The Yelp platform, founded in 2004, has become a point of contact for consumers where they can research and express their opinions on the companies they frequent. Other review sites have been launched since inception, but Yelp still leads the pack with more than 178 million monthly visits.
If your business is searched online, these review pages will appear on the first page of results. An online review management strategy is another essential part of the larger digital marketing toolkit. For any business, you want to have a positive brand sentiment as happy customers recommend other customers and become brand advocates. Given the reach and visibility of Yelp, it’s especially important that you understand the platform and how to manage your reviews there.
Why are Yelp reviews so important?
For companies in industries like food and beverage, local services, and medical, reviews can have a significant impact on brand sentiment. Whether people are praising or criticizing your brand, you want to be there to speak to them directly.
According to Yelp, the top three business categories rated are home and local services, dining, and shopping, accounting for 52% of the total categories covered.
In a BrightLocal consumer trend report, 87% of consumers said they read online reviews for local businesses in 2020, up from 81% the previous year. This may not result in an obvious takeaway at first glance, but it is what happens after potential customers read reviews that are really important to brands.
Reading positive or negative reviews plays a role in a consumer’s decision to use the company: 94% say positive reviews increase the likelihood for them, and 92% say negative reviews decrease the likelihood.
After reading positive reviews, consumers say they visit the company’s website (31%), look for more reviews (28%), and even visit the company (17%). Reviews will affect whether or not you have potential customers.
How do you get these ratings? Yelp has a few guidelines for doing this.
How to get Yelp reviews without breaking any guidelines
First, let’s start with what you can’t. Yelp’s review policy makes it very clear how businesses can’t get reviews.
- Don’t ask for reviews: not in person, not online, not in your newsletter, not even from your grandmother
- Don’t offer anything in exchange for reviews: No discounts or freebies in exchange for you who leave a review.
The idea behind the guidelines is that published reviews are not solicited and reflect the real and unbiased opinions of customers. Now that you know what you can’t do, let’s examine what you can do instead to promote a healthy number of reviews for your business.
Best Tactic To Get Yelp Reviews
Can’t ask for reviews? Is there anything left to do? The short answer is yes, and we’re going to cover a number of tips to help you locate them. Given the guidelines from Yelp, your focus as a brand should be on demonstrating such great service that the customer has no choice but to share their experience on Yelp. Awareness is also a key factor: they won’t know you’re on Yelp unless you tell them.
To start with these tips, it is important that you have already claimed your page for your business.
Fill out your company page
Make sure all of your business information is updated, including any temporary hours or operating methods. Platforms are constantly adding new areas for additional information so it never hurts to check your profile. It’s never fun coming into a company only to find out that it’s all cash, for example, and you didn’t plan on doing that.
When you offer a service or food service options like delivery, combine these features so that customers can easily book or order food from your side. The more seamless the customer experience, the more likely they are to leave a positive review.
Put a Yelp Badge on Your Website
Place the Yelp logo next to your social media icons so customers know you have a presence on the site. You can find additional Yelp brands listing your number of reviews and star rating in your business account. There you will find the evaluation badge.
Use Yelp branding in-store
Connect the physical with the digital by ordering a free window from the company. You have probably seen this before. They are right outside the front door or the menu in the window. When deciding on a location, it should be noticeable that you hold on to entering and leaving the company.
Yelp has some paid branded materials such as hour signs at its print shop. These additional stickers are used to remind your customers that you are on the platform.
Share your Yelp reviews on social media
You can’t ask for new reviews, but you can certainly post your existing ones. Think of reviews as content. Cite the best reviews, place them on an attractive social media graphic, then post them. There is nothing wrong with sharing how much your customers love you.
Reply to Yelp reviews
Yes, the good guys too. Critical reviews can be difficult to respond to, and while any business would love a perfect five-star review, the reality is that you have unhappy customers from time to time. A survey found that 89% of consumers read local business responses to reviews and spend up to 49% more on a business that responds to reviews.
To write these answers down, take a page from your contingency plan. When you have a plan, you can’t write a heated answer. The customer is not always right, but you can safely control how you respond to them to ensure that the interaction leaves a positive impression.
Create check-in offers
One way to get around the no-freebie rule is to take advantage of the Yelp offers. These are offers that users see while browsing the website.
This company is offering a free drink to Yelp customers who take advantage of this offer on weekdays. The offer has two advantages: days of the week are likely to be slower, so the offer may generate more orders, and customers will typically want to place a larger order that includes the item on offer.
Publish updates from your company
Yelp gives businesses the ability to post updates to get more into the social media realm. Think of these as social media posts, but for big news that you want to share with your customers. Some examples are menu updates, new dishes, new services and logistical changes.
This company recently released two major updates: the fact that they are celebrating 30 years and have reopened. When they see new company updates, customers know they’re paying attention to your Yelp page and they can be confident that the information on that page is current.
Place an ad
Companies that serve ads on Yelp appear first in search results or in the sidebar. The benefit of this is that you stand out a little more from your nearby competitors.
For example, if you were looking for an automated service, it would list the fastest responding companies that show ads first, followed by those that paid to be displayed in the Sponsored Results section, and finally all results. Depending on how competitive your industry is, it may take several scrolls to get to the organic results section. By then, the customer may have already decided which one to choose.
Use the review management software
Are you getting more reviews on different websites than you expected? It can be overwhelming and time consuming to constantly check multiple websites and respond to reviews. Instead, use review management software like the one provided with Sprout Social to collect reviews from TripAdvisor, Glassdoor, Google My Business, and Facebook.
A software solution, while not directly helping you collect reviews, will help you manage them to get faster responses, which will result in happier customers.
Next steps to manage Yelp reviews
Reviews, whether in person from your friend or online from a stranger, are part of the customer experience. As more businesses grow in various industries, competition for brands only increases while consumers get even more options to choose from. The best way to find out where to eat next, or which spa has the best massages, is to do some research. And these come in the form of ratings.
While you may not be able to ask for reviews directly on Yelp, there are a number of other options you can use to improve your brand’s visibility both in person and online. Rather than worrying about shady tactics to circumvent these guidelines, focus on delivering a great experience and raising customer awareness of the opportunity to leave reviews and support your business. Ultimately, it only helps build your business’s legitimacy at a time when consumers are becoming more and more aware of paid reviews elsewhere on the internet.
Now that you are armed with some ideas, it’s time to use them on your Yelp page and explore additional reputation management tactics.