In a world where more and more customers are turning to the internet to find shops and businesses, Yelp reviews and business listings have become one of the most powerful ways to attract new customers. With the rise of mobile technology, Yelp reviews and listings have become even more important as people often turn to Yelp on their mobile phones in order to quickly find what they need and which business to turn to. In other words, not spending time on your Yelp page means you will almost certainly miss out on a large number of customers.
Because Yelp has become so crucial for small businesses to attract new customers, we’ve put together a quick guide for businesses to help you understand what steps you can take to improve your business listing on Yelp and bring new customers to your business.
How Can Yelp Help My Business?
There are three key aspects to Yelp reviews that can make all the difference for your business:
- Average star rating out of five maximum possible stars
- Positivity or negativity of reviews
- Number of reviews
Yelp uses a five-star rating system with written reviews to bring the old concept of word-of-mouth recommendations to the modern internet audience. Many Yelp users make decisions based on how many stars a business has been rated as, and also the details written about in Yelp user reviews. This is why you absolutely cannot afford to ignore Yelp, because if a few unhappy customers start writing negative reviews – even if they’re being unfair to you – it can suddenly drop your rating and create a reputation management nightmare for you. If your business only has three stars but your competitor has worked hard to earn five stars on Yelp, it’s easy to see which business people will choose. Likewise, users will choose businesses that have good, strong reviews over businesses that have harsh, negative reviews. Businesses with only a few reviews appear less proven and established, whereas businesses with large numbers of reviews and a strong average star rating appear to have widespread approval.
So How Do I Get Positive Yelp Reviews?
Technically, Yelp only wants you to ask people for honest, fair reviews, rather than try to push them to write positive reviews. However, there are important steps you can take to make your business more inviting to the customers who are mostly likely to give you a positive Yelp review.
First, activate your Yelp page. All you need to do is prove you own your business and Yelp will give you specific controls that only the owner of the business can access. Take control of your business’ image by adding high-quality photos, descriptions, menus, phone numbers, hours of operation, and other important details that can help entice users to drop by and become your customers.
Next, put up a “Find us on Yelp” sign in your store/website. Yelp will help give you promotional items like Yelp posters, stickers, badges, and other free materials so you can promote both your business and your presence on Yelp.
Another great method to getting prominent Yelp users to review your business is to host a Yelp event. It might sound complicated, but it’s actually probably much easier than you think. Visit yelp.com/events, choose your city, click the “Add an Event” button, and fill out your business details. Next, you can promote your event by sending out invitations to Yelp users who have already visited your business, as well as users who have reviewed other similar businesses and are therefore likely to be interested in your services or products. You can also consider contacting prominent Yelp users known as “Yelp Elite” and inviting them to help attend and spread the word about your event. Before the day of your event comes, it’s a really good idea to have free giveaways for people who attend, to make the event fun, exciting and memorable.
Posting a Yelp Deal can also really help attract customers to your business, and since these customers came from Yelp, they’re already more likely to know how to write a positive review about your business if you provide them with a good experience.
Make sure your staff photos are friendly and happy. Friendly and inviting images can create a positive impression that can encourage satisfied customers to write helpful positive reviews and dissuade unhappy customers from writing negative reviews.
Offer check-in rewards through Foursquare. Foursquare is another popular online service that is specifically prominent among mobile users, allowing them to virtually “check in” at your business and earn rewards from you like free drinks, snacks, or small giveaway items.
Respond to Yelp reviews already on your page. Sometimes users express confusion or unhappiness because of misunderstandings or unusual events. Responding to concerns or confusion can help sway customers towards coming back to try your business again, but even might convince them to delete or rewrite their review in a more positive way. Try explaining why they had a bad or confusing experience, and explain to them what steps you’re taking to address the issues so that if they come back and give you another chance, they won’t be disappointed.
Print out positive Yelp reviews and display them in your store or on your website. Positive Yelp reviews can help reassure people who enter your business that they have good reason to spend money with you, and at the same time will remind them that they can write reviews for your business on Yelp.
Promote your Yelp page on other social media. Facebook and Twitter can be a great way to remind people to check out your Yelp page. Yelp doesn’t encourage directly asking for reviews, but instead simply reminding people they can find a lot of great information about your business on Yelp.
Add Yelp links and images on your website and promotional emails. These links and badges help remind people that your Yelp page and reviews are just a click away.
How to Handle Negative Yelp Reviews
Even the best businesses have at least a few negative Yelp reviews, but there are some steps you can take to improve the situation and reduce the impact of negative reviews. Here’s how to handle negative Yelp reviews:
- Don’t respond right away. Don’t take things too personally and remember make sure to bring yourself to a calm state, since it’s easy to be angered by negative reviews and respond with words that only make the situation more severe. Taking a few days to calm down and think analytically is an important practice.
- Try to see the customer’s side of the story. Are there valid criticisms and fact-based items you can address, or is it just emotional and lacking specifics?
- Public responses can show people that you’re dedicated to improving and making every single customer valued and satisfied. However, sometimes it’s better to use private reviews if you think things could get worse or the person is unreasonable.
- Be polite and respectful. This can help win over unsatisfied customers while angry or disrespectful responses could push them to write more negative and harsh words.
- If the criticism is valid and constructive, put it to use! Sometimes customers see things in your business from another perspective and can identify things you can change to improve. Improving should be the goal of every business, so use constructive criticism as an opportunity to become a better business.
Can Negative Yelp Reviews Be Removed?
The only way you can have a user’s review removed is if the review violates Yelp’s Terms of Service: http://www.yelp.com/static?country_=US&p=tos
That means most reviews can’t be removed, however there are some instances that you can report to Yelp when reviews violate the Terms of Service:
- Fake or defamatory reviews
- Promoting other businesses like competitors
- Rants about political beliefs, employment practices, or extraordinary circumstances, or matters that have nothing to do with the customer experience
If the review you want to remove doesn’t fit any of these violations, the best way to handle them is to simply respond to them as we outlined earlier. One good strategy is to tell the customer you’ve taken steps to improve their areas of concern and invite them to come back and write another review or modify their existing review after giving you another chance.
How Does Yelp Prevent People From Gaming the System?
Yelp has a method of filtering out reviews that appear to be fake. For example, they don’t want you registering tons of Yelp accounts using different names and writing reviews of your own business with these accounts. Here are some things that can get a review filtered out and removed from your page:
- If the user has only written one or two reviews
- If the user has little or almost no profile information, such as no profile photo, links, other social media, etc.
- Reviews that are too strongly slanted positively or negatively
- Short reviews that have very few details about the user’s experience
- Reviews written by friends or family, which are biased sources of information
- Reviews that seem like the writer never visited the business
The Yelp filtering method has noble goals, but has actually angered many business owners because it sometimes can be wrong and filter out good reviews that are important for bringing in customers and giving the business a good image. Yelp stands by the system, and it even successfully filtered out every fake review in Business Week’s investigative test: http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/a-lie-detector-test-for-online-reviewers-09292011.html
Above all else, remember that it’s important to get active and engaged in Yelp, and build your profile and image online. You absolutely cannot afford to ignore Yelp, because negative reviews will go unaddressed and users will think you’re not engaged or dedicated to providing good services. Furthermore, a Yelp business listing without any photos or details will make users think your business is questionable and does not appear to be reliable or legitimate.