Yelp has been in the news recently for raising its revenue by 30 percent. The consumer-driven review platform remains a core part of your marketing campaign, regardless of whether or not you decide to leverage it. Ignoring hostile ratings only adds to naysayers' power, but there are ways to acknowledge even the poorest reviews so that they can work in your favor. Most potential customers look for social proof when buying new products, so positive Yelp reviews can be the deciding factor when they are comparing your business to your competitors. In the last 10 months, I have brought in over $1 million from Yelp.
In 2015, the Google Pigeon update pushed Yelp pages above local listings, creating a prime spot for anyone savvy enough to keep their presence on track. Keywords are still the foundation of rank-building on the site, but Google also rates businesses according to user-created content (such as Yelp). This is why Yelp usually shows up at the top of the Google search results page. Having the right keywords or phrases on Yelp will help increase your ranking even further.
Keeping your profile up-to-date and asking customers for reviews after you deliver a service will increase your chances of success on the platform.
Updating Your Profile
- Images and logos (Geotag them. This tells Google where the pictures are located, which increases your visibility.)
- Website address
- Hours of operation
- Price range
- Miscellaneous information relevant to your business (The more the merrier. On my page, I include details about myself and what we do differently from the competition. I put as many words as Yelp will allow in each description field.)
Sixty-seven percent of consumers are influenced by reviews when they buy. Encourage engagement without being overly promotional. Consumers don't like being exploited as marketing fodder, so mentioning that you're on Yelp will garner a better response than sending out specific requests for reviews. I would recommend always asking happy customers to "Check us out on Yelp. It really helps us show people what kind of company we are."
Bear your chief influencers in mind during your campaign planning. "Yelp Elites" are approved annually based on their activity and candidness. Their review quality has been rated as superior than the average user, and many have pseudo-celebrities on the site, so this is the category of user you're looking to engage.
Yelp events give you the chance to network with reviewers, and Elite members make ideal hosts. Keep your eye on events and focus on becoming a Yelp Elite. When this happens, strong Yelp members will find you. The site itself has an event section, but that does not mean you are privy to the same events as the Elites are.
Including a basic Yelp badge on your site and social media pages will encourage engagement as well.
Coping With Complaints
Negative reviews can obliterate your progress if they're not managed intelligently. Research the problem before you respond. Find out all you can about the complaint and the influence of the writer. Take your time carefully reviewing the tone, location, and other specifics that might influence your reply. A careful, honest apology is warranted, but keep your response solution-based. For example, I always contact customers with a private message like, "I am so sorry about your experience and would love to hear what happen and make it up to you. What is the best number to call you?" I continue to contact them until they respond.
Using It to Your Advantage
Users have accused Yelp in the past of punishing businesses that don't pay for advertising by pushing their ratings down. All legal complaints attached to this myth have been dismissed. Yelp has a powerful algorithm that no one really knows how to beat, but you can bet that people will continue to complain about fake reviews.
Take advantage of your network. If you own a restaurant, go on Yelp and ask all your friends who have eaten at your place to check you out on Yelp. Ask people if they know others on Yelp who would be interested in coming in for a private tasting or something pertaining to your industry, and watch the reviews pour in. My business has over 200 Yelp reviews and has been able to retain a near-five-star rating.
One strong key to success is remembering to use it as a tool. When you reach out about a negative review, you are also learning about what you can do better as a company to prevent this from happening again. You can't silence online chatter about your brand, but think of every review as an opportunity to mold the public's perception. Humility, honesty, and a proactive approach are the nuts and bolts of a successful presence on Yelp.
Tommy Mello is the owner of A1 Garage Door Repair, a ten-million-dollar per year company. He is a partner of Highest Cast Offer and a partner/owner in over 14 businesses.