Tips to Make Yelp Work For and Not Against Your Small Business

Yelp has taken a lot of heat lately from business owners who accuse the company and its reviewers of extortion type tactics. Reviewers are accused of demanding free meals and services in exchange for more stars and positive reviews. Yelp itself is accused of putting the squeeze on businesses by strongly encouraging the purchase of a monthly subscription to one of their business advertising packages in exchange for the removal of bad reviews. 

As a consumer, I appreciate Yelp.  I like being able to use the experience of others (good and bad) before deciding whether or not to part with my hard earned cash; and apparently, I’m in good company. A recent survey found that 85% of consumers check an online review site before making a purchase. As for a bigger view, Yelp averaged more than 120 million unique visitors each month in 2013. So it’s probably safe to say that Yelp and other online review sites are not going away any time soon and a successful business must have a plan for dealing with them.  

No matter how amazing your business may be, there will be some negative reviews. A chef’s off day, a trainee error, a staff shortage or even a disgruntled former employee – are all fodder for bad reviews.  This is why a strong social media strategy plan that includes a proactive approach for addressing reviews is imperative. Sticking to your well defined strategy will help you resist the temptation to engage reviewers in a virtual fist fight or shove your head in the sand and ignore the sites altogether. Remember, bad reviews often contain valuable customer feedback that can be essential to your business success.

Business writer, Seth Goden once said “You can spend your time on stage pleasing the heckler in the back, or you can devote it to the audience that came to hear you perform.” According to Yelp, 80% of their reviews are 3+ stars, so don’t spend your energy focusing on the occasional negatives. In fact, your social media strategy should include a plan for acknowledging positive reviews as well as engaging constructively with the writers of the negative ones. Knowing that a business cares enough to make the effort to turn an unhappy customer into a happy one goes a long way in the eyes of a potential customer.

46% of Yelp reviews are done on a mobile device, which means there’s no cooling off period for unhappy customers.  Mobile devises allow consumers to pound out a review or perform a “check in” before leaving the parking lot. So remain calm when reading and responding to online reviews.  Don’t allow yourself the luxury of grabbing your keyboard and pounding out your own “rating” of the reviewer.  Remember, any online communication has the potential to become public, even if you chose to respond privately. Calmly reaching out to an unhappy customer to make things right can have tremendous results! Also, most online reviewers are not averse to writing a follow up review. These are a double win for a business; you’ve kept an existing customer, and will likely gain new ones.

Negative Yelp reviews definitely have the potential to bruise a business’ reputation but the way these reviews are handled can be the difference between a minor bruise and a game ending injury!

Remember to “like” me on Facebook at and “follow me” on Twitter @gorivercity



  1. Pingback: Only thirteen per cent of Auto Repair Shops, pay attention to their online reviews. | eCommNow

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