Why Yelp Is Awesome For Small Businesses

September 3, 2009
By Lisa Barone in Small Business Marketing

You know what’s awesome? Yelp. Yelp’s awesome. Not only did the site help me to not starve to death when I moved to Troy last year (z0mg it’s been a year!), but they’re also doing a great job helping small business owners leverage the power of social media and manage their online reputations. Pretty sweet, eh? Totally.

Over recent months, I’ve gotten a chance to play with the other side of Yelp – Yelp for Business Owners. And since then, my love for the site has grown even more. Why do I heart Yelp and think small business owner should be claiming and optimizing their profiles RIGHT NOW?

Well, I’ll tell ya.

z0mg Traffic

I’m not sure if you know this but Yelp is growing at 80 percent a year, page views and time spent on the site are up 150 percent, and they received 25 million visitors in August. Yes, just in August. In case you’re not aware, that’s a ridiculous amount of traffic. Especially when you consider that each one of those 25 million people who visited Yelp last month was on a mission. They got hungry, pulled up Yelp and typed in “tacos” in “Troy, NY” while looking for some place to go grab dinner. And even though they were disappointed that THERE ARE NO TACOS IN TROY, NY, had there been any, Yelp would have been their gateway to them. And to your restaurant or store.

Twenty-five million people. Performing targeted searches. Looking for you.

View Traffic Patterns

Okay, enough about Yelp’s traffic, it’s time to worry about your traffic. Inside Yelp for Business Owners lies a quick and dirty traffic analysis to help you quantify the eyes that your business listing receives on any given day. Sure, you can use it as a benchmark to see if your local café is gaining or losing popularity, but you can also use it to see which days people are most likely to be doing a search for you, what types of seasonal fluctuations you may be facing, whether or not certain ad campaigns have worked, or when you should be running promotions to get people in the store. Any data that helps you understand a bit more about your business or audience is good data.

Local Citations

Local citations are really important if you want your small business to rank and appear in the search engines’ local search indexes. Local citations are any time your business name and address are mentioned on another Web site, regardless of if there is a link or not. Because so many local indexes pull information from Yelp, creating a complete profile on the site is a great, great way to start building these citations. Once you claim your listing in Yelp, you’ll be able to fill out a complete About the Business section that will allow you to tell the search engines where you’re located, what’s near you, what the major cross streets are, etc. You want to give the search engines (and users) as much information about you as possible. The richer the profile you create, the more likely it is your site will show up for important local searches.

Local Networking

This will probably sound a little nerdy, but my favorite part of Yelp listings is the area where business owners are able to recommend other businesses in their area. I mean, HELLO, what better way to create strategic partnerships that you can leverage to benefit everyone? If you’re a florist in Albany, NY, you can create arrangements with the different catering halls in your area, with local halls, bakeries, etc, and drive traffic to each others sites. If I’m on your Yelp page looking for a florist, it’s very possible I’m doing so because I have an event happening. I don’t just need flowers, I need a cake, I need some place to hold the reception, I need someone to DJ the event, someone to provide keepsakes. If I trust you and you’re recommending some of your friends, my job’s done. I’ve found all my vendors. Sign me up.

You Can Engage Users

Engagement objects are all the rage. In fact, according to some, you won’t even be able to get your Web site to rank in a year if you don’t have video (yeah, I’m a bit skeptical on that one, too). Regardless, get users off your Yelp page and into your store by placing coupons, specials, announcement, and photos directly into your listing. Give them something that will catch their eye and put your company listing on top of all the other florists they’re checking out on Yelp. If I’m looking for flowers and you’re offering me free chocolate just because, well…you basically just got yourself a customer for life.

Respond to Reviews

outspokenYelp gave business owners a louder voice when it opened up the feature to allow them to publicly respond to negative reviews left on the site. And as long as you’re not a dumbass, this feature has proven to be quite powerful. Small business owners have used it to:

  • Correct inaccurate statements
  • Subtly guilt people into leaving higher reviews [“We are SO sorry for your bad experience. Please come in and ask for me and I’ll make sure that you’re taken care of!”]
  • Let people know you took their criticism of not carrying Harp beer seriously and are now a proud supplier. Then, invite them in for a pint.

If you’re a small business and not totally comfortable jumping into the world of social media, Yelp makes it really easy to benefit by just dipping your toe in and seeing what’s out there. They provides business owners with a way to measure traffic, deal with minor online reputation management issues and engage users into their store. It remains one of my personal favorite sites for small businesses.

If you’re interested in small business stuffs, you may want to check out our Small Business Marketing section of the blog.  I also blog about small business issues over at SmallBizTrends each Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Yep. I’m done plugging now. ;)]

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