Yelp – love it, hate it, make it work for you

One of the great things about Yelp when they arrived on the online scene was the instant availability of the guest reviews and I loved that I could get the inside scoop (from locals) of restaurants when traveling. When my partner and I decided to get adventurous and tried living on the road in our Airstream for 18 months, Yelp saved many dinner plans (or lack thereof).  When you hit a new town and have no idea where to eat (and you have been driving all day) the very idea of one more fast food chain restaurant is depressing. We became dependent on Yelp.  But, that was back in 2010. Back then, Yelp reviewers really seemed invested in the idea of building an honest community, giving great recommendations of where to eat and even polite reviews on where to avoid.  Yelp also was a great tool to help small businesses like hair salons and even laundromats get exposure and oftentimes funny reviews.  When we were on the road Yelp was our third traveling buddy.

Fast forward to present times… “Yelpers” leave nasty, vengeful reviews and threaten business owners with a bad review if they don’t get their way. This was not the Yelp community I use to love. Now, it seems I spend the better part of my working life helping honest good business’ combat the Yelp trolls. Although one restaurant owner did gain my deep respect and admiration this week! Bad reviews that are left with nothing but mean-spirited intent leave business owners feeling helpless and then they just want to ignore Yelp altogether. But, you can NOT do that. Do not let the crazies brand you.

Yelp is now an absolute necessary tool for any small business.  Whether you love it, hate it, or you are ambivalent about Yelp you have to use it to stay ahead of your company’s  message.  If you don’t manage your Yelp profile and address all of your reviews (good and bad) you are letting the crowd “brand” you. You are allowing someone else to design your companies online message. One bad review could cost you many potential customers and at the very least damage your online reputation.

I have new clients tell me all the time that they don’t have a Yelp account. One quick search and almost always I find that they do indeed have a Yelp account (usually created by a happy customer) with reviews they didn’t even know they had.  That means that there is discussion and branding happening about their business and they are not part of that discussion and they are absent from helping to create the brand and online reputation of their company.

So what now? Here a re few simple things you should do right away:

  1. If you are not sure if you have a Yelp profile, do a quick search for your business and see if one has been created already.
  2. If you find a Yelp profile for your business, claim it!
  3. Fill out your Yelp profile completely, add business hours, a good description and photos.
  4. Read EVERY single review and reply to them. Thank your customers for the good ones and make them personal.
  5. When and if you find a bad review, don’t reply in an angry tone.  If the review was written by a legitimate customer, answer their complaints and show how you are working on better your service/product. Offer to make amends. Treat that bad review as an opportunity to do a little customer service PR.
  6. Check your Yelp page frequently (at the very least weekly) and make sure your set your notifications correctly so you receive instant emails when a review has been left.

If you have any questions, thoughts or need some help with Yelp – hit me up, I don’t mind 🙂

Next up, we will be talking about the dark side of Yelp, the review system, and what you can do about it…