Consider this: 90% of all consumers used the Internet to find a local business within the last year. Of that group, 82% read through online reviews in order to learn more about a business. With the average consumer reading about 10 customer reviews online before they trust in a brand, it is all too clear that online reviews play a big part in either converting or deterring potential customers.
In short, good reviews have the ability to make or break any small business. Google won’t rank local businesses without good reviews, and this is why it is so important to invest time and money into making your online reviews one of your most powerful search engine optimization (SEO) weapons.
In the ideal digital marketing scenario, your online reviews will work for you, not against you. But how can you invest time and money into something that you may feel is out of your control? This is where Yelp SEO can come in and bring your business to new heights.
Here’s everything you need to know about how to improve your Yelp reviews. This effort will not only bring more happy customers to your door, it will also help your website earn keyword rankings that generate consistent website traffic.
Online Reviews and Yelp SEO
While Google doesn’t give specific information about it’s engine optimization and algorithm updates, the experts agree that Google’s primary mission is to bring consumers the most relevant information they can find and from brands they can trust.
What’s a better signal of trust than multiple real reviews from past and present customers? If you’re online review profiles are populated with hundreds of positive reviews, Google will understand your website as providing valuable content that can be trusted. It’s why reputation management specialists focus on closely monitoring online review sites, because Google relies on these platforms to understand the reputation of domains and businesses.
So, what’s the impact of online reviews and SEO?
1. Online Reviews Make up 10% of how Google Displays Search Results
According to BrightLocal, the average consumer will read a business’s reviews for a full 13 minutes and 45 seconds before they make a purchasing decision. This can be a mix of five-star reviews, negative Yelp reviews, or social media comments. Moz tells us that all of these positive and negative reviews work together to make up about 10% of the ranking factors for how Google displays search results.
Positive reviews don’t always mean you’ll show up on page 1 of the search engine result pages (SERPs). In order for SEO to work, it has to be comprehensive and cover on-page and off-site efforts. But Yelp is one of the third-party review sites that Google crawls and looks to when ranking businesses in location-based searches. For local businesses in particular, your Yelp page will play a big part in whether or not you rank.
2. Google Trusts What Customers Say
It’s not that Google doesn’t trust you as a business owner, it’s that Google places much more authority on what a consumer says about their experience compared to what you have to say when promoting your business.
Google uses reviews as a way to gauge whether or not your business is meeting the needs of the consumers. Multiple 5-star reviews show that customers are having positive interactions with your brand and their needs are being met. Consider positive reviews as a signal of blind trust in your business and brand.
3. Positive reviews lead to a positive online presence
Yelp SEO often works like this: positive reviews lead to positive conversions which leads to a positive online presence. Consumers trust good reviews, which cause them to click. More traffic lets Google know that your website is bringing positive experiences, which in turn results in an increase in your business’s position on the SERPs.
4. Customers may Find your Yelp Page Before your Web Page
Think back to the last time you searched for something specific like “best Chinese restaurant near me.” Chances are, the first or second url in the results was a review site like Yelp. If someone searches for your brand name and you have a Yelp page, that Yelp page will likely show up as one of the top-ranking SERP results, and possibly even higher than your website.
Yelp works by providing a specific space for consumers to write reviews about a specific business. Each business has a Yelp profile that compiles all reviews from consumers, and in turn, creates a star rating and rank system of your business compared to other competitors in your industry and area. The best part of Yelp is that this is a website that is trusted and recognized by millions of users worldwide, and this is why it often performs so well in search engines. If you have your ducks in a row on Yelp, you will likely be rewarded by Google as well.
So with these benefits in mind, why wouldn’t you use Yelp as an SEO tool?
How Google Crawls Yelp to Understand Your Authority and Reputation
Yelp’s algorithm works by ranking different business listings by the category of their offerings and the quality of their reviews. For this reason, earning positive reviews on Yelp can make a big difference in appearing as one of the first results when people use the review site to search for products or services.
But most internet users aren’t using Yelp to search — they are using Google. So what’s even more important than how Yelp sees your reviews is how Google crawls and indexes your Yelp page to determine whether to show your website or Yelp profile over your competitors’ pages.
Google crawls Yelp listings three different ways:
- Through keywords. Any business owner will want to include keywords and key phrases about their service and industry in their Yelp profile. Not only will this bring potential consumers the relevant information they are searching for, it will tell Google all they need to know about your business and brand and the extent of what you offer.
- Through backlinks. Backlinks are an incredibly important signal of authority for Google, and when other websites link to your Yelp listing, it shows Google you are a brand that is to be trusted.
- Through images. Google is able to crawl pictures easily through something called alt text. Each picture has a specific alt text associated with it, and it is just another way to give Google the context of what your page is about.
When you work on including and improving these three details on your page, you won’t have trouble being crawled and identified by Google.
Yelp and Potential Customers: What your Yelp Profile Communicates About your Business
We all know that content is king when it comes to digital marketing and Yelp SEO is no different. Clear, concise information is incredibly important when it comes to connecting with consumers in all stages of the marketing funnel.
Everything and anything you write in your Yelp profile will translate back to your business. There are many impactful and creative ways you can target potential customers, and here’s what your Yelp profile communicates about your business.
- Your current hours and location. You’ll want to make this information as easily accessible as you can. If your hours or location changes, updating this information is key. If your business has multiple locations, make sure your current addresses are accurate and properly attributed to the right brick-and-mortar locations.
- Your services. Not only will your Yelp profile explain what a Yelper needs to know in terms of your business offerings, it will show additional service information that is pivotal to converting a customer. Do you offer takeout? What about curbside, contactless pickup? Do you require reservations? Are you going virtual? Details like these are important to showcase!
- Health and safety protocols. It is no secret that your customers’ health and safety concerns have changed drastically within the past year. Customers now want to know about the additional safety and sanitary measures you are enforcing, so they have peace of mind that they will be safe.
- Deals and discounts. Are you offering a special sale for the holidays or a special coupon to entice new customers? Showcasing your deals and discounts proudly on your Yelp page is the way to go,
- You are a person behind the screen. As consumers, it can be easy to forget that a living, breathing, human runs your business, so use your Yelp listing to show some details about yourself! Take time to post pictures of you and your employees to personalize and stand out from your competitors.
Now that you know what to include, how do you properly optimize your listings?
4 Ways to Optimize your Yelp Listing
Just like we optimize landing pages for SEO, you can optimize your Yelp listing as well, or any other profile on a third-party review site that your business has the ability to create and edit.
1. Build links with all of your NAP information
We all know that backlinks are a powerful signal of authority to Google. But many small business owners don’t realize that you are able to build backlinks onto your Yelp page. An easy way to do this is by linking your NAP information – your name, address, and phone number. Use this space to include your website URL, blog posts, and social media sites, and you’ll be able to hit a SEO double-whammy.
Remember, there’s no such thing as sharing too many social profiles, websites, or contact information. The more places a potential customer can find you, the better.
2. Build Links to your Yelp Page
We all know that backlinks are a powerful signal of authority to Google. But many small business owners don’t realize that you are able to build backlinks to their Yelp page. And plain and simple, backlinks bring authority to your brand.
3. Optimize for Keywords
Like any other search engine, you’ll want to optimize for relevant keywords about your business and industry. You don’t have to add a lot of keywords, but it’s important to incorporate a few keywords and phrases that you want to pop up when people search for businesses similar to yours. You can use our copy optimizer to identify the focus terms to include in your Yelp profile that will improve your SERP appearances.
4. Optimize your Images
Additionally, you’ll want to optimize your images for keywords as well. It is common for Yelp users to want to look at pictures of your products and services, and yelp actually makes it easy for you by including a special area on your page for pictures and videos.
Customers can take pictures at your business and upload those pictures to Yelp, but it’s important to invest in quality photography and make sure that you have optimized images that you upload into your Yelp profile. Remember to include alt text so Google can read the pictures properly.
Once your business page is properly optimized, you will get a yelp rating on the authority of your Yelp account. A higher star rating will make a big difference between showing up on the top of the first page of Yelp and the bottom of the page, where no one will look.
How to Improve Yelp Reviews
Before you can use Yelp reviews to your advantage, you have to acquire those reviews from real customers. For newer businesses in particular, building up a base of reviews can feel out of your control, but this isn’t true. Here are some easy ways any business owner can work to improve their Yelp reviews with every customer they have.
Encourage Happy Customers to Leave Positive Reviews
Chances are, a happy customer would love to leave a positive review about your business, but they may just need a reminder! After the positive transaction, all you need to do is simply ask for them to leave you a review on your yelp page and social media sites. Consider adding on a simple reward as an incentive, whether it is a coupon for a percentage off of their next service, or a free item the next time they stop in.
Use Review Generation Software
You may not have time to constantly seek positive reviews, so use review generation software to your advantage. Review generation software will gather, filter, and promote reviews from your customers, all with little effort from you. Programs like BirdEye, TrustPilot, and others can help automate the review generation process and send your customers to the review sites like Yelp that matter the most in your industry.
Respond to Good and Bad Reviews on Your Yelp Page
Engaging with your customers is a surefire way to promote trust in your brand. It is a good business practice to respond to every single review – thank each customer for their business and for taking the time to leave a review.
If what they posted was about a negative experience, there are a few strategies for how to respond to negative reviews. One way is to offer a solution and your phone number to talk it over in person. You will want to show to any potential customer that you are willing to offer incredible customer service, no matter the issue, and that you are open to coming up with a solution.
Display Yelp Reviews on Your Website
Users deserve to see good reviews about your business, even when they’re not on Yelp! Incorporate some of your favorite reviews in a prominent space on your website for all to see – there’s no such thing as too many humble brags when it comes to your own business!
Share Positive Yelp Reviews on Social Media
In the same vein, make sure to share all your positive Yelp reviews on your social media platforms. Positive reinforcement works when it comes to converting consumers!
Show off your Reviews with Schema.org
If you have earned a five-star rating on Yelp, why not benefit by having those yellow stars appear with search engine results? By adding the aggregateRating schema markup to your site, Google will pull data from multiple review sites — Yelp included — and display your average rating with your SERP result. If you have a lot of positive reviews, this can improve your click-through-rate and make your website stand out.
Fake Reviews: What to Look Out For
Unfortunately, there are some Internet bots out there with the sole purpose of creating fake reviews and jeopardizing the livelihoods of businesses. It is always important to keep an eye out for fake reviews, and here’s what to look out for.
- Overusing the words “I” and “me.” Usually, when people are lying, they try to make themselves sound credible by using personal pronouns.
- The timing of the reviews. If you have recently gained a ton of negative reviews in a small timeframe, chances are you could be a victim of a targeted smear campaign.
- Generic names and profiles with no pictures. Typically, true consumers will have a photo to correspond with their profile and review. Too many reviews with names like “John Smith” and “Mary Johnston” can be a signal these are actually fake accounts.
- Phrase repetition. Look for the same phrases and keywords repeated over and over in different reviews.
- Poor spelling and grammar. Sometimes fake reviews are outsourced to overseas content farms, which can result in the reviews being written in poor English.
These clues can tell you a lot about whether or not a review is fake, but when in doubt, reach out and respond to the review itself! Fake reviewers will not respond to you, whereas a disgruntled customer will look forward to mending the situation.
Negative Reviews: What they Might Tell You About Your Products or Business
As a business owner, you will always want to take time to reflect on your business and find opportunities for growth. Looking into your negative reviews can give you some positive insight on your products and businesses, and here’s what your negative reviews might be telling you.
- The quality of your product. While your product/services can work for you, they may not work for everybody. Take a look to see if there are any recurring themes about the quality of your product and you may have to go back to the drawing board and reinvent.
- The gaps in your customer service. This is especially true if you have a few employees and can’t be hands-on at all times. Negative reviews can tell you what you can’t see firsthand.
- An opportunity to better yourself. As mentioned previously, as a business owner you should constantly try to fix negative experiences with your brand. So take this time and use it as an opportunity to better yourself. When you are genuine and offer an actual solution for a customer’s problem, you not only increase trust in your brand but you may even increase your conversions as that customer may soon change their mind.
Not all negative reviews have to result in a negative experience for both you and your customer! Use every negative review as an opportunity to grow.
Final thoughts on Yelp SEO
In the world of digital marketing, it is important to utilize all the resources available to you. This includes Yelp SEO, as why wouldn’t you want to bring you business to new heights by leveraging this free tool? With this guide in mind, you will know how to improve yelp reviews, so with a little hard work and effort, your business will thrive.