Yelp marketing can make or break your business. Good Yelp marketing generates a steady flow of customers and sales. Bad Yelp marketing can put you out of business. Local businesses can’t afford to ignore Yelp marketing any longer.
Consumers use Yelp to find businesses
Consumers now use Yelp as their primary way to find local businesses. If you think your customers don’t find local businesses on the Internet, consider this: Only 5% of people don’t ever search the Internet for local businesses. As many as 53% search at least once per month. And as many as 38% search the Internet for local businesses every single week. (Based on the 2016 Local Consumer Review Survey.)
Consumers use Yelp to know who to trust
Consumers think of Yelp reviews like recommendations from close friends. The same study found that a whopping 84% of consumers trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation. As many as 74% of consumers say positive reviews make them trust a local business more. And 60% say negative reviews make them question the quality of a business.
Local businesses cannot hide from Yelp
Yelp marketing affects all local businesses…not just restaurants. Consumers search for online reviews for all of these types of local businesses (and more): Hotels, bed & breakfast places, medical and healthcare providers, clothing stores, hair and beauty places, grocery stores, car dealerships, automotive services places, pubs and bars, insurance providers, veterinarians, spas, cosmetic procedure providers, tradesmen, home care providers, fitness places, taxis and other cars for hire, pest control service providers, childcare providers, realtors, surveyors, builders, roofers, attorneys, accountants, locksmiths, and…oh yeah…restaurants and cafes, too.
Yelp marketing separates winners vs losers
Effective Yelp marketing increases sales. Bad Yelp marketing decreases sales. A business that increases its Yelp rating by just 1 star typically sees an increase in revenue of up to 9%. But a business that gets its first bad review on Yelp typically sees a 13% drop in sales. (Based on research from the Harvard Business School.)
Yelp marketing goal: Get found & win customers
The ultimate goal of Yelp marketing is to make sure consumers find your business when they need it, and choose you over your competitors. This means your Yelp profile needs to show up in Yelp and Google search results when consumers search for a local business like yours. And you need to beat the competition and win the customer over with a 4.5 or 5 star rating. The ultimate goal of Yelp marketing is not to get lots of positive Yelp reviews. That’s just a means to an end. Effective Yelp marketing results in consumers finding you when they need you, and choosing you over your competition. Positive reviews are only one variable in the formula for success in Yelp marketing.
Formula for success in Yelp marketing
The formula for success in Yelp marketing goes something like this….
Successful Yelp marketing = better reviews + more reviews + authenticity
Success Factor: Better reviews
To be successful with Yelp marketing, you need “better reviews” than the competition. Consumers see any business rated lower than 4.5 stars as inferior to businesses with 4.5 or 5 stars. For detailed practical tips on exactly how to get “better reviews,” check out “How to Improve Yelp Reviews.”
Success Factor: More reviews
But “better reviews” aren’t enough. You must also have “more reviews.” Remember…the goal is not just to have excellent reviews. The goal is for your business to show up at the top of the search results whenever consumers search Yelp or Google.
Even if you have a 5 star rating, your business may not show up on the first page of Yelp’s search results if you only have 3 reviews. That’s because Yelp gives more authority to businesses with more reviews. Yelp ranks a 4-star business higher than a 5-star business if the 4-star business has lots of reviews and the 5-star business has very few. Yelp simply doesn’t trust that a 5-star rating is accurate if it’s based on only a few reviews.
In the Yelp marketing formula for success, “more” really does equal “better.”
For detailed practical tips on exactly how to get “more reviews,” check out “How to Get Yelp Reviews.”
Success Factor: Authenticity
Even if you have lots of great reviews, you still can’t succeed without “authenticity.” Yelp must fight a never-ending battle with review spammers. The spammers try to game the system with fake reviews. So Yelp uses a special algorithm to weed out fake reviews…aka “inauthentic” reviews. But unfortunately, a lot of innocent businesses and customers get caught in the cross-fire. Yelp routinely filters out perfectly good reviews from perfectly happy customers unintentionally. An algorithm can only do so much to tell what is authentic from what’s not.
Don’t like how Yelp hides your happy customer reviews while showing your bad customer reviews? You’re not alone. Countless local businesses fall into this trap and don’t know how to get out of it. Yelp was even sued by a local business over the damaging effects of its review filter. But don’t expect Yelp to change any time soon. Yelp won the lawsuit definitively. The ruling made it crystal clear that Yelp has every right to do whatever it wants with its review filter. Yelp has no legal obligation at all to the local businesses who might get hurt by their review filter.
So how do you make sure all your good reviews don’t wind up in the filter? Your Yelp marketing must help Yelp’s algorithm see the “authenticity” of your positive reviews. For practical tips on exactly how to get your positive customer reviews out of Yelp’s filter, see more details below.
Yelp marketing for better reviews
Your Yelp marketing strategy for getting better reviews can be summed up like this:
- Prequalify reviewers – Ask only happy customers for a Yelp review (Rising Star Reviews offers a Yelp review management tool that helps with this)
- Get feedback – Ask any customer who would not give you a 5-star review to tell you how you can improve your business to earn one in the future (Rising Star Reviews offers a tool that helps with this)
- Unfilter good reviews – Try to free any positive reviews that get stuck in Yelp’s filter
- Turn lemons into lemonade – Deal with negative reviews appropriately to win better reviews in the future
Check out “How to Improve Yelp Reviews” for more practical tips and details on exactly how to get better reviews.
Yelp marketing for more reviews
Your Yelp marketing strategy for getting more reviews can be summed up like this:
- Be consistent – Make it an automatic routine to encourage customers to give you a review, not just something you do ad hoc or occasionally
- Get your timing right – Make sure the timing is right by approaching every happy customer for a review immediately after you have concluded doing business with them…no sooner and no later
- Maximize conversion rates – Optimize your emails and other approaches to encouraging customers to give you a review (Rising Star Reviews offers a tool that helps with this)
- Free filtered reviews – Don’t let your hard-earned positive reviews get stuck in Yelp’s filter
Check out “How to Get Yelp Reviews” for more practical tips and details on exactly how to get more reviews.
Yelp marketing for authenticity
Your Yelp marketing strategy for instilling authenticity in your positive reviews can be summed up like this:
- Complete your profile – Make your claimed business profile on Yelp as complete and authentic as possible
- Help reviewers’ authenticity – Help your happy customers’ Yelp profiles appear authentic to Yelp when they give you a positive review
- Accept some negative reviews – Don’t freak out about the occasional negative review (Your 5-star rating looks more authentic if you have a few bad reviews mixed in among all the 5-star reviews)
Prove the authenticity of your business
Easily make your business seem authentic to Yelp just by completing your profile thoroughly. Include at least 10 pictures, your hours of operation, a phone number, your business categories, and compelling descriptions in the “Specialties,” “History,” and “Meet the Business Owner” sections.
Also respond to customer reviews on a regular basis. Your customers will appreciate it, and Yelp will see you’re actively engaging with your customers. This helps Yelp see your business is both authentic and committed to good customer service.
Prove the authenticity of your happy customers
Get your positive reviews out of Yelp’s filter by helping your happy customers seem authentic to Yelp. Let them know about the problem. Offer advice on how to solve it. And even actively help them solve it.
Be helpful, not pushy
You may want to start off by letting a customer know that you appreciate the positive review they gave you. Then let them know that Yelp didn’t accept their review because Yelp suspects them as a spammer. Also let them know this problem could affect other reviews they post on Yelp for other businesses, not just yours. As long as Yelp sees their profile as “potentially inauthentic” all their reviews may get filtered.
Don’t be pushy about asking them to fix the problem. Politely let them know how much you appreciate their review…even if Yelp doesn’t. Either they’ll care about this problem or they won’t. If they don’t care, don’t push it. If they show they do care, then they will appreciate you helping them fix the problem. Then let them know what they can do to show their “authenticity” to Yelp.
Help customers help themselves
Help your customers appear authentic to help by offering these suggestions:
- Complete the user profile – Users seem less like spammers when their profiles are more complete, so suggest your customers include a picture and other info
- Review more local businesses – Suggest your customers review other local businesses to show Yelp their accounts were not created just for one or two fake reviews
- Follow and friend – Yelp considers users more likely to be authentic when they friend or follow other users and local businesses
- Check in more – Your customers will seem more authentic to Yelp if they check in on Yelp whenever visiting a local business…especially a business like yours that they have reviewed
- Update the review – After taking the steps above…ask your customers to post an update to their filtered reviews to see if their newly found authenticity gets their reviews out of Yelp’s filter
Help customers to help yourself
Don’t just wait for your customers to fix the problem themselves. Volunteer to help them fix the problem. Take these steps to help them achieve authenticity in Yelp’s eyes:
- Follow and friend – Follow and friend your customers to help them appear more authentic to Yelp
- Legitimize customer reviews – Mark your customers’ reviews as “useful“ or “funny“ or “cool,“ including their reviews of other local businesses, not just yours
- “Compliment“ – “Compliment“ your customers and their reviews to make them seem not only authentic, but valuable content creators to Yelp
It gets easier
As you get more “authentic” reviews and fewer filtered reviews, your business will earn more authority in Yelp’s eyes. As you earn more authority, you’ll find it gets easier and easier to avoid the dreaded Yelp filter.