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Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Yelp?

people loathe us on yelp - what to do about bad yelp reviews for your business
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people loathe us on yelp - what to do about bad yelp reviews for your business

If I had a dime for every time a business owner tore into Yelp, I’d already be retired.

It turns out that the internet’s most popular business review site, at over 100 million registered users, still isn’t popular with everyone. Many business owners, users, and bipeds in general tend to hate Yelp’s lack of transparency, aggressive sales staff, and the amount of power that they give to relatively anonymous users. If you don’t believe me, just check out Yelp-Sucks.com, a few recent horror stories from small businesses, or Yelp’s laughable 3/5 star rating on their own website.

Today, we’ll talk about how much Yelp can suck, we’ll take a look at some of the biggest complaints about Yelp, and then we’ll see what we can do about them.

What Can I Do About Fake & Overblown Reviews?

It’s a fact of life that even the best businesses on earth will have a few bad customer experiences along the way. Maybe you hire an employee who doesn’t work out, or maybe you made a small mistake with a customer who was already having a bad day. There’s even the possibility that one of your competitors will make up a bad review just to bring your business down a notch.

Whatever the cause, sooner or later, your business is going to get a few bad reviews.

how to unlock your Yelp business pageThe first thing you need to do is claim your business and set up a business owner account. Since we already know that your business is on Yelp, just head to your business page, click “Work here? Unlock this business page”, and you’re on your way. Believe it or not, Yelp’s verification process is relatively painless, as far as these things go. There’s no postcard to deal with, like there is with Google, and you don’t have to wait a month for verification, like with Yahoo. Just take a call on your business’s official phone number, punch in the on-screen code, and that’s all there is to it.

(Tip: if you just groaned at the prospect of collecting yet another password, try LastPass or Google Chrome‘s built in password manager. They can each raise your quality of life by about a billion percent.)

Once you’re in and verified, you can either dispute the review with Yelp or, better yet, respond to the review directly. The approach is simple. First, take a few deep breaths and try to think happy thoughts. Maybe grab a cup of coffee, if that’s your thing. Next, take the opportunity to demonstrate just how professional you can be. Ask your reviewer if you could get a phone or email so you can contact them directly, learn more about the situation (if applicable), and do what you can to resolve it.

Since these responses are shown publicly on your business page, everyone gets to see that you take time out of your day to reach out and try to resolve poor customer experiences. Best case scenario, you’ll show off how much you care about your customers, resolve a bad situation, get them to change their review from a negative to a positive, and create a strong relationship with a legitimate customer. Worst case scenario, you’ll still demonstrate your professionalism and willingness to correct your mistakes. Just be careful that your reply doesn’t come off as cold, corporate, and impersonal. We’ve all heard “your call is very important to us”, and we can all read between the lines.

My Good Business Reviews Aren’t Showing Up

Most business owners can understand that bad reviews are just a part of life, but many are bewildered when a few of their good reviews never see the light of day. Almost every business tends to have at least a few reviews that are filtered out of the list, and they’re easy to find. To see all the filtered reviews for a business, scroll to the bottom of a business page and click “# filtered”, next to the big red “Write a Review” button.

So why do good reviews get filtered out? In many cases, Yelp believes that the user who left it may not be real, or that they simply don’t have enough information about the user to make an educated guess. Check the profiles on a few of your filtered reviews and you’ll see that many of them probably only have one review (yours, naturally) with no other information posted. Meanwhile, the users who left your most visible reviews typically have several, if not hundreds of reviews, attached to a built out user profile.

If you’re sick of seeing your good reviews filtered out, the best way to do something about it is to contact the users directly. Simply add the user as a friend and send them a message. If you happen to recognize a regular customer, spark up a conversation about it the next time you do business. There’s a good chance that they don’t appreciate the fact that their reviews are getting filtered either, since they took the time to write them in the first place. Just tell them to review a few more businesses, build out their profile a little, attach it to one of their other accounts (like Gmail), or even upload a picture of themselves, and then their reviews should start showing up just fine. There are plenty of tutorials on each – just pick your favorite and learn how to walk someone through the process.

Likewise, if you set up a personal Yelp to review other local businesses, then you can pass along credibility to other users by adding them as friends.  

(Note: you may have to pretend that you like Yelp for this step to work, and you’ll actually be doing them a big favor. Sorry!)

Yelp’s Sales Staff is Confusing and Aggressive

Knowledge is the best weapon against the Yelp sales staff. The next time someone calls to offer you advertising on Yelp, just be aware that: 

A) Advertising on Yelp just gets you better visibility. You can’t buy reviews, and they won’t sell you stars.

B) For most businesses, there are better opportunities on other platforms. Google’s adwords for mobile are better at attracting immediate conversions, Google display network is better for remarketing, Stumbleupon’s paid discovery is better for getting cool content out there, and Facebook ads are better for creating customer relationships.

C) Just because they’re from Yelp doesn’t mean that it’s any more legitimate than any other advertiser’s cold call. “North American Marketing Business Leverage Association”, or whichever other goofy no-name company won’t stop calling you, probably just wants to set you up on Google Adwords and charge a management fee.

There are times when it makes sense to advertise on Yelp, but the fact of the matter is that you can usually do better with another platform.

My Business Doesn’t Have Enough Reviews on Yelp

Quality of reviews isn’t the only thing that matters on Yelp. Quantity matters too, and if you do a good job of serving your customers, you can reasonably expect your reviews to improve over time.

So how do you get more reviews on Yelp? If you haven’t already, make sure that your online presence can point everyone towards Yelp. Make sure there is a clear link on your website and in your email signature. If you email receipts after a job, it’s absolutely imperative that there is a link to your Yelp on that receipt. Likewise, if you print receipts, use a QR code generator to help people get from it to your Yelp page using a mobile device.

If you use a personal account on Yelp for reviewing other businesses, you should also make it clear which business you’re associated with. While some businesses might mind when you complain that their fried chicken is too greasy, any of that risk should be completely offset by all the old customers and friends you run into.

Yelp is Stupid and I Hate It

google+ reviews correlating with rank for "San Ramon restaurants"Okay, fine. Be that way. Maybe you’ve had enough bad experiences with Yelp that you still don’t want to play their little game.

The good news is that there is a great alternative where you can still get in at the ground floor. Google+ local for business is finally starting to generate some traction among users, but very few businesses know anything about it. In the SEO world, it’s common knowledge that Google is in love with their own reviews, because it’s an ecosystem that Google can verify, and because Google loves pushing their own products. If you don’t believe me, try searching for a high competition industry in a local city, like “Arvada attorneys” or “Livermore restaurants” and take a look at the number of reviews. There is a very good chance that you’ll see a downward trend in the number of Google+ reviews among the local listings (those are the ones labeled with letters A through G).

So How do I get more Google+ Reviews for my Business?

If you’re already sold on getting more Google+ reviews for your business, all the same tactics apply. If you haven’t already, set up your Google+ business page and point people to it, in a hundred different ways. Use QR codes, put the link in your email signature, and tell people about it. On Google+, you can also set up your own account, participate in the communities, and attract people to your business page naturally. You’ll know soon enough if it’s working.

Is It Worth It To Get More Reviews For My Business?

Ever heard of Phil Barnett Plumbing? If you live anywhere around Livermore, CA, then I bet you have. His iconic, bright yellow trucks are all over the Tri-Valley and the surrounding area. The other way you could find him is by searching for “Livermore plumbers”, “plumbing contractors in Livermore”, or any related terms, which will take you straight to his five star Yelp page. Thanks to his Yelp page, a few good organic rankings, and a well-run business, Phil has just about doubled his staff and fleet in a year. It’s been so successful that he had to upgrade from a shared office space to his own warehouse to accommodate the growth. How cool is that?

Phil’s success story may be an extreme case of what a few great reviews can do for a business, but there’s no reason that your business can’t reap the same benefits, if you work to earn them. Even if we’re just taking your business from two to three stars, or from three to four, we’re still talking about real money in your pocket. According to a study by a business professor at Harvard, each additional star on Yelp review typically drives up business revenue by 5-9%. The numbers aren’t even in for Google+ yet, but I think we have every reason to believe that the long term benefits will be even higher there, since it has much more impact on organic ranking, and will have much more social network integration.

Whether you’re gung ho on Google+ or ready to get your Yelp on, there’s no time like the present.

3 Comments

  1. Scott Kahle

    Isn’t Google+ Local and Yelp meant for “local” businesses? What if you have a national presence? Like ecommerce. Will using these make your search reankings better loacally but less so for the rest of the world?

    1. Joe Goldstein

      Sorry, your business has to have a brick and mortar presence for these tactics to apply.

      If your business is purely online, your best bet would be to set up a Google+ page for it (that’s a brand page, not a local page) and promo it that way. If you put yourself out there, get involved in the most relevant G+ communities, and maybe even create & champion your own quasi-related community, I think you can get a lot of mileage. Keep in mind that the contributor links to your site, from both your personal account and G+ brand pages, are nofollow, but the custom links from your own profile are dofollow. All the more reason to stand behind your business.

  2. hardwood flooring

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on business reviews.
    Regards

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