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If you already have a Yelp Business profile and want to skip straight to the “how to improve your Yelp ranking” section of this article, click here.

“How to get on Yelp” is an easy task.  In fact your business could already be on yelp getting reviewed and you may not even know it (hopefully you aren’t receiving bad reviews without your knowledge).  What takes a little more work is actually improving your businesses Yelp ranking.

Let’s begin with showing you how you can see if your business is already listed on Yelp, and if it isn’t, how you can register for a Yelp profile.

  1. Visit the provided link to see if your business is already listed.  You may want to try multiple variations of your business name as it may be misspelled or be missing “spaces” and other elements.  For example, when I tried this, I typed in “pixelmepink” and nothing came up.  When I typed in “pixel me pink” (with spaces), our business listing came right up.  You will also need to check multiple locations if you think someone may have listed you in a different area.  For example I tried to look for our business close to San Diego by typing in Lakeside, and nothing came up, but when I specifically typed in San Diego, the listing appeared.  Play around with it to be sure you are not already listed:
  2. If you find that your Yelp business listing already exists, then you will want to click on the button on the right that says “CLAIM”.  You can then follow the simple instructions for setting up an “owner account” for that listing.
  3. If however, you do not find your business, you can simply click on the link below that says “Add your business to Yelp”.
  4. Make sure your business listing name is keyword rich.  For more information about how to do this correctly, read #4 in the list below in the “How to improve your Yelp ranking” section of this article.
  5. If you are not a “brick and mortar” business and instead work virtually or serve a large area, it is vital that when you are creating your business “owner’s account” that you tell Yelp you are located where you would actually like to come up for in Yelp’s search results.  For example, if you have a home office and live in La Jolla, CA, you will have far less people searching for your services as compared to saying your business is in San Diego, CA.  Keep in mind, your website will need to reflect that you are located in the location you want them to approve.  They will actually check this before they let you change it or when you originally create the listing.  You do not need to put a specific real address, you can just say “San Diego, CA” on your contact page or anywhere else you mention your location.  If it is important for people to actually see your address on your website, rest assured that you only have to have it show the incorrect address for a few days until Yelp approves your location.  This is one of the single most important things you can do for your listing.  A search for “web design” in San Diego may happen thousands of times a month.  Searches for the same thing in La Jolla will happen dramatically less per month simply because of the population differences and the way that people search for things in their “local” area.  Many times people who live close to a major metropolitan area will search for services in that major location before they check their actual local area.

*When creating your account, do not hold anything back.  Provide as much information as you can based on what is asked.  The reason for this will be explained in more detail below.


How to improve your Yelp ranking


Alrighty, so now you have a Business Yelp account created and ready to go.  You may notice that your business listing is not showing up on the first page for any search terms you put into the Yelp website.  The good news is, most small businesses will have a decent opportunity to get to the first page of Yelp for most of the search terms that they would like to show up for, however, you will have to do your homework.  It isn’t going to happen overnight.  Also, keep in mind, if your competition already has hundreds of reviews, it may be an uphill climb for you to overtake them in rankings.

The following techniques were identified through personal experience with the Pixel Me Pink business listing on Yelp.  Currently we rank between position #3 and #5 for most search terms related to our industry and location.  We have maintained that ranking since we first created the listing in 2011.  Not too shabby, and not too difficult to do.  Obviously we cannot make any guarantees as everyone’s situation is different and nobody knows the exact algorithm used by Yelp, however, we are very confident that the following will help.

  1. When creating your business listing “owner’s account”, make sure that you are filling out every editable field, engaging with every option and in general taking advantage of every opportunity to engage with your account.  If it is asking about your business, really take your time to craft a good message.  If it is asking you to review some other businesses you have had experience with, then do it.  Every field, every option.  Take your time and create genuine/quality content for your account.
  2. In regards to your account’s profile image it is very important for you to choose an appropriate and high quality image.  Not only will customers be turned off if your picture sucks, but Yelp themselves will actually ding you or force you to change your image.  A close-up image of your face, your product, your logo or something like that is a good start, depending on the type of business you have.  Do not choose an image that has a lot going on in it.  If you have to “squint” to figure out what it is, then you have picked the wrong image for your account.  Keep in mind, this image will be really small when it is seen by a customer as they are searching through the listings.  Choose something that will catch their eye and is very relevant to what you offer.
  3. Choose your industry categories wisely.  Make sure the industry categories you select for your business listing are accurate and relevant.  Don’t be over-zealous with your selections.  For example, we chose “Web Design” and “Graphic Design”.  We used to have “Internet Marketing” selected because we wanted to offer these services in the future and because we can offer consultation to our clients on this topic, however, it may affect your rankings on the other categories if you spread yourself too thin and it is best to be honest.  You do not want to waste your time or the time of a customer because they think you offer something you do not.
  4. Identify and use the keywords people are actually using to find your services.  The easiest way to do this is to go to the Yelp Search bar on their home page and start typing words and services that are relevant to what you do.  For example, if I go to the Yelp Search bar and type the word “web”, a dropdown of relevant words will automatically populate.  The first phrases you see in the line-up will be the most popular keywords people are using to find your services.  In this example, “web design” is the first keyword phrase that comes up in the line-up.  Some of the others are “web design companies”, “website developer” and more.  Once you have a short list of the phrases people are using to find your services, you want to use them in these ways:


  • Use them in the content of your “owner’s account” for your business listing in the places where it asks about your services, business history and other areas.  Do not try to “stuff” your content with these words, just use them where you can in a natural way.
  • When your customers review your business you can suggest to them that they use these words naturally in their review.  This should only be done if it happens during a conversation with you and your client and they are asking you directly how they can leave you a review on Yelp.
  • If it works and it makes sense, try to include the word(s) in your actual business name listing title.  For example, “Pixel Me Pink” has less potency in terms of showing up on the first page for the search term “web design” than “Pixel Me Pink Web Design” does.  If your business name is already setup and DOES NOT have a keyword in it, when you try to change it in your account Yelp will stop you and review the situation.  If your Logo and website does not reflect the name as you have requested it in your Yelp account, there is a good chance that they will not approve the change as they will assume you are just trying to stuff your Business name with keywords.
  1. 5.        Upload images of your service/product.  In your “owner’s account” you can manually upload images of your services and/or products.  It is important for you to know, the first image you upload is the one that will show as your business listing’s profile image.  Make sure you upload the appropriate image first.  Once this is done, upload as many images as you can that are relevant to your business.  In the section that asks for a description of the image, take some time to give an appropriate description and also take the opportunity to use more of the keywords you identified in step #4. 
  2. 6.       Create a “Yelp deal” and a “gift certificate”.  Yelp allows for you to create a special deal and a gift certificate on your business listing.  Yelp likes it when you use the tools they have provided, so this can potentially help your ranking. 
  3. Get some reviews!  This may seem like a no brainer, but many of you probably do not have many reviews or do not support your customers to review you on Yelp.  Obviously getting some reviews on your business listing is going to help in your rankings, but I wouldn’t stress it too much.  We currently only have 11 out of 24 REAL reviews from our clients on our Yelp business listing, and most of our competitors have more than us, yet we still rank among them and in some cases we beat the ranking of people that have many more reviews than us.

Yelp makes it very clear that they do not want you to ask for reviews, pay for reviews or offer something to your customers if they give you a review.  However, they never said anything about not “supporting” your customers to leave a review.  In this “grey area”, I recommend doing the following to increase the amount of reviews you have on Yelp:

  • When you finish working with a customer, as part of your normal process, in some way, you should “educate” your customers to the fact that you have a Yelp account and that they can leave a review of their experience with you and your business if they feel so inclined.  This should just be informative, as opposed to a “request”.  For example, when we are finished with a client’s website, we send them a final “wrap-up” email that also mentions the fact that they can leave a review for us if they want to and includes the direct link to do so.
  • Write an email or make a phone call to your current/past customers and simply let them know that you happen to have a Yelp business listing where they could leave a review of their experience with you if they were looking for this opportunity.  *You will want to stagger this outreach.  If you get a bunch of reviews at the same time, Yelp will assume you are obtaining these reviews against their terms of service and will likely filter them into an area where nobody will see them.
  1. 8.       Optimize your reviews.  As you begin getting reviews, or if you already have a Yelp account with reviews in it, you will notice that some of your reviews are going to a “filtered” section and cannot be seen by the public unless they specifically try to find them.  Yelp does this to weed out potential fake reviews, but your real clients who do not spend the time it takes to properly setup their account and look like a “real person” will be caught in the crossfire.  We could talk all day about how much it sucks that this is happening, but instead let’s focus on what can be done about it. 


  • Tell your customers to fill out their Yelp profiles completely and add a picture of themselves if they haven’t already.
  • Suggest that they connect their Yelp account to their Facebook account and that they add you as a personal friend as well as anyone else that the Yelp system recognizes as a potential personal friend.
  • Tell your customers to be “natural”.  Yelp actually prefers reviews that have some misspellings and seems “real”.  A review that is extremely well written and “over-the-top” with praise may actually hurt your account.
  • Let your customer know that being active on Yelp, even just a little, will increase the chance that their review of your company will be seen.  Recommend that they write a review for another company other than yours and this will help.

*The easiest way to do all of the recommended steps above is to educate your customer as much as possible up front when you originally request that they leave you a review and then write them an email about some of these items down the road if you notice their review got filtered. 

9. Be active on your Yelp “owner’s account”.  You may think, “I already have so much on my plate, I don’t have time to engage with my Yelp account!”  Let me put your worries to rest.  If you log into your Yelp account every other day for 5 minutes, this would be enough.  Inside of your Yelp “owner’s account” you have the ability to write private messages to people who have reviewed you and you can also comment publicly on the reviews you have received.  DO NOT “thank” people for the review they gave you, instead respond to the review with something new or educational about your business that is relevant to the review itself.  Especially if you have a “bad” review, take the time to respond, state your policy on the matter and show that you are genuinely concerned about the unhappy reviewer.  You wouldn’t believe how much benefit your business will receive for simply responding professionally to a bad review.  It says a lot about what kind of company you are.


The techniques listed above are things we “know” will benefit your Yelp listing.  I recommend taking some quality time to really dive into these items and see where they land you in the rankings.  You may be surprised that you go to the first page of most relevant searches within a few days to a few weeks.

The following are recommendations that go a bit deeper, but from experience we are not entirely sure that they boost your account (we have tested almost all of them and received inconclusive results).  After you have done everything listed above, if you are still struggling to rank well on Yelp, give these a shot.  We recommend doing one at a time and waiting at least a week before adding another technique to your efforts.  This way you will spend less money and be able to identify which items actually worked.


  1. Spend some money in Yelp Advertising.  You don’t have to spend a fortune doing this.  Throw $30 to $100 in an advertising campaign and see what happens.  You can make sure that you don’t spend more than you have allotted and in the meantime you will receive some extra traffic and potential customers.  I have a sneaking suspicion that spending some money with Yelp every once and a while will actually help your organic ranking with them.  It doesn’t hurt to try.
  2. Add a link to Yelp on your website in the “top fold” (meaning not in the footer or bottom of your website).  You can build your own graphic that links to your Yelp profile or you can use their pre-made “review badges” (You can find these in your business “owner’s account” under the tab that says “Review Badges”) or you can simply add a normal link.  We are not 100% sure that this helps, but Yelp will like this either way and we believe it can help with your ranking.
  3. Purchase “Page Upgrades”.  Currently the only upgrade available for Yelp accounts is an image slider that shows all of your photos in a user-friendly slider on your Yelp business listing instead of making people go to a new page when they click on your photos.  We tried this for a while and did not notice any rank increase, but this does not mean it wasn’t helping.
  4. Add a “call to action” on your Yelp profile.  At the time of this writing we have not yet tried this new function from Yelp (you can find it again in your “owner’s account”), but we believe doing anything with Yelp can help your rankings.  Give it a shot.

Well, there you have it.  In the past 4 years we have received many clients from Yelp.  If done correctly, and if you spend just a little bit of your time, you can easily get your listing to the first page of Yelp for the majority of searches that people are doing.  You would be surprised how much business you will get because of it.

If you have any additional questions or if I could explain something better, please write a comment in the comments below and I will do my best to respond.

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