By Derek Kirk, CMO, Hurricane Grill & Wings
Yelp. It’s one of those necessary evils in the restaurant industry that comes with some good, some bad and, unfortunately, some ugly.
The good. It’s a platform for our most loyal guests to share their passion about our establishments or for new patrons to discover our businesses.
The bad. Who understands the Yelp algorithm and why it seems the great reviews are hidden in the basement while the bad reviews are always in a spotlight at the top of the page?
The ugly. Entitled jerks now have a public forum to express their feelings about your restaurant.
Love it or hate it Yelp is here to stay and continues to be a force. Each month more than 150 million people use Yelp of which 70% of users make over $60K a year, and 40% are younger than 34 years old. So how do you improve your Yelp profile to be more attractive to this audience?
First and foremost, ensure you are you running a tight ship. Do you have a clean restaurant? Do you have friendly staff serving great food and beverages? If you answered yes to these questions, you’re ready to move on Stage II. Below you’ll find a checklist of tactics you can implement to take your Yelp profile to the next level.
1. Claim Your Business
You’d be surprised how many operators and owners have not claimed their Yelp profile. Once claimed, you have total control over the content on the page. Quality content = better profile.
To claim your business go to biz.yelp.com and enter the business name and address. If not claimed, click the icon and enter your email address. You will receive a robocall from Yelp to the phone number on the listing. If the number on the listing is incorrect, you will have to contact Yelp to change that number before the call. Once verified, you will receive an email. If your business is not listed, select add business, complete the form, and you are ready to go!
2. Complete Your ENTIRE Business Profile
Yelp provides numerous fields to allow you to customize your profile and tell a story about your establishment. USE ALL OF THEM. Do you take reservations? It there bike parking? Do you have Wifi? Do you Cater? Not only is this information visible on Yelp, but Google devours this information, and uses it to populate their info about your restaurant.
In many cases, guests will encounter this info on Google before they see your website. So, your profile should be professional, enticing, and void of spelling errors.
Double check that your business details are correct, as well as your address, phone number, hours of operation, website link, etc. Having the wrong phone number or incorrect hours of operation not only disappoints potential guests, but results in lost revenue and could also spark a bad review!
Finally, review your map in detail. Google/Yelp are not always accurate.
3. Use All Your Categories
Yelp allows you to select three menu categories for your restaurant. They currently have 150 choices. USE ALL THREE!!
Select those item(s) that your best known for by your current customers. If you need a category to round out your three and its appropriate, choose American.
4. Menus… It’s Complicated.
Over 73% of Yelp searches are conducted on a mobile device. Getting your menu on Yelp in an attractive, easy to read format, and keeping it updated can be a challenge. Within the business profile page, you are allowed to place a link to your menu. You have three primary options:
Have you ever pulled up a menu for a restaurant on your phone and it downloads a huge PDF that you have to scroll up and down, left to right to scan the menu? Not fun. Stay away from this.
Link to menu to your website
If your site is responsive (i.e. changes format for readability on your phone) this is a great option. Every time you update your site the menu on Yelp is automagically updated.
Use a third party
Yelp has partnered with Eat24 and Locu to provide digital versions of your menu. The cost and additional services provided beyond menus vary by provider.
5. Create a Compelling Manager/Owner & History Section
Leave your pride and shyness at home. This a section to brag about yourself and your business. People patronize businesses where they can make personal and/or emotional connections. So start bragging. To that end:
- Upload a picture.
- Explain the history of the restaurant and why you opened.
- What items on the menu are your favorites and why?
- Are other family members involved? Tell their story.
- What are your hobbies?
- How is the restaurant involved in the community?
6. Craft the Specialties Section to Romance Your Restaurant but Also Be SEO Friendly
Most visitors to your Yelp page will not make it to this section, but it is a powerful tool to assist your page in rising to the top of keyword searches. Write a description and pepper in numerous keywords about your establishment – just do it without sounding like a robot.
So what are keywords you may ask? These are words that potential guests use to search for on Yelp. They include types of food and beverage, service type, and other attributes about your restaurant.
For example. Let’s say I wanted to write a specialties section about my Burger & Beer restaurant. It might look like this:
Brew & Burgers is known for our angus beef cheeseburgers and large selection of local craft beers on draft. In addition to our fresh hamburgers, we also serve tacos and salads. Choose one of 25 unique toppings for your cheeseburger or try our World Famous Beer Cheese Stuffed Burger. We serve craft beer by the glass, pitcher or in a flight. We have outdoor seating, free Wi-Fi, takeout, delivery, and Happy Hour specials all day!
7. Use Good Photos.
Don’t give guests a reason to swipe left. Just like on Tinder, photos matter. In fact, research indicates people spend 2.5X more time on Yelp pages with pictures versus those without. Suggestions of what to feature include:
- Photos of yourself, employees and guests (with their permission) smiling and having fun.
- Pictures of your restaurant (exterior & interior). Edit for attractiveness. If you have a back room that’s dark and scary, don’t post it. Best time to take exterior shots is morning and late-afternoon when the sun is not directly overhead.
- Food and beverage shots.
- Images of flyers and promotional materials.
Lastly, like Tinder, the objective of photos is to entice people onto your Yelp profile and away from competitors. Photos that are poorly lit, out of focus, or just plain bad will not accomplish that goal. The camera technology in today’s smartphones, if used properly, (#1 Tip-Always shoot food with natural sunlight) is more than adequate to take appealing photos.
Remember these photos can also be used for Facebook, Instagram or other social media channels. Attached are links to a couple of excellent short articles that will guide you on how to take professional looking photos with your smartphone.
You Can Do It!
Simply executing the tactics listed here is only the beginning. We operate our restaurants in dynamic competitive environments. Competitors go out of business, new ones arrive, a new food truck appears around the corner or a new delivery service pops up. To keep your Yelp profile supercharged, you need to care for and nurture it.
In addition to responding in a timely manner to all reviews, keep your menu updates fresh and change pictures periodically. Your efforts will result in guests visiting your restaurant.