yelp do's and dont's

Yelp Do’s and Don’ts: An Emergency Guide to Online Reviews

Love it or hate it, Yelp is the most popular business review site today — a thriving community of avid fans, angry ranters and everyone in between. Each month, over 100 million people visit and contribute to the powerful word-of-mouth platform. And if you’re a local business owner, you likely have a Yelp page (that can’t be taken down, even if you try). So it’s only a matter of time until you find yourself facing the dreaded inevitable: the one-star review.

We know, it hurts a little… but don’t panic just yet. Negative reviews don’t have to spell death. While it might be tempting to ignore them, your best bet is to tackle critics head-on, and take control of your online profile. By following the basic principles below, you’ll be well on your way to achieving Yelp stardom.

Do: Respond to Critics

Bad reviews have a silver lining – they provide brutally honest, valuable feedback. They also give you a chance to show customers that you’re listening and learning from them. When responding to a negative comment, start by apologizing, and let the author know you’re taking action. Avoid generic language that feels faceless or automated. Remember, you’re trying to establish a meaningful connection.

Responses may take the form of public comments or private messages. A public comment helps the wider Yelp community understand your perspective and clarify potential inaccuracies. However, many issues can be resolved privately. Consider offering reviewers a consolation gift (a $5 coupon or discount off their next meal), and suggest they visit again once their issue has been addressed. Oftentimes, once a reviewer feels acknowledged, they’ll take down the original complaint. Even better, they’ll write another review — this time, with a 5-star seal of approval.

Do: Thank Your Fans

While you’re tackling negative reviews, don’t forget to acknowledge your faithful following. Responding to fans lets them know that you appreciate and encourage their long-term loyalty, and cultivates future brand evangelists. Some businesses print out and display their best reviews for customers to read, encouraging others to post their own positive feedback.

Do: Keep It Up

After you activate your page by adding photos and current information (including hours, menu details, and anything else you can think of), it’s important to stay engaged. Set up email notifications to continually monitor messages and reviews. Promote your Yelp presence on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, and add a link to your monthly newsletter. If you’re really feeling adventurous, host a Yelp mixer and invite your biggest fans. (To learn more about Yelp events, visit yelp.com/events.)

Don’t: Engage in Battles

While responding to negative reviews is a smart move, do it tactfully. Public feuds are not only unhelpful, they can damage your reputation and image. Avoid insulting, denying, or bickering with a reviewer. Instead, leave a polite, personal response, and know that most Yelpers can tell the difference between sincere reviews and baseless spam.

Don’t: Cheat the System

Promoting your brand’s Yelp page is great — but be careful. Blatantly persuading or paying customers to write positive reviews is a violation of Yelp’s policy. This includes seemingly harmless rewards (“Write a review and get a free coffee with your next purchase!”), which are considered major violations, and can lead to public shaming.

Yelp’s impressive review filter weeds out close to 20% of reviews (which means that every so often, even legitimate reviews are mistakenly removed). Its algorithm is designed to spot any kind of suspicious activity, including posts written by friends, employees or other unreliable or biased sources. Just trust us on this one — it’s not work the risk.

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Don’t: Stress Out

Finally, try not to get stuck on every bad review. The majority of Yelpers are eager to shout out their favorite spots, and give credit where it’s due. In fact, a 2011 study showed that nearly 40% of Yelp reviews earned five stars. So, as long as you’re listening to feedback and doing your best to make customers happy, Yelp can be a huge boon to your local business.

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April Geer
April Geer
ageer@jstokes.com

April is the Digital Services Director at JStokes Agency and a sports-loving, mother of two from surftown Pacifica, CA. She leads a team of digital stars with a well-rounded mix of technology, strategy and design chops; along with the ol' fashioned common sense and problem-solving determination necessary to tackle the digital challenges that come her way.

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