For a survey,  I once needed the contact information from 500 Makeup Artists in randomly chosen cities across the country. I hired some freelancers to help me with the search. Naturally, they exclusively used the internet to find as many as possible.

When I looked at their most quoted source, I was surprised: It was And despite all controversy, Yelp is still one of the most used search engines for services.

Thus, promoting your business through Yelp can make all the difference.

We’ve put together a list with important things to know and do to navigate and utilize this social platform to your benefit.

Claiming or setting up your Yelp page

The first step is claiming or setting up your Yelp business page. When people already left reviews for your business, then you need to claim your page. If not you need to set up a new page.

In both cases, the process is very straightforward. You only have to enter some basic information such as your name, phone number, website, hours and add some photos. When you are done, you can access tools like tracking user views, creating Yelp deals, responding to reviews, and more.

You can also invest in additional paid features Yelp offers, such as targeted ads, videos, and a call to action button. But for the start these are not necessary. Once your page is ready, you should add as much information as you can. Look around at other industries and note what profiles grab your attention. Photos are a must.

Spreading the word

The value of your Yelp page stands and falls with the reviews. Obviously, you can’t get any reviews when no one knows about the page. Your goal should be to get as many people as possible to check it out, whether they leave a review, or they are just reading what others wrote.
Yet, you don’t want to look too desperate for reviews.

Possible ways to encourage people to visit your page and review your business:

  • Add a “You can find me/us on Yelp” to your business card, flyer or other promotional material. If you already have good reviews, then quote them.
  • You can tell clients that they get a 10% off coupon for their next visit if they leave an honest review. Of course, before you say that, you make sure they are 100% happy.
  • Add a link to your Yelp page if you have a website, Facebook page, Twitter, Instagram, or another site online.
  • Stick a “Tell me what you think about us on Yelp” sticker on your invoice.

Don’t post your own (fake) review

Never, ever post your own review. Never. An empty page without reviews may look sad and make you feel uncomfortable. But an otherwise empty page with one single over the top five-star review looks desperate and may even deter clients. Don’t try to be sneaky and use fake profile either. Just be patient. The Yelp page shouldn’t be your only strategy. Thus, there is no need to obsess. The reviews will come.

Offering a Yelp Deal

If you know Groupon or Living Social then you know what a Yelp deal is. You set up a deal that allows people to get a discount for your services. For example, they pay $80 for $100 worth of services. You can choose how much of a discount you want to give. The idea is that you’ll be making money on the future services you’ll sell upfront. Yelp keeps a percentage of the purchase and in turn promotes your truck to a wider audience.

The main advantage of Yelp Deals is that the people who purchase them are probably already active Yelp users. Therefore, they will be more likely to leave a review on your page compared to someone who bought a similar deal through one of the other deal sites like Groupon or Living Social. You’ll also catch the eye of someone browsing Yelp for good deals who might not otherwise have found your page. Thus, widening your potential customer base and also promoting your page to new audiences.

However, don’t underestimate how much you can handle. Make sure you can deal with an increased the client volume and potential profit reduction that may result from running this type of discount. Keep in mind that you can pull your daily deal from the site at any time. Which is another advantage of using Yelp versus Groupon or Living Social.

The Yelp Filter

Yelp has gotten a lot of criticism because its automated filtering system often flags legitimate reviews as being fake. These reviews are still viewable by clicking on the “reviews that are not currently recommended,” link. These reviews do not show up on your main Yelp page. They also don’t count towards your overall star rating.

While the filtering of fake and solicited reviews is a necessary method to maintain a meaningful rating system, it can be quite annoying when an honest review from an enthusiastic client is flagged.

Yelp does not publicly disclose the details of their filtering algorithm, but some corner points are known. Apparently, the quality of the review and reliability of the reviewer matters most. The more Yelp knows about the reviewer and the more reviews she posts, the more favorable (i.e. reliable ) a reviewer is seen by Yelp.

As a consequence, when you see that a positive review got flagged by the algorithm, you could contact your clients and let them know what happened. They probably haven’t spent time on a review just to get it flagged. If they haven’t done so already, they could try to complete their profile to appear more reliable in Yelps algorithm. Very likely, it is okay to message your Yelp fans and ask for their help in removing the flag from the review. But make sure not to harass them by asking too many times.

Reacting to reviews

You should also always respond to reviews, good or bad. Of course, you’ll be happy to express your gratitude for a client who spent her time writing a favorable review. But even a bad rating is just an opportunity in disguise. For once you can thank them for the feedback, show genuine empathy for their trouble and offer something in response to their complaint. Doing so will show new prospects how much you care about your clients and their opinion.
But if a client does not respond as you expected and continues to argue, then avoid getting pulled into a discussion online, which may leave you look bad even if your are right. Because nobody else will now that. Better suggest to give the dissatisfied client a call and solve the problem offline.

In general, we recommend taking every review seriously and adjusting based on what is written. Over time, you will learn how to extract constructive feedback from even the angriest seemingly unreasonable comments you may get.

Is it worth the effort?

As with many things we do to promote our businesses, there is never a success guarantee. But we think because of the little time and money (if at all) you have to invest to set up your Yelp page it is definitely worth doing. After all, it is another opportunity to present yourself and attract potential clients.

What do you think about Yelp? We’d love to hear about your Yelp experiences.