When it comes to online reviews, Yelp has a significant audience. With over 127 million reviews and 26 million unique visitors to its app in the first quarter of 2017 alone, Yelp can have a significant impact on a small business.
As a small business owner, you have probably already been encouraged to get on Yelp because of the site’s prominence in search engine results. If managed effectively, your Yelp presence can help drive new business for your company—just as an unmanaged profile can drive potential customers away. Claiming your profile is easy enough; however, managing your Yelp profile on an ongoing basis and trying to stand out from your competition can be a challenge. Many business owners run across similar questions as they try to navigate the ups and downs of being on Yelp.
5 Yelp Questions Answered
As you start your strategy to optimize your Yelp profile, build your presence and manage your online reputation, you’ll probably encounter some bumps along the way. Whether you own a restaurant or manage a local gym, you’ll probably have similar questions about how Yelp can impact your business. Let’s explore some of the most common questions small business owners have about Yelp so that you can turn your focus back on other parts of running your business.
The Impact of Review Sites On Your Search Engine Ranking
Before we get into specific questions you might have about Yelp, let’s back up and talk about why Yelp is important in the first place. As you are well aware, consumers constantly conduct research online to gather information to help guide their purchasing decisions. Search engines like Google have the unenviable task of organizing all the data available to give you the best search results. In the face of an ever-increasing stream of data, where your company ends up in search results can make or break your business.
Over 100 factors dictate how well your website ranks in search engine results. Although the makeup and weight of each of these parts of search engine algorithms can change daily, one of these factors is “review signals”. Simply put, third party reviews have become the online version of word of mouth advertising. Favorable reviews are social proof which can play a large role in a potential customer choosing your business over the competition.
For example, let’s say I need to get my carpet cleaned. Since I’m here in Austin, I’ll search for carpet cleaning Austin. As you notice in the image above, you’ll see that the first results are paid advertisements, followed by local results displayed on the map. After local results are organic results. Out of the top three organic results, two are from Yelp.
What this means for you as a small business owner is that in addition to taking steps to help your website rank well in searches, you’ll need to pay attention to your online reviews on third party sites such as Yelp.
How To Pay For Yelp Reviews
Once you realize the importance of Yelp reviews for your business, your first instinct is probably to start adding new, positive reviews to your profile. What’s the best way to get good Yelp reviews? Should you pay for glowing reviews?
Small business owners often wonder if buying a Yelp review is a good idea, as well as how to pay to remove bad Yelp reviews. Although you can find companies who claim to get you legitimate reviews, don’t waste your time or money. Paying for reviews violates Yelp’s terms of service and your business can be penalized if you attempt to offer compensation in exchange for a review.
In response to blatant efforts of some businesses to manipulate their ratings, Yelp has enacted a Consumer Protection Initiative to catch businesses soliciting for reviews by having a team of detectives sniff out the perpetrators. If enough evidence points to signs the company is running afoul of the site’s guidelines, Yelp will post a Consumer Alert on your business page for 90 days warning your potential customers, along with a link pointing to the evidence of solicitation.
If you are wondering how to pay for Yelp reviews, the simple answer is: don’t do it.
A similar topic business owners commonly have about Yelp reviews is how to pay to remove bad reviews. The same rules apply for removing reviews as for paying for reviews. You cannot pay Yelp to remove a bad review on your profile. You can easily find companies online who say they can remove bad reviews, but the truth is that there is no magic wand to wave to make bad reviews disappear.
Don’t ask a person who wrote a bad review on your Yelp profile to remove the review in exchange for compensation or a freebie. It’s easy to understand why a business owner would panic after seeing a bad review. What you should know is that consumers have grown savvy about reviews. Potential customers understand that no business is perfect, and so many visitors to your Yelp profile will be wary if you only have glowing reviews. In most cases, having a few less-than-perfect reviews won’t tarnish your online reputation forever. Use any negative reviews as an opportunity to reach out to the reviewer privately to do what you can to make things right. If you contact the Yelper in good faith and do what you can to address concerns expressed in the review, you can then comment publicly so that visitors to your profile can see you care about reviews and are responsive to feedback. When a company provides good customer service, you may have the opportunity to earn back the customer’s trust and business. In some cases, a Yelper will update a review to reflect a change of heart about a business.
In some rare cases, Yelp removes reviews which violate the site’s Content Guidelines. A business can report a review if:
- The reviewer has an apparent conflict of interest
- The review doesn’t focus on the reviewer’s own consumer experience
- The review includes appropriate material
The bottom line? Yelp has a strict policy about asking customers for reviews. Yelp advises business owners to focus on providing good customer service so that reviews on the site are authentic.
How To Ask For A Review From Consumers
Some review sites encourage you to solicit online feedback. Google, for example, provides businesses with guidance on how to get reviews. Unfortunately, as we have already discussed, Yelp actively discourages companies from asking for reviews. Many business owners have had the frustrating experience of receiving a glowing Yelp review that gets caught in the Yelp filter.
What are filtered results, and why do some results end up there? Yelp’s recommendation software sorts reviews into “recommended” reviews and filtered reviews which you can access through a link at the bottom of the page. Depending on how many reviews your business has, you may have to scroll quite a ways down to even see this link, and many don’t notice it at all. For example, let’s say I am looking for a place to get a men’s haircut in Austin. If I click on the first result and scroll through all the reviews, down at the bottom, as you’ll see in the image below, I can see where the filtered reviews end up. Although the filter is fluid (the link to access them even states “other reviews that aren’t currently recommended”), reviews that aren’t recommended don’t factor into your company’s overall star rating.
Although Yelp doesn’t give information on exactly how reviews make it into the filter, there are a few theories about why certain reviews aren’t recommended. Many reviews made from the Yelp app tend to pass through the filter, which suggests that Yelp considers these reviews more authentic. By studying “user flow” on its website, Yelp knows that users which start directly on a company’s Yelp profile likely arrived when a business asks for a review, linking to the company page, so these reviews tend to get filtered. In fact, although Yelp discourages review solicitation, Yelp encourages businesses to post signs saying “Find us on Yelp” which is usually done by visiting the Yelp site and then entering the company’s name in the search bar. Reviews which follow this path are less likely to be filtered than reviewers who first land on a company’s page.
Because of Yelp’s strict guidelines, some businesses decide to put their time and effort into building a good rating on Google. Others do a soft sell on clients who are active Yelpers. Why does being active on Yelp matter? What we have seen is:
- Reviews from active Yelp users (who have many friends and who have left many reviews) are less likely to get filtered because Yelp will deem their review legitimate since they are more familiar with the platform and its norms.
- Yelp not only places value on how many reviews you have but who writes your reviews. For instance, an “elite” reviewer carries more weight than other reviewers.
Because of Yelp’s policies about asking for reviews, you’ll need to take a different approach on the platform than you would on other review sites. Be patient and focus on providing a quality experience for your customers. Ask your best customers if they are active on Yelp and if so, ask them in person if they would leave a review on the Yelp app. Look through your filtered reviews and see if you can help the reviewer become more active in Yelp’s eyes by adding them as a “friend”, interacting with their reviews or suggesting other ways they could improve their profile (adding a photo, reviewing more places or adding friends on Yelp, for example). Focus your time on your other profiles online, including Google, Bing, Facebook and any sites that focus on your industry or business niche.
How Much Does Yelp Cost?
Having a Yelp business listing is free. If you haven’t already claimed your listing, visit the Claim your Business page and follow the steps to enable you to start managing your Yelp presence. Once you have claimed your business, you can any needed updates to your listing, answer any messages, respond to reviews and track user views and customer leads, all for free. Take advantage of this free listing by adding information to your profile that can help customers decide to choose your business.
Yelp makes money off advertising. If you want to promote your business on Yelp, there are several options to choose from, depending on your goals and whether you have a local business (which is defined as up to nine locations) or a business with more than ten locations. You can also choose self service ads, full service ads and online ordering. Yelp also gives you the option to add on or upgrade features on your profile, including Call To Action buttons, to offer deals and gift certificates, to add slideshows or videos and to make online reservations (an offering geared towards restaurants).
One of the biggest distinctions which can impact your advertising budget on Yelp is whether you want to choose CPC or Cost per Impression. These costs vary, depending on the competition within your service or category. With the CPC method, you pay each time someone clicks on your Yelp ad. If you are paying based on clicks, you can determine how many clicks your ad will get by dividing your total budget by the Average Cost Per Click for your category.
With Impression Advertising, you pay for the total number of impressions, which is how many times your ad will be shown on Yelp. The best way to determine which pricing model works best for your business is to use Google Keyword Tool to compare the cost of your category keyword with Yelp’s average cost. You can also use the Google Keyword Tool to determine if you are getting a good deal on your Cost Per Impression. Yelp also provides you with a business ads performance page where you can check the progress of your ads, check on your budget and monitor your ad delivery over a set period of time. So, although Yelp is a free platform, you can make your business more prominent on by taking advantage of various advertising options.
How to Rank Higher On Yelp
Just as with search engines, you can take several simple steps to help your business rank higher in Yelp results. By paying attention to three parts of your profile, you can optimize your business on Yelp.
Leave No Field Behind
Go through every field and make sure all the information about your business is complete. Although the most important fields are hours, your website address and your phone number, make sure your service areas and history are also filled in.
Check Your Category
Make sure that the category you select is driving the right business to you. If you aren’t sure about what category fits you best, look to see how your competitors are listed.
Add up to 10 high-quality pictures to help Yelpers better understand what you have to offer. You might show off your waiting room, your most popular dish, your staff or your company’s exterior so that potential customers know what to expect when they visit your business or choose your services.
Select A Specialty
Include your most important keywords in the Specialty section. Think of these as the most important search terms you want your company to rank for on Yelp. This shouldn’t be a laundry list of keywords. Avoid overstuffing this section by just choosing a few priority search terms.
Focus On Reviews
Although Yelp does not allow you to solicit for reviews, you should reply to negative reviews to show you care and you can mark a review as useful, funny or cool to avoid getting your reviews filtered. Yelp ranks your page higher based on the quantity and quality of your reviews.
Is Yelp Advertising Worth It?
Another common question from business owners is whether advertising on Yelp generates a good return on investment. Of course, as with any question about your business, the answer depends on your goals and your results. Before you advertise on Yelp, make sure your free listing is optimized. If you find that Yelp helps attract a significant amount of new business, Yelp Advertising can supplement your efforts. You’ll also want to compare costs to advertise on Yelp to promotion your business elsewhere.
For instance, personal injury lawyer advertising on Yelp has an average cost per click of $15. On Google Adwords, this keyword can cost up to $100 per click. On the other hand, you may find that the cost per impressions on Google may be more affordable than the cost per impression on Yelp. Like any other marketing efforts, you should monitor and evaluate how your Yelp advertising stacks against your other efforts to determine whether your Yelp advertising justifies its cost.
Managing Your Yelp Presence
Yelp can be a very effective way for potential customers to learn about your business. That said, the fact that Yelp actively discourages companies from asking for reviews can make managing your online reputation on this important platform challenging. Many small businesses struggle to find the time to track changes on Yelp and manage incoming reviews. If you get overwhelmed, you may want to call in digital marketing experts so that you can turn your attention back on running your business.
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