Everyone’s a critic these days, thanks to the power of social media. But nowhere do those comments and critiques stick faster than a business’s Yelp page.
The online review company is a little controversial in many business circles: some feel unfairly targeted by fake or manipulated reviews, and there are myriad cringe-worthy stories of business owners using the site to brawl with dissatisfied customers. But when utilized effectively, savvily and with a little self-restraint, Yelp is one of the most powerful free tools in building your business’s online presence.
“Yelp is the number one site for finding local businesses because we offer a platform for the consumer voice,” says Damien Smith, Marketing Director of Yelp Boston. “Good, bad or indifferent, your customers have always had the ability to offer their feedback and spread information about your business via word of mouth to those that will listen.”
The people haven’t changed, they’ve just been given a platform. That platform receives over 100 million unique users each month. And that platform, Smith says, allows consumers to make more educated purchasing decisions.
According to a Nielsen report earlier this year, 74 percent of consumers searching online for local businesses use review sites like Yelp at least once a month — and Yelp is ranked as the most trustworthy of all review sites. Not to mention that over 90 percent of those people using Yelp actually make a purchase “at least sometimes, frequently or almost always” after going on the website, and quickly too.
Businesses have always been at the mercy of their consumer kings, and while that may never have felt more pronounced, businesses and entrepreneurs also stand to gain a lot from maintaining a positive, proactive presence on Yelp, Smith says. Below, he offers some of the best ways to do exactly that.
1. Make sure your Yelp page is complete and accurate
It may sound simple, Smith says, “but making sure your listing represents your business fully is paramount. Accurate categories, correct hours, backstory about your business and the owners, uploading photos,” all helps present a credible and professional image online, for what can be many people’s first point of contact with your company. “All of these start with claiming your Yelp listing,” he says, “Which is completely free.”
Utilizing some of Yelp Platform’s additional functionalities, like check in offers, appointment scheduling and delivery orders all encourage consumers — and subsequently review traffic — Smith says, and “make it easier for customers who are already looking into your business to spend their money with you.”
2. Grow from critiques (and be mindful how you respond to them)
No business can please everybody all the time. At the end of the day, they’re run by humans, and we’re difficult creatures. But when muck gets thrown, try to view it more as free fertilizer than an excuse to wrestle in it.
“Negative reviews are important because without them, many businesses would not have the insight to refine and grow,” Smith says. “Try not to focus on one or two negative reviews, instead being mindful of trends in constructive criticisms.”
Responding to reviews is free for business owners on Yelp, but no matter how personal some critiques may feel, be conscious that whatever you say, publicly or privately, you’re representing your business. Responses or the lack thereof, Smith says, are very telling to future patrons as to a business’s professionalism and attention to service in the face of a dissatisfied customer.
3. Know that the statistics are in your favor
“Almost 80% of the reviews on Yelp skew positive and there are more five star reviews than one-, two- or three-star combined,” Smith says. Despite the stereotype of Yelp users being demanding, entitled, and harsh in their criticisms, they predominantly use the service to give positive reviews.
“People want to talk about their great experiences, and businesses deserve to have access to their customer feedback; Yelp offers both,” Smith says.
4. Worry about your customers, not your online reputation
All the attention to your Yelp page matters little if you aren’t doing the best job for your customers daily.
“Provide amazing goods and services to your customers: it’s the reason you began your business,” Smith says, “It’s what drives you every day – regardless of how often you interact or review your Yelp listing.”
Internet platforms are no substitute for an outstanding business. The quickest way to grow a great Yelp profile is to take care of the basics, and focus on your consumer’s in-person experiences and interactions.
“A positive Yelp presence will come organically from your satisfied patrons,” Smith says.
Want to learn more? Here are some additional official Yelp help materials Smith recommends all business owners check out.
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