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Success on Yelp

With Emily Washcovick

14 minutes

Build and grow your business with Yelp

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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 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, 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.

This one is all me, but it’s going to be very brief and quick. Every time we do a summit, we feel that we need to at least give a little bit of advice on how to use Yelp’s free tools. As I mentioned in the intro this morning, my role at Yelp is simply to educate business owners specifically on the free tools available to make the most of our site. I love talking about ways you can maximize your profile, and things you can do to connect with your customers and build trust in future customers without spending a dollar. So that’s what we’re going to dig into in the next 15 minutes here.

I’ve been presenting on behalf of Yelp for eight years, and I always share my email publicly, so jot that down. If you have a question later today, in a week, in a couple months, you can always reach out, and if I don’t have the right answer, I will certainly connect you with a Yelp employee who does. So do not be shy. Also, this session is recorded like all the others, so you can catch the short version after the event. We also have an elongated version, so if you need that drop me a line. We’re happy to get you all of these resources.

Today though we’re just going to dig into the very important core details that you need to complete when you claim your free profile. And when I talk about Yelp presence and why it’s important, I have to always remind us as business owners that consumers turn to online review sites, be that Yelp or any other review site, to verify information, to search for a good option in their area, and to validate maybe what they’ve been told by a friend, family, employee, colleague, anything of that nature. These metrics here really back up the fact that in 2023 reviews are things that people trust inherently.

Maybe a decade ago we might think that we needed to go to someone we knew personally to get a solid recommendation, but in today’s world people do turn to online review sites and they trust them. And when they go to review sites, they’re not just looking for reviews. I think so much of the last panel really hit on what this slide is illustrating, which is, when customers go to look at your business online they’re often looking for important information. Maybe they need your hours, or they want to set expectations for themselves about what your business is like, what’s the decor, what’s the ambiance.

All of these details are additional information that a consumer might be looking for, and if they turn to your online site and don’t see these items, they’re likely to just move on to another option. So today I’m going to walk you through those very basic and tried-and-true free resources to help you be found more. I’m confident that setting up your free profile on Yelp will take a maximum of 30 minutes. By doing that you will start to show up and appear as an option when consumers in your area are looking for what you do.

So how do you get started? Well, the first thing you’re going to do is go to That’s going to be the same site whether you’re adding your business to Yelp for the very first time or if you’re claiming an existing Yelp business page. Now, if it’s been a little while since you logged in or claimed your profile, it might take you through the claiming process again. But simply go to and get started by following those prompts to enter your business information.

Once you’re logged into your profile, the first section you’re going to want to navigate to is that basic business information section. So when you log in, you’ll see on the left-hand side a bunch of different areas. Business information is the first stopping point, and this is going to be the basics. Your business name. If you have a brick and mortar, what’s that address? Website, phone number. On Yelp you can be in up to three categories, so think about your business and the different customers you serve and what different categories you might want to be in.

For example, if I’m an Italian restaurant that also has a bar with TVs, I probably want to be listed as Italian and Sports Bar. Two really different customers, but I can serve them equally. Same if you’re a real estate agent who also offers mortgage services. Those are two different categories that you can be listed in to help your business be found by people who are looking for what you do. Attributes like that women-owned attribute, are great ways to identify yourself and help consumers who are searching with intent or looking to spend specifically with a business indicated as women-owned, Black-owned, Latinx-owned. So definitely add that information.

Hours, this is a really overlooked area on online listings for some business owners. And I think sometimes the misconception is, if I’m a by-appointment-only business, I don’t need to list my hours. On Yelp and on many online review sites, consumers search for open now or open at a specific time. So if you don’t have your hours listed on your profile, you simply will not appear in those search results. You want to make sure to list hours that you’re typically running your business or operating, and then select that by-appointment-only button if it is relevant to your business.

Another tip and trick is set special hours when you have holidays coming up, for example, or maybe things are shifting seasonally for you. You can go into the account for any day in the future, set those special hours, and when that week arrives, your profile will display those different hours and will indicate that they are abnormal or special hours for that week. You can also temporarily close your business page if you’re going in for remodeling or anything like that that you might temporarily be closed. You can mark that page as closed and help avoid consumers showing up at your business and being frustrated that you’re not there to serve them.

The Additional Information section is often underutilized, and this is a place where you can tell people who you are and what you do. So the Specialties, History, and Meet the Owner or Manager sections are three separate sections. They do have a keyword limit. So think to yourself that three to five sentence description of who you are and what you do. You might already have this written on your website or on your social media. You don’t necessarily need to start from scratch. Think about that information that is already true of who you are and who your business is, and then put that in here.

Something you want to be aware of is keywords and phrases included in these sections will help you appear in search results. Let’s give another restaurant example because it’s super easy to relate to your own industry. If I am someone going to Yelp searching for a Mexican restaurant and my boyfriend is going to Yelp and searching for fish tacos, we’re going to see relatively similar lists of options. But the search for fish tacos is going to highlight businesses that have that mentioned on their page, whether that’s in Reviews, Photo Captions, or About the Business section. So think about what your fish taco is. What’s that special item? Maybe it’s a brand that you carry or an offering you provide. Put that in your About section and make sure people know that it’s something you do.

Photos are also a huge way to build consumer trust. A lot of times consumers turn to online sites because they want to know what the business is going to look like from the outside, when they get inside. They want to know what to expect and what they might need to be prepared for before they come to your business. So even if consumers have uploaded photos to your business page, you should still set a goal to upload photos as the business as well. Photos of your team. If you have a brick and mortar show the outside, show the inside.

If you’re a service provider, show us those services or offerings. You know, sometimes my home providers tell me, “Emily, I don’t have incredible photos like a restaurant does of their menu items.” But if I’m looking for a plumber or a roofer, I want to see photos of those services. So use that mobile device that you all have with so many images already of your business, get them online and make sure to caption them so people know what they’re looking at and what they’re actually going to see when they work with you.

In these last two minutes here as I wrap up I always want to cover reviews. We have had some incredible advice from panelists today about handling online reviews, reading them, and using them to develop themselves. But anytime I talk about reviews I have my business owners first ask themselves, “Do I embrace feedback, and do I embrace feedback differently if someone comes directly to me versus turns online?” A lot of business owners tell me, “Emily, people who go online, they’re so negative. They’re hiding behind the keyboard, and they just have critical things to say.” I understand that it can feel that way. But on Yelp, we have more 5-star reviews than 1, 2, and 3-star reviews combined.

So that fear of the criticism, the fear of getting critical feedback, prevents so many businesses from all the incredible feedback they’re getting. And also maybe an opportunity or an insight to hear what someone thinks who’s actually spent money with your business. So try to get yourself over that hump of fear and to the place where you have a plan for engaging. If you need a little motivation for why you should respond, this new survey data really backs up everything I’ve been saying on behalf of Yelp for years now. And that is, by responding you are building trust and credibility with future consumers. You’re not even necessarily responding to win that potential reviewer over.

You’re responding to reflect your customer service practices to all future consumers. And 87% of respondents to our survey said they’re willing to look past a critical review if a business owner responds and addresses those concerns. So have a plan in place to respond to those reviews. And if you need help with where to start, I can break it down for you really easily. Let’s start with the positives, since we get more of those, and by not responding to positives, you’re missing a huge opportunity. I believe you should respond to all of your positive reviews with a public comment, but the distinction on this slide is really about volume.

In that second column where we say you have nothing to add for a positive review, what I really mean is, if you can’t write a customized sentence or two to thank that reviewer specifically for what they wrote, then maybe you use a direct message so you don’t look canned and repetitive on the back end of your profile. Lastly, for our critical reviews, I think it’s important to respond to all of them with a public comment and not get into a back-and-forth dialogue with the reviewer, but use that comment as a reflection of who you are. So do it quickly, thank the reviewer for their feedback, and then take the conversation offline. Send them a direct message, or give them a way to get in touch with you so that you can problem solve behind the scenes.

That second column there is simply if there are inaccuracies in a review that will impact future customers. That’s the only time you want to get into those nitty-gritty details in that public response. And lastly, remember that consumers are smart. They can spot outliers, and sometimes when you get one of those rants or raves, it’s better to just leave it rather than stir the fire. But I will say that public comment is to reflect who you are as a business, and to show customers that if they have concerns they can bring them to you directly. The last point that I always want to make here is that you want to let your online reputation happen naturally.

You don’t want to be asking for reviews or soliciting them. But let customers know you pay attention to your online reviews. Tell them to check you out on Yelp, or tell them to share their experience with your business online. What you don’t want to do is solicit them specifically for Yelp, or do something like have an iPad in your business. That just gives a yucky feeling between you and the customer, and you’d much rather that happen naturally. You also want to avoid writing competitor reviews or trying to bolster your own reputation by writing yourself 5-star reviews. Let that great experience shine through when your customers share their firsthand experience at your business.

Just a fun little checklist for you here. The first step is claiming, And then make sure you fill out all of those sections to complete your profile. Lastly, be confident to respond to your reviews. And remember that just by responding you build trust in future consumers. We do have a business owner’s app. It is blue, as opposed to the red Yelp app that you probably search for businesses on. It’s free to download, and it’s a great way to upload photos to your page, modify your hours, or respond to your reviewers on the go.

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