and uploading photos and responding to reviews. Businesses competing in highly saturated markets such as restaurants find paid services a better option. This makes more sense if your business already has great reviews you and want to ensure that it gets noticed by potential customers.


Yelp is a great platform for small businesses and entrepreneurs, especially restaurants and business belonging to the shopping, home and local services and beauty and fitness categories. Small businesses having a loyal customer base have no excuse for not maintaining a Yelp profile. The platform allows you to get started for free without any difficulty. However, it takes time and effort to maintain a healthy presence on the platform, which pays off pretty well in the long run.