Can’t Rule Google? Focus on Yelp

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Can’t Rule Google? Focus on Yelp

Go big or go home. It sounds like a mantra made just for sports, but it also applies to Google. That’s because those websites who hit the top SERP spots tend to get more attention than those who appear down below.

Consider this study profiled on Marketing Land: A little more than 71 percent of searches ended with a page one click. Only about 6 percent of searches, on the other hand, landed clicks on pages two and three of results. It’s clearly vital to get your company’s name high up in search results.

But at the same time, many believe that Google has made it harder and harder for anyone to hit a SERP goal. As many bloggers have pointed out, Google is now skewing search results by including relational terms and popularity scores. As a result, companies with a great deal of traffic tend to get the clicks, even if they don’t have the specific keywords you’ve so painfully worked to incorporate. As a little guy, it can be hard to get noticed.

Can't Rule Google? Focus on Yelp | Search Engine Journal

This is why Yelp matters so much in 2015 and beyond. For smaller companies, it might be the only way to get even a little bit of page 1 Google attention. And if you do your Yelp homework, the attention you get could be positive enough that it could kick up your reputation score.

Yelp SERP Placement

If it’s of vital importance to get as high up in a SERP as you possibly can, and since Google seems to put big companies with a lot of traffic up higher, Yelp seems like an obvious tool to use.

As ThinkSEM has pointed out, Yelp is often the very first thing people see when they run a search with any kind of place name included.

Additionally, Yelp has a very sophisticated search engine of its own. That means people might go right to Yelp when they’re searching for information about local businesses. Capturing their attention could be a key to a better reputation.

Watching for Pitfalls

But really ruling Yelp isn’t as easy as it might seem. As a Harvard study from 2013 uncovered, something like 25 percent of the reviews submitted to Yelp are never published or recommended to users. That means a whole lot of data that could be used to boost your reputation could simply be missing from the site.

There’s one way to overcome this problem, and it’s distressingly simple: You need to get more high-quality reviews.

If only 75 percent of your reviews appear on the site and influence your reputation, you need to ensure that you have a whole lot of data for the Yelp algorithm to find. That way, if the site filters out a bunch of reviews you’ll still have a lot of good stuff to draw upon.

And if you want the site to stop filtering everything, you’ll need to attempt to ensure that the reviews that appear won’t be somehow offensive. According to a blog post from Entrepreneur, reviews that appear and/or are recommended have these characteristics:

  • They’re detailed. Good reviews are long, and they hold nuanced views. Out-and-out raves and disses don’t hold water. Content with a lot of information is rich enough to get noticed.
  • They come from real, verified reviewers. If the account is linked to a real person with other social media accounts that can be verified, that review seems more valuable to Yelp.
  • Writers have reviewed other places. Good reviews come from people who do this sort of reviewing a lot.

With a little homework, you can make sure these are the sorts of reviews you’ll have on your site.

Getting the Best

You can’t simply write reviews for your own company and load them up on Yelp. That sort of activity is strictly banned per the site’s terms of service, and violating that agreement could get you in a lot of hot water. Similarly, you can’t specifically solicit good reviews and/or give people a script to follow when they do choose to write about you. That activity is also forbidden per the site’s rules.

But you can do a little investigating and find client contacts who might do a lot of work for you, without a whole lot of prompting.

For example, if you have happy, satisfied clients you’ve worked with on a regular basis who seem to be well-spoken or articulate, you could simply point out that you have an account on Yelp. Put a note about that on your receipts, place a Yelp sticker by the checkout desk and put a Yelp button on your business cards. When you see these clients, simply remind them that you’re active on Yelp and would love their feedback. You could say something like this: “You’ve probably noticed these Yelp logos all over the place. We’re building our reputation with that site. We’d love to hear your honest feedback there.”

You can also do a little prompting on social media. If you have fans that consistently rave about you on your page, check them out a little further. Look for their Yelp profiles, and read their other reviews. If they do good work and they compliment you online, consider incorporating Yelp into your thank you. A sentence like this might do the trick: “Thanks for the compliment! We love hearing from our clients. In fact, check out our Yelp page to see what other people are saying about us. We’d love to see you there!”

The example sentences I’ve given here contain no threats. And they also don’t tell your reviewers what to say or how to say it. But, by reaching out to clients you’ve vetted (who you know love you and who you know can write), you’ll be going a long way toward getting great Yelp reviews.

How to Work It

Once you have a cadre of good Yelp reviews, you’re bound to do better on a Google SERP. Here’s why: Yelp shows up high in search results, and Yelp pushes organizations with good reviews. If you have those reviews, you can achieve a sort of Google SERP dominance, even if you do very little Google work at all.

Try it out! And please, if I’ve missed any tips you think are particularly helpful when it comes to Yelp, share them in the comments section.


Image Credits

Featured Image: jarmoluk via Pixabay
Image #1: Gil C via Shutterstock

Jean Dion

Jean Dion

Senior Journalist at
Jean Dion is a writer, editor, avid blogger and obsessed pet owner. She's a senior journalist with, and writes frequently on the intersection of... Read Full Bio
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  • Vikrant Karande

    Jean, this is really nice read, but do you have any case study that this really worked for you?
    Or any other example.

    • Jean Dion

      A case study is outside the scope of the comments section, sadly, but thanks for the article idea. I may work up something on this in the next month or so (or maybe someone else writing for SEJ will beat me to it!).

  • Gaurav Kumar

    Thanks for sharing this valuable information, But I see that it`s not for India. as In country India is not available.

    • Jean Dion

      Sorry to hear that!

  • Paul Link

    I took the authors advice and let my clients know that a Yelp review would be greatly appreciated. After two weeks I asked each client about their review. I could not find them on the page. Only the fake and absurd appeared. On two seperate occasions, Yelp sales reps told me that they could “take care of the problem”. Customer service rep told me that their system filters out what it believes to false or misleading.? Imagine that, a system that can filter out the positive reviews. Not so!

    • Jean Dion

      I’ve heard similar complaints. Typically, the advice given by Yelp involves making sure the written reviews aren’t too glowing and/or fawning. But clearly, the system is far from perfect, it seems.

  • Andrew J T

    I have a client that is a therapist, so getting reviews poses a problem from the sensitive and private nature of her business. We have identified Yelp as one of the primary sources she gets leads from even though she only has one review so we would like to do more work on Yelp, any thoughts?

    • Jean Dion

      That’s a tough one. I would worry about the ethics of actually asking clients to write reviews (if I remember correctly, the APA ethics code specifically forbids this). At this point, I’d advise your client to resist the temptation to write up fake reviews, as that activity is forbidden and can do a lot more harm than good. But I’m hoping another reader will have a good tip for you, as far as getting more reviews organically goes. I’m a little stumped, to be honest…

  • Jill C

    As a digital marketer- I understand the power of Yelp, but in my opinion they are nothing but a strong arm company that forces small businesses to use them and pay for them or risk having BAD reviews miraculously appear. I recently had one client receive a call from YELP for advertising, he said thanks but no thanks. The next day he had a negative review posted – he did not even know he had a YELP listing.

    I am surprised to see SEJ actually recommending this route when you can type in “Yelp Scam” and see an overwhelming amount of stories related to their tactics. I would not in any way suggest using a platform that can “control” your reviews in an effort to coerce businesses into paying money.

    Just my opinion of course!

    • Jean Dion

      Interesting perspective. I’ve also heard about supposed strong-arm techniques used by Yelp, but at the moment, I have yet to see actual proof that it’s a pay-for-play site. That would be hard to prove, of course…

      I said this in the article, but it bears repeating: you’ll never have total Yelp control. That’s why it pays to get a lot of reviews that conform to the rules. That way, if some get filtered or negative ones appear, good ones are there to take the top spot.