Outside Insights | July 2014 | By Morgan Remmers

5 Ways to Get More Diners with Yelp

Leveraging the online review site can maximize your restaurant’s exposure.
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There’s no question that having a great online reputation gives you the stamp of approval you need, especially when 95 percent of consumers are turning to the Internet to find local businesses. With 132 million average monthly unique visitors turning to Yelp to make a buying decision and 57 million reviews having been contributed to the site as of 2014’s first quarter, Yelp is one place restaurant owners should focus their attention when considering their marketing efforts.

It's important that potential customers can find information about your restaurant and book a reservation easily across all platforms (desktop, tablet, and mobile). It's also just as important that you're connecting with the customers who have written reviews about your restaurant to maintain a strong online reputation. Catch the eye of potential diners by following these five easy steps:

  1. Appear where diners are searching and stand out. Make it easy for diners to find you on apps like Yelp by optimizing your business listing and using the following free strategies:

  • Add business information. The more information a consumer has when deciding where to dine, the better. Be sure to add your website, menu, and business hours, as well as a description about your restaurant.
  • Upload photos. People searching on Yelp stay on business pages with photos two-and-a-half times longer than on those without. Interior and exterior photos of your restaurant in addition to beautifully plated menu items are a good start.
  • Create exciting promos. Consumers can search exclusively for restaurants with a check-in offer or Yelp Deal on the mobile Yelp app, and with nearly 60 percent of Yelp searches happening through mobile devices (as of Q1 2014), optimizing your listing for mobile search is imperative. Added bonus: Customers that check in to your restaurant or purchase a Yelp Deal are reminded of their recent visit and asked if they’re interested in leaving a review the next time they use Yelp’s desktop platform. They can also share these check-ins and Yelp Deals with their friends on Yelp, Facebook, and Twitter, increasing the visibility of your business.
  1. Make it easy to book a reservation. It has become increasingly more important to have a mobile-friendly website. The easier it is for diners to make a reservation at your restaurant on their smartphone or tablet, the more likely they’ll book with you. Historically, online reservation systems and table management services have been expensive, but now there are several cloud-based options that are much more affordable like Rezbook and Yelp SeatMe.

    People searching on Yelp stay on business pages with photos two-and-a-half times longer than on those without.
  1. Make it quick. Restaurants like La Tarte Flambee in New York that use Yelp SeatMe allow diners to make a reservation right from their smartphone, and even get a text message when their table is ready. Not only does this free up your host from having to call each customer and confirm their reservation, it creates a more delightful dining experience.

  1. Don’t be afraid of email marketing. Track your diners’ preferences from their first visit. Keep copious notes in your guestbook and do some segmented email marketing to get them coming back (when you’ll be able to wow them with how much you remember about them).

  1. Treat every diner like a VIP... even after they’ve left your restaurant. After dining at your restaurant, consumers can turn to sites like Yelp to write a review about their experience. On Yelp, restaurateurs have a suite of free tools available to them in their business account, including the ability to respond to their reviews either privately or publicly to reviews. Both positive and negative reviews are worthy of a reply, the former to simply say thank you and the latter to gather any additional information from a reviewer who had a less than positive experience (try sending a private message first in either of the aforementioned scenarios). You can also post a public comment in response to a review, which demonstrates to any potential customers viewing your Yelp listing that you care about your customer’s feedback. Sometimes, customers will even update their review after being approached by a business owner that uses Yelp’s messaging tools properly.

Morgan Remmers is the manager of Local Business Outreach at Yelp.