A couple months ago, a prospective client met with us because she was concerned about her company’s visibility online. The business is in the health and wellness vertical, so time was of the essence if we were going to help before New Year’s.
After doing a quick review, we found that the client wasn’t appearing on major search engines for even their own name. Typically this would raise concern that the client was under penalty from a search engine, but the answer was much simpler: the client wasn’t showing up because she hadn’t told any of the search engines to make her show up.
In many cases, direct submission to a search engine isn’t necessary. Google, for instance, is very good at discovering websites all on its own without manual submission. Yelp, though, is less quick to identify new businesses. When we discussed Yelp with the client, we found that she didn’t add her business to the directory both because she thought it cost money and because she wasn’t sure the process. This article will provide an overview of the online directory space, whether becoming part of that space costs money, and how to claim your business on Yelp specifically.
Overview of Online Directories
Our staff has experience working for a major online directory and building a minor online directory for a different company. We can distinguish three levels to online directories: the data, the application, and the ordering of results.
The data used for online directories like Yelp is brokered by a shady cartel of companies that safeguard their proprietary databases with intrigue, murder, and sabotage. The high stakes world of local data brokerages is not for the faint of heart.
Of course, it’s not that dramatic. There are a handful of companies (approximately five) that control the largest and most reputable local business databases. A few include Factual, Localeze, and Dun & Bradstreet. Companies like Yelp and YP build off of these raw datastores either by combining data from other sources or performing updates using information they source from customers.
When our staff had to work with Localeze, a nice man named Fred walked through how the database was structured and the subscription price which sometimes varies from customer to customer and based on how much data you’re purchasing.
The key fact is that there’s no single database of local business information. Adding a business to one often will result in a business appearing in others over time, but this isn’t guaranteed. Further, if your business moves to a different address or changes its name, the data can fall out of sync online. Some older versions of the database will show the old information even if the same database reflects the new after your change. We had a client who was appearing online for an address they’d vacated in the 1990s.
Once an online directory company has a database, they have to build an application around it. The application is just the interface for you to view listings from the database. For our purposes in this article, the application isn’t relevant; just understand that the application usually allows you to add or edit a business listing. Less mature applications do not and might require you to call a phone number or email a representative. Yelp is a more mature application and when you claim your business on Yelp you can do so quickly and easily.
The Ordering of Results
Each directory has its own rules for how listings are displayed to users. Yelp and other directories have methods to order and rank listings based on category, relevance to the search, ratings, times of operation, and more. While ranking on Yelp (or any other directory) is worth additional articles, one of the best things you can do for visibility in an online directory is to claim your business listing. Local data companies prioritize information sourced directly from a business over information they gather from other places. Sometimes this happens imperfectly, but you improve your odds by claiming your business.
How Much Does it Cost to Claim Your Business on Yelp?
It’s free. There are a couple things to watch out for though.
First, once you claim your business on Yelp, sales representatives will begin calling and emailing you. What they want to discuss with you is decidedly not free.
Second, when you access the management section of Yelp to update your listing, they may have options and upgrades that also cost money.
Third, remember how information can sometimes appear inconsistent across databases and even within databases? For a brand new business this often isn’t a concern, but if you’ve been open for more than a year it might make sense to have someone run a check on your information. Software exists to help standardize and correct inconsistent information, which helps with your overall visibility online. (We can help!)
How to Claim Your Business on Yelp
Now that we have some context out of the way – either because you’ve read up to this point or because you’ve skipped down here, we can look at how easy it is to claim your business on Yelp.
- Visit Yelp online.
- Scroll all the way to the bottom of the page where and click the link that says, “Claim your business page” – or you can click here.
- Fill out the form to search for your business by name and address.
- If your business appears, you will be presented with ways to claim the existing listing.
- If your business does not appear, click the prompt to add it. Fill out the form and follow the instructions Yelp gives you. Sometimes it can take a day or two for them to verify the information and add your listing.
- Drink a celebration tea, like our prospective client did when she followed these steps.