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Yelp SEO: How to Optimize Your Listings & Rank Higher

To increase the likelihood that a customer finds your local business, start optimizing your Yelp listing. Here are some tips to help you get started.

Yelp SEO

One of the reasons Yelp works so well is because it doesn’t appear to be a search engine on the surface. It seems completely controlled by reviews, right?

While this is definitely true, if you see ads on a page and there is a search function available, you can bet that the website has an algorithm to help it rank different pages, and that algorithm isn’t just about which businesses have the most reviews (go ahead and take a look – it’s hard to find a rhyme to their rhythm of ranking).

This is where being strategic in the way you optimize your Yelp page comes in handy.

The Basics of Yelp Optimization

For fun, Google “how does Yelp’s search algorithm work.” The latest answer to that question was in 2013.

In other words, much of what we know works comes from experiments and trying different things within the platform.

However, there are a few basics that we know are important when it comes to ranking:

1. Fill out All of Your Information

It should go without saying, but the more information you include on your Yelp listing, the better optimized that listing is for readers; thus, making your listing superior to those not fully completed.

Sound familiar yet? Yep, it’s just like Google. Reader experience matters.

2. Add Photos

Photos also make for a better page, so it seems that precedence is given to pages that include lots of photos.

This includes both photos that you have uploaded as well as photos that reviewers have uploaded, so encourage those posts!

3. Respond to Reviews

Your page needs to remain fresh. Responding to reviews is a great way to show Yelp and their readers that your page is active.

If that isn’t enough, it’s just good business to understand your customers and respond to their thoughts, good or bad.

If you’re really new to Yelp, you’ll first need to claim your business.

Learn more about how to claim your business or start a Yelp page from scratch here.

Taking Yelp SEO to the Next Level

Once you’ve got the basics down and a few great reviews under your belt, go after your competition and take things up a notch!

Here are a few different ways you can start to really be strategic in your Yelp SEO efforts:

4. Optimize for Keywords

Similarly to any other search engine out there, you want to write for readers and not for bots. This means no keyword stuffing or unnatural writing.

However, it is important to take the content that you put on your page seriously, particularly your business description.

You don’t have as much content to work with as say, a blog post, so make sure that you are truly getting across the information that you want to be known for on Yelp.

Think of a few key phrases that you would want to pop-up for when people search, and then make sure your content accurately reflects those keywords.

Also, consider local Yelp SEO here and utilize those terms in your writing.

5. Consider Your Yelp Categories Carefully

One of the biggest mistakes we see clients make is that they want to include themselves in as many categories as possible because it could maybe-in-a-roundabout-way-sometime-in-the-future related to them.

This is bad news. Irrelevant categories can actually hurt your rankings!

You are allowed to select three categories, but that doesn’t mean you have to select three.

6. Earn Backlinks & Engagement for Your Yelp Page

Again just like any other search engine, backlinks to your page help show the algorithm that you are a hot commodity.

This probably isn’t nearly as important as with a Google or Bing, but backlinks bring traffic to Yelp (which Yelp likes), and backlinks show authority, plain and simple.

A few ways to encourage backlinks include:

Encourage Check-Ins

Yelp offers check-ins so that people can remember where they’ve been, earn rewards, and yes, get their friends to use Yelp as well.

As a business, you can encourage people to visit your business and then check-in by offering special promotions. They check in, they get the promotion, and everyone wins. You can learn more here.

Put a Linkable Yelp Badge on Your Website

If you want reviews, make sure people know that you’re on Yelp! This badge is a great way to show legitimacy so it’s a must-have if you care about Yelp SEO.

Put Your Yelp Link in an Email Signature

This is just another great way to constantly remind people to check you out on Yelp.

Ask for Reviews in a Drip Campaign

My personal favorite is to ask people to check out your Yelp reviews in an early-stage email (again, showing that you’re legitimate), and then asking people to review your business after they have purchased.

This doesn’t make sense for all businesses, but it’s just another way to get your page in front of people, hopefuly leading to a link and/or higher traffic that looks good in the eyes of the Yelp algorithm.

7. Keep Updating Your Listing

This is a tip that is constantly forgotten. After you are happy with the way your listing looks, you have to keep it updated.

This means responding to reviews, adding photos, improving your content, and offering check-ins for as long as you are active and trying to rank on Yelp.

This isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it platform, so it’s important to stay up to date and roll with the changes the platform makes.


Yelp SEO doesn’t have to be difficult.

In fact, I would argue that optimizing your Yelp page is one of the easier search engines to tackle, so think of Yelp as low-hanging fruit and get your page to the top.

Happy optimizing!

More Resources:

Image Credits

Featured Image:

VIP CONTRIBUTOR Adam Heitzman Managing Partner at HigherVisibility

Adam Heitzman is a co-founder and managing partner at HigherVisibility, a nationally recognized SEO firm. Having been a marketing executive ...

Yelp SEO: How to Optimize Your Listings & Rank Higher

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