Yelp users will soon start seeing blue shields in Yelp search results and on business profiles in selected categories, which include home and local services, medical, childcare, esthetics and “other high-trust business categories.” These new badges are called “Yelp Verified Licenses” (YVL).

State license, Yelp verified. Users can click on the badges and see relevant licensing information for the business. This is not a proprietary Yelp score or certification; rather it’s a verification that the business is licensed in its particular field in the state(s) in which it operates. It’s also a paid-advertising product. VYL costs $1 per day — presumably $365 per year. It’s not clear if there’s an additional application fee (my assumption is no).

Yelp manually checks whether the license exists and is in good standing after a business applies to receive the verification. YVL is currently available in Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, New York, Texas and Washington. Yelp says it will add new states in the future.

Boosts visibility and engagement. Yelp says it has been testing YVL “with thousands of businesses” and seen an increase in consumer engagement of 24 percent, on listings that carry a YVL. That includes increased clicks, calls, quote requests and other actions.

Another benefit, according to Yelp, is that business with few or no reviews benefit from the presence of the badge. According to the company’s promotional materials, “In early experiments, contractors with zero reviews saw growth in engagement on their pages after becoming Yelp Verified and displaying the Verified License badge.”

Why you should care. Yelp has been seeking to diversify its product lineup in ways that offer benefits to both consumers and businesses (and Yelp). Yelp waitlist for restaurants is one example. Request A Quote is another. In the latter case, Yelp says quote requests grew 41 percent year over year in the fourth quarter, “representing 4.4 million service requests” and generating $38 million.

As fake reviews proliferate — though less on Yelp perhaps than elsewhere — consumers may look to these secondary trust markers to make buying decisions. In “high-trust” categories they may also become a tiebreaker.

Google has a similar program called Local Services ads. The company uses third-parties to conduct background checks and verification on the businesses. The ads appear at the top of the search results with “Google Guaranteed” badges. Google has also been adding various identifiers to its organic local listing profiles, including women-led and veteran-led attributes.

About The Author

Greg Sterling is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog, Screenwerk, about connecting the dots between digital media and real-world consumer behavior. He is also VP of Strategy and Insights for the Local Search Association. Follow him on Twitter or find him at Google+.

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