“I hate Yelp.” I heard this time and time from business owners. If this is you, then you are not alone. Instead of allowing Yelp to frustrate you or destroy your business, you need to learn to take back your business. Business owners have the same complaints, lack of reviews, filtered out reviews and filtered reviews getting filtered. Let’s take a deep breathe and explore the enigma that is Yelp and learns to play the Yelp game.
Yelp is claiming to be cracking down on review schemes. They updated their TOS last November and made it a violation to solicit reviews. Asking for a Yelp review will get your listing slapped with a consumer warning. The warning is slated to last 90 days. There are three sides to this warning. For starters, the alert covers a majority of your listing. A consumer needs to click on the X to see your listing and check out your reviews. This alert calls into question your reviews. Potential customers will think twice before using you. The last part is the loss of traffic. You may see a decrease in clicks, calls and leads from Yelp for three months, while the warning is posted. No business wants to lose out on potential customers for a day, let alone three months.
While you can’t ask for reviews, you can offer check-in offers. I check in more often as I am curious to see what specials and deals I may receive. Every time I visit Yelp on my phone, I am reminded that my next review awaits. I am also asked to leave reviews for a business that I look up. You can ask your customers to check out your Yelp reviews. There are two parts to this, one you are directing your customers to your Yelp listing and two Yelp will remind your customers to leave a review the next time they visit Yelp. The last way to direct users to your Yelp listing is to ask them to post a photo of your business. People love to take selfies. Ask your customers to take a selfie with your staff or at your location and post it on Yelp. The user is directed to the Yelp app and they are presented with three options, post a review, check in or post a photo. You will increase your chances of getting them to post a review.
While those above steps are wonderful, the question remains how to enact them. One way to do this is by sending out an email to your customers. In the email, you can ask them to check out your reviews or to post a photo. Try saying, “we like the photos we take, but we want to see how you see us.” You may also try, “have you seen the wonderful things our customers have said on Yelp?” Both methods do not violate Yelp’s TOS and will keep you safe and avoid a consumer alert. You can run a photo campaign on social media. Try saying, we want to see our customer’s photos posted on Yelp or post photos of our services on Yelp. Ask your customers to choose which photos they like on Yelp the most. Ask customers to select which Yelp photos they like the most. Create a custom campaign and ask your customers to post a photo on Yelp and the winning photo with the most likes will win the photo contest. See who is our best amateur photographer.
Negative reviews can be a pain, however, you need to remain calm before replying to them. You have two options when it comes to a negative review. First off you need to reply to the review in a polite and professional manner. The goal of the reply is to defuse the situation and get the customer to reach out to you to rectify the situation. Keep in mind potential customers will judge you based on your reply. If you come off angry or defensive, you will do more harm than good. You need to be sincere in your reply. The goal is to win the customer back and you need to focus on future sales too. The next option is to private message the user to open up dialogue and get them the to engage with you. Just because the message is private doesn’t mean that you are free reign to be abusive. If you get upset or emotional, it will hinder your efforts and the user can post an updated review explaining how rude you were in communicating with them. You want to convince the customer that you care and want to fix the process so other customers don’t have the same experience.
I recently consulted on a case where a business was receiving negative reviews over a severe lapse in judgment an employee had in reply to an online political discussion. The business that the employee worked for received two negative reviews regarding the comment. I was able to flag the reviews and get them removed within 48 hours. The client remained calm and let me handle the situation. No more negative reviews have been posted since then.
Yelp will only remove reviews that violate their TOS. If they review uses profanity then you can flag the review to get it removed. If you are not sure if the review can be removed, contact Jason Brown at Reviewfraud.org to ask for guidance. You can get reviews removed if the user has a spam profile and is trashing similar business in the area. To flag a review you need to give as much detail as possible as to why the review violates the TOS. Yelp will not get involved over a dispute of facts. Don’t look for a loophole as it won’t matter to Yelp. If you have photo evidence, create a Google drive folder and link to it. Flag the review from your personal and business account. If you find a business is engaging in asking for or buying reviews you need to contact Yelp support and fill out their form. You need to supply as much detail as possible.
Make sure that your reviewers have built out or completed profiles. Yelp tends to filter our reviews where users have posted on review, have no profile picture or friends. Ask the reviewer to check in the next they visit or ask them to add a photo to their profile. Let them know that their review was filtered out because they are not active on Yelp and advise them on how to build up their profile. They can connect their Yelp account to Facebook and invite their friends to connect.
Yelp doesn’t need an enigma and causes you stress. As long as you know how the system works you can do your best to navigate the waters. You need to keep in mind that it’s their system and they control it, however, you can work within the confines of the system to have a better experience and outperform your competition.