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Success on Yelp

With Emily Washcovick

18 minutes

Build and grow your business with Yelp

Verify my free listing

Your free business listing on Yelp allows you to communicate with consumers who are searching for your products or services in your area. Taking advantage of the 20+ free Yelp features will help you stand out from the competition, giving you the best chance to secure the sale. Learn from Yelp’s Small Business Expert Emily Washcovick on how to implement the most important tools—helping you optimize your listing and manage your online reputation.

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Emily Washcovick Small Business Expert at Yelp

As Yelp’s Small Business Expert, Emily is meticulously focused on helping local business owners succeed and grow. Her expertise lies in customer engagement, reputation management, and all things digital marketing. Through speaking engagements and thought leadership, Emily shares industry insights that entrepreneurs in any business category can leverage for the growth and well-being of their businesses. She is also the host of Behind the Review, a podcast from Yelp and Entrepreneur Media, where each episode features conversations with a business owner and a reviewer about the story and lessons behind their interactions.

Emily Washcovick: What I’m going to talk about today is how to set up and optimize your free Yelp profile. What’s that 20 minutes that you need to invest to get your page ready to go, so that other people can start validating you? A lot of the advice I’m going to get into in these next few slides can be applied to all of your online listings or platforms. So, I’ll talk a little bit about what information you want to make sure you include, and then ways you can get your customers to engage with you and do that validation of who you are and what you do. I’m really excited to dig in and talk about all that good stuff today.

I did want to give a chance for you all to jot down my email as well. I’m Yelp’s small business expert. I’ve been with the company since 2014. And it’s my job to educate business owners on the free tools available to make the most of their presence on our site. I’m constantly educating about how to set up your page, respond to reviews, and even just do digital marketing and customer engagement online.

I’ve been sharing my email on behalf of the company for that entire time, so I always tell people, “You will not be a stranger in my inbox, whether it’s today, a week from now, or even in a couple of months. I’d be happy to answer your question. Or if I’m not the right point of contact, I would love to get you in touch with someone who is.” I just have to have a huge round of applause for all the speakers we’ve had so far today. We still have one more session after my brief presentation here, but, man, I have been blown away and I have the privilege to have met many of these business owners myself, often through the work with my podcast, Behind the Review, which is in partnership with Entrepreneur magazine.

Each week we feature conversations with business owners, as well as someone who wrote them a Yelp review. Next week’s episode actually features Miguel Pittman and his wife Sandra, and Miguel sat on our community building panel earlier today. Scan that QR code, it’ll take you to your preferred podcast platform, and if you like or subscribe to the show, you’ll get that alert next Thursday when Miguel’s episode goes live.

I also wanted to give a quick shout-out for our giveaway today, because Mignon Francois has also been on my podcast, and I’m currently reading her book that we’re giving away, Made from Scratch. I’m about halfway through and I’ve been loving it so far. So, head to the Yelp for Business Instagram. You’ll see the giveaway post with Mignon’s face on it. You’ll want to follow Yelp for Business, follow Mignon Francois, which is tagged in the giveaway post, and then comment and tag your business bestie, so that you can receive a copy of that book. We’re giving away 15 copies, so make sure you submit by end of day, today.

All right, let’s dig into the juice of what we’re going to talk about today here. The first thing I wanted to do is just set the stage a little bit for everyone on the call to remember the importance of online reviews for your business. And not necessarily just Yelp, we’re talking about reviews in general. Consumers look to online reviews because they want to get information, maybe even to validate a recommendation or referral that they got from friends. These days people trust those review sites, and even more so, they trust review sites with written text, which is where Yelp really comes into play.

Many consumers begin their search on Yelp when they look for a business, but some just begin on the internet, and they come to those review sites to get that further information. I want you all, as business owners, to know that while the reviews are important and they’re definitely an element of what your online presence looks like, they’re just one element, and you as the business owner can do so many things to control your online listing and the business information on there, which is oftentimes what people are searching for.

They want to see the hours, they want photos of the business to get a sense of who you are and what you provide, and maybe they want to get more information about other customers’ experiences. For you, as a business owner, it’s really important to make sure that you claim your free profile and all of your listings for online review sites, and you complete that profile. Because it’s great for customers to share their experiences, but we want you, as the business, to really fill out all of that basic information that just helps you be discovered, and helps people understand who you are and what you do.

To get this whole process started, you’re going to go to This is being recorded so you can watch it back. But also if you want to open that tab up right now, I’m going to go pretty slow in these next 10 minutes and walk you through the most important sections. Again, go to You can also scan that QR code, or you can download the Yelp for Business Owners app, which is blue, instead of the red app you probably already have on your phone to search for businesses.

Once you are logged into that business user account, we want to go first to the business information tab. This is your basic business information. We want to make sure the name is formatted correctly. If you have a brick and mortar, what’s the address? And if you don’t have a brick and mortar, what is your city or zip code and the service area that you’re willing to travel and serve your customers in? You want to add a phone number as well as a website if you have that. And then lastly, you want to make sure you’re in up to three categories. The way I want you to think of categories is these are the umbrella topics, the very high level topic that describes what you do, and you are going to need to fill in the more detailed information about your business. You want to make sure that if you serve different kinds of customers through different service offerings, that you incorporate those in your categories.

Let me give you a quick example. If you’re an Italian restaurant that also has a bar with TVs, you would want to be listed under Italian cuisine and sports bar. Those are two different customers, but your business can serve them both. Another great example would be if you’re a real estate agent, but you also offer mortgage services. Not every real estate agent does that. So, you would want to indicate that you provide both of those category services.

Then you also want to fill out your attributes. On Yelp in particular, we have an attribute that I’ll show you the steps for in a moment to actually indicate that you are Black-owned, but you also can indicate things like if you are been in business for a certain number of years, if you’re open 24 hours a day, there’s different attributes that you can highlight that will help you stand out as well.

The next section is your hours, and hours are extremely important, even for those business owners that maybe operate by appointment only. You still want to indicate those general hours on your Yelp page that you would service a customer, and then indicate by appointment only in that attribute section. The reason you want to make sure you always have hours is because some users search for open now, or open at a specific time, and if you don’t have your hours filled out, you simply will not appear in those search results.

The other thing that’s important to note is on Yelp, you can set temporary or special hours as far in the future as you’d like. So, if you know that on Thanksgiving or Christmas you’re always going to have holiday hours, you can put that in the system right now and when that week arrives, your Yelp page will update and reflect those special hours. It will also indicate that these are not your normal hours, which can help customers if they want to visit you in the future and see what those traditional hours are.

We also have the additional information section, and this is one of the most underutilized sections of many Yelp pages. You have three components to it. There’s specialties, history, and meet the owner or manager. You want to fill these sections out to incorporate keywords or phrases that talk about what you do. For example, in Sandra’s Next Generation, the soul food restaurant that we featured earlier in one of our panels, they have specialties on their menu, everything from their unique soul rolls, to their soul empanadas. These are things that they offer that help them stand out and they want to incorporate those into their specialty section.

The thing I always tell people is everything you add to this section creates a bigger picture of who you are beyond just what category you select. So, really use it to tell that story. Remember, you probably already have this information somewhere for your business. You don’t need to start fresh when you set up your Yelp page, you can grab the words and the copy from that about section on your website, for example, or maybe in social media captions that you’ve already posted. These sections can be filled out once and then they can be left unless anything changes with your business. So, this is not something you need to update daily or weekly or monthly. It’s going to be that one-time update to help you be found most by people searching on Yelp.

Photos are also a huge element to the Yelp profile, and while, yes, your customers can upload their own photos, I always encourage that businesses upload a minimum of 10 photos, and they caption those photos to show us what they’re actually talking about, and what their business is about. If you’re trying to think to yourself, “I don’t even know what 10 photos I would use,” think of it this way. Show photos of your team. If you have a brick and mortar, show what that exterior and interior looks like. But also show what you sell and what you offer.

So, if you’re a home services business, show those team members and the vehicles that they drive. Maybe show their uniforms or them performing a service so that customers know what to expect when your business shows up on site. These images are just to set expectations and give your customers a sense of who you are before they connect with you offline. It’s also very important to know that the captions and keywords you use in those captions can help you appear in search results as well. If you have certain menu items or you carry certain brands, that is a great thing to incorporate in your photo captions.

Now, let’s get into the reviews. I’m going to do a little quick-and-dirty review section here, but I think it’s really important that we first pause and just ask ourselves this question, “Do we embrace customer feedback?” I think many businesses would say, “Of course, but maybe that our preference is to get that feedback in person, and we feel frustrated when people turn online to share that. It feels like we really don’t have a say when that happens.” But I want you to shift your perspective a little bit, and I want you to think of those online reviews and feedback the same way you would think as the customer coming to provide feedback in person.

Really, the way that I try to shift this mindset first is to dispel the biggest myth there is about online reviews. Many business owners tell me, “Emily, I just let my Yelp page sit there because it’s a lot of people going to complain. People turn online when they want to say something negative.” Well, sometimes that is the case. But on Yelp, we have more five-star reviews than one, two, and three-star reviews combined. That’s because our users overwhelmingly want to share places that they love.

So, while it sometimes hurts when you get that critical feedback, if we’re avoiding Yelp or online review sites in general, we’re really missing out on much more positive feedback that could be a way to deepen relationships with happy customers. And we’re also potentially losing out on great content and information from some of those critical reviews. So, I want you to really shift that mindset, and instead of being afraid about the critical, we’re going to have a plan in place for managing them when they pop up, and we’re going to focus on all of the great positive content we’re getting, and how we can leverage that to better our business.

We did a new survey at the end of last year and, honestly, these statistics stand out to me because I’ve been doing this for many years and I’ve always known and believed this to be true, but it’s great to see it from an actual user sharing what they believe. This bottom statistic is the one that I love the most. 87% of customers are more likely to look past a critical review if they see the business owner has responded and actually addressed the concern. What this stat means to me is critical reviews don’t have a negative impact on your business unless you just leave them unattended to. So, I want you to think of that response not as winning that customer over, but by reflecting your customer service practices in general to all future consumers. So, when you think of online reviews and your response strategy, think of it as the way you reflect customer service practices.

I’m going to break down these review responses and what I would recommend, and then we’re going to wrap things up and hand it to our final panel. So, stick with me here for just a few more minutes as I break down suggestions for the different types of reviews. We’re going to start with positive, because that is in fact what you’re dealing with more often. A lot of times people don’t respond to the positive reviews, and that’s a huge missed opportunity. When you have a customer that mentioned something great, you want to reinforce that, thank them for sharing their experience, and also reemphasize the items that they shared that you want other customers to know about. So, use that public comment to thank them and reemphasize something they mentioned.

If you feel like you have too much review content and you can’t write a unique response to different people, then you can use direct messages. It’s a great way to copy and paste the same thank you message to multiple reviewers. We also have an automated thank button that you can just hit. It looks like two hands shaking and that’ll send an automated thanks to a positive reviewer. Remember, these reviews can be ways that you can reinforce for your team what they’re doing really well.

Now, critical reviews, when you get these, we want to respond to these as well, and we want to think of them as a reflection of customer service. So, we’re not trying to get into a back-and-forth argument or dialogue with the reviewer about everything they mentioned. We’re just going to publicly address that we heard their concerns. So, we’re going to first thank them for leaving the review, address one of the items that they mentioned, and then take the conversation offline either by providing a way to get in touch or sending them a direct message to follow up. If there are inaccuracies in the review, I only want you to correct them if they impact future consumers. There’s no point in getting into a dialogue with people when they’re already mentioning something that will not impact future consumers. We just want to address, acknowledge, and then move on.

The last section here for critical reviews is rants or raves. With these folks, we might just leave them be. The best tip is to click on the user’s name and you’ll get a full breakdown of their activity on Yelp. So, you can actually see if they often skew negative. Sometimes those are ones to just let go and other customers will see that they’re negative as well.

At the end of the day, the biggest thing I want you to know about Yelp is you want it to happen organically. You want to set up your listing and then let people know. They can check you out on Yelp or share their experiences on any of your review platforms. But don’t specifically ask for or solicit those Yelp reviews. This slide is great to just remind you of some of those things you want to avoid. The biggest one is just let that reputation happen. Let your customers share their own experiences and don’t worry too much about you being the one to make that happen.

If you focus on getting your profile completed, and you’re showing up digitally the same way you are in person, you will see those reviews follow naturally. Really, it starts by letting people know who you are and then allowing them to join that dialogue as well. If you don’t already have our Business Owners app, I highly encourage you to download that. It’s a great way to respond and stay in touch with customers on the go.

Lastly, one more shout-out for Behind the Review. If you were on earlier for the branding panel, you probably heard Chris Goode, owner and founder of Ruby Jeans. He was one of my original interviews at the start of the show almost three years ago now. And if you subscribe, you will also get an alert tomorrow when our episode featuring Sandra’s Next Generation drops. And they were with us earlier today as well.

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