After I wrote my bestselling book, The Small Business Bible, one of my major clients (AT&T) referred to me as “the country’s leading small business expert.” Liking that moniker (needless to say!), I began to quote it when pitching proposals to people.
And it worked.
Not long thereafter, another company that was hiring me to do a webinar referred to me the same way. And then, before I knew it, whenever I was being introduced for a speech or television appearance, or mentioned in a blog or byline, I was being called “the country’s leading small business expert.” Truly, it would be difficult to overstate just how valuable that “review” has been.
Now, was mine a “review” in the same sense that a restaurant or retail store or other business owner gets an online review? No, but as they say in the law, it is a distinction without a difference. The fact is, getting people to give you a rave review, which is word-of-mouth gold, can really be a boon to your small business.
The Power of Reviews
According to a survey done by Bright Local:
· 87 percent of consumers relied on online reviews for businesses in 2020
· 94 percent said that a positive review made them more likely to frequent that business
· Almost half of consumers would not consider using a business with fewer than 4 stars
· Three out of four said they only pay attention to reviews written in the last month
The most important review factors were the star rating, followed by authenticity, and then, how recent the review was.
The survey concluded:
“Reviews play a key role in helping consumers to feel able to trust a business. Online reviews are an incredibly useful tool in influencing opinions, with many potential customers making decisions on whether to use or avoid a business before ever getting in touch with them.” And notably, “companies with a poor review profile could be denying themselves a vast number of new leads without ever knowing a consumer considered them.”
So yes, online reviews are not just important to small businesses, they verge on being vital at this point.
Especially if that review is on Yelp.
It is tough for any business to compete with Google and Facebook, but when it comes to online reviews, Yelp does. The online review site boasts 142 million unique users per month and 224 million unique reviews.
And what is key to understand for the small business is that when people find a business favorably reviewed on Yelp, they tend to buy from that business. According to a SurveyMonkey survey, 97 percent of people make a purchase after visiting Yelp, with more than half doing so in a day, and 90 percent doing so within a week.
Additionally, beyond reviews, Yelp listings are akin to Google My Business, since a small business can list important information such as address and phone number, URL, hours of operation, and so on.
So yes, it would definitely behoove you to pay attention to your Yelp ratings and reviews and work to get even more positive Yelp reviews.
Here’s how, in six easy steps:
1. Claim and Optimize Your Business Listing
If you don’t claim your Yelp business listing, no one will. And if that is the case, your Yelp profile will look empty and may contain incorrect or obsolete information. Both your online and offline reputation may suffer. Indeed, by not claiming your Yelp page, you will be losing out on a tremendous opportunity to get in front of your small business audience, get positive customer reviews, put your best foot forward, and grow your business.
Claiming your Yelp listing is a three-step process:
- Go to the Yelp for Business Owners page and click the “manage my free listing” button.
- The next page will ask you to locate your business. If you do not have a Yelp page yet, it will ask you to “add your business to Yelp.” If your business is already there, you will be asked to unlock it. If it is already unlocked, that means someone has done this already.
- Once you have your page, then it is simply a matter of thoroughly filling out the info and optimizing the page.
For example, a restaurant (the most frequently viewed type of local business on Yelp) could post its menu. It could post pictures of their food or dining room/covered patio (Yelp states that users spend 2.5 more time on a page with pictures than those without.) It can link its website, post its phone number, and list its health and safety measures and protocols, (which are increasingly important in this almost post-Covid world.)
The other great advantage of claiming your Yelp page and optimizing it is that because of the huge number of clicks that Yelp gets, there is tremendous search engine optimization (SEO) value in that.
2. Post Reminders, Yelp Stickers, and Ask
On Amazon, my Small Business Bible has 150 reviews. Most books have less than 10. 72 percent of those are 5-star reviews. How did I get them? Many came because I simply asked for them. When people write me and mention my book, I always ask for a review, “good or bad, whatever you think!” I then include a link to the book. Most people are happy to help.
You can essentially do the same for Yelp.
You have seen them before of course, those stickers in stores and restaurant windows that say, “People love us on Yelp!” or “Find us on Yelp.” This is the business’ way of letting you know that they want, like, and appreciate Yelp reviews. Posting those stickers really does make a difference. (You can request your own “Find us on Yelp” sticker here, but the “People love us on Yelp” badges are only sent out twice a year to qualifying businesses who have received enough positive reviews.)
Interestingly, it’s against Yelp review policy to “directly” ask for a positive review. But, that said, there is nothing wrong—and everything right—with putting up your own “Find us on Yelp” stickers as a way to remind customers that if they liked your product or service, liking you on Yelp is more than welcome. It has been shown to be especially effective to place these stickers near the cash register and the exits so that they are the last thing customers see as they leave your place of business.
Also, when you interact with a customer who has had a positive experience with your business, you should encourage them to write a positive online review about your business on their favorite review site. Is it a fine line between encouraging positive Yelp reviews and asking for them? You bet, but it is really not that difficult to navigate.
Finally, another good strategy is to email your list, highlighting and linking to your Yelp page. Your list is one of your most valuable business assets; these are the people who like you most and want to hear from you. They are not going to give you negative reviews, in fact they are the people most likely to give you positive reviews.
The key is that you want to turn 5-star customers into 5-star reviewers and doing that is often as easy as just asking.
3. Share Positive Yelp Reviews
Sharing your positive reviews from happy customers posted on your Yelp business page is a great way to get other people to post their own positive reviews on Yelp. Sharing these is especially effective on both your website and your social media pages. Yelp even gives you the HTML coding allowing you to embed your Yelp reviews on your website.
Sharing, after all, is the whole point of social media.
Yelp quotes a Yelp user who says, “From sharing my reviews on Facebook and touting my great Yelp reputation on LinkedIn, clients know that I value their input. In such a competitive industry, I’ve found that word of mouth, referrals, and my reputation are some of the most powerful marketing tools that I have.”
Yelp puts it this way, “Did you know you can share Yelp reviews across social networks and via email with the click of a few buttons? When you share content via your social networks, you advertise your business and the things Yelpers say make it great, and you inspire people to click over to your Yelp listing to read more.”
You can access this feature by logging into your Yelp account and clicking the Reviews tab, or, alternately, scrolling through your Activity Feed.
4.Offer Exclusive Deals and Gift Certificates on Yelp
How do you get more Yelp reviews? By getting people onto your page on Yelp, right? And how can you do that? One valuable way is to offer deals and gift certificates on your page. People go to your page to get the deal and then, either they know your business and review it while they are there, or learn of it through the deal or gift certificate, and decide to give you a review.
Because they got the coupon from Yelp, they are far more likely to leave a review after their visit. And before you know it, new customers will become loyal customers.
Yelp Deals are “discounted vouchers” that customers can purchase, akin to a Groupon offer. Yelp Gift Certificates are exactly what they sound like—“vouchers” that are given as gifts. Customers can either print them at home or pull them up on their phones while shopping. You can learn more about them here.
It is also permissible to offer a discount or some other deal to people who bring in their review, as long as it is not dependent on the star rating.
5. Respond to Bad Yelp Reviews
Inevitably, if you serve the public, you will get a negative review. That’s OK, as long as you deal with them. The danger is when you get bad reviews and leave them to sit out there, rotting like an egg. They really start to smell, and they will discourage positive reviews and they can destroy your offline and online reputation.
Example: There is a restaurant down the street from where I live that had some issues with our local Health Department. People started posting negative reviews, yet the restaurant did nothing. Even though it was a good place generally offering a good customer experience, eventually, if you Googled the name of the restaurant, the first and most of what you would find would be those negative Yelp reviews. Good reviews seemed to stop altogether.
How bad did it get? The restaurant eventually was forced to change its name.
So, if you get a negative review, the key is to respond to it and try to fix the issue. This sort of reputation management is vital.
In fact, it is even possible to get a negative review deleted. The secret is to respond to the review in a timely manner, seek out the reviewer, work to solve the problem, and then solve problem. After that, you can kindly explain how important reviews are to your business and ask the reviewer if they might remove it. Often, with a successful resolution, the answer is yes.
Advertising on Yelp is a great way to get your business in front of possible customers who are searching for what it is you sell or do. They are quite affordable, and Yelp makes creating those custom ads very easy.
Yelp Ads are pay-per-click, that is, you only pay for them once someone goes onto Yelp, sees the ad, and clicks on it. Even better: Yelp ads put your business at the top of any relevant search result, above your competitor’s organic listing. That is huge.
What you should NEVER do however is buy Yelp reviews. Yelp punishes businesses for doing so. Spotting an inauthentic, bought-for review is really pretty easy and the Yelp algorithm will make you wish you never did that. Indeed, if it is determined that you bought and posted fake reviews, Yelp will post a Consumer Alert on your page for 90 days. Fake Yelp reviews are also a violation of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), resulting in possible federal fines.
Getting positive reviews on Yelp is one of the best things a retail business can do, especially in this cautious, post-pandemic world. People are wary of going back into stores and shops and so will be consulting reviews generally, and Yelp reviews in particular. As such, focusing on getting those reviews is one of the smartest marketing plays you can make right now.
While these tips apply to Yelp, you can also certainly use them for other platforms, like Google My Business. There are even tools out there that automate collecting reviews on these sites, like Birdeye, Swell, and Reviews.io. And if you’re sticking to Yelp for now, check out their webinar on how to get more positive reviews. You can access it here.