The Ultimate Guide to Using Yelp for Small Businesses (Updated Aug. 2017)

Introduction

Gathering reviews from your customers has become a crucial part of maintaining a successful business. As a potential customer starts looking with intent at different businesses, it's likely that they'll see and browse through reviews to help make a better informed decision about the service they're looking for. There's a power involved with reviews for businesses that makes it integral for businesses to flourish.

Enter Yelp.

Yelp is one of the largest review platforms on the internet (along with Facebook and Google) and certainly the largest website to focus on reviews specifically. If you're having trouble finding a restaurant, service, or niche business, Yelp is a powerful website to find the right business for a customer's needs.

Why Are Yelp Reviews So Important?

Having good customer reviews is important because it builds trust with your audience. If your website and promotions say that you're the best in town and the best value in the industry but your reviews online say consistently otherwise, your business will suffer. Businesses with overwhelmingly negative reviews online simply do not perform as well as competitors with better reviews. In addition, reviews are correlated with improvements in local SEO.

That's not to say every single review needs to be a bright, glowing review. Experiences vary user to user, and showing this with a complete review profile of real reviews is very powerful.

Fun fact: Some people have argued that having one or a few bad reviews mixed in with your good reviews can be a good thing, since it makes your business appear more “authentic”.

Businesses with overwhelmingly negative reviews online simply do not perform as well as competitors with better reviews.

How to claim your Business Page on Yelp

The first step towards improving your review presence is making sure you have a Yelp page that accurately represents your business. The business side of Yelp has it's own subdomain and login for you as a business owner or representative to use. Once you claim your business, you can see info about the people looking at your business, and manage reviews.

To claim your Business Page:

  1. Start by going to biz.yelp.com
  2. Create a business account. This is different than a user account, so you may wish to choose different login information than your user account
  3. You can then claim your business by searching for it here:
  4. Yelp will prompt you to follow instructions, and may require giving you a quick verification call to your business call to ensure it's you. You must be by your business phone to verify your Yelp business account

What if my business is already claimed?

Perhaps a long time ago, you or another marketing agency created a Yelp Business account, and have since changed emails, forgotten your password, or otherwise. If this happens, you'll need to submit a support ticket with Yelp to verify the update. This process can take hours to weeks depending on the complexity.

What Are "Reviews that are not currently recommended?"

Now that your business page is claimed, you might notice that you've already gotten some reviews. This can happen when Yelp knows about your business before you've claimed your page. In addition to 1-through-5 star reviews, you may also see a section for "not recommended" reviews. Not to worry! Many businesses have this section on their pages. Here's what it means.

Just like Google has algorithms that rank websites for keywords, Yelp also has an algorithm that filters out recommended reviews from not recommended reviews. Not recommended reviews are often reviews that are faked by the owner, contain a review from someone new to Yelp, or someone who may be reviewing for dubious reasons. Not recommended reviews can also be filtered out from recommended reviews simply due to the content.

Yelp reviews are filtered out by quality, reliability and user activity. While you can still see all not recommended reviews by clicking the link towards the bottom of each review page, they do not count towards Yelp's overall rating of a business.

Learn more about "Not Currently Recommended" reviews in this video.

How to Respond to a Yelp Review

It's possible that your page has some unfavorable reviews that you're coming across for the first time. Within the lifespan of a business, eventually, someone won't have the best experience. In today's age, that person is more than likely going to write about it on Yelp. That's okay, because less than perfect reviews are a fantastic opportunity to show how your company can improve, and how you manage negative responses.

When you see a less than positive review come in for your business on Yelp, as a business owner, you have an opportunity to respond. Hopefully, you'll be able to sort through any issues the reviewer may have had with your business or service. In the best case scenario, the reviewer might even change their review from negative to positive.

To respond to a review as your business:

  1. Log in to your business account biz.yelp.com
  2. In the dashboard on the left, navigate to the reviews panel
  3. Respond to a review by selecting to either "Add Public Comment" or "Send Direct Message"

When to add a public comment, and when to send a direct message

Public Comments are responses that you'll want anyone visiting your Yelp page to see. Public responses allow you to address the customer's concerns or address any specific points that may not reflect your business accurately. They also allow you to engage with positive reviews, by thanking the reviewer for their patronage, or following up with customers you would like to see again.

Direct messages are better for getting more information from a reviewer, which should be done when the reviewer discusses a very specific case within your business. Direct messages can also be used to extend one-on-one support with reviewer, and for offering specials.

The Do's and Don'ts of responding to Yelp Reviews

Do: Respond. Try to respond to every negative review, and every review of 3 stars (out of 5) and less, when appropriate. It's also nice to occasionally respond to 4 and 5 star reviews to thank reviewers for kind words.

Don't: Respond to Review Spam. Review spam are reviews that are made maliciously in order to cause damage to your company. They differ from a negative review, because these reviews are meant to harm your company, not to relay a bad experience with your company. These reviews should be properly removed, which we discuss in the next section.

Do: Keep all responses positive, professional and informative. It's OK if not everyone had the best experience with your business, but it's extremely important to maintain a professional attitude when talking to customers. Remember, you have nothing to lose but your reputation, and responding improperly might cause more damage than the negative review alone. It's also worth noting that a good response can actually prompt a change in the reviewers report to more (or fewer) stars.

Here's a great example of a good, positive response:

Don't: Be negative, insult, or offer excuses. You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. The best businesses all pride themselves on excellent customer service and engagement, so every experience a reviewer has with you must be positive. Negative responses to reviews can only hurt your brand. If you have nothing nice to say when responding to a review, then it's best to not respond at all.

Here's an example of what not to do:

Do: Be genuine. Use the reviewers name, be empathetic of their needs, and write your response specifically to that reviewer. Try to make notes of problems or issues the reviewer had and address them individually.

Don't: Use templates to respond. It's robotic, and it will be noticed by users visiting your Yelp page to read reviews.

How to Remove a Review as a Business Owner

In some rare cases, the best course of action is actually to get a review removed entirely. If your business has fallen victim to review spam, or if someone posted a review to your business page that's not actually about your business, you can flag the review in question to be removed.

In the reviews tab, on the right by the response options, there's a marker for a flag. Select this flag to flag the review for removal.

Select the best reason and a Yelp moderator will analyze the review. If the review warrants a takedown, Yelp will remove the review.

Remember, this tactic is to be used sparingly. Negative reviews are less harmful than a completely sterilized reviews page - users want to be able to read a variety of experiences, as it makes them feel like they're getting the full picture, not just what you want them to see.

How To Get More Yelp Reviews

Now that we know how important a large variety of reviews is, let's try to increase the number of reviews on your business page. Per Yelp's guidelines, Yelp does not want your business to solicit or ask for reviews. Reviews should come naturally, and at the will of each reviewer. This does not mean that you can't make it easy on your site and in your storefront for people to leave reviews. The difference is subtle, but important.

The Do's and Don'ts of Acquiring Yelp Reviews

Do: Give a heads up. Phrases like "Find us on Yelp," "Check us out on Yelp," or "See what our customers have to say" with links to your Yelp page are encouraged.

Don't: Specifically ask for a review. Yelp can, has, and will continue to penalize businesses specifically asking for reviews.

Do: Make it easy. Having easy-to-follow links to Yelp will generate more review opportunities.

Don't: Write fake reviews. Businesses that use this risky tactic are nearly always penalized in the long run.

Do: Send an email thanking a customer for their business with a link to your Yelp page. Don't ask for a review, but perhaps say something like, "Thank you for your business. See what our other happy customers have to say." This follows Yelp guidelines, and promotes healthy review generation.

Don't: Pay people to write reviews, or offer incentives for reviews. This is against Yelp Guidelines, and possibly illegal. Again, Yelp can and will penalize this behavior.

Do: Have a Yelp Sticker on your storefront to encourage reviews. Geek Powered Studios has created a Yelp sticker ordering form for signage at your business.

Don't: Pick and choose which customers you should send review opportunities to. If you're sending a follow up thanking a customer for your business, don't exclude grumpy customers.

Do: Share your reviews on other social media. Once someone submits a review for your business, Yelp makes it easy to share that review on Facebook and Twitter. Share some of your favorite reviews and others may want to review you as well.

Don't: Try to discourage people from seeing bad reviews. Bad reviews happen. It's how your business deals with bad reviews that can make a world of difference.

How to Write a Yelp Review

As you're working to make it easy for your customers to review you, you might get some questions about how writing reviews works. Writing a review on Yelp is easy, and it helps build the community of reviewing that Yelp was founded on. To write a review:

  1. Log in or create an account
  2. Search for the business you want to review
  3. In the top right side of the business page, select the button to write a review
  4. You will be prompted to rate with stars, then to write your review
  5. Once you've finished, select "post review"
The display box for writing a review on Yelp.

On Mobile, the process is just as easy

  1. Download the Yelp App
  2. Log in or create an account
  3. Search for the business you want to review
  4. To start a review, on the business page, simply tap the amount of stars you want to give.
  5. Post any comments you have
  6. Once you've finished, select "post review"

How Do Yelp Reviews Help SEO?

In competitive markets, it's likely that Yelp will be ranking towards the top of Google’s page one for localized keywords you'd like your business to target. That's because customers often want an easy opportunity to explore the competition, and can easily achieve this by checking Yelp for a list of the best reviewed businesses in a particular vertical. Having an optimized Yelp business page will have you ranking higher in Yelp, which can help you generate more leads.

In addition, Google has improved their ability to crawl external sites like Yelp and associate them with your business. The more reviews your business has on platforms like Yelp (and the higher overall rating), the more likely Google is to perceive your business as a good fit for search users. This typically results in rankings improvements for businesses with large and diverse review pages.

Once your Yelp business account is running efficiently, it can lead to drastic improvement in your brand and the health of your business. By organically garnering more reviews from your current customers, you can build trust and gain future business, all while improving your overall brand recognition.

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