Why Your Home Performance Business Should Be on Yelp

yelp logoYelp, for the uninitiated, is an online business directory that's hugely popular, and growing, with more than 100 million unique monthly visitors each month, up from about 70 million a year ago (Wikipedia).

While it has traditionally been primarily the realm of restaurants, it's certainly not limited to the food industry, and we've actually been seeing Yelp results show up more and more in search results around home performance terms.

Why this is, we're not sure, but we do think that if you are looking to maximize your brand exposure in search results, it may be a good idea to go claim your listing and start putting some effort into maximizing your Yelp presence. 

Yelp Increasingly Common in Search Results

We've discussed business directories and citations quite a bit in the past, but the increasing presence of Yelp listings in search results in the home performance field were what inspired us to take a fresh look at this particular directory.

For instance, check out this screenshot of a Google search for "insulation san francisco":

Looks normal, right? Well, look closer.

  • The results in the yellow up top are ads.
  • The column on the right is full of ads.
  • The map and the corresponding pinned results are Google+ results.
  • The only organic results showing up above the fold are the three located between the PPC results up top and the Google+ pages below. And guess what? They're all Yelp.
  • These particular Yelp results aren't individual contractor listings, but directories within Yelp ("insulation," "insulation contractor," "spray foam insulation") -- so if you want to get found through this route, you'll have to optimize your search performance within Yelp.

This isn't necessarily representative of search results in the home performance industry across the country; it's just one particular search at one particular time. But, it is something of an eyebrow-raiser. If Yelp results are showing up above Google+ pages, anything you can do to increase your chances of capitalizing on that search performance may be a good idea.

Thus, claiming your Yelp listing and putting in some effort to optimize it with keywords and reviews is probably a smart move.

Geography Factor

It's worth keeping in mind, however, that the screenshot above is from San Francisco, one of the most technologically sophisticated areas in the country. We've seen similar results showing up in other technologically advanced regions like Los Angeles and Seattle. This is anecdotal, but it makes sense: these regions have lots of active Yelp users compared to more rural areas. If you live in a more rural, or less technologically sophisticated, region, optimizing your Yelp presence may not be quite as important.

An Important Citation

Perhaps equally important as your actual Yelp listing (and capitalizing on traffic through Yelp) is the citation that your business gets there. Citations on local business directories, social media platforms and other places around the web are very powerful in improving your site's local search performance, so a citation on Yelp may improve the chances that your primary website shows up above the fold. 

(If you're unfamiliar with citations, here's a primer on citations, NAPs, and optimizing your business listings.)

Claim Your Listing

This is obviously your first step, but you'd be surprised how many businesses never do it. Claiming your listing on Yelp is free, so just go do it. Be sure to use accurate (and consistent) business info, and keep your listing updated if any changes take place in your company (changed address, phone number, etc).

Get Reviews (but be careful how you go about it)

Reviews are one of the most important factors that can improve the search performance, not only of your Yelp listing, but of your website as well. Getting reviews can be tricky, but it's important. Ask your happiest customers if they'd mind leaving a review on Yelp, or on any other directory where your business is listed, but just be sure not to use tactics that may send a flag to Google and other search engines that they legitimacy of the reviews may be questionable. Mass emails, social media campaigns, and similar tactics may be problematic, so we think it's best to stick to asking your customers in person one by one. More authentic, better for your business in the long run.

Respond to Reviews

Get a good review? Thank your customer. Did they love the experience, but not enjoy a particular part? Let them know that you hear them, and that you'll work to address the issue in the future.

And what if you get a flat-out negative review? That's tricky, but don't worry: it does happens to the good guys from time to time, and it's not the end of the world. Check out our article about responding to negative reviews for some guidance.

Categories and Optimization

One of the primary challenges for home performance contractors on Yelp is that there's no perfect category for us. You can only choose 3 categories, and none of them are a great fit. That said, the closest categories (as of the time of writing, as far as we can tell) are the following:

Damage Restoration
Heating & Air Conditioning/HVAC
Home Inspectors
Home Window Tinting
Lighting Fixtures & Equipment
Shades & Blinds
Solar Installation
Windows Installation

Here's a more comprehensive list of the business categories that Yelp offers, but those are about the closest to us that we can find.

With that in mind, showing up for a search term like "insulation" creates a challenge, because you can't simply pick the category and hope for the best. Keywording your listing's content to optimize for search terms more appropriate to your business is key. Check out the screenshot from Kevel Home Performance's listing below:

yelp insulation search results

While there may be no category for insulation, you can still show up in searches within Yelp for "insulation" (and other related terms) if you write a good description that accurately describes your services.

More Info

Much of this information may sound similar. After all, best practices on Yelp aren't entirely dissimilar to best practices on Google+ Local and other local business directories; it's simply that the apparent increased prominence of Yelp sends something of a signal that this is a directory to put some effort into.

Be sure to check out our post on reviews, trust, and the new reality of internet marketing for more about why reviews, directories and social media are an increasingly important piece of the marketing puzzle for small businesses. And as always, if you have any questions, comments or concerns, feel free to chime in down below.

Update August 26, 2013

In the last couple weeks, there have been a number of posts from internet marketing luminaries discussing Yelp's achilles heel--their aggressive sales tactics and growing resentment problem amongst business owners. 

From Mike Blumenthal, local search guru, Yelp: Real People. Real Reviews. Deceptive Sales Tactics

A followup from Mike B, Yelp: When the Hard Sell Goes South

And this one from Greg Sterling on his Screenwork blog: Business Owner Resentment a Persistent Problem for Yelp


We've been on Yelp for more than a year, but our traffic has suddenly jumped. We're only getting 2 to 4 views a week - but that's up from NONE this time last year. Definitely worth paying attention.

the one thing I hate about Yelp is that if you don't pay for their advertising they let competitors who do pay have ads that pop up on your listing ahead of your company description,

their analytics say I have had 25 user views in the last 30 days saying 38% off those came from mobile devices. at one point I had so much traffic through there I was one of the top service related listers in the region and their marketing department wouldn't leave me alone about paying for advertising. They basically told me they were going to supress my listing if I didn't pay for advertising.

y the yelp analytics only tell you user views and whether or not its a mobile device They also tell you how many clicked through to your sight (12 for me) or clicked to call your listed number (1 for me). They estimate the revenue value of the 13 "leads" at $3198.

this is their def of Revenue Estimate-" Revenue Estimate
We've done a little math, and tried to estimate the impact of Yelp users on your business's revenue.

The simple equation is:

Customer Leads × Revenue per Customer Lead = Estimated Revenue

To define each term:

Customer Leads: These are the same Customer Leads from the "Customer Leads" tab on this page, which includes check-ins, calls to your business, user uploaded photos, and other indicators that Yelpers are engaging with your business.
Revenue per Customer Lead: How much does the average new customer spend at your business? We've used some data from a survey of business owners in your category by The Boston Consulting Group to get you started, but you can change the number to match your business.
Estimated Revenue: This is an estimate of the amount of gross revenue resulting from Yelp user activities"

Peter Troast's picture

Thanks Jeremy! Great information. (Folks, Jeremy's multiple posts are from a Facebook chat stream we had over the weekend.)

A couple points/responses: 

Leads are NOT jobs. While calculating cost per lead is important to know, in the end what matters is how many converted to jobs. So their math is missing a critical piece: converstion from lead to job. Without that, it's specious.

There is definitely little uniformity to where geographically Yelp is ranking highly. CA, where the company is based, seems strong. Cincinnati, where Jeremy's from, seems somewhat medium. Probably not unreasonable to assume that the correlation is with the relative tech sophistication of an area? (No, that's not a Cinci slam.)

I'm withholding judgement for now on whether paid advertising on Yelp makes sense. The first step in evaluating it is to look at your current rankings--if you're not near the top for key search terms, it may be worth buying your way to the top. If you're already ranking well, then there's less of a case for paying. 

A little tip, ask your customers if they are "Yelpers" yep, that is what that call themselves. You have a better chance of their review not being blocked than by someone who just signs up then gives a glowing review of your company.

The Yelp filters are high but worth the effort of getting.

Great write up as always Energy Circle,


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