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November 14, 2013

A Guide to Reputation Management on Yelp

Yelp is the number one review site on the web, attracting more than 100 million unique visitors a month. This popularity causes Yelp reviews to have a dominant presence in search results, spelling problems for businesses with negative reviews. Regardless of your review status, it’s always a good idea to have a proactive approach to your online reputation management. By learning more about Yelp’s operations, a business owner will be better equipped to handle negative reviews while simultaneously boosting their SEO.

How do Yelp reviews affect business?

It’s no secret that Yelp reviews affect a consumer’s opinion, but just how much can a negative or positive review impact your business? One study shows that 72% of consumers trust online reviews just as much as personal recommendations and a whopping 90% of Yelp users claim that positive reviews impact their choice as to which company they will patronize.

The benefits to claiming your Yelp business page

87% of small businesses do not claim their Yelp pages which is a missed SEO opportunity. Local listings affect your ranking, so the more your business name, address and phone number are listed, the more weight your website and company is given in search. Remember that when it comes to SEO, quality trumps quantity. Target trusted business listings like UrbanSpoon, Foursquare, TripAdvisor and YellowPages.

Once you’ve verified yourself as the business owner, you can fill out all the information fields and utilize keywords relevant to your business. Photos have a big impact on internet users so remember to upload high quality and informational images of your business and its products or services.

How does Yelp filter its reviews?

A recent study by researchers from Harvard Business School and Boston University estimated that 20% of Yelp reviews written in 2013 were fake. Yelp has confessed that the algorithm they use to cut down on fake reviews suppresses about 25% of all reviews submitted to the site. In fact, Yelp openly admits that their algorithm is not perfect and that some real reviews will be buried by their filter.

An account that posts fewer reviews will more likely be targeted by the filter than accounts that post frequently. According to the study, more than 70% of accounts with only one review were filtered from the results. Also, Yelp accounts that don’t post a profile image are 41% more likely to be filtered than those with profile pictures. So businesses that have asked customers who are non-regular Yelp-users to provide reviews will not likely see those reviews get through the filter.

Bad reviews

It can be tempting to try and stuff your company’s Yelp reviews either to build credibility or to counterbalance negative reviews, but companies that are caught purchasing reviews will get a Consumer Alert flag slapped on their profile.

Yelp is even ready to take some violators to court. In late September, the New York Attorney General found 19 companies guilty of writing fake Yelp review on behalf of their clients. “Operation Clean Turf,” as it has been named, resulted in penalties of $350,000 for the offending companies, setting a notable precedent for behavior in the internet marketing field.

So now that you know creating or purchasing reviews is not a good idea, what do you do when you have bad reviews?

When to respond to reviews

There are two different types of bad reviews: a review left by a real-life customer, disappointed by their experience with your business, and the review that is probably fake, left by someone aiming to defame you and your business.

If you have a legitimate bad review, it’s probably in your best interest to address their grievances and apologize. You can either contact the user privately or publicly. Responding privately could create a helpful dialogue, which may have the user rewrite their review. If you address their comment publicly, then you are showing the Yelp community that you care about their opinions and are eager to improve your customer service.

Fake bad reviews are usually easy to identify: The user oftentimes has left only one or two reviews, they have no profile picture, their claims seem exaggerated, and they give few specific details about the event described. When it comes to these types of reviews, it’s best to ignore them. Responding can heighten their search rank which will cause more and more people to find it in their search results.

Contact Yelp

If you think that a review violates the website’s content guidelines, then you can ask Yelp to remove it. There is no guarantee that they will remove the suspect review, but as some businesses have been successful with this approach, it’s well worth a try.

  1. Go to the Contact Yelp section on their website.
  2. Select the Questionable Content option in their drop down menu.
  3. Specify the business affected and the reviewer’s username.
  4. Provide your contact information and then explain in the comments why this review should be evaluated. This is the most important step so take your time to explain why you think this review violates Yelp’s content guidelines.

Encourage Yelp Reviews

The best way to counteract negative reviews is to get others to leave positive reviews. Yelp adamantly discourages business owners from openly asking customers to leave reviews, but there are more subtle methods by which to encourage them. Include a link to your Yelp page in your email signature or on your business card to remind clients that you have a Yelp presence. If your clients are active users, they may see your reminder and be inspired to leave a review. Yelp also has downloadable signage on their Flickr stream so that you can include a button on your website to further motivate customers to review.

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