Complete Guide To Yelp Profile Optimization

Optimize Yelp for killer rankings & user engagement

Optimizing Yelp Profiles for Rankings & Engagement

In the world of local search optimization there is a lot of information about how to optimize your site to rank well for local search terms but an important area that is often overlooked is the optimization of your local profiles, in particular Yelp. Yelp tends to rank highly in Google for many different local industry terms. As a result of their listing’s ability to rank well and their trustworthiness, Yelp can be a great traffic and lead gen engine for local businesses. If done effectively a business can even get their branded profile to rank organically for generic terms allowing them to steal valuable search real estate from competitors. Look at the results for the search term “laser hair removal in Costa Mesa” on Google.

Note: This example demonstrates a desktop search however the majority of mobile search won’t include the “in” with city modifier, nonetheless the search results will be very similar. 

laseraway yelp rankings

The top result in the above example is a Google local profile. I will be covering Google Local optimization in a future post. Subscribe to get updates.

  • Red highlights: Represents organic branded page inclusion. As you can see above the fold this company already has 3 listing for their company.
  • Blue highlight: Represents the top 10 companies on yelp for this search. When clicking through the Google result this company ranks #2 organically on Yelp’s listing page.

An additional way to increase your brand saturation is to mix in paid ads allowing a business to potentially own around 5 branded search listings for a target local generic keyword. This makes it almost impossible for a searcher not to visit your brand in one way or another. Additionally, if your service, customer communication and reviews are great you can almost be assured of creating a new satisfied customer.

Related Posts

How To Claim Your Business On Yelp

Understanding Yelp’s 3 Types Of Profiles


Now that we understand the importance of optimizing your Yelp citations let move on to the best practice of optimizing for Yelp. If you need help claiming your listing or understanding profile options (Paid & Free) read the related posts.

How To Increase Visibility & Engagement

There are many area within the Yelp profile that can be optimized to help increase visibility and engagement. I will go through each feature and the best ways to optimize them.

Increase Rankings & Visibility

Yelp’s platform is essentially a local search engine and can be optimized in a similar manner as any other search engine. The major factors that their algorithm evaluate are:

  • Relevancy of the profile to the search query
  • Business proximity to the user
  • Reviews
    • Quantity
    • Quality
    • Relevancy
  • Profile interactions
    • Checkin’s
    • Shares
    • Deal purchases
    • Gift certificate purchases
    • Calls
    • Direction Requests
    • Owner responses to questions and reviews

Yelp doesn’t disclose how the different factors are weighted but if you focus on relevancy, reviews, review responses and user engagement you should be on the road to rankings.

Profile Relevancy

One of the biggest factors in ranking on Yelp is how relevant your business and profile is to the user’s search query. This is where the enhanced profile can provide a big benefit. With the enhanced profile you get an area called “From the Business”. This section allows a business to provide information about 3 different areas:

  • History of the business1,500 character limit
  • Business Specialties – 1,500 character limit
  • Meet the Owner/Manager 1,000 character limit

Having 4,000 character is a huge opportunity to create focused content around the different services and products a business offers. It also offers a chance for a user to get to know the business and owner/manager. Yelp is able to use all the content that is contributed by the business to help understand what search queries the business should ranking for.

yelp from the business section

Best practices for optimizing the “From the business” section:
  • Use the Yelp Trends tool to see what terms are trending related to the industry.
  • Use different variations of the keyword(s) associated with the product or service. (Tip: use the Google Keyword Tool to see what variations people are searching for. Account required)
  • Write for the user and not a search engine. Make sure that the content reads naturally. Do not keyword stuff the content.
  • Take advantage of the character limit. Make sure you are using the full amount of character available.
  • Talk about what differentiates the business from competitors.
  • Mention all the geographical area’s that are services. Including neighboring cities can’t help increase visibility in other areas.

Yelp Image Optimization

Another lesser know way to increase relevancy for a Yelp profile for certain services and/or products is to add photos of/related to the  service or product being offered. The ability for businesses to add images of their business and services/products along with the ability to add a description of the photo provides the business with another way to increase the relevancy of their profile. The image description is a great way to enforce what they do or offer. Also there is no limit on how many images a business can add for all three levels of profiles. Remember content is king so add as many as possible. The example below shows of the description displays to a user.

Hermosa Smiles Dentistry Example

hermosa dentistry image optimization

Image Best Practices
  • High quality images of the service, product or business.
  • Use keywords in the description for the product, service and location.
  • Add useful photos that show how the service or product works.
  • Add multiple images.

Note: This is a practice that most businesses don’t do effectively so there is a good opportunity to gain an edge for a business.

Reviews & Responses

User generated content, AKA reviews, is the biggest component of the Yelp platform. It is the reason why anytime someone want to find the best restaurant in an area or a local plumber to fix a leak they “Yelp It“.  Unbiased user reviews are the core of the platform and provide valuable insights into the quality and relevancy of a product or service. When Yelp provides listing for a search they are trying to show the best result for a specific user based on the relevancy of the business, review quantity, review ratings and proximity to the user.

Note: The closest location will not always be the first result

When Yelp provides listing for a search they are trying to show the best result for a specific user based on the relevancy of the business, review quantity, review ratings and proximity to the user.

Responding To Reviews

It is important that customers and potential customer know that a business cares about their experience and what they tell the business. Most users will read multiple reviews to determine if they are going to use a service or business. Interacting with user reviews let’s researchers know a business will provide a good customer service experience.

Best Practices

  • Don’t argue with negative reviews. Acknowledge their complaint and try to resolve the issue. If the issue can’t be resolved with one or two responses take the conversation offline.
  • Reply to positive reviews by thanking them for their review and patronage. This will help other customers review the business.
  • When responding mention the service or product to build relevancy.
  • Respond in a timely manner. (Claiming a business will allow email alerts to be setup)

Case Study In Rankings

Let’s observe the rankings for sushi restaurants in Hermosa Beach, CA. These rankings demonstrate the importance of quantity and quality of reviews.

sushi yelp search results

Ranking, Review Rating, Review Count & City Analyzed

As of 2/19/2017

  1. Oki Doki Sushi | 4 Stars | 428 Reviews | Hermosa Beach
  2. California Sushi & Teriyaki | 4 Stars | 148 Reviews | Hermosa Beach
  3. Gu Gu Sushi | 3.5 Stars | 230 Reviews | Hermosa Beach
  4. ROK Sushi Kitchen | 3.5 Stars | 482 Reviews | Hermosa Beach
  5. Fusion Sushi | 3.5 Stars | 213 Reviews | Hermosa Beach
  6. The Izaka-ya By Katsu-ya | 4 Stars | 611 Reviews | Manhattan Beach (different city)
  7. Poke Bar | 4.5 Stars | 54 Reviews | Hermosa Beach

Observations & Analysis

This is an interesting list. When observed closer the ranking order reflects what Yelp is trying to do from a relevancy and user experience standpoint.

Top Result

This listing has all the attributes you would expect from a top ranking listing.

  • Some of the best review, 4+ Stars
  • One of the highest review totals, over 400
  • Over 200 images with descriptions
  • Primary category as “Sushi”
  • Located in Hermosa Beach

This business provides great service, get’s a lot of great reviews, has a ton of pictures of their food and location, has their main category as sushi and is located in Hermosa Beach. It is easy to see why they are the top result.

Position #2 – Almost there

Great review quality, good amount of reviews, 150 images and is located in Hermosa Beach but primary category is “Japanese Food”. This listing could potentially rank #1 if it’s primary category was “Sushi” and they upgraded to an enhanced listing to be able to include a “From the business” section.

Postions #3, #4 & #5 – Middle Of The Pack

#3, #4 & #5 All three have a good volume of reviews. The quality is lower at 3.5 stars. The the difference in ranking could be attributed to the timeliness/quality of reviews and how the listings are optimized. All 3 of these listings could be top spot candidates with better reviews, more customer interaction and better optimization.

Position #6 – Neighboring City Result

This is an interesting case. The business isn’t located in Hermosa Beach but Manhattan Beach. It has great reviews, primary category of “Sushi” and is located in the city next to Hermosa Beach.  Their quality of reviews and relevancy allows them to rank despite not being in the target city. This occurs because of Yelp’s desire to provide the best experience possible for a user even if it means displaying a listing outside the target city.

Position #7 – Non-Sushi Category Result

Another interesting case. This business doesn’t even label itself as a “Sushi” business but based on the content of the reviews and their high star rating they are a relevant result for the users search for “Sushi”.

What Does It All Mean?

This review of results is meant to illustrate the importance of 1 of the most important aspect of Yelp, REVIEWS.  Working to make sure that the customer experience is positive and promoting a culture of reviewing can reap huge benefits for a business.

Final Thoughts

I have worked closely with Yelp for over 3 years now. I know the value they can provide to a business’s bottom line. There was a lot of information covered in this article. If followed and implemented effectively any business can rank high on Yelp. Achieving great rankings on Yelp can provide a huge amount of organic leads and customers with little monetary input. Hopefully this information will help businesses grow and improve the customer experience. If anyone has questions feel free to leave them in the comments and I will do my best to answer them.


Paul Baumgarthuber
Paul is director of marketing for LaserAway Medical Group who is the nations leader in aesthetic services with 35 locations nationwide and growing. Paul has over 10 years experience in marketing and SEO having worked with clients ranging from LifeLock to Massage Envy. He is also a partner at and Maven Labs. was created to help businesses learn local search and get found.