How to Rank Higher on Yelp & Stay in the Top 10: Quick and Easy Tips

Outside of word of mouth (which is marketing gold), what is the next best way to get people in your doors? Ranking in the top 10. We’ll cover google later, but the best search directory for experiences (restaurants, bars, museums, etc.) is Yelp. You could also use these tips to rank higher on Tripadvisor, and bring in tourists.

Not convinced Yelp can help you bring in more visitors? Here are four facts that will change your mind:

  • With 184 million reviews worldwide, millions of consumers can see which businesses are available in their area and how real people feel about them
  • Yelp has more than 178 million unique visitors monthly across mobile, desktop, and app platforms
  • Businesses see Up to a 9% increase in revenue for every new star earned on Yelp
  • 45% of customers are likely to check Yelp reviews before visiting a business

So, enough chit-chat. Let’s jump right into positioning your venue on Yelp.


#1 First things first: Composing Your Business Page

In case you haven’t done this already, go and claim your Yelp business page right away by here. Make sure to verify your business (the prompt will follow your registration.) Otherwise, you might lose your profile, making it possible for someone to maliciously claim the page and damage your reputation. If you’ve already done this, let’s see how you can optimize your listing.

  • Add your name, email, address, and phone number.
  • If you don’t have any reviews yet, continue reading, and you’ll find creative ideas on how to motivate your visitors to start leaving positive and effective Yelp reviews.
  • Don’t skip any of the fields: include your photo (even better – multiple photos, the more recent the better), venue description, hours of operation, and ongoing and future events.
  • Choose your category carefully. There are options to be categorized as a music venue (which falls into the higher category “Nightlife”) or as a venue & event space (under “Event Planning & Event Services”). Depending on what you’ve chosen, you’ll get displayed in a different section of the Yelp Events page.

#2 Let’s Optimize

Before we get to optimization let’s go back a bit to the why you should put effort into a Yelp listing. The stats above show you how effective Yelp can be as a sales tool. For events, you have several sales tools at your disposal – from promo codes and discounts, to direct purchases through Yelp listing or the app. If it shows promise as a sales channel, you can even invest in Yelp ads to cement your top 10 listing before an important event.

Keywords are important on Yelp

As for pretty much anything online, you need to focus your description, tags, and photo captions on no more than three select keywords that capture what your offer and the reason why someone should choose you over another venue. Think along the lines of: “live local bands,” “top indie stars” or whatever your USP (unique selling proposition) is.

On Yelp, it’s a waste of space to use keywords with “near you” because Yelp does the filtering. Also, it never hurts to read the current top 10 listings’ descriptions and see how they are formulated. Look for the average length, tone, and don’t copy – your uniqueness is your plus.

Keep improving your specialty section

You can add all of your unique offerings here. List each customer experience and event in this section. List the ones that are the most significant first. This way you can always keep your event list updated, alongside special offers and deals you can tailor for Yelp specifically.

List all the cities you’re present in

Many venue owners are unaware that there are multiple location choices available in your Yelp settings. If you have multiple venues, this is the feature to use. But, you can also include the nearby areas you want to rank for in addition to your primary city, giving yourself a free boost.

Choose your photos wisely

First, you don’t want grainy photos of the bathroom from your reviewers to define you. Get a few gorgeous photos of your place, including some of the smaller details that make you stand out. Far away shots are helpful, but not inviting, so keep them limited. Most importantly, get shots of people having fun. They don’t have to be beautiful, they don’t have to be models, but ensure they are good quality photos of people enjoying your place. Make sure that your Venue is clearly visible in the background, because we don’t want close ups of strangers.


#3 Get a consistent stream of (positive) reviews

Now that you know how to optimize your listing, it’s finally time to get creative and incentivize your guests to leave reviews tailored to Yelp. Just one tiny thing before that…

When it comes to Yelp, it’s not the businesses that have the most positive reviews that get into the top 10. Instead, the businesses that have recent and consistent positive reviews are far more likely to be on the top. So, think of Yelp reviews as an ongoing campaign.

Don’t be afraid to ask for reviews

As a general rule, Yelp doesn’t encourage asking for reviews. However, Everybody does it – and there is scientific backing for doing so. Businesses that don’t ask for reviews from customers are more likely to see their customer satisfaction go down, according to a study from Northwestern. People who are unhappy are usually more motivated to leave negative reviews on sites such as TripAdvisor and Yelp.

Yelp blocks any reviews that look fishy to them, based on their secret algorithms…which often means, good honest reviews may never see the light of day. You can still fish for good reviews by avoiding these Yelp red flags:

  • A sudden influx of reviews – Spread out your requests.
  • Any repeat language, or even a sudden jump from 3 star to 5 star – Don’t tell people what to say, or make a heavy push for reviews at one time (by offering incentives, mass mailing customers, etc.).
  • Suddenly active or new reviewers accounts – this really pertains to fake review farms
  • Overly wordy, or very short reviews (1-2 sentences)

And remember, that people look at your star rating AND the quantity of reviews before deciding to trek out to your location and spend their hard earned money.

Promptly respond to any negative reviews

At the same time, Online Reviews Statistics and Trends: A 2022 Report by ReviewTrackers found that companies don’t react to reviews quickly enough or at all. Customers expect companies to respond to bad reviews in less than a week, as per 53% of respondents. One in three people expects it in three days or less.
Consequently, your positive reputation is closely related to quicker review response times.

So, when you face a negative review, ensure you offer a solution to the customer, and be kind in your response. Even if the review is unfounded, show your positive side.

Ask for service-specific reviews

When talking about reviews or Yelp with your customers or even musicians, ask them to write “What” was done “Where” (this covers your keywords), and by “Whom” (this adds a personalized touch to your venue.) Also, you can nudge the customers who already are having fun to quickly post a review and offer them snacks or a free drink as thanks.

Get human, not robotic reviews

Put a sign at your venue and on tables occasionally, or do a regular campaign where you ask bartenders to prompt people that are having a good experience – especially if they have a good rapport – to give a wink and a smile and include their name in the review. For example, “I’ll get kudos from the boss if you mention my name”. Having the names of staff in a review makes it feel like your venue’s atmosphere is significantly more personal, friendly, and warm.

Include everyone in the “Yelp campaign”

While you can find online offers that guarantee “100% real people reviews” in exchange for your money, it doesn’t pay off to go down this route. If you get anything for your money, it’ll be robotic sounding, poorly written repeat that can blow your reputation in an instant. What you can do instead is, like in the example above, motivate your staff to pay attention to customers and look for opportunities where they can ask for a review.

And, don’t forget to do the easiest thing of them all – place a Yelp badge on your website, and mention it on Twitter and Facebook. Your loyal customers and friends will be a far better source of unique reviews.

Track Your Reviews!

Be sure to track reviews and ratings, and share this with staff at weekly meetings. Be sure to reward anyone that was specifically mentioned. Make it a regular part of your business management, and your ratings will increase seemingly without effort.