Businessmen are aware that the Internet is a very important venue for holding promotions and advertising. People today are spending several hours a day surfing the Web and updating their social media accounts. Many even do their shopping online.
This consumer trend indicates that businesses that are visible on the Internet have a high chance of generating sales and gain exposure to a wider audience. The choices of online shoppers, for example, will be limited to the shops and online merchants they find when surfing the Web. Many people in social media discover local sellers and cottage businesses because they can see the posts or tweets shared by their friends and contacts. This is why business owners today are becoming more familiar with search engine optimization and the importance of landing the highest spots on the SERPs.
Here’s the catch though: if your business is catering to local consumers only, it will be impractical to try and conquer the global SERPs when your business cannot even accommodate customers from other cities or state. Yes, online visibility is important; but what’s even more important is becoming visible in places where your target market can be found.
This is where Yelp comes in. It is a very popular yellow pages website that provides information and customer reviews about all types of commercial businesses in the United States, Canada, Australia, the UK, France, and Spain. When people look for commercial establishments in the city or town where they are in, they would simply go to Yelp and get a list of the establishments they are looking for.
Yelp: Online Yellow Pages
Yelp may be an oldie compared to Google+ for business, but it certainly remains to be a top choice for customers looking for local businesses in the United States and Europe. Actually, the fact that it is an old website (launched back in 2004) makes it a valuable site because it has already accumulated so many listings and information about the majority of them.
Aside from finding commercial businesses, Yelp is also a review site of sorts because it shows the comments and ratings customers have given the businesses listed on its pages.
With Yelp, businesses don’t have to compete in the SEO arena. What they have to do is concentrate on making their businesses better on all aspects: serve excellent products and maintain excellent customer service, among others. This is the only way for them to gather positive comments and high ratings from customers, which in turn will put them in a positive light to all other customers who will conduct searches in Yelp.
By simply looking at this sample search at Yelp, we can immediately see several things that will prove advantageous to local businesses:
A map of the town or neighborhood indicated in the search is provided on the right side of the page. If users are looking for establishments nearest to their current location, all they have to do is look at the map and take note of the numbers on the pin nearest to their current location, and look for the corresponding establishment on the listing.
2. Business Details
Important information about each business is summarized in the search results. Searchers will see the address of the establishment, the general neighborhood where it is located, contact numbers, and a five-star range of review grades.
3. Customer Reviews
Speaking of reviews, the five-star average grade for each business makes it easy for Yelp users to see at a glance which establishments are rated the highest. The ratings are usually a bigger factor than the location, so the higher ratings in the reviews a business gets, the more attractive it looks to Yelp users. Five highlighted stars indicate widespread approval and commendation from customers, while three highlighted stars or less hints at a mediocre quality of service and/or products.
4. Business Categories
The categories that each business may fall under are live links. Users can click on them if they want to narrow down their search by category (ex: Mexican “food stand” instead of “restaurant”). If there are plenty of results and your business is listed at the bottom of the list, it may find a higher spot if users think to click on the categories to narrow down their search.
5. The “People Love Us on Yelp” Badge
If a business consistently earns high ratings, Yelp will award its profile with a “People Love Us on Yelp” badge and stickers. Aside from the four or five-star average rating, this is an assurance that the quality of the products and services of a business are indeed stellar based on the experiences of many customers.
*NOTE: When it comes to reviews, Yelp considers quality over quantity. This means a business doesn’t have to acquire a ton of reviews (although this might matter for some Yelp users). It simply has to have uniformly high ratings for each one of their reviews.
6. Increased Sales and Revenues
Statistical studies by Michael Luca, a professor at Harvard Business School, show that each star increase in Yelp ratings usually results in a 5%-9% increase in revenues for the business.
7. Yelp’s API
Yelp launched a free application programming interface (API) in 2007 that allows websites, widgets, and mobile apps to access its listings. Businesses with official websites can simply provide their Yelp information instead of writing up new content. Consumers can also use Yelp on their mobile phones, increasing its effectiveness as an online yellow pages site.
Tips for Businesses Owners
How to earn five-star ratings in Yelp
Flicker photo by Yuliana Vislova
The following tips will help business owners make the most out of their Yelp profiles and attract new customers into their shops and establishments.
1. Make your profile as soon as your business is opened.
2. Another alternative is to search for your business on Yelp. If you find a listing has already been made for your business, claim or “Unlock” it as soon as possible. Otherwise, other people may claim ownership of it and pose as your business.
3. When creating your Yelp account, make sure to list down all applicable categories for your business. This can help increase your visibility if users will search for businesses by category.
4. Post professional-quality pictures of your business on your profile.
5. Accept reservations on Yelp if you run a restaurant. Take advantage of OpenTable.com, an online restaurant reservations service, which was integrated into Yelp in 2010. Once customers view your business listing and decide to eat in your restaurant, they can go ahead and make reservations.
6. Always strive to give the best customer service. Aside from the products offered, this is a huge factor in the ratings customers give in their reviews. An unsatisfied customer can always give a one, two, or three-star rating and pull down your business’s overall average rate.
7. Don’t dare try to get people to write fake, glowing reviews about your business. Yelp is known for having a very strict review filter. It is very effective at filtering out fake reviews—sometimes even to the expense of genuine reviews from actual customers. The review filter has always been a cause of complaint from business owners and users, but it remains to reign supreme.
If managed properly, a listing in Yelp may be able to help your business gain more customers—and earn higher revenue—in the long run.