By Rich Benavides
Review sites are more popular than ever before. Customers expect to see who you are and know what to expect from you at the click of a button. They expect a place to share their experiences, their local insights, and their opinions about your business. For many businesses and customers that conversation happens on Yelp.
With 25 million monthly mobile app users, 72 million monthly mobile web unique visitors, and 77 million average monthly desktop unique visitors (ranked 9th on Quantcast), Yelp is a bona fide powerhouse review platform in many urban markets—and not just for restaurants.
And yet small business owners are often the last to join the conversation. Many hold a negative opinion of Yelp, whose aggressive sales teams sometimes intimidate small business owners with their persistence. Lawsuits over Yelp reviews and anecdotes of Yelp offering to add or remove reviews in exchange for advertising have understandably left a bad taste in the mouths of small business owners across the country.
As a former member of those sales teams, let’s first clear up a few misconceptions:
- There is no “pay-to-play” arrangement regarding Yelp reviews. It isn’t a tool in the salesperson’s arsenal. You can’t pay to add or remove reviews, even if you are an advertiser.
- The “recommended” reviews are chosen by an automated algorithm. You can flag a review for a second look if you’d like, but those “501” reviews (5 stars, 0 friends, 1 review) are probably not going to make the cut, even if you are an advertiser.
- Most reviews are not just people complaining about your business. A full 46 percent of reviews are 5-star reviews, with another 32 percent at 4 and 3 stars.
- You do not need to pay to begin taking part in the conversation and advantage of some of the great free tools available to business owners on Yelp
This last point is the most important. Back in 2013, Marketing Land and Column Five came out with a study that shocked me. Eighty-seven percent of small businesses surveyed didn’t actively use review sites (Yelp or others), and 22 percent had never even seen their Yelp page. This is potentially harmful to small businesses.
In September, the “Boston Globe” released an article entitled, “Could Yelp Indicate Whether Your Business Deserves a Loan?” In it, they posit that “businesses with plenty of positive Yelp reviews or a strong social media following could hint at a reliable revenue stream.”
So what are you doing to engage with your Yelp customers? If you don’t have an answer for this yet, there are a few simple steps you can take to improve your Yelp presence and get the most out of your Yelp.
Claim your page
You can go to http://biz.yelp.com to find and claim your business. Once you’ve claimed your business, you can update your business information (address, hours, phone, etc.), check analytics, and respond to reviews publically or privately.
Update your information and add photos
Make sure your customers know how to reach you when they are ready.
Engage with positive reviewers
Publicly thank those who review you. Even mixed feedback is helpful to your business, and showing you are actively listening and looking to improve is a powerful message to potential customers and clients. Do not respond negatively to negative reviews. Do let them know they’ve been heard, and consider their feedback with an open mind.
Many people will potentially visit your website from Yelp. You may want to link to a landing page on the front end, redirecting to your main website after gathering their information for your list. Conversely, you can simply make sure there is an enticing reason for the customer to enter their information on the front page of your website. You could also use the Yelp advertising “Call to Action”, which is the paid product you can see below.
Have a lot of traffic every spring, landscaper? Run a Yelp Deal and capitalize on the added attention. Have a great brick-and-mortar location with plenty of foot traffic? Try a check-in offer to get people in the door. Have a certain employee mentioned repeatedly in bad reviews? It may be time to re-train, re-position, or part ways with that employee. Use review sites, like Yelp, to proactively improve your business.
Encourage reviews (in more than one place)
You have some customers who use Yelp religiously. You have others that trust in Google reviews. Maybe a few of your customers love reviewing businesses on Facebook. Wherever your customers tend to review, their voice will carry more weight, so offer your happy customers a choice (and find those happy customers with a sweet post-purchase survey campaign). Keep a presence, not just on Yelp, but also on Google and Facebook.
Take these steps, and you’ll be well on your way to Yelp success. However, it never hurts to view this from your customer’s perspective, so here is some tasty homework to help you get better acquainted with Yelp.
- Go to www.yelp.com
- Search for your favorite type of restaurant (ex. Pizza) near your home
- Find a new place to eat this week. (bonus points for making a reservation)
- (Bonus Points) Review that restaurant
Until next time here’s wishing you success. Tasty, tasty success.
Rich Benavides is an avid Yelper with nearly 100 reviews, a former Yelp representative, and a Getting Started Expert at Infusionsoft. In his spare time, he plays music and leads youth programs for his church, and hangs out with his wife Kristen, 3-month-old daughter Ily, 2 dogs, and a cat.