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The Complete Guide to Yelp Reviews: Power to the People!

Yelp has become the most popular Internet rating and review site since its initial inception in 2004. Yelp founders saw that word-of-mouth was a powerful purveyor of new customers, but with the classic local community structure breaking apart in an online era, how could individuals know which businesses to trust? Yelp was the answer – an online review site in which customers shared their experiences, helping others make informed decisions about restaurants, auto-repair shops, and more.

The Complete Guide to Yelp Reviews: Power to the People! image love us on yelp

Many review sites have come and gone, but Yelp has continued to be the most trusted source for local business reviews and ratings. Why? Yelp noticed that other review sites are far too cluttered with spam and ads, so they’ve kept theirs to a minimum.

Yelp also focuses on long-form reviews rather than short one-liners, providing the kind of in-depth, thorough review wary customers crave. Sometimes “good coffee” just isn’t good enough.

In this complete Guide to Yelp for Businesses, we’ll be covering a range of topics.

Yelp’s Impact on Businesses

Yelp, the modern conception of word-of-mouth, is the #1 review site on the web and immensely powerful, making it a mighty friend and an abhorrent enemy.

If your business has a 3.5 or above on Yelp, you’ve got the whole world in your hands and clouds in your coffee. Under 3 stars and you’ve got a hard knock life. Bad Yelp ratings have been known to ruin more than just a few businesses. There’s a lot at stake!

The Complete Guide to Yelp Reviews: Power to the People! image worst yelp reviews

Dealing with such a fickle frenemy can dishearten some business owners, but don’t think ignoring Yelp will make it go away – users will write about your business on Yelp whether you activate a business page or not. In this case, it’s definitely preferable to take a pro-active approach by setting up your business’s Yelp page yourself. Fill it with colorful pics and useful information to put your best foot forward for potential customers checking you out.

How to Get Yelp Reviews

I know, I know, you want good Yelp reviews, right? Not just Yelp reviews. Well the bad news is that Yelp (understandably) doesn’t allow businesses to ask for specifically positive reviews – you can only encourage customers to review you honestly in all your blunder or glory. The good news is that if you’re a good business and doing things right, you’re likely to get good reviews! Hip hip hoorah!

There are a few strategies for getting customers to review you on Yelp.

DO:

Activate Your Yelp Page: Take the initiative by activating your Yelp page. Go all out – add photos, descriptions, menus, phone numbers, hours of operation, etc.

Post a “Find us on Yelp” Sign: Yelp out your restaurant or local biz with Yelp posters, stickers, badges, and other paraphernalia. In this plugged-in age, visitors might see those signs and head to Yelp to review you even while in your restaurant!

The Complete Guide to Yelp Reviews: Power to the People! image posting yelp signs

Borrowed from Reward Me Blog

Host a Yelp Event: Hosting a Yelp event will encourage Yelpers to visit your business while establishing yourself as an active community member – it’s pretty much a no-brainer for getting chummy with local Yelp users

How do you host an event? It’s pretty easy. Head over to yelp.com/events, pick your city, and hit the “Add an Event” button. Then fill out your event details.

Next it’s time to promote your awesome event! Send out the invite to Yelpers who have already visited your business, or those who have reviewed a business similar to your own. Also consider contacting a local Yelp Elite (these are mega-Yelpers with a lot of influence) and ask if they’re interested in helping you out with your event.

It’s a great idea to have some sweet swag giveaways during your Yelp event – maybe all event attendees get 10% off their meal with another 10% coupon for later. Try a raffle to win dinner with a friend, a free reusable water bottle, whatever! Make it fun and exciting for attendees!

Post a Yelp Deal: Yelp Deals are a great way to get customers in the door. Unlike with Groupon or Living Social, customers who take advantage of a Yelp Deal are pretty much guaranteed to be active Yelp users, increasingly the likelihood of them writing you a review.

The Complete Guide to Yelp Reviews: Power to the People! image yelp deal

Add Happy Staff Photos: Friendly, smiling, waving staff members being featured on your Yelp page will create a positive first impression for your Yelp page visitors, and might even discourage disgruntled customers from posting something nasty.

Offer Foursquare Check-in Rewards: Foursquare has long passed its heyday as an ultra-popular location check-in tool, but a lot of awesome folks (such as your truly) still use it to broadcast micromanaged location updates for our undying fans.

Even a small Foursquare award, like free drinks for the mayor, can get users excited. It’s also reasonable to assume that many Foursquare users are also Yelp users. After all, who is using Foursquare except for the media-obsessed foodie-photographing weirdos? Appealing to the Foursquare/Yelp user with a check-in reward might be just the push they need to write you a shining review.

Respond to Existing Yelp Reviews: It’s always a smart idea to respond to the existing Yelp reviews you do have, especially if they’re asking a specific question or voicing a concern. People like to be acknowledged, and responding to Yelp reviews creates a favorable impression for your business, and shows readers that you care about your customers.

Print Out Display Positive Yelp Reviews: One expert technique for getting Yelp reviews is to print out and hang your existing positive Yelp review on the wall in your restaurant or business. Enlarge the reviews so that they’re easy to read, frame them, and hang them where they can easily be read by patrons waiting in line. When new customers see existing positive reviews, they’ll feel inclined to think positively of you as well and write a similarly upbeat review on Yelp.

Add a Yelp QR Code: Yelp QR codes are a simple way to make it easier for your smartphone-carrying patrons to check out your Yelp page and review you in-store!

The Complete Guide to Yelp Reviews: Power to the People! image get yelp reviews

Promote On Other Networks: Ask for Yelp reviews on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media networks. It’s best to not sound too needy though (“Pleaaazzeee say we’re super-awesome!”). Opt for something discreet like, “We’re now on Yelp and would love to hear what you think of us!” Yelp itself suggests: Instead of blatantly saying “Review us on Yelp,” say “Check us out on Yelp”.

Add a Yelp Link to Your Newsletter: Chances are your newsletter subscribers already think you’re pretty cool. Reminding them to write about you on Yelp is a surefire way to get some positive reviews.

Add a Yelp Website Badge: A Yelp website badge lets visitors know you are on Yelp, and all they have to do is click the badge to be taken straight to your Yelp page. It doesn’t get much easier than that

Be Awesome: If you provide excellent food, excellent service, and an excellent experience, you will get great Yelp reviews, no question about it. Be the best you can be and the glowing reviews will follow!

DO NOT:

Offer Bribes for Reviews: Yelp is very strict in regards to their reviews policy. You absolutely cannot and should not offer a reward in exchange for a review. Even something as innocent as “half off your next meal when you review us on Yelp” is a big no-no and can get you in serious trouble with Yelp’s powers that be.

Ask for Positive Reviews: As discussed earlier, don’t ask specifically for positive reviews, just reviews in general.

Buy Yelp Reviews: We’ll be talking more about this later. Just know for now that buying Yelp reviews is not worth the trouble by a long shot.

How to Handle Negative Reviews on Yelp

The truth is that you can’t please everyone in life. Even great businesses get some negative reviews on Yelp from time to time. It sucks. Sometimes businesses mess up and deserve to be called out. Other times a bad review can feel completely undeserved.

What to do When You Get a Negative Yelp Review

1.     Don’t Respond Immediately: Having a Yelper really bash your business can be painful, and your initial response may involve hair-pulling, obscenities, and some ALL CAPS action. Responding to one rant with another won’t do you any good – in fact, it will only multiply the damage. Instead of responding in a flurry of keystrokes, take a deep breath, brew a cup of tea, and get your mind off the review. Don’t even think about responding for at least a half a day – taking two or three days to cool down is even better.

2.     Analyze the Reviewer’s Mindset: After a few days, the scathing review won’t seem quite as searing. Try to read the negative Yelp review objectively – is there any sense to what the Yelper is saying? Does the review seem worked up and emotional?

3.     Public or Private Response? While public responses are good for correcting discrepancies, consider whether or not a discreet private message could remedy the situation.

4.     Address the Review’s Issues in a Calm and Reasonable Manner

Yelp has a feature that allows business owners to respond to negative reviews. The key is to remain calm and take the high road. Above all, remain polite and respectful. Those who bypass step one end up responding to negative reviews in an angry, emotional state which can lead to name-calling, insults, and emotional language that makes you look as terrible and unstable as the reviewer, or more so.

Your goal in responding to the reviewer is to discredit their assessment. It might not take much to do this – Yelp readers weren’t born yesterday, and most can spot an unreasonable and baseless rant when they see one. If the negative Yelp review makes claims you can argue against, do so objectively, using facts or other customers’ experiences as a talking point. For example:

“Gretchen, we were very disappointed to hear you didn’t enjoy our cheesecake. Other customers have told us it’s their favorite of our desserts, but maybe you caught us on an off day.”

If you think the reviewer is just in their admonishment, simply apologize. Readers will appreciate your honesty and think better of you for it.

Responding in a cool and collected manner to a senseless rant makes you seem much more reasonable than the emotionally-fueled reviewer, and casts the unfavorable light on them rather than you.

5.     A Touch of Humor

The make-em-laugh technique doesn’t work in every situation, but it can be great at diffusing an overtly flaming review. For example, check out this REAL review of Pigalle (this review was posted on Facebook, but same rules apply!).

Wow. I don’t have a clue as to why you would think that throwing pumpkin chunks into a cold pre baked pie shell and then covering it with a cream sauce that literally tasted like vomit. { I am very serious!} and topping it off with whipped cream that was runny would in any way be something that can be called pumpkin pie?”

Not something any business owner wants to see. Unfortunately, the owner answered back with an even more venomous reply, demonstrating a perfect example of how NOT to respond to a bad review. Instead, he should have tried something like:

Hi Sandy. Wow! That bad huh? I haven’t had the chance to sample too many varieties of vomit, so I can’t say I can really relate to your experience, but that doesn’t sound too fun. We tend to be very busy during Thanksgiving so it’s possible that one of our chefs made a mistake with that Pumpkin Pie – we’re sorry you found it so truly gag-inducing. Come by again and we’ll see if we can make it up to you with something more to your liking J

6.     Offer an Olive Branch: If you think there’s any saving the situation, try to offer a symbol of peace – send a private message inviting the displeased reviewer back for a tour of the bakery or a free desert. Yelp has an update function that reviewers can use to change their initial review. Everyone likes to feel important – feeding a disgruntled user’s ego can sometimes quell the fury, and may lead them to reconsider their opinion of you.

7.     Make Use of Constructive Criticism

Remember – bad reviews aren’t necessarily a bad thing. Negative reviews that are deserved and just serve as real feedback on how you can improve your business. If reviewers bring up legitimate concerns, work to address them and then let the Yelp community know you’ve made efforts to improve. Customers will appreciate this – it shows you care and are listening to their input.

8.     Keep Things in Perspective: Don’t hang up your hat and cry yourself to sleep every time you find a bad review. Even great businesses get a bad review from time to time. As Yelp says:

 “Negative reviews are an unfortunate — but entirely normal — part of doing business… While it’s important to look for patterns in your reviews (the bread is stale, the same employee is repeatedly described as rude), you should take any individual perspective with a grain of salt.”

Don’t stress over every review. People can be particularly nasty online, so be prepared to thicken up your skin a bit and ignore the mindless ranters.

For more information on tricks, techniques, and examples of how to deal with a bad Yelp review, check out this article about Protecting Your Online Reputation from Trolls by John Greathouse. He offers more great tips on dealing with negative reviews and diffusing tense situations.

Haters Gonna Hate: Embracing the Negative Yelp Reviews?

Most businesses try to negate the effects of bad Yelp reviews by diffusing anger and answering concerns, but others choose to take the daredevil approach of embracing the haters.

Those have thrown in the towel simply accept that the majority of patrons despise them. For some, there is an appeal at being the outcast.

The Complete Guide to Yelp Reviews: Power to the People! image yelp bad reviews

The “if you can’t beat them, join them” approach really only works with restaurants and businesses that embrace a counter-culture lifestyle and have patrons who might revel in the disapproval of others.

The Craft Commerce Gastropub is one such establishment, offering very unusual, even bizarre spins on classic drinks. After receiving some vehement one-star reviews, Craft Commerce decided that, rather than brood over the poor reviews, they’d have some fun with them. The owner had friends read aloud the restaurant’s worst Yelp reviews while recording them. The recordings were then played in the Craft Commerce Gastropub’s bathroom, amusing visitors and sticking it to the Yelp man.

Despite the unique and clever approach, the bathroom recordings backfired when Craft Commerce Gastropub got blasted with a slew of more one-star review from patrons who aspired to have their reviews featured in the bathroom.

Mocking absurd Yelp reviews has become a bit of a fad in fact – there’s even a whole YouTube channel dedicated to showing video clips of Yelp reviews read by actors.

There is some logic in going gung-ho with the one-star reviews. Some would even say one star is better than two; a one-star establishment drives curiosity and gets people wondering why are they so incredibly terrible? What’s the story there? There’s a kind of car crash rubbernecking morbid fascination involved with one-star restaurants. Two stars is just a sub-par joint, no story or excitement there.

Can You Remove Yelp Reviews?

Not really. Yelp will not remove any reviews unless they are in conflict with their Terms of Service or Content Guidelines.

Some things that violate Yelp’s TOS:

  • Writing a fake or defamatory review
  • Promoting another business  or other commercial venture
  • Rants about a business’s employment practices, political ideologies, extraordinary circumstances, or other matters that don’t address the core of the consumer experience

If the bad Yelp reviews you want removed don’t violate Yelp’s terms, your best bet is to either publicly defend your business using the points noted earlier, or privately contact the reviewer and try to convince them to remove or update the review following a 2nd visit. Appeal to their better nature!

Avoid self-proclaimed “Reputation Management Companies” that claim that (for a fee, naturally) they can remove Yelp reviews from your Yelp page.

The Complete Guide to Yelp Reviews: Power to the People! image how to remove yelp reviews

This is a scam – Yelp does not take bribes or financial incentives for review removals, it’s simple as that. There are also some rumors around town that those who advertise with Yelp are given the option to remove negative Yelp reviews from their business page, but this is 100% false. Yelp will not remove a review unless it is against their Terms of Service.

Should You Buy Yelp Reviews?

We’ve discussed the pros and cons of buying Twitter followers and even buying Pinterest followers online in the past, but with Yelp, the issue isn’t really up for debate – don’t do it!

Buying Yelp reviews is definitely not worth the risk. Since Yelp’s main selling point is the authenticity and trust of its reviews as compared to lesser review sites, Yelp protects its legitimacy by tooth and claw.

If you’re caught buying Yelp reviews, you could end up with this on your Yelp page, which would be a PR disaster and a half!

The Complete Guide to Yelp Reviews: Power to the People! image fake Yelp reviews

Now that’s a public shaming! Don’t let it happen to you.

The Complete Guide to Yelp Reviews: Power to the People! image fake reviews on Yelp

The Yelp Review Filter Fake Yelp Reviews

The Yelp review filter was deigned by Yelp to help filter out fake reviews, leaving users with only real, legitimate reviews to base their consumer decisions around.

How does the filter decide what are fake Yelp reviews and what are real reviews?

Yelp reviews that are usually filtered are:

  • From users who have only written one review
  • From users who have little to no profile information (profile photo, links to other social media networks, personal description, et.)
  • Questionable objectivity – reviews that are strongly slanted positively or negatively
  • Short and have very few details
  • Written by friends, staff members, or other unreliable sources
  • Reviews where it seems that the reviewer has not personally visited the business

The Yelp filter gives preference to established reviewers who have reviewed multiple businesses and have fully built out profiles while filtering away reviews with questionable authenticity.

While the Yelp filter seems fine in theory, in practice it can be a mixed bag. The filter isn’t perfect, and many businesses complain that the filter removes legitimate reviews in addition to fake Yelp reviews. There’s no denying a need for such a filter system though – the Stanford-based research firm Gartner predicts that as many as 15% of reviews on social media sites could be paid-for fakes by 2014.

Filtered reviews can be found at the bottom of a Yelp business page, and can be viewed by any users who care to click.

The Complete Guide to Yelp Reviews: Power to the People! image yelp filtered reviews

Some filtered reviews below:

The Complete Guide to Yelp Reviews: Power to the People! image yelp reviews filtered

Above, you’ll see that most of the filtered reviews are from profiles with no image, no friends, little engagement, and very short, uninformative text.

Yelp takes their job as the honest review gatekeeper very seriously. Yelp conducts sting operations to find businesses paying for reviews, and in Business Week’s test, Yelp was the only review site out of seven others to successfully detect and filter each and every fake consumer review presented.

Yelp’s automated review filter system filters around 20% of the more than 39 million reviews. That’s a hefty chunk of reviews, and when every star counts, it’s no wonder businesses are left feeling apprehensive.

It may not be entirely fair, but that’s the cost of protecting consumers. As we’ve seen from Google’s Panda algorithm, even filters with the best of intentions can end up hurting the innocent. Dolphins get trapped in tuna traps, and birds get hit by windmills; such is life.

Of course more legitimate, real reviews make it past the Yelp filter than those that do not. Trustworthy and useful content should come out ahead.

How to Avoid the Yelp Review Filter

There are a few steps you can take to better your chances of having a review get through the dreaded Yelp filter. Business can make efforts to engage the review and reviewer by:

  • Adding the reviewer as a friend
  • Upvoting the review as funny, useful, cool, etc.
  • Sending the reviewer a compliment (Yelp’s tool for letting other Yelpers call a user out for an awesome review)

If you’re a user who wants to avoid having your reviews hit the Yelp filter, make efforts to:

  • Write Lots of Yelp Reviews: If someone’s account has obviously been made with the purpose of just reviewing one restaurant or business, that brings up some serious red flags for Yelp. The more reviews you write, the more authentic you seem. at least 10 reviews will make you much less likely to sound the Yelp review alarm. Make sure your reviews are legitimate though – you should us the range of 1-5 stars. Writing all fantastic or all terrible reviews look suspicious.
  • Fill Out Your Profile: Add profile pics, a personal description, etc.
  • Connect to Your Other Social Media Accounts: Connect your account to Facebook and Twitter for an added dose of authenticity.
  • Add Yelp Friends: Add friends to Yelp and interact with them by complimenting, voting their reviews as funny, etc. Your engagement with other users shows that you’re a real user who is part of the Yelp community.
  • Leave Tips (in Addition to Reviews): Tips are for users to add a quick pithy statement when they check in somewhere using the Yelp mobile app. Tips show your full range of motion as an online user.
  • Steady Consistent: Don’t just blast a hundred reviews in the span of a few days. Take the time to strengthen your reputation by reviewing various local businesses over the course of several weeks or months.

Don’t Fear the Yelp – Embrace it!

I know we’ve talked a lot today about some of the scarier aspects of Yelp with its raging customers rants and threatening filters, but Yelp really is a pretty neat community that’s just trying to help consumers make smart decisions in regards to local biz.

The Complete Guide to Yelp Reviews: Power to the People! image yelp reviews disappear

Don’t be afraid – most Yelp reviews are great! Yelp did a study in 2011, and found that nearly 40% of reviews posted on Yelp are 5 star reviews!

The Complete Guide to Yelp Reviews: Power to the People! image reviews on yelp

For the most part, Yelpers are users who want to give small local businesses credit where it is truly due.

As long as you operate a great business that gives folks a reason to smile and manage your bad reviews with grace and poise, you’ll find Yelp can do amazing things for your business!

This article originally appeared on Internet Marketing Blog by WordStream and has been republished with permission.

Find out how to syndicate your content with Business 2 Community.

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About the author

Mystic Maggie

All of the Mystic Maggie Posts are RSS Reader Feeds from around the web. All copyright remains with the original publisher. No copyright is claimed or intended. Where supplied, links back to the original article are included.

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