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Boosting Your Restaurant’s Yelp Ranking: “The 6 Essential Factors”

If you're a restaurant owner or manager, Yelp can be a double-edged sword for your business. It has the power to either boost your success or hinder it. Having been a user of the Yelp app since its inception and a digital marketer specializing in small businesses, I'm here to share my insights. In this article, I aim to demystify the Yelp algorithm and show you how to leverage it to your advantage, ultimately driving more sales and attracting both new and loyal customers.


In this article, I'll be discussing:
Part 1: Debunking the ‘Yelp Ranking Rumor' (Is It Really Pay-to-Play?)
Part 2: Understanding Yelp's Operation and Business Ranking (The 6 Key Factors)
Part 3: Creating a ‘Yelp Ranking Engine' for Your Business
Part 4: Crafting Your Own ‘Yelp Ranking Engine' in Just One Week (Even if you are super busy)


Part 1: Debunking the ‘Yelp Ranking Rumor' (Is It Really Pay-to-Play?)

A frequent gripe within the restaurant industry revolves around Yelp's perceived ‘Pay-to-Play' model. Many believe that in order to feature prominently in Yelp's rankings, businesses must shell out for advertising or upgraded subscriptions.

While it's accurate that utilizing these paid options can enhance your visibility on Yelp for specific search terms, they aren't the main catalyst for ranking success. In fact, many Yelp users tend to be skeptical of ‘sponsored' search results and prefer to bypass them in favor of listings with authentic reviews and high star ratings.

While upgrading your business to a paid subscription on Yelp can help improve your search rankings and reduce the visibility of ads on your listing, it doesn't automatically translate into more customers walking through your doors.

The key to converting Yelp into paying customers lies in deciphering the inner workings of the core Yelp algorithm and leveraging that knowledge for your restaurant.

Now, let's delve deep into the Yelp Algorithm and the critical factors it considers when ranking businesses for keyword searches.


Part 2: Understanding Yelp's Operation and Business Ranking (The 6 Key Factors)

Before you can harness the power of the Yelp Algorithm to boost your business's rankings for specific keywords, it's essential to gain a clear understanding of its inner workings.

Disclaimer: While the exact intricacies of Yelp's ranking algorithm remain a closely guarded secret known only to a select few within the company, the insights provided below are drawn from years of experience utilizing Yelp and successfully assisting restaurants in achieving higher rankings. It's important to acknowledge that additional factors may influence Yelp rankings, but these are the key elements we have identified as crucial for rapidly ascending the Yelp Rankings.

The following 6 factors are the most important:

Factor 1: Proximity to Searcher's Location

This factor takes into account the proximity of a person to your business when they perform a keyword search, or more specifically, how close the location they input into the search box is to your business.

Factor 2: Business Categorization

When setting up your Yelp business profile, the categories you select play a pivotal role. Choosing the right categories that accurately represent your business is crucial for ranking success on Yelp. Many businesses tend to overlook the significance of this step when claiming or creating their Yelp business profile.

Factor 3: Business Description Keywords

The keywords you include in your business description hold significant sway in how Yelp perceives your business. This section, akin to crafting your menu items, is an instant and impactful way to influence Yelp's understanding of your business.

Factor 4: Keywords in Customer Reviews

Yelp places great emphasis on what your customers say about your business. Reviews are not just about star ratings; they are a treasure trove of keywords that can significantly impact your rankings. Encouraging customers to mention specific keywords in their reviews forms a vital strategy for future keyword ranking success.

Factor 5: Total Number of Reviews

The quantity of reviews your business accumulates holds weight in Yelp's ranking algorithm. While it's important to note that asking for reviews on Yelp is against their terms of service, a strategic approach involves encouraging customers to check into your business. When executed effectively, this can result in both check-ins and positive reviews, ultimately boosting your review count.

Factor 6: Velocity of Interactions

A lesser-discussed yet vital factor in Yelp's ranking algorithm is the frequency of interactions. It's not sufficient to receive a flurry of reviews and check-ins; you must maintain a consistent flow to appear active and ‘alive' to Yelp's algorithm. Continually engaging with customers and gently encouraging interactions on Yelp is the key to achieving this velocity of interactions.

So, how do we harness the power of these six core factors to our advantage? The answer is simple: we construct a ‘Yelp Ranking Engine' within our restaurant, enabling us to leverage Yelp's algorithm while adhering to their terms of service. Let's dive into the blueprint for building this ranking engine.


Part 3: Creating a ‘Yelp Ranking Engine' for Your Business

Remember, our strategy doesn't involve ‘Review Gating' or directly asking customers for Yelp reviews. Instead, we guide them toward ‘checking in' at our business on Yelp, gently nudging them in the direction of leaving reviews.

So how do we do that?

We build something that we call our “Yelp Review Engine”.

Here's how our ‘Review Engine‘ works in practice:

Step 1: We build an SMS list of our customers by offering a small, valuable incentive within our business. This incentive is not given in exchange for a review but simply to collect customer contact information for future communication.

Step 2: While customers dine at our establishment, we direct them to a specialized opt-in page through table toppers, in-store flyers, and business cards included with takeout orders. These materials contain QR codes and links to the opt-in page.

Step 3: Immediately after they opt-in, we provide customers with the promised freebie or discount in exchange for their permission to contact them later. A few hours after their meal and opt-in, we send a friendly message reminding them to check in on Yelp. We explain that their check-in helps us maintain our commitment to delivering high-quality service and food.

Step 4: Through follow-up messages, we encourage customers to leave reviews that incorporate the keywords we need for enhanced visibility.

Step 5: As these reviews become more frequent, our star ratings improve, and our keyword-based ranking on Yelp increases. This heightened visibility attracts more customers, who then go through the same ‘Yelp Ranking Engine,' creating a viral cycle of growth for our business.

Having outlined our technology-driven approach and strategic marketing tactics to align with Yelp's algorithm, let's delve into the practical steps required to construct this system.


Part 4: Crafting Your Own ‘Yelp Ranking Engine' in Just One Week (Even if you are super busy)

Restaurant owners and managers often find themselves wearing multiple hats, needing to excel in various aspects of their business, including marketing.

Over the past few years, we've had the privilege of alleviating the marketing responsibilities for numerous restaurant owners and managers. If you have any questions about implementing the strategies outlined above, please feel free to reach out to me directly via email for free assistance—after all, a rising tide lifts all boats. If you're interested in a more comprehensive solution and would like dedicated support in building your own ‘Yelp Review Engine,' we offer an affordable package for any restaurant to get started, which you can sign up for here.

Yelp Review Engine

I hope this article helps you tame the beast that is Yelp.

Feel free to email me any questions you have at

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