Yelp SEO Ranking Factors and Profile Optimization Guide

By June 24, 2019May 29th, 2020SEO, Infographics

This article answers two questions.

  1. What are the major SEO Ranking Factors of Yelp?
  2. How do I optimize my Yelp Profile for maximum visibility?

Keep reading if you want to:

  1. Rank number 1 on Yelp’s internal search engine.
  2. Rank your Yelp profile on Google, Bing and other search engines.
  3. If you want to know how to get on Yelp top 10.

Let’s get started!

Yelp ranking factors

Question 1:

What are the major Ranking Factors of Yelp?


Existence of Reviews

Having some customer reviews is essential for your business to be seen on Yelp. If your company doesn’t have any reviews for it yet, it won’t be rated well unless you are in a very small region or you don’t have a lot of competition in your business category.

Keyword Relevance of Reviews

When a person does a review for your business, the language they use is important. If they mention your products or location or make direct comments about your services it will have a bigger impact on your rating.

Business Categories

Having the correct category listed for your company can be the difference between being found and never being seen. If you run a restaurant but its listed under factories you won’t be found.

Name of the Business

If you are creating a new business, your company’s name can mean a lot on Yelp. If your company has the city name or keywords that depict the service you offer, this can help your rankings online.

Quantity and Quality of Reviews

Both the quality and quantity of your reviews will have a positive impact on your rankings. While high-quality reviews will raise your 1 to 5 ranking within their system, the number of reviews will have a greater impact on your actual page ranking.

Reviews by “Elite” Members

Reviews by Elite members have a bigger impact than normal customer reviews for your business’ ratings.

Check-Ins Via Smart Phone

Having members check-in and say they were at your business is a great way to quickly raise your ratings and one of the easiest. It doesn’t require the customer to give a review, but just say they were there.

Content Freshness

Maintaining current, relevant, and fresh content is an important part of keeping good rankings on Yelp. It doesn’t require a lot of work, but it does need to be done regularly to keep your page’s content fresh. Update each written section, and include frequent photo and video uploads with carefully crafted descriptions.

And here is the updated version of the Infographic, version 2. If you still want to see the old Infographic, please click here.

If you wish to use the Infographic on your website/blog please credit us with a link back.

Yelp SEO ranking factors Infographic

Question 2:

How do I optimize my Yelp Profile for maximum visibility?

Now that we have studied and reviewed the ranking factors, let us start optimizing our profile page step-by-step. This guide will help you rank your profile on Yelp’s internal search engine and also Google and other major search engines.

First, let’s start with all the free tools offered in your dashboard area.

On-page Optimization (Free Tools)

1. Stake Your Claim

First off if you haven’t claimed your business yet, it is vital that you do that now. Without doing this you have no control over your profile, and someone could maliciously claim the page and do harm to your business’ reputation.

2. Update Your Business Information

After claiming your business, you should edit your profile and provide potential customers the most up to date information about your business.

To do so, navigate to your profile’s Business Information tab, click on edit right next to Basic Information and fill out the form.

Yelp SEO basic Information

The more information you provide the better chances of ranking you will have. This section allows for a primary website address along with a secondary link (Service Web Address), which directs users directly to your website’s menu or services page.

Please Note: Depending on the business category, some may not see the Service Web Address option.

There is also a section of checkboxes that allows you to indicate additional services offered such as free WiFi, Parking, and more…

additional information

Pro Tip: If your business name and the city in which your business resides are the same, your search returns will increase exponentially.

For example: If your business is in Charlotte, NC and the name of your business is Charlotte Dog Walkers, it will return more frequently in searches for Charlotte than if the name was only Dog Walkers.

This section also includes Service Areas. List out the primary areas you wish to reach. Using city names creates additional location keywords for your search return. There are six slots to fill out, name all the cities you want to target. The areas listed will create a grid-map customers see under Service Areas.

Please Note: Again, depending on the category you have selected, you might not see the Service Areas option.

Yelp service areas

3. Categories & Services

This is the most important section to include when filling out your business information; it is the core of Yelp’s organizational structure. A directory cannot properly function without categories. Select the category most appropriate for your business.

Having the correct category listed for your company can be the difference between being found and never being seen. Click To Tweet

4. Update Business Hours

Set the hours your business is open. This step is very important, as this is the information Google and other search engines check when representing your business’ working hours. Be sure to include special hours as well, if applicable.

5. Specialties

This section is paramount as it is the primary place to fully explain your services and separate your business from local competitors. The content in this section needs to be well written, filled with keywords reflecting the benefits you offer, your specialties, discounts, locations, and accurate descriptions of your products and services.

This section is for the customers as much as it is for the search engines. As the section title suggests, include any special services and other information that provides your customers with the information they want and need to choose your business.

When writing this content, remember your customers first! Think of how you like to research a business before you engage, for example, if you want to go to Best Buy, and you do research you want to know what benefits they offer to customers, where they are located, and why you should shop there rather than at another store.

Yelp profile specialities box

6. Business History

As the section title indicates, this is the place to write out your company history. How did you get started? When were you founded? Who was involved? Tell your story…

Be sure to use this section to once again include location and any other keywords reflecting your services, and products.

The content for this section is important for Local SEO, so be natural in writing, but make sure to include the necessary keywords to reflect your business.

7. Meet the Owner/Manager

Share a bit of information about the owner or manager for your store and how he/she can assist the customers.

People love to feel a personal connection with businesses, and this is a wonderful place to give your space a face.

While keywords are useful here, these aren’t as necessary in this section. If you can integrate keywords in naturally, that’s great, but don’t force it for the sake of SEO because it’s not as relevant here.

Below is a great example of content for this section, as you can see it targets location and services keywords naturally and it talks a little bit about the owner.

Meet the owner

8. Business Recommendations

Take advantage of Business Recommendations. It is a free advertisement for your business and you can build internal links pointing to your profile.

Partner up with non-competitors and share recommendations for each other. You will link to their Yelp pages and they will link to yours, expanding your reach in the platform.

See an example below…

Yelp business recommendation

9. Keep Adding New Photos and Videos

Photos and videos are a great way to continually add fresh, relevant content showing off your business while also improving your rankings.

This is a space to showcase customer interactions, products and services, your location, your staff, and any special events in a visually engaging way.

Pro Tip: Don’t solely rely on daily photos to act as fresh content. Be sure to update your written sections (such as Specialty) regularly.

10. Responding to Reviews

It is a good idea to respond to reviews, good or bad.

Review responses build trust with your customers and audiences while in tandem giving you the opportunity to organically add fresh content and keywords.

When writing responses, if you can do so naturally, include keywords for your business name, services, and location. This way you can target location and service keywords while also creating an environment of trust and respect for your customers.

See a great example below…

Thanks for the review

11. Deals and Gift Certificates

In the Deals and Gift Certificates Section on your dashboard, you can set up special discounts for your customers.

Listing deals on your profile doesn’t directly affect your Yelp SEO rankings based on keywords, but this is a golden opportunity to attract customers.

Yelp may start paying more attention to your listing if you get constant visits from local clients.

12. Check-in Offers

Another section on your dashboard to set up special offers.

You can create and offer coupons or discounts to new customers when they check-in to your business. Not only does this get new customers in the door, but it also gets them checking in to your business and raising your ranking.

On-page Optimization (Paid Tools)

Above we have talked about all the free tools that Yelp provides to keep your profile up-to-date. In this section, we will review a few paid opportunities you can take advantage of.

1. Set up Ads

Similar to other social media advertising methods, you decide how much of your budget to delegate to running an ad, and Yelp will proceed to further boost your rankings and promote your business above all other returns for a relevant search.

Your ad will be listed above all the other search results, with the marking of an ad badge. If you show up first then obviously you will get more clicks and activity then the below listings.

first placement

2. Page Upgrades

Take advantage of Page Upgrade to attract more clients. These can be set up in the Page Upgrade section of your dashboard.

While some of these do not have direct SEO related benefits, any time you put your customers first you reap ranking benefits.

These features include:

  1. Restricting competitor ads on your page. (Highly recommended!)
  2. Enhancing photo and video display with slideshow.
  3. Picking a preferred profile image and organizing your media visibility order. (Recommended for your overall branding because you get to choose your company logo, otherwise, the system will pick a random image to display.)
  4. Setup call-to-action buttons and to encourage your customers to make a purchase or sign up for a service.
  5. Business Highlights (NEW) – Yelp recently introduced a new upgrade called Business Highlights. You can pay to showcase up to six highlights if your business is in an eligible category. Yelp claims that businesses using highlights get 15% more leads. You can learn more about Business Highlights here.
Yelp business highlights

6. Portfolio (New) – There is also one more feature that has been added to Yelp recently, it is called Portfolio. It is a paid service and as of this writing, the average price is $2 per day. The Portfolio lets you showcase your work, show before and after shots and you can even write descriptions, note your costs and timeline.

Yelp portfolio new

7. Yelp Connect (New)

So, what is Yelp Connect?

Yelp Connect is more like Instagram but for Yelp, it lets you post images and status updates about your business. You can showcase a new product, promote a sale or event or just post about anything you want your customers to learn about your business.

Why is Yelp Connect useful and how does it improve my profile?

Connects can help you boost your profile rankings and promote your brand in a few ways.

For example, you can be active and connect to your customers that you would in any other social media network by promoting products and services, write posts and include relevant keywords to target more people, include links to send the traffic back to your website and upload images for overall brand awareness.

Yelp connect

Yelp Connects is a paid service and as of this writing, it is $99.00 per month. Is it worth it?

You won’t know until you try. : )

Off Yelp Optimization

In this section, we will learn what you can do off-site of the platform to further boost your rankings.

1. Social Integration

Yelp provides code snippets so you can easily place badges, buttons, and icons on your website which drive traffic back to your Yelp page, while also showcasing your ratings directly on your website.

These can be found on the Review Badges section of your dashboard.

Review badges are a good way to build trust with your customs and let them know you are listed.

You can also include a social icon linking back to your Yelp profile just like you normally would do with other social media websites such as Facebook, Tweeter and etc…

2. Link Building

Link building is an incredibly critical part of SEO.

Use your other social networks, blogs, and websites to link back to your Yelp page. Write guest posts to get other sites to link back to your page as well.

This is a huge part of the process.

Monitor Your Results

A huge part of Internet Marketing is analyzing your results. If you do not analyze you will not succeed. - Emin SinanyanClick To Tweet

1. Yelp Analytics

The Activity tab in your dashboard is the place you can monitor your User Views and Customer Leads.

The Activity Feed tracks a variety of useful information, such as how many clicks to your websites, check-ins, how many visitors have entered your store, or how many phone calls have been made to your business.

You can dig dipper into this report and use the information to further optimize your profile.

Yelp analytics

2. Google Analytics

Google Analytics is another source you can access to get an even more in-depth look at your web traffic and user behavior like how many visitors you have received from Yelp and how long they stayed on your website.

There are two primary sections to get reports from. Let’s look at each one step-by-step.

We’ll start with the Referrals tab.

    1. Click on the Acquisitions button on the left-hand side of the Google Analytics page.
    2. Under this button select All Traffic and then Referrals from under that. A list of referral sources will display. Look for the source indicating
    3. Here you can check your sessions, which is a number of visitors, how many of these visitors are new, how long they have browsed your website and more.Google analytics referrals
    4. Look at the bounce rate. The bounce rate is an indicator of how quickly your visitors left your site.  The lower the bounce rate the better.  30% is a great bounce rate and indicates visitors are staying and converting.  80% is a high bounce rate; you will want to evaluate your site to determine why people are leaving.
    5. If you want to get even more details, click the link under the source column.

These reports are incredibly in-depth but very helpful. However, you need to be well versed in using Google Analytics to fully understand all the statistics listed and how to use the information provided to your benefit.

Next, let’s look more closely at Social Network Referrals.

  1. Once again click the Acquisitions tab.
  2. Close the All Traffic drop-down, and open the Social drop-down tab.
  3. Click Network Referrals.
  4. Find the Yelp line and click. This is where you can see a breakdown of exactly how people got to your website. Most likely, the primary source will be your home page, because this is the page listed on your Yelp business page. You might see other URLs listed, these will be because of the Service Area link and the additional links you have placed in your image descriptions.
Social network referrals

These tools are incredibly useful when working to improve your traffic and optimize your profile.

Bonus Recommendations

1. Response Time and Rate

Yelp provides your customers with the option to contact you through your listing. This section is listed under the main information on your page typically as “Request an appointment” or “Request a quote.”

These direct messages go to your Yelp Inbox.

Response time reflects respect for your customers. The quicker the response time the better. A good rule of thumb is to respond within the hour, though this may not always be feasible, it’s a good goal to have.

The system tracks and reflects your average response time and approval rate. This alerts customers to your reliability and builds trust. 20 minutes with a 100% approval rate is an example of an extremely good response rating.

Yelp response rate

2. Rating buttons (Useful, Funny, Cool)

The review rating buttons are for your customers. It’s a free feature you get with you’re a business page, and while there is nothing you need to do with these, it is a nice feature to track reviews and responses.

Most likely Yelp is using these buttons for their review filter, the more ratings you get, chances are your reviews won’t get filtered.

Review buttons

3. Photo Best Practices

When uploading photos, it is crucial to do so correctly to ensure your photos show up in Google Image Search. While your photos are to display your business on your Yelp page, these images are also useful in driving business to your website. Be sure to include an accurate description of the photo, as this is the primary method of how search engines recognize relevant content for photos.

Most modern search engines can recognize photos without a description, but having a text explaining helps them understand your photo content even better.

Also, we recommend including a link to your website in the image description field if appropriate. If you included a link, it will send relevant traffic to your website. Try including a link that is the most relevant to the image you are uploading.

4. Image Social Icons

If you choose to use an image-based social icon on your website to link back to Yelp, there are a few SEO best practices to keep in mind.

First and foremost, if you are using an image as an icon, make sure the image file name is descriptive.

It can be something like yelp-icon.png or yelp-profile.png

Then make sure your image Title Tag and the Alt Tag are also describing the image.

See the below code for example:

Code sample for alt and title tags

Finally, make sure your link is dofollow.

5. Be Mindful of WHO You Ask for a Review

While it may seem beneficial to ask your customers for positive reviews, it can also get your business in trouble. Yelp wants its users to only give reviews on their own accord and will penalize businesses for asking for reviews on their platform. If you get caught asking for reviews they can block you on the site or give you a significantly lower ranking on the site.

Take some time to get familiar with the way the rating system works and follow this Yelp SEO strategy and you’ll get on Yelp Top 10 and rank your profile higher on Google and other search engines with no time!

Also, if you are new to SEO and want to better optimize your profile, check out our On-Site SEO checklist, this will be a great help for your Yelp profile optimization.


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