By Kelly Sciora
Yelp, the web’s most popular online review site, has roughly 142 million monthly visitors and 2. 1 million claimed local businesses. While Yelp provides an easy solution for customers to access business information, one bad write-up can mar your reputation and damage sales.
In fact, according to a Zendesk survey, 90 percent of people admit a positive review influences their buying decision and 86 percent claim that a negative review has the opposite effect. This means new consumers are already biased even before trying out a product or service. Even famous attractions aren’t spared from Yelpers’ wrath!
For local businesses, it is essential that you monitor your Yelp page and engage with your customers. Here are a few ways you can make your business stand out from the crowd:
Claim Your Business
By claiming your business, you can communicate directly with your customers, track visitors, edit company information, create offers, and advertise special events/promotions for free. Make sure you take care of your page – it’s attached to your reputation!
Adorn Your Page
First thing’s first: publish your hours of operation, calendars, products, and/or prices so potential customers can easily access the information they need.
And don’t skip on photos! Consumers spend 2.5 times longer on a business page with photos than on a page without them. You may even consider using a professional photographer to put your products or services in the best light.
Use Yelp’s Business Owners’ Tools
Yelp’s free business owner’s tools help you to capitalize on your page’s possible success. They include private conversations with other Yelp users, the “Yelp for Business Owners” mobile app, and business analytics, which track visitor engagement and customer leads.
With these tools, you can directly interact with past and potential customers, manage your company’s page, and measure the effectiveness of your work.
Respond to Your Reviews
Given the social aspect of Yelp, responding to reviews is a natural part of the platform. How you respond is critical to how you and your company are perceived.
First you should determine if the review requires a response. If it does, you can respond with a private message or a public comment, depending on whether the review is positive, constructive, or downright nasty.
Here’s a quick guide:
Positive: alternate between public comments and private messages. This is a great opportunity to tie your personality to your business and a gracious thank you can go along way in the eyes of your customers – just try not to overdo it.
Constructive criticism: respond with a public comment acknowledging the reviewer’s critique and express that you will address his or her concern. Bonus points if you can say how it’s being addressed. Not only will the reviewer appreciate your response, but other users will also look to your response to see how you react when something goes wrong
Negative: it’s usually best to ignore negative comments that don’t offer any constructive feedback, especially when they’re particularly rude or abrasive. In some cases, a negative review may violate Yelp’s Terms of Service or Content Guides, and it can be removed upon the business owner’s request.
Last but not least, make sure you respond in a timely manner! Try to make a habit of checking Yelp for new reviews and messages at least every few days.
An important note: try not to fret over every negative review. Most customers will understand that not every interaction can go smoothly, and too many five star reviews would make your page seem inauthentic. In fact, 30 percent of consumers say they suspect a business owner has influenced his or her company’s reviews when they’re all positive.
If, however, you suffer from more “bad” reviews than “good,” you may want to take a hard look at the quality of your services and products and/or your customer service policies.
Hang a Yelp Sign
If you have a physical location, consider displaying a Yelp sign at the entrance or another focal point. A highly visible sign alerts current customers that your company is active on Yelp and encourages them to leave their feedback. Having a significant number of online reviews can be just as important as your average rating.
Promote Your Page
In addition to a physical sign, you should promote your page on other places around the web. To start, include a link and request for reviews in your email signature and use your social media accounts to cross-promote your page.
You can also use your business owner account to share great reviews on Facebook and Twitter, and you may want to look into Yelp advertising. Yelp ads are relatively affordable and put you (literally) above the competition in search results, pushing more users to your page.
Consider Offering a Deal
Unlike Yelp ads, Yelp deals don’t require any upfront cost, but the site retains a percentage of the revenue generated by the deal. In turn, Yelp will promote your page to a wider audience.
Keep in mind, unlike Groupon and Living Social users searching for a deal, Yelp users are first and foremost looking for a service or product. With discount sites, you can wind up attracting a lot of one-time customers with unrealistic expectations. With Yelp, the discount just helps seal the deal with a customer that is already actively seeking what you’ve got to offer.
One last thing: don’t forget to implement a follow-up offer via email after the deal is redeemed to help retain your newly won customer!
Consistency is the key to mastering Yelp as a business owner. By actively engaging with your customers, you demonstrate that you care about their opinions and encourage new customers to take a chance on your products or services. A great Yelp page can even improve how your business appears in Google search results.
And remember: even though negative reviews can feel personal, constructive criticism offers valuable insight and may even help you identify potential areas of growth. Good luck and happy Yelping!
Kelly Sciora is a marketing assistant at Ripen eCommerce located in Princeton, New Jersey. For more information, visit www.ripenecommerce.com.