It’s no secret that small businesses often have a bit of a cringe response when the subject of Yelp comes up. Over the years Yelp has earned a somewhat colourful reputation, due in large part to some overly aggressive sales tactics that have put business owners on edge. Factor in the sometimes enigmatic review policy, and mentioning Yelp can often sour a conversation quickly.
Still, the question has to be considered. Should business owners invest their time and resources into marketing with Yelp? There are nearly 200M reasons to consider it, each and every month. Yelp traffic is entirely made up of people looking for the right local business to deal with. In an age of internet order gatherers, middlemen, and marketplaces trying to insert themselves between retails and the customers, Yelp would seem to be a strong option indeed.
So, how do you go about getting more business through Yelp? Let’s start this series by talking about Reviews.
Step 1: Follow The Rules
Just like SEO starts with “don’t violate Google’s policies unless you want to lose your traffic”, Yelp starts with “don’t abuse the review policy unless you want to lose those reviews … or your whole page”.
The most important policy to be aware of with Yelp is their “Thou Shalt Not Ask” decree. Simply put, you’re not allowed to ask people to review you on Yelp. They have a dogmatic desire for a natural flow of reviews and interactions, so asking for a review is a definite no-no.
(Side note: Our Easy Review Builder was revised a few months ago to not solicit reviews for Yelp, we only monitor them now to keep our clients in compliance with Yelp.)
It should go without saying, but don’t review your own business, don’t buy reviews, don’t fake reviews … the risk is just too great. Yelp works really hard to minimize fake reviews, and I can guarantee they are putting more time, money, and thought into finding fakes than you are putting into creating them.
Step 2: Get More Reviews
Many reviews will fall into the Yelp filter (more on that later), so it’s important to get as many reviews as possible.
Try a Check-In Offer
Yelp Check-In Offers allow you to offer a special gift or discount to people who come in-store and mark on Yelp that they have checked in. Not only does this help with driving foot traffic, it also helps get around the “don’t ask” issue. You can’t ask people to review you … but you can ask them to Check In, at which point Yelp will do the work of encouraging them to write a review.
Ask Generically For Reviews
You can ask people to review you online, you just can’t direct them to Yelp specifically. Asking for reviews (via an automated system or manually) will help your overall online profile, and inevitably some reviews will land on Yelp.
Step 3: Understand the Filter
We can’t talk about Yelp without discussing the review filter. Yelp’s approach to reviews is nearly 100% opposite to that of Google.
Google says “tell everyone to review you on your Google My Business page!”, while Yelp says “don’t ask, let people create reviews organically”.
Yelp filters reviews (often to the frustration of the business owner), while Google allows people to create as many anonymous Google (think “Gmail”) accounts as they want and leave reviews from every account.
Understanding that Yelp is extremely focused on the authenticity and legitimacy of their reviews is important. While it’s hard to see that five-star review suppressed on your listing, it’s also reassuring to know that it’s much harder for malcontents/competitors/former employees to slander your business.
Step 4: Work with The Filter
If you can’t beat ’em …
The Yelp filter is what it is, and as much as it might be frustrating to have some of our 5-star reviews suppressed, it also means that Yelp’s users can have confidence in the reviews they are reading. That doesn’t mean to have to give up hope, though.
So how do we help to liberate some of those suppressed reviews?
To start, it’s worth repeating: Don’t review your own business, unless you really enjoy inviting a lot of scrutiny on yourself. And let’s be honest, how bush league does it look to see an owner’s review on their own page? Let’s keep it professional.
The Yelp algorithm is shrouded in mystery, much like the Google algo. And just like we do with SEO, there are factors we can try to influence in order to work with the Yelp algorithm. Yelp suppresses reviews from profiles they don’t have strong confidence in, so we need to build that confidence.
- Follow/friend people who reviewed you. Fake accounts are much less likely to have friends and followers.
- Encourage reviewers to complete their profiles and leave reviews for other businesses. An active profile with complete info and a profile image that reviews a number of businesses in the same area is much more likely to be trusted sooner.
- Encourage reviewers to include images and details in their review.
- Suggest check-ins on the spot. Some people suggest that reviews from a mobile device may give stronger trust signals (ex: using the app, location info, device ID). Web accounts are easier to fake. Don’t use a computer in your store as reviews from the same device and IP on different accounts is a red flag.
- Ask friends/family/staff to follow reviewers. Boost that follower count!
- Suggest connecting their Facebook account to Yelp. It’s pretty clear why this would help Yelp to trust the account!
There’s no quick and easy way to manipulate the Yelp system – and that’s a great thing! If it was easy, everyone would be doing it. But, with a little patience and a little effort you can start dominating your share of Yelp’s millions of local shoppers.