With an average of 132 million monthly unique visits, Yelp can be a powerful online marketing tool for local businesses.  Enthusiastic Yelpers have written over 57 million local business reviews, and many more who have never written a single review still depend upon Yelp to inform their choices about everything from where to eat to where to shop and where to take their dry cleaning.  Of the many customer review sites, Yelp is a top pick for customers looking for information.

So what are customers looking for when they check out your local business Yelp page?  As any journalist will tell you, they want to know who, what, when, where and why.

Who Are You as a Business?

This is perhaps the most difficult thing to define on your Yelp page.  It’s a combination of your business description/mission statement, business motto, call to action, and the overall look and feel of your site.  Photographs are a major contributor to the latter.

Professional photographs of the interior of your business provide customers a preview of the setting or ambiance.  Pictures of select menu items, if you’re in food service, can be enticing. Photos of a finished product, such as a well-groomed dog, show off the quality of your service, and a clear shot of the outside of your business can help potential customers spot your business as they drive by.  Just make sure the pictures are well executed and flattering.

What Does Your Local Business Offer?

Many businesses owners include their service in their business name, such as AAA Carpet Cleaning, or Sam’s Dog Grooming.  A great number, however, do not.  If your business name is something generic, such as Smith Enterprises, you’ll want to make sure the next line the consumer sees details what services you provide.

Your Yelp page should include a menu of offerings, whether it’s an actual restaurant menu, a spa menu, a hair salon price list or whatever.  If your name is AAA Carpet Cleaning but you also clean upholstery, tile and grout, here is where you can let your customers know you do more than just carpets.

When is Your Local Business Open?

Make sure to list your hours of operation on your Yelp page.  This can be a selling point if you have very convenient hours.  If a customer can drop off their dry cleaning on their way to work and pick it up on their way home, they’ll probably choose your business over a less expensive, but less convenient competitor.

Similarly, there’s no quicker way to lose a customer than to have them make a special trip to visit your local business only to find it closed.  Be sure to post your hours, and do your best to adhere to them when possible.

Where is Your Local Business Located?

Helping your customers find you is about more than just listing your address.  While many mobile Yelpers have GPS apps on their phones, it may not always be convenient to activate.  A clear, simple graphic depicting your location on a map is a good visual cue, and helps the consumer place your location, mentally, in reference to other places, such as home, workplace, favorite restaurant, etc.  This gets them thinking about whether they can have the oil changed in their car while they catch a bite at their favorite lunch spot, get their hair done on their way home from work, and so forth.

If your location is not easy to find — maybe you’re on the second floor, around the back, or behind a large sign, it’s critical to make a mention of this on your Yelp page, to help first time customers locate you more quickly.  If someone is coming for a massage and it gets cut short because they lost valuable time searching for your business, then their first experience with your business has already gotten off to a rocky start.

Why Should Customers Choose Your Local Business?

Decide what sets your local business apart from the rest, and highlight these features on your Yelp page.  Whether it’s the super convenient hours, easy to reach location, great parking, low prices or superb customer service, don’t be afraid to toot your own horn and toot it loudly.  If you were a customer, what about your business would make YOU want to visit?

Reading your customers’ reviews on Yelp or other review sites can give you an idea of their favorite products or services.  Take advantage of those and highlight them.

On the Subject of Reviews…

Always handle customer reviews very professionally and courteously, even if the review is bad or even insulting.  Don’t get into a verbal fistfight with the customer.  Tell them you appreciate their input, and you’re working to improve things.  If the review is way out of line and you’re quite sure the customer has never actually visited your business (it happens), then it’s okay to simply state that you have no records of this customer having ever frequented your business.

Everyone gets a bad review once in a while, and Yelpers are less interested in the aberration than in how you will respond to it.  You may be responding to the individual, but your message is going out to everyone else who visits your Yelp page.  Make sure it says that you care about your customers’ experience, and will do everything you can to make sure it is a good one.