Restaurant owners: Why Yelp is more important than your own website

9 out of 10 patrons visiting your restaurant for the first time probably checked Yelp first. 

9 out of 10 patrons visiting your restaurant for the first time probably checked Yelp first. 

Imagine you want to take someone out on a charming date and you’re sweating cold bullets. It’s gotta be good. And you know it.

You know that your date loves Mexican cuisine, so you pull up a web browser and punch in the search query “mexican restaurants near me.” The first result is a list of top Mexican restaurants on Yelp.com, the popular local business review site that seems to always be at the top of the page when it comes to local restaurant searches.

You find two spots. You investigate their websites and find that they’re essentially carbon copies of each other. Exactly the same. They’re equidistant from your house. The entrees and margaritas are priced in the same range.

How do you decide between them? The star rating, which comes from online customer reviews, breaks the tie.

The online “word of mouth” site Yelp had approximately 287 million people read its reviews on an average monthly basis in the second quarter of 2017, according to the website’s data report. That’s more people than the entire voting age population in the United States.

So what?

Above all, this means more people find your restaurant on Yelp than from your own website. Scenarios like the one above happen millions of times every day. Explorative customers search Yelp to make the right decision for their night-out budgets, so you can’t ignore it if you want to attract customers.

Restaurants especially can’t ignore Yelp reviews

Whether they had a dazzling night or a sour experience, most people go to Yelp to talk about their experience at a restaurant. Of the 135 million reviews on Yelp, the second most reviewed category is “Restaurants” (18%), right after “Shopping” (22%), according to Yelp data.

The good news for restaurant owners is that 47% of Yelp reviews are five stars. That means nearly half of the visitors to Yelp are there to rave about their positive experiences.

And if you’re curious, the other 53% breaks down like this:

  • 4 Stars 21%
  • 3 Stars 10%
  • 2 Stars 7%
  • 1 Star 15%

Are you paying attention to Yelp now?

If you’re a restaurant owner, consider this logic:

  • 92% of consumers read online reviews before making a purchase, recent studies say (up from 88% in 2014).
  • Yelp is the 4th most visited customer review site on the Internet, after Google, Facebook, and Amazon (and Amazon isn’t really used for restaurants, so we could argue Yelp is actually 3rd on the Internet).
  • Therefore, 9 out of 10 customers visiting your restaurant (for the first time) likely checked Yelp first.

The question for you as a restaurant owner is then this: did you meet them there?

The more you are where your customer is, the more sales you will probably make. After all, this is the goal of your marketing and advertising budget — to put your message in front of your customers.

So if the majority of your customers are visiting Yelp, then maybe it’s time to meet them there.

Is Yelp worth the time and effort?

I know this already, you might be saying. It’s not worth my time.

A Harvard Business School study shows that a one-star Yelp rating increase can lead to a 9% revenue increase. You may not think customer engagement matters, but it does. In any event, money talks, and a 9% revenue increase is probably worth someone’s time on your staff.

Your business is automatically listed on Yelp and users can leave reviews, whether you do anything or not. It’s on you to claim your business. Photos, menu items, and open hours won’t fill in themselves.

2 crucial reasons to claim your business listing on Yelp

  1. Be found online: 1.17 billion people use Google Search. And the bulk of Yelp’s users come from Google. Yelp’s CEO Jeremy Stoppelman told TechCrunch, “About 75% of Yelp’s traffic, overall, is sourced through Google one way or another. About 50% is traffic coming from people who start their search on Google and eventually find their way to Yelp; the other 25% is people qualifying ‘Yelp’ as one of the keywords in their search…” In other words, millions of people start searching for a bite to eat in Google and end up looking at Yelp profiles.
  2. Customer reviews on Yelp can be a source of inspiration, ideas, and encouragement. Whether it’s putting a honey bear in the guest’s condiment area or just “keep doing what you’re doing!”, combing through customer reviews can lead to the affirmation or improvement restaurant owners want. One Noodle Bar owner in Palm Beach, Florida said he always looks forward to reading over his Yelp reviews, both the good ones and the not-so-good ones.

“All and any customer feedback is helpful! It’s a must for growing our business, this is why we value tools like Yelp to help better our restaurants, whether it’s positive or negative feedback it’s how you use these tools to better your business that’s most important!”

Whether you’re not on Yelp yet or you’re an experienced Yelper, it’s time to augment your Yelp activity and generate more foot traffic for your restaurant.

One the biggest challenges is reading and responding to every review on Yelp and other sites. Womply Reputation Defense makes it easy and saves time by letting you manage all your reviews from one place. Take a look at how it’s helped a bunch of restaurant owners: