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Understanding Yelp search

Have you ever done a search to see where your business shows up on Yelp? It makes sense: Every business wants to be number one for the searches that matter to their business. In order to get more exposure for your business on Yelp, it helps to understand how Yelp works.

How does Yelp determine which businesses show up in search results?

Yelp search results are based on a number of factors with the goal of understanding what consumers are searching for so that we can show the most relevant results.

We look at the search term itself, the location of the business relative to where the user is searching, how relevant the search term is to the business’s core offerings, how well consumers rate the business, as well as dozens of other factors too long to list here that help us match the user to the right businesses.

Gif of yelp search scrolling on Red Background for The Guide To Understanding Yelp Search

How are search results ordered?

The default ordering of our results weighs the different factors to present the most relevant and useful results for that user in that moment. For example, a five star business with hundreds of reviews may be more useful than a one star business with a single review.

But ratings and reviews aren’t everything. A business that is located one block away from the user might be more useful than a business that is five miles away… even if it is slightly lower rated or has fewer reviews. A business that is open when the user performs a search is likely more useful than a business that is closed. A business that specializes in the very thing that the user is searching for is likely more useful than a business that is less specialized (e.g,. a search for “Sicilian-style pizza” would likely get different results than a search for “pizza”).

There are dozens of factors that determine search ranking, but the ultimate goal is to prioritize the most relevant and useful businesses for that consumer, based on their search.

Re-ordering and filtering search results

Users can reorder search results based on specific criteria like “Highest Rated,” “Most Reviewed”, and “Distance.”

They can also refine results using filters to narrow their search. For example, users can filter for businesses that are ‘Open Now’ in order to weed out businesses that aren’t open at that time, even if they are well rated. (To appear in this type of search, a business must have hours on their business page and be open at the designated time.)

Do advertisers rank higher than non-advertisers?

Advertisers do not get higher placement than non-advertisers, but Yelp does show relevant ads above and around unpaid search results. These ads are marked as “Sponsored Results.” We also allow businesses to buy a variety of features that highlight relevant information to consumers within search results (e.g., whether a business has a verified license).

What can you do to stand out on Yelp?

Here are some helpful tips to consider:

  • Make sure your business is listed on Yelp
  • Make sure the information about your business is accurate (e.g., address, phone #, hours, map pin location, categories of service, etc)
  • Add any other helpful information about your business to the “About this Business” section
  • Consider Yelp Ads, which will help you stand out when users are searching for a business like yours

What should you avoid doing to try to stand out on Yelp?

Some of these tips may seem counter-intuitive, but they are important to keep in mind:

  • Don’t ask your customers to write reviews. (To learn more about why Yelp doesn’t condone review solicitation check out this short article.)
  • Don’t obsess over where your competition ranks.

What should you take away from this post?

Every search and every search result is different. There is no “#1” sushi place on Yelp. There’s just a #1 business for that particular user in that particular moment given his or her unique search, location, and other factors. By claiming your Business Page and including information about what you do you have a better chance of standing out on Yelp. You can also explore advertising options for additional opportunities to get your business page more visibility when people in your area are searching for what you do.

The information above is provided for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice and may not be suitable for your circumstances. Unless stated otherwise, references to third-party links, services, or products do not constitute endorsement by Yelp.

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