Some people may love it, others hate it, but everyone has an opinion when it comes to Yelp. If you have been resisting putting your home inspection business on Yelp, or are just starting out and want to get your name out there, it’s time to claim your free listing and start entering your information.

If you stop after entering your information, you’ll be farther along than many who have left their Yelp presence to chance. But, if you decide to invest more time, and maybe even dollars in Yelp, you can see your returns multiply. Here are 5 ways to leverage Yelp right now, from free placement to advertising packages:

1Control Your Online Reputation

Seriously, if you have a home inspection business, you need to go to Yelp right now and fill out your profile in full. The alternative is a vacant listing with an anonymous picture with your business name on it.

Take control of your home inspector listing on YelpYou need to own your online reputation and, like it or not, Yelp is a necessary part of it. Even if you aren’t looking to Yelp as a lead source for your business, there is a good chance that buyers will check online sources to verify the referral their agent has given them. Finding an empty Yelp listing is a good reason to check the next person on the referral list, or search Yelp for a highly rated inspector.

There’s also the chance that an unsatisfied homebuyer will leave a negative review on your unclaimed listing, and you won’t even know it. While having a negative review looks bad for your business, having an unanswered negative review on a vacant listing looks even worse.

It is highly suggested that you respond to every negative review that you get on Yelp. A well thought out response can blunt the damage that this review might otherwise do, as well as boost your profile in the eyes of Yelp.

Crafting a suitable response is hard, since you may have to channel the patience and understanding of a saint to do it well. Think about what you’d like to see an inspector write if you were the unhappy customer or another prospective buyer looking to see how you handle customer service.

2Showcase Happy Customers

Yelp is also a great platform to let your customers say glowing things about the work you performed on their home inspection. Maybe your inspection confirmed that this was their dream house, allayed their fears about a leaky basement, or saved them from buying a house with termite infestation. Let them rave about you on Yelp.

So, even if at this point you aren’t getting out and out referrals from Yelp, you can leverage the reviews to validate your work. Buyers who have been referred from others can see on Yelp that you are a safe bet and good value for their inspection. It’s like your references in their pocket.

Highlight Those Shooting Stars

Once you have a few great reviews, shout it from the rooftops. Put “Rated 5 Stars on Yelp” on your website, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, business cards, etc.

You may have heard complaints from other inspectors about good reviews not getting shown. It is true that Yelp has developed their algorithm to try to stop biased and solicited reviews from appearing on listings. Thus, it’s important to walk a fine line between engaging with customers and soliciting reviews.

The best way to garner great reviews is to provide exceptional service to homebuyers and realtors. Treat every customer as if they will be your next 5 star review, and ultimately more of them will reward you with glowing things to say on Yelp.

One critical no-no is to reward people for leaving a Yelp review with a discount or any other gift. A direct link in your thank you note with a clear Yelp call to action can also lead to denigrated reviews.

Happy Inspection CustomersInstead, it’s better to take a softer approach. Once you have a couple of good reviews, put the Yelp review box on your website to show that you are a 5 star operation. Prospective customers can click through and see that you are highly recommended. It also serves as a subtle reminder to leave a review after the inspection.

Additionally, consider letting people know that you count on the likes of Yelp, Angie’s List, Google+ and other networks to help you connect with new clients. Subtly let them know that if they were happy with their inspection, it would be appreciated if they would share their experience.

Or, include a Find Us On Yelp and other sites in your email signature line, which can serve the dual purpose of showcasing your industry presence, as well as act as a gentle heads-up for reviews.

Note Yelp puts much higher value on reviews by those who are active on their site, i.e., Yelpers. If your customer creates an account just to review you, don’t be surprised if their review gets relegated to the hard to find, not recommended section of your listing. This is another good reason to include other sites when referencing Yelp in your communications.

3Boost Your Local Search Rankings

It’s not just eyeballs that you are serving with a Yelp listing. Yelp has a large part to play in boosting SEO when it comes to local businesses. Your information should be complete, accurate and focused on the geography where you are located and inspect.

Ross Neag from Chicago Building Inspections has had great success with Yelp in the past. He suggests filling out your Yelp profile completely, completing every field, and uploading any and every picture that they allow you to. According to Neag, having a profile that is incomplete can actually hurt your search rankings.

Increase your SEO rankThe number and positivity of your reviews on Yelp and other social channels will also factor into Google’s algorithms. So, having those 5 star reviews helps both referrals and rankings. And, don’t forget to include the search engine keywords in your Yelp listing that you are optimizing your website for.

Note that Yelp will only let you advertise in a target area that is tied to your physical address. This is relevant to SEO as well as Yelp, since it wouldn’t help your local ranking to have one address on your website and another on Yelp. Nor does it help to have both areas outside of where you’d prefer to be working and showing up in search listings.

Rick Mandac, owner of Premier Inspectors USA and a HomeHubZoneTM advisor, suggests that you take this into consideration before creating your listing on Yelp. If your location happens to be out of your desired target area, Rick suggests that signing up for a Regus address may be a great alternative.

If you decide to advertise, also consider whether or not to go with Yelp’s included tracked phone number. Though they strongly encourage you to take their number for an analytics advantage, it may end up hurting your search placement if your area code does not match up to your business address according to online marketing agency 39 Celsius.

4See How You Are Doing on Yelp

If you haven’t set up your profile, you won’t be able to log in and see the stats of how your listing is doing. Whether you pay or not, Yelp still lets you login and access their business analytics to track your visitors and leads.

If you find that you are having some success at the free level, you might decide to try offering a special deal to Yelpers and/or go all in and make an investment in paid advertising.

5Increase Your Visibility and Referrals

Paying for advertising on Yelp can be an expensive and frustrating experience, but it can provide several key advantages to those who want to spend the money:

  • Even if you don’t rank well yourself in Google for your area, chances are Yelp owns a spot near the top of the page. When a user clicks through to Yelp, as a high-spending advertiser, you can be at the top of that page.
  • Not only will you rank higher in your area for a Yelp home inspector search, you’ll also show up in the sidebar of non-advertiser listings.
  • When you pay to be a Yelp advertiser, your listing will not show competitors in the sidebar. Thus, you essentially pay to block competitive ads on your listing.

Even with those advantages, advertising on Yelp can have its drawbacks. And, many who have tried Yelp advertising end up regretting their decision. Yelp will try to lock you in for a 12-month minimum commitment that may start as high $350 a month.

Ross Neag thinks it can be worth the money. At his old company, he paid extra for an enhanced listing that included having Yelp come out and shoot a video. This video went into the company’s banner rotation, enhancing its presence and profile on Yelp.

In fact, Ross attributes 30-40% of his past business to Yelp. Though, he is quick to acknowledge that he operates in an urban environment, with a young, tech-savvy demographic.

Knowing your market may be key. If there are already a lot of inspectors competing with their dollars for the premium spots on Yelp, and/or your geographic area has a high percentage of older homeowners, it may not make sense to spend the money.

On the other hand, if you are a bit tech savvy and have a polished Yelp presence in a younger market with at least a few glowing reviews, you may want to put some money in the 2016 budget for advertising.

What has your experience been with Yelp? Have you tried advertising and found it beneficial? Let us know in the comments.