Founded in 2004, Yelp’s platform has evolved to be a go-to site for consumers to research and express their opinions on the businesses they frequent. Since the founding, other review sites have been introduced but Yelp still leads the pack at more than 178 million unique visitors every month.
When your business is searched for online, these review sites show up in the first page of results. Having 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 because happy customers refer other customers and become brand advocates. With the reach and visibility of Yelp, it’s particularly important to know your way around the platform and how to manage your reviews there.
Why are Yelp reviews so important?
For businesses in industries like food and beverage, local services and medical, reviews can make a significant impact on brand sentiment. Whether people are praising your brand or criticizing it, you want to be around to address them head-on.
According to Yelp’s own data, the top three reviewed business categories are home and local services, restaurants, and shopping, making up 52% of the total categories covered.
In a BrightLocal consumer trend report, 87% of consumers reported reading online reviews for local businesses in 2020, up from 81% in the previous year. This may not translate into an obvious takeaway at first glance, but it’s what happens after potential customers read reviews that really matters to brands.
Reading positive reviews or negative reviews play a role in a consumer’s decision to use the business: 94% say that positive reviews make it more likely for them and 92% say negative reviews make it less likely.
After reading positive reviews, consumers say they will head to the business’ website (31%), search for more reviews (28%) and even visit the business (17%). Having reviews makes an impact on whether or not you’ll have potential customers.
How do you get these reviews? Yelp offers up some guidelines for this.
How to get Yelp reviews without violating policies
Let’s start first with what you can’t do. Yelp’s review guidelines are very clear in how businesses can’t obtain reviews.
- Don’t ask for reviews: not in-person, not online, not on your newsletter, not even from your grandmother
- Don’t offer anything in exchange for reviews: no discounts or freebies in exchange for them posting a review.
The idea behind the guidelines are that posted reviews are unsolicited and represent the genuine and unbiased opinions of the customers. So, now that you know what you can’t do, let’s explore what you can do instead to encourage a healthy amount of reviews for your business.
Best tactics for getting Yelp reviews
You can’t ask for reviews? Is there anything left to do? The short answer is yes and we’ll cover a number of tips to get you situated. Considering Yelp’s guidelines, your focus as a brand should be in 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 get started with these tips, it’s important that you’ve already claimed your page for your business.
Fill out your business page
Make sure that all of your business information is updated, including any temporary hours or methods of operation. Platforms add new spaces for additional information all the time, so it never hurts to check on your profile. It’s never fun to arrive at a business only to learn that, for example, they’re cash only and you hadn’t planned for that.
If you offer a service or food service options like delivery, connect those features so clients can easily book from your page or order food. The more seamless the customer experience is, the more likely they’ll leave a positive review.
Place a Yelp badge on your website
Alongside your social media icons, place the Yelp logo so customers know that you are present on the site. For additional Yelp branding that detail your review count and star rating, head to your business account to find the review badge.
Use Yelp branding in-store
Connect the physical with the digital by ordering a free window cling from the company. You’ve likely seen these before. They’re stuck right by the front door or the menu in the window. When deciding on a location, the cling should be noticeable when entering and leaving the business.
Yelp offers a few paid branded materials like hours signage on their print shop. These additional stickers serve to reinforce the reminder to your customers that you’re 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. Quote the best reviews, place them into an attractive social media graphic and then post them. There’s nothing wrong with sharing how much your customers love you.
Respond to Yelp reviews
Yes, even the good ones. It can be tough to respond to critical reviews and while every business would love a perfect five-star rating, the reality is that you’ll have unhappy customers from time to time. One survey found that 89% of consumers read local businesses’ responses to reviews and they will spend up to 49% more at a business that replies to reviews.
To help with writing these responses out, take a page out of your crisis plan. Having a plan in place prevents you from writing a heated response. The customer isn’t always right but you can certainly manage how you respond to them to ensure that the interaction leaves a positive impression.
Create check-in offers
One way around the no-freebie rule is to take advantage of Yelp offers. These are deals that appear for users when they browse the site.
This business is offering a free drink for Yelp customers that claim this offer on weekdays. The offer has a two-fold benefit: weekdays are likely slower so the offer might generate more orders, and customers will typically want to make a larger order that includes the item on offer.
Post updates from your business
Getting more into the social media sphere, Yelp offers businesses the ability to post updates. Think of these as social media posts but for big news that you want to share with your customers. Some examples include menu updates, new dishes, new services and any logistical changes.
This business posted two important updates recently: the fact that they’re celebrating 30 years and that they’ve reopened. Seeing fresh updates from businesses lets the customers know that you’re paying attention to your Yelp page and they can trust the info on it is current.
Run an ad
Businesses that place ads on Yelp show up first in search results or in the sidebar. The benefit of this is that it makes you stand out a little more from your nearby competitors.
For example, when you search for an auto service, the fastest-responding businesses who run ads are listed first, followed by those who have paid to show in the sponsored results section and finally by all results. Depending on how competitive your industry is, it might take several scrolls to get to the organic results section and by then, the customer might’ve already decided on which one to go with.
Utilize review management software
Are you getting more reviews across various sites than you anticipated? It can be overwhelming and time prohibitive to constantly check multiple sites and respond to reviews on them. Instead, use review management software like the one that’s offered with Sprout Social, to collect reviews from TripAdvisor, Glassdoor, Google My Business and Facebook.
While having a software solution doesn’t directly help you collect reviews, it does help you manage them for quicker responses, leading to happier customers.
Next steps for managing Yelp reviews
Reviews, whether they’re in person from your friend or online from a stranger, are part of the consumer experience. As more businesses continue to grow in various industries, the competition for brands is only increasing, while consumers gain an even wider array of options. The best way to figure out where to eat next or which spa gives the best massages is to conduct research. And these come in the form of reviews.
While you might not be able to ask directly for reviews on Yelp, there are a number of other options that help you raise your brand’s visibility both in-person and online. Instead of worrying about shady tactics to ‘get around’ these guidelines, focus on offering a great experience and increasing customers’ awareness of the option to leave reviews and support your business. Ultimately, doing this only helps reinforce the legitimacy of your business in a time when consumers are getting more and more savvy about paid reviews elsewhere online.
Now that you’re armed with some ideas, it’s time to put them to use on your Yelp page and explore additional reputation management tactics.