The Official Yelp Manipulation, *cough, cough* I mean, Yelp Optimization Guide
I am not here to debate about if I love Yelp or if I agree with their business practices. Depending on what niche you are in or your clients, I can say that Yelp can be very lucrative for you and for them. We are talking about anywhere from $500/m to $2500/m packages.
How do I know this?
Ranking Yelp business pages is like ranking sites in Google back in 1990. In fact, I was able to grow 20 Yelp properties with this method that brings in about $16,000.00 each month. It's quite lucrative once you master whaat I'm about to show you.
In this Yelp Optimization guide, I am going to leave no stone unturned and show you exactly how I ranked my clients' and my lead gens' Yelp business pages:
Poor boulder... anyways, if you are used to ranking sites in Google, then you are in for a real treat with Yelp!
My original goal was to rank the Yelp Business page first and then rank a site in Google for each property but Yelp was lucrative enough I decided to stop with Yelp. Also, it is FAST to rank properties within Yelp compared to Google.
I also offered Yelp Optimization services and charged $500/month for it and believe it or not made a lot of businesses very happy! The uses are UNLIMITED for Yelp Manipulation/Optimization, however you like to say it!
Depending on how big the business is, of course, you can charge way more. Your goals just may be different! (PS you could take every one of your SEO clients and offer them this Yelp Optimization package today).
Without further chit chat, here is everything I do to rank my Yelp properties in this step by step Yelp Optimization Guide.
How I Got Started In The Evil World of Yelp!
I have never been interested in ranking Yelp until one day my client approached me and said that they needed to rank well in Yelp. I explained I had never really tried it before other than the typical page setup but they didn’t really care.
I then set out to discover everything I could about Yelp and how to push a business page up in the Yelp platform.
Yelp Optimization 101
Step 1: Sign Up For a Business Page Account
If you are just starting out, you will need to sign up for a business page account here or claim an account that already exists:
Don’t worry, signing up for an account is much easier than you think!
Just enter the Zip code of your business and Business Name.
Tip: Before you name your business, I suggest using one of your main categories as part of your business name. This is a big ranking signal in Yelp.
For instance, if I was setting up a concrete business, I would use a name like Marie’s Concrete Contractors. Concrete contractor is a major category within Yelp and we want to take advantage of naming the business in a way that will help. To find the major categories for your business, follow the instructions below.
Step 2: Discovering the Major Categories
There are two places you want to look for major categories in Yelp before you name your business. Yelp has categories on the back-end that companies will use to select their category of services.
You can easily see the categories that other companies have already selected. So, for instance, if I were looking for Concrete Contractors, I would do the following:
Take notice of the back-end categories when trying to come up with your name. Some of the categories won’t fit your business needs and that is okay; you can just toss out that particular category.
By looking at a few searches, I would pick Concrete to go in my business name for sure. But let’s look even further…. The front end of Yelp tells us what categories to pick that bring traffic.
You want to do the searches over and over and pick up all of the auto-suggested keywords for your business. Concrete contractor is at the top of the auto suggest and would be the easiest for the end-user to select.
I would make sure “Concrete Contractor” or “Concrete Contractors” was part of my business name for sure. You will rinse and repeat this process for every single service you provide. The name of your business if your starting from scratch is very important because having a major category in your name is a very strong ranking signal within Yelp.
*Pro Tip: The term “Concrete” is also on the front end of the Yelp suggestions and the Yelp team will tell you it gets a lot of traffic but the actual term brings in very little to no leads. The most specific you are with your auto-suggestion words, the better the leads.
You will also need to click on each of the auto-suggested terms and then grab the next batch of auto-suggested words. You will want to take note of all of the individual auto-suggested words as these not only help you name your business but they also become your keyword sets.
Rinse and repeat until you have clicked on all of the auto-suggested terms and then grabbed all of the suggested terms under each.
Step 3: Creating a Listing
Now, we have decided to name our business: Marie’s Concrete Contractors and we are ready to move onto the next phase of creating a listing. I focused on Concrete Contractor(s) because that is the top term I am going after to rank in Yelp. You will want to pick the top term that best suits your company.
Here you want to add at least one Category (don’t worry you can always add much more later). Add your business phone, Web address and email. Be sure to use an email account that you receive mail from because they will send you an email so you can verify your account.
Notice that I did not add a business address. If you own a service business, it is much easier if you just don’t add the address and in fact, Yelp advises you to not add an address if customers do not visit you at your place of business.
Web address is a loose term and don’t worry you don’t even need a full website. You are able to use a Facebook Business page or use a “free” website service to throw up one page real fast.
The only thing that must be on this web page or Facebook page is your Business Name and Phone number that matches what you entered in this step.
You can leave the Website blank or add it in here if you have a main domain. If you want to use Facebook, social media and so on to register your account you can leave this blank.
Step 4: Verifying Your Account
Once you have the business information entered and you click on “Add Business”, you can move onto the next step of verifying an account that will control the Yelp Business Page. I found it much easier to use a new Yelp account.
After you have registered your Yelp account, you want to wait for your email to verify your account. Once you receive the email, just follow the instructions.
Now, this is where it can get a little tricky if you’re not careful. When you are trying to verify your Yelp account it may not ring to your phone. Most of the time I think Yelp does this on purpose so that you have to verify with a representative.
But to get to the next step, you must trigger the phone verification over and over until the Yelp system will contact you for help. Nine times out of ten, my phone didn’t ring with the phone verification. However, each time I did get a phone call from Yelp, the next day and they were calling to “help” me verify my account.
Now they will try to up-sell you advertising at this point but you can just say no and they will eventually move on. Since I work with new businesses all the time, I set it up so that the same Yelp representative would call me once a week and he would help me verify each of the businesses I had set up that week.
If you kill them with kindness, they can help you get through the process much easier. There isn’t really a way to get around needing help from a representative to make the listing go live if the phone doesn’t ring during phone verification.
To help with your verification purposes, you can act like you help new businesses verify their listings all the time or you can let them know you own the business. Either way, you have to opt out of their advertising and kill them with kindness. If you can’t control your emotions, you won’t get your listings verified. :O
Step 5: On Page Yelp Optimization
The following will help you boost your rankings in the Yelp platform. Yelp doesn’t respond to backlinks so here is where you can use your on-page skills! You see, I always find ways to make on-page boost rankings! 😊
Now that we have a live Yelp listing, we will want to login and begin to fill out all of the information about our business. But before you get started grab the list of keywords that you created earlier in the process, the front and back-end categories you gathered in the steps above.
Basically, you want to fill out every piece of information and you want to sprinkle your keywords through out the process. Be sure to select all of the categories that apply and fill out everything with your information in every place that Yelp allows.
This means your company info, your company bio, every place that allows text you are going to add text as if you were ranking a website! When you talk about your business you want to add in your keywords (categories and cities) but not super spammy. You don’t want to repeat your keywords over and over like your spamming the system but you can talk about your services and drop your keywords in and mention the cities that you service and you can go heavier with keywords than we do with Google!
Yelp has a specific area for you to list all of the cities that you service but you also want to mention the cities in your content. If you use every square inch for your content you will be able to sprinkle in your main keywords and your main cities. Just pretend this is a website and your trying to rank in Google but back in the day. You want to use every item allowed in the "free" service.
Here is an example of a company that filled out the Specialties section under Business Information in Yelp:
They did a pretty good job but they diluted it a bit when they begin to talk about every place, they have provided the services such as schools, HOA’s and so on. You want to be sure you have enough room to really hammer in your services and cities and mention them more than once in a skillful way.
Remember I said to use every area that Yelp allows so this also applies to the Meet the Business Owner section. You will want to upload some images but I found they created no ranking benefit. But you want the end-user to call you so upload what is needed for the desired results.
Now your business profile should be 100% completed and you have used your on-page skills to ensure you will rank for your desired keywords. You will end up some where in the mix hopefully about page 2 or page 1. I have even ended lower and still made it to the top with out any issues.
Step 6: Add Reviews To Your Listing
From here on out, the only way to continue to raise rankings is the dreaded reviews. You will want to add reviews to your listing that mentions your keywords and cities services. In fact, you want to treat your reviews as if they were content you would add onto a site to boost your site for particular keywords.
For instance, you can have a customer leave a review that specifically states the company name (it has a keyword in the name), services provided and the city they live in. Also, reviews that come from old Yelp accounts are more likely to stick and those types of accounts would have already left a ton of reviews. The accounts that really stick are the Yelp Elite.
You can gain “real” reviews or you can gain reviews by joining Yelp Review groups or asking family and friends. Each review will raise your rankings within the platform for the term you are targeting. I would focus on one to two terms (categories) and add in the city the service was performed in.
Now, the part that sucks is that Yelp filters out a ton of reviews. So, as you add reviews you will lose some, but that is the name of the game. You don’t always get to keep every single review and try not to focus on what is being filtered but focus on getting more reviews.
If you join a Yelp review group, you do need to be cautious.
There are Yelp vigilantes in every group that will make it their main goal to follow you around and make sure you are some how deleted from the Yelp platform. The good news is…. you will have individual accounts deleted but not your business listing.
Just be careful and realize if you are looking to score reviews you could gain problems (illegal) at the same time. Reviews are a major ranking signal within the Yelp platform.
So, to re-cap you want to make sure one of your main keywords (category) is in the title of your business. Be sure to fill out every inch that Yelp gives you in a free account to list your keywords and cities that you service. Make sure you have filled out the business info section 100% and you will need to gain reviews with your keywords and cities mentioned.
While some people will cry that their reviews will be filtered or Yelp isn’t fair let’s be honest here, we are ranking a property and yes shit happens. I can assure you that ranking a property within Yelp is faster and easier than Google is today so no crying in SEO.
Every single niche isn’t a great match for Yelp but home services and a few other categories are super-hot in Yelp and will provide a lot of leads. You just have to try it and when you do find a really good niche just expand across as man y cities as you can, rinse and repeat.
Examples of Yelp Listing Optimization
Here is a Yelp listing 2 weeks into optimization:
The dates right under the red arrow are showing no leads at all. Before optimization, they were not collecting any leads from Yelp. With in a few weeks into the process we begin to see leads trickle in. BTW, not all leads are real leads so you have to take the number of leads with a grain of salt.
And here is the same property after Yelp Optimization. This particular listing took about 4 weeks to get in the maximum amount of leads. Also, this particular property had already been set up in Yelp. I was able to login and then “optimize” like I mentioned above.
So, you can start the process with a new Yelp listing or an old one and still get beautiful results. For this particular account I was not able to select a main category for their keyword but I was still able to the optimization tips to bring in the leads.
The company realistically collected about 20ish leads in that time frame. Also, notice the year.
I have been using the same optimization techniques since that date. The exact same steps still rank a property in Yelp. If you really want to be bad ass take this another step and rank the Yelp property in Google. I still plan to do that myself and will make a case study out of it as soon as time permits!
My point with all of this is to never listen to the nay-sayers and find things out for yourself. If I had listened to the majority of people I never would have attempted to rank inside the Yelp platform. Many people say how it doesn't lead to leads or how all of the leads from Yelp are cheap and for me that isn't the deal at all. You can easily find a service that does very well in Yelp and then scale it!