In times of uncertainty, one of the best strategies businesses have is to ensure they are providing accurate and up-to-date information for customers who are searching for answers online. This has become particularly true during the COVID-19 pandemic. While Yelp may not be a focus for some business categories, it can be a huge opportunity for service providers, restaurants and other essential businesses.
Yelp’s user-generated reviews inform consumer decisions for millions of people on a daily basis, so making sure that a business is accurately represented on the platform can be a significant opportunity to reach potential customers. While that advice was certainly true before COVID-19, it’s even more true now when people have questions about whether a business is open, what types of services can be offered virtually, or if a business is temporarily closed to due to local restrictions. That’s why it’s important to make sure that information is current. Here are a few best practices to consider for businesses using Yelp:
1. Update Business Hours
Many impacted businesses have had to adapt to rapidly changing circumstances and one common result has been changes to business hours. Whether it’s a business that’s open and allowing special hours for at-risk customers, has shortened hours because of a drop in foot traffic, or is closed on certain days of the week now, making sure potential customers can find up-to-date information about when a business is open is a key opportunity to ensure a place is getting whatever business it can right now.
Special Hours Functionality
Businesses can modify hours in the business information section of the app for a longer-term change. Or they can create Special Hours in order to make changes for a shorter time frame. The Special Hours feature can be more visible within the platform right now, including a banner highlighting the change on a listing, which may be helpful for businesses who want potential customers to see that they are still open. Businesses can also use Special Hours to close on specific days, if they’re shifting to Thursday through Sunday and closing for slower weekdays.
- To create Special Hours in the Yelp for Businesses app, tap Biz Info at the bottom of the screen, scroll down to Operation Hours and then add/edit special hours. Then tap Save in the top right.
- To do that in the desktop browser, visit Yelp for Business and scroll down to Special Hours. Businesses can edit individual dates or close specific days as needed.
2. Temporary Closure of Business
If a business will be closed temporarily due to local Shelter in Place restrictions or other safety precautions, and it doesn’t have any online operations, then the quickest way to communicate that information to people searching for information is to mark the business as temporarily closed. Businesses will still be able to access their account and can re-open at any time, but customers won’t accidentally drive to a location in order to find out they aren’t open.
- To update a listing as temporarily closed in the Yelp for Business app, tap Biz Info at the bottom of the screen and then scroll down to Mark Business as Closed, then select Close Temporarily. If a business knows when it’ll reopen, enter that date as well. If they aren’t sure, choose an approximate date and then update that information once more specifics are available.
- To update a listing via web browser, navigate to Yelp for Business and scroll down to Hours. Click Edit and scroll down to Temporarily Closed at the bottom. Click the link and select Yes to confirm, then check the box for Temporarily Closed. As with above, a business should choose an approximate date to reopen, if they don’t have a specific date. That can be updated as needed once more specifics are available.
If a physical storefront is closed but the business offers virtual services or online sales through a website, then don’t mark the business as temporarily closed because that will send the wrong message. In this case, the business should leave the business open but use virtual service offerings and Yelp’s COVID-19 advisory alert feature in order to communicate opportunities to potential customers. You’ll find more information on those features in a moment.
3. Update Service Options
For restaurants and other businesses who have changed their services in response to COVID, it’s important to make sure listings reflect updated information so that potential customers know what’s going on. Businesses offering delivery, takeout or both also have elevated visibility during the month of April inside of the Yelp app, so if a business just made the change, there’s good reason to update their Yelp listing.
- To update changes in the Yelp for Business app, tap Biz Info at the bottom of the screen and scroll down too Known For. Tap the pencil icon to edit info and select Yes for relevant offerings to update.
- To make the changes via web browser, choose to edit Basic Information and select the relevant offerings to add for the business.
4. Add Virtual Services
The pandemic has created greater opportunities for virtual services, including classes, lessons, performances, consultations, tours, and more. These types of virtual offerings are now more readily discoverable in Yelp thanks to some changes to their business filtering options in search results. Potential customers can actually search Yelp specifically for businesses offering virtual services now, so it’s a unique opportunity to raise visibility for a business.
If a business has virtual services available, here’s how to make sure they appear on a listing:
- In the Yelp for Business app, tap Biz Info at the bottom of the screen and then tap the pencil icon next to Categories and Services to edit that section. Check the box next to any relevant virtual services (available options vary by business category).
- To make updates via web browser, login and then click Edit next to Categories and Services. Select the relevant virtual services (available options vary by business category) and save the changes.
5. Use the COVID-19 Advisory Alert
As part of its pandemic response, Yelp has added a new feature on business listings that allows businesses to communicate updates directly to consumers. If a business hasn’t edited the alert banner a generic message will appear that tells users “Business operations may be affected. Due to ongoing precautionary measures, please contact the business directly for updated hours and availability.” However, businesses can also customize the message to highlight specific changes to operations, sanitation practices and other news.
In either the app or the web browser, there is a prompt to edit the COVID-19 Updates section. For a particularly long message, it will truncate and require a user to click through and see the whole message, so be sure to put the most important information up front in order to maximize visibility.
You can read more here on Yelp’s Blog about different ways businesses are using the COVID-19 banner to highlight information for customers.
Claiming a Business
To access Yelp’s tools for businesses, they’ll need to first claim the listing. This process is free and relatively easy to complete. Get started at https://biz.yelp.com.
Reviews During the COVID-19 Crisis
A note on reviews during COVID: Yelp has also made changes to review moderation that protect businesses from reputation harm related to these extraordinary circumstances. If you see a negative review that is a result of your business being closed during normal business hours, Yelp will remove those. They’ll also remove reviews in which someone claims to have contracted COVID-19 from a business.