For some business owners, it’s the Evil Empire. For customers, it’s often a trusted resource that can save hours of time and headaches. The combination of high traffic (185 million users a month as of this writing) and candid reviews make Yelp a popular place to get the dirt on local businesses – deserved or not.
There’s no way to verify that a reviewer is an actual customer of the business they’ve reviewed, and fake reviews have been a concern of business owners for years. Yelp has a review filter that the company says excludes fake reviews, but some reviewers and businesses believe the filter makes mistakes. There’s no way to know how accurate Yelp’s fake review filter is – they won’t give us any details about it.
Why does Yelp matter?
Harvard Business School published a study focused on restaurant reviews in 2011 and 2016 saying that each star on a Yelp business page affects an independent restaurant’s sales by 5% to 9%. That means a five-star restaurant on Yelp could have up to 18% more sales than a three-star business purely because of their Yelp ratings. But here’s some good news for independent restaurants: The more people use Yelp in a market, the less likely they are to visit chain restaurants, effectively taking money away from chains and giving it to independent operations.
What can a business do to make the most of Yelp?
Like Michael Corleone said in The Godfather II, Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Yes, Yelp may be a necessary evil for local businesses, but savvy owners can make it work for them. Here are some key things you can do:
1. Most importantly, claim your business page on Yelp. Visit Yelp for Business Owners and enter your contact information for your company’s page. But be prepared for regular phone calls from Yelp salespeople trying to get you to advertise! Yelp ads are costly and may be less effective than other forms of social media advertising.
2. Make the most of your Yelp business page with keywords and photos. Relevant keywords will bring more traffic to your Yelp page, and photos of your business and products can keep potential customers on it longer.
3. Reply to all negative reviews in a constructive, positive way. Think of a negative review as an opportunity to make things right with the customer. Users pay attention to both the negative review and the business owner’s response, and a level-headed, customer service-oriented reply can actually bring in new business. Check out these great responses to negative Yelp reviews. If you offer to fix the situation and the customer is satisfied, politely ask them to delete or change their review to help your business.
4. If a negative review violates the Yelp Terms of Service agreement, you may be able to have it removed. Yelp says that if a review has a derogatory remark about an employee, you can ask Yelp to remove it as a TOS violation.
5. Make the most of negative reviews with a sense of humor. Some business owners embrace the hate, like the sandwich shop that used a bad review to poke fun at their own product.
6. It’s not a bad idea to respond to positive reviews, too. Doing so shows Yelp users that you care about customer service and you take the time to read feedback.
7. Don’t bribe customers to leave positive reviews. Yelp strongly discourages businesses from offering discounts or perks to customers in exchange for positive ratings. Like a ninja, Yelp is good at discovering these things and they’ll put a Consumer Alert notice on your business page for 90 days. Yelp says that aside from misleading users, bribed reviews also violate FTC guidelines.