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How to Solve the Biggest Problems with Yelp for Small Business

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Small business owners have firm opinions about Yelp. Many have received harsh reviews and don't know what to do about it. Ignoring Yelp isn't the answer. Let's solve some of the issues with Yelp for small business and build positive momentum for your brand online.

According to a study conducted by Nielsen, a whopping 85 percent of consumers find local business information online, where reviews, store hours, deals, and maps are just a click away. Nielson also observed, “More than half (51%) of Yelp users make their purchase decisions after visiting the site. The figure for mobile Yelpers, however, is a little higher.

While Yelp visitations don’t always result in action, users report that 93 percent of the time, Yelp usage results in occasionally, frequently or consistently purchasing a local business.”

The biggest reason to be active on Yelp is to know what people are saying about your company on the website or app. Since you're a local small business, being active on Yelp for your personal use will help you to understand how Yelp works and what types of things people comment on.

Start by adding the app to your smartphone. iOS and Android Then, start using the app from time to time to find a restaurant or service in your community. If you have had a great meal, leave a positive review, and help another small business build their Yelp reviews.

Connecting with other business professionals might be counter-intuitive to how you’ve done business offline. But in the online world, relationships are everything, and that includes your peers.

I can't stress enough that Yelp reviews [and all online reviews] need to be organic, heartfelt comments. Don't ask your family to leave reviews or leave reviews on your own business. People are savvy, and it's lame.

It's been found to be illegal to post fake reviews. “A Massachusetts jewelry store employee was ordered to pay $34,500 to a competing jeweler after he posted a false negative review of the store on Yelp.”

Yelp reviews need to be organic, authentic comments. Trying to game is lame.

There isn't a way to game or cheat the system that could ever beat authentic, real-life comments from customers who love your business. Spend time on being the positive aspects of your business to earn the five-star reviews. Don't waste your time with faux automated reviews that could do more damage than good for your business. You've spent years building a positive reputation for your business, learning to do the same online takes some practice.

If people show up to a business following the great Yelp reviews and have horrible service and bad food, they'll leave an even worse review saying your reviews must have been fake and give great detail about why their experience wasn't good.

An excellent place to start is claiming your business page on Yelp. Click here if you haven't already done this.

Respond to Yelp reviews within 24 hours

From the Yelp blog, “The secret to getting more reviews and improving your rating might be easier than you think. It’s also something you can start doing right now. Ready to have your mind blown?

According to Yelp’s Data Science team, Yelp users are 33% more likely to upgrade their review if you respond with a personalized message within a day. The same study also found that businesses that respond to reviews get a 5% increase in review count. Bonus: This increase in review volume helps attract organic traffic to business pages on Yelp.”

Tell your story

There’s no one better suited to tell the story of your company and help people who have questions about your business. Being active on Yelp ensures that you're the one who helps people and keeps your fingers on the pulse of what's essential to your customers.

Add photos to your Yelp page, so people see the face of your business. People like to do business with people they're familiar with and feel comfortable with.

Help with Yelp for small business

Connect with your customers on Yelp

Here are a few suggestions to help you add some positive activities and build momentum with your company's Yelp:

Join the conversation with your customers

Respond to a review with a direct message or public comment. If someone leaves a poor review, apologize and offer to improve the situation. This can often turn around a bad situation and revive the customer relationship.

Photos and business information

Upload photos, add a link to your website, and ensure that your hours are up to date so consumers searching for your business can easily find it.

Taiyaki Ice Cream in New York City has a fabulous Yelp presence with their location, website, hours of operation, and loads of great reviews with customer photos. Notice the blue check that says claimed next to their name – this shows they care about Yelp reviews and are engaged on the platform.

Taiyaki Ice Cream Yelp

Business analytics

Track visitor engagement and customer leads from your Yelp Business Page. Learn more

Go mobile

Download the Yelp for Business Owners mobile app and get the power of Yelp’s tools in your pocket.

Ask for reviews

Asking for Yelp reviews is tricky. It needs to be done in the right way. Adding a “find us on Yelp” official window sticker is a great way to let people know you're there. Request yours here.

Yelp discourages owners from asking for reviews, but it is not a violation of Yelp’s Terms of Service. What is a violation is incentivizing customers to leave (or remove) reviews.

For me, this is an open-and-shut case: you can ask your customers for reviews. When you know a customer is happy, you absolutely should ask them for a Yelp review.”

So. You might be wondering: If a business pays Yelp to advertise

  • Do they get a higher rating?
  • Do they get their negative reviews removed?
  • Can they recommend more of their positive reviews?

No. No. And…no. Money doesn’t buy anything on Yelp but ads.

Five Star review

Ask your employees, “is that five stars?”

Yelp has been crucial in the growth of one family business. One of the owners Melina said, “I started seeing all these people come into the business — people who weren’t from Indio. It’s not that hard to tell. So we started asking them, ‘How did you hear about us?’ Time and time again, they said, ‘Yelp.’ That’s when she started paying attention.”

Having five stars on Yelp became central to their business. Every sandwich they made, how they trained their staff, and the way they spoke to customers, Melina would ask employees, “Is that five stars?”

Build a five-star mentality for your company and reward employees who are striving to meet it.

Starting from the top down and reaching every level of your business will help your employees learn how critical Yelp reviews are for the company. Take time to share positive and negative reviews in your staff meetings and use it as an opportunity for open communication.

I hope this has given you a few ideas to help with your Yelp page and positively grow your brand online. Please let me know how these tips work for you!

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  1. Peg

    Easy for you to say that yelp is on the up and up. When you cook food you are not going to always please people with their choice.
    We were approached by Yelp to advertise and when we said no (politely by the way) we immediately started getting false bad reviews. One guy came in paid cash took one bite left without saying a word and immediately put a bad review on yelp. Another said our bread was mouldy it was not it had parsley sprinkled on it. Our good (honest reviews) disappeared after a short time. One I remember vividly as the lady said she had the best beef stew ever and it’s gone.These are problems your suggestions aren’t going to correct because yelp is all about the money especially advertising money. We decided to just lay low and for the last 3-4 years, we have had no reviews and our business is doing well. We have a 4.5 stars rating on Google because for the most part people are honest. On facebook, we have 4.7 stars rating. On yelp, it is 3 stars.

    Over the years (we have been in business 9 years) we have found that people that have a legitimate complaint will voice it to us before they go on a rant to destroy a business. We have always offered other food or their money back with our sincere apologies. So someone should write a post about yelp etiquette and remind them that these businesses they so easily malign are real people trying to do their best to make a living.

    Sorry if I’m coming across badly, but I really wanted you to know there are a lot of us out here that think yelp is slanted towards advertising revenues. After all they are publically held and their stock rises and falls with revenue (advertising revenues).

    As a small business we are solely dependent on our revenue stream to pay our bills and make customers happy. We, like a lot of other businesses, don’t deserve to be beat up by a bunch of trolls whose only claim to fame is the numbers of reviews they make on yelp.

    You say that small businesses can have a big strategic advantage, but what if you don’t advertise and they attack your business where are you then.? That is why 87% of small businesses don’t use review sites.


    1. People say the same about Facebook – that its skewed towards advertising money and all pay to play. I’m really sorry that you’ve had a bad experience with Yelp thus far.

      I’d love to see your Yelp page, Scott.

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