Slated to be the “TripAdvisor for everything else,” Yelp’s heavy-handed, review-crushing filter has lots of small business owners looking elsewhere for listings and reviews. Any positive reviews faked by friends and family are gone, but then, plenty of real reviews – good and bad – are gone, too.
In short, you can’t really automate review editing with a filter. TripAdvisor relies on travel fanatics to prove themselves via multiple reviews. But TripAdvisor will also human-edit where a negative review sounds too fanatical, or a positive review too friendly. But not every broad sector of the market can rely on such a public to correct them.
Yelp is learning. While consumers look to Yelp for supposedly “vetted” reviews and recommendations, in most cases, Yelp’s place as the number one- or two-ranked search result has dropped way off. If you see Yelp at all, you’ll find it much further down the search results page than it may have been even a year ago.
Arguably, that’s where business reviews belong. But don’t discount the value of Yelp too much.
With more positive reviews, and a little love and attention, business owners really do see their Yelp listing pay off. For restaurants, and for many similar smaller businesses serving a local and competitive market, Yelp is still the essential listing site – outside your Google Plus, and Facebook Pages. Let’s take a look at how you can get more reviews, and more use out of Yelp.
1) Don’t Solicit Reviews
Creating awareness about your listing is acceptable. According to Yelp, you can – and should – send people to your Yelp listing, but don’t encourage visitors to leave testimonials or reviews one way or another. Yelp doesn’t like that. On the other hand, a few “People Love Us on Yelp” decals placed at strategic locations around your business can lend you some legitimacy and encourage customers to visit.
2) Print Your Yelp Address on Receipts
But nothing more. “Please visit us on Yelp” is sufficient. Program that message to print on your receipts and in other smart places. Simply getting people to your Yelp listing page is usually sufficient to start generating more reviews. It can also go in your emails, on your business cards or in any number of places. Again, though, don’t ask them to for reviews.
3) Get positive reviews out of the filter.
That’s a lot easier said than done, but it is possible. Yelp wants to see a number of reviews from the same writer – on different business listings. To achieve this, you can encourage your loyal customers to review other businesses. Your reviewers need to have clear profile pictures, and they may be responsive to your thanking them for the positive review. In short, to get the reviews out of the filter, Yelp needs to see that the reviewer is a real person and not just a bot. You can also read a little more in depth on the subject here.
4) Talk to Your Most Loyal Customers
If you have a loyal customer who really is an experienced Yelper, you might speak to him or her personally. It’s generally best not to leave an electronic trail, i.e.; don’t email a hundred of them at a time. On the other hand, reviews from one-time visitors to Yelp are probably going to be filtered. So unless you know a customer has five or more published reviews elsewhere on Yelp, their warm accolades will probably be stuck in the filter.
5) Yelp Deals
30% of the discounted price might seem a steep price to pay, but setting up and running a Yelp Deal will almost certainly drive some business into your store, and secondarily, some positive reviews to your listing. Yelp Deals, if not direct advertising on Yelp, are one thing Yelp visitors are definitely looking for – and they should provide positive return on the money invested, as well as some extra reviews.
Being social, making friends, even writing some good reviews of your own favorite local businesses is only going to help your own reputation on Yelp. It’s also going to give you – or your rep – valuable insight into how Yelp works – and why.
Lastly, remember this. Yelp isn’t appropriate for every business. It has definitely replaced much of the “Alternative Weekly” marketing from the old, local, print media. Nearly any restaurant or bar, salon or nightclub can benefit from the loyal Yelpers who frequent the site and the reviews, Deals and listings. If that’s not you, there’s another marketing or social strategy or outreach project we can work with you on. We’ll be glad to tell you about it.