Yelp Optimization

Google vs. Yelp

With the importance of reviews on the rise, connecting with third-party services such as Yelp can yield organic visibility when it comes to local search. For smaller less recognized brands, Yelp may be the fastest route to first page results. If you can foster positive reviews and improve your Yelp score you might get Google’s attention and have additional review information featured in your brand snippet above the SERP. In the example below, we have Zomato, Opentable and Yellowpages showing up for third party reviews.

Yelp as a search engine

Yelp has its own sophisticated search algorithm for finding local businesses, so it may be helpful to add your business if walk in traffic generates revenue. Setting up an account with Yelp is free and will give your brand some control when it comes to using the service. While Yelp aims to publish accurate and reliable information, removing negative reviews requires a bit more effort than just deleting them from your business page. For this reason, many companies find Yelp to be more of a nuisance than anything, giving a medium for trolls and food critics to slam on local restaurants.

Yelp as a local citation

If there is no better reason to register your business on Yelp, it is for local citations. Any website that displays a business NAP (Name, Address, Phone number) will improve trust signals for local search. This is especially handy for small businesses just starting out. Remember though, if the NAP information is inconsistent across different directories and listings, Google will have a hard time knowing which ones to follow. It’s best to keep NAP information consistent from the beginning, keeping track of all accounts of where it was posted in case any information needs to be changed later.

Yelp as review monopoly

Yep, you read that right. Yelp actually removes about 1/4 of all reviews, altering the results of its rating system. What does this mean for small business? That if you have the majority of unfavourable reviews on Yelp, maybe some of them are being discarded by their search algorithm. Yelp knows that when restaurants face stiffer competition that fake reviews run amok. Between Opentable, Yelp, Facebook and Google reviews, it’s hard to imagine one channel monopolizing online reviews.


It’s a no brainer that Yelp shows up pretty high in search results for small businesses, and Yelp’s algorithm pushes visibility for organizations with positive reviews. If you already have  reviews, with very little work you can achieve some brand awareness and Google SERP dominance.

While Yelp is a major asset to any small business, it comes with some caveats. According to one study:

  • Roughly 16 percent of restaurant reviews on Yelp are identified as fraudulent, and tend to be more extreme (favourable or unfavourable) than other reviews.
  • A restaurant is more likely to commit review fraud when its reputation is weak, i.e., when it has few reviews, or it has recently received bad reviews.
  • Chain restaurants – which benefit less from Yelp – are also less likely to commit review fraud.
  • When restaurants face increased competition, they become more likely to leave unfavourable reviews for competitors

Additional Resources

Yelp Confirms Fraud Reviews – Harvard Study

Optimizing External Reviews for Yelp – SearchEngineLand

What is Organic Search?