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Yelp for Business Owners

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Many people—nearly 70 percent of them, according to one survey—read online reviews when deciding what restaurant (or exterminator, dry cleaner or decorator) to patronize. These reviews, which can be written by anyone from a disgruntled customer, an enthusiastic customer, an underhanded competitor, or a neighbor with an axe to grind, can be a boon to small businesses—or the exact opposite.

There are numerous sites to leave these reviews, like Google and TripAdvisor, but the giant among them is Yelp, visited by an average of 142 million users per month.

A recent American Express Customer Service Barometer found that Americans tell 15 people about a poor customer service experience, whereas they will only tell 11 people about a good one. And online review platforms provide a megaphone for the aggrieved customer. And unfortunately, impassioned negative reviews seem to be irresistible reading for some online readers.

Just one negative review can have the effect of turning away 22 percent of potential customers, and if your company racks up four negative articles in Google search results, you’re looking at a potential loss of 70 percent of customers, according to a survey of 1,000 consumers.

How businesses can use Yelp

For most small businesses, maintaining a social media presence is a fact of modern life, and that includes setting up a profile on the review sites. Step one in controlling how you appear on Yelp is to claim your business profile.

At minimum, this allows you to ensure the facts are correct about your business, including the address, phone number, website and business hours.

Claiming your business also allows you to respond to reviews, both publicly and with private messages, and that’s important.

Beyond the free business profile, there are two paid levels. While stats by the Boston Consulting Group found an average $8,000 incremental revenue linked to a business claiming its Yelp Business Page, you can also opt to take out Yelp Ads. Yelp presents a $23,000 average annual revenue from Yelp advertisers.

Yelp Ads are offered for a minimum six month period at three price points and exposure levels, from $300 per month to be shown to 1,500 people in your area searching for your type of business, to $500 per month for 4,000, to $1,000 per month for being promoted to 10,000 locals looking for a business like yours, although one critic notes a dearth of control and transparency in tracking impressions and seeing a conversion rate.

Business owners can also opt for a paid upgrade of their page starting at $75 per month, which adds a call to action button, removes competitor advertising, allows highlighted favorite reviews, and adds a custom slideshow.

How to claim your business

Business owners can begin the free claiming process online here or by calling 877-767-9357.

The first step in claiming your business online is searching the Yelp for Business Owners website. If your business doesn’t show up, it’s possible that someone else claimed your business or the profile is pending approval. In this case, you’ll have to work with the support team to proceed.

When you are setting it up, you should be near your business phone in case Yelp calls the number to verify.

There’s also a Yelp for Business Owners app for iOS and Android, for viewing stats and ad clicks, uploading photos and responding to customer inquiries and messages when on the go.

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Responding to reviews

It’s worth your time to regularly monitor your customers’ reviews and provide positive responses, so that, worst case scenario, you don’t let a reputation-damaging review dangle out there unanswered for long.

Always keep in mind that reviewers are your paying customers, and they are humans with all the complicated feelings and opinions that can entail. Don’t forget that potential customers can read your public responses, and even if you send replies to reviewers via direct messaging, those can be copied and shared publicly as well.

Yelp requires business owners to upload a clear photo of themselves before they respond to a review, as one way of making the interaction more personal and relatable.

When responding to a positive review with a direct message, Yelp recommends:

  • Just a simple introduction and thank you.
  • It’s best to respond to positive reviews in a message rather than publicly so you don’t add content to the business profile that only has value for one person.
  • No gift certificates or invites, or things that seem like a bribe or payment for the review.
  • No adding the reviewer to mailing lists, asking them to spread the word about your business or other promotions.
  • Put yourself in the reviewer’s shoes. A quick acknowledgement is easy and most likely all they want.

When responding to a negative review with a direct message, Yelp recommends:

  • Take a deep breath and try to remain calm. This is your livelihood, so it is a challenge, but the wrong reaction to a bad review can backfire and make everything worse.
  • If you contact the dissatisfied customer and put a human face on resolving the issue, you may have success.
  • Again, put yourself in the reviewer’s shoes. If your response might come off as rude, condescending or disingenuous, rephrase it.
  • Keep your response simple and try not to overthink it. Thank the customer for the business and the feedback. If there have been any changes as a result of what was complained about in the review, be sure to tell them.

For public responses, when you’re in your business account, go to the Reviews tab and you can respond to reviews there. As with direct messaging, you will also want to have a photo for responding publicly to reviews.

When responding publicly to a review, Yelp recommends:

  • You can use your public response to address what has changed about the concerns raised in this review, or correct any inaccuracies.
  • Do keep it simple and polite, and mention any changes you are making.
  • Don’t post a response if you are too upset to keep your cool. Give it some more time and thought.
  • Before calling out a false review, try to resolve it with direct messaging.
  • Don’t use a public response to argue with or attack the reviewer.
  • Don’t use a public response to persuade the reviewer to change the review.

Is Yelp paid to play?

It’s easy to find online complaints about Yelp by business owners. Some of the most common grievances boil down to aggressive sales calls from Yelp for their paid services, followed by the removal of positive reviews or the addition of negative reviews when a business doesn’t sign up for said paid services.

A documentary has been in the works for years about these alleged extortion practices, called Billion Dollar Bully. The filmmakers say it has taken them twice as long to finish filming because business owners were continuously reaching out to share their stories.

The bottom line

It’s in your business’s best interest to be proactive about your presence on social platforms, and to make its maintenance a routine. But play your cards right, and hopefully you’ll soon be buying a frame for a certificate that says “People love us on Yelp.”


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