Yelp Help: Crafting a Winning Strategy for Online Reviews

Guest Post by Chris Campbell, CEO of Review Trackers, a leading online review monitoring platform for local businesses.

If you’re a business owner, Yelp can be a scary thing.

The user-generated reviews site isn’t just some harmless go-to reference for consumers who want to make more informed decisions. In reality, it’s a wildly unpredictable sounding board for anyone with an opinion about your business.

The opinions can be good or bad. The ratings can be high or low. The reviews can be glowing or fuming. Either way, they’re all out of your control.

Or are they?

In fact, on Yelp (and other similar review sites), there are a number of aspects over which you can be very much in control. It’s just a matter of tuning in and identifying the opportunities that not a lot of Yelp-fearing business owners are able to see and seize.

So let’s explore how you may be able to craft a winning Yelp strategy that will protect—instead of destroy—your business’ online reputation.

Be vigilant against fake reviews.

According to Gartner, as much as 15 percent of all online reviews will be either fake or paid by the year 2014. And that’s despite all the consumer alerts, review filters, and other measures that Yelp is taking to shoo away content manipulators and rule-breakers.

That’s why you have to monitor online reviews more vigilantly than ever; otherwise, you won’t be alerted in cases when questionable review content is tarnishing your reputation. If you suspect a competitor or an ex-employee posing on Yelp as your harshest critic, contact Yelp ASAP.

Optimize for Siri.

Yelp is becoming more deeply integrated with Siri, Apple iPhone’s voice-operated personal search assistant. When people ask Siri for recommendations—where to get good sushi for dinner, say, or where the nearest chiropractor is located—Siri delivers results (and reviews) from Yelp’s business listings.

So how can you get some Siri love? First of all, make sure that your Yelp listing is up-to-date with the correct address, phone number, contact information, and business category. Also, when you write out your company description on Yelp, be sure to add category keywords (“sushi,” “Japanese food,” “Japanese restaurant”) that Siri users are likely to use whenever they make a search query.

Don’t sue.

Late last year, housing contractor Dietz Development sued a Virginia-based Yelper for $750,000 after she wrote a scathing review of the company. The whole thing generated a lot of publicity. Unfortunately for Dietz Development, it wasn’t good publicity.

That’s because legal threats against bad reviews can lead to what Mashable calls “the Streisand effect,” wherein the threat has the unintended consequence of drawing more attention to the problem. In this housing contractor’s case, draw attention it did: its Yelp page is down to a single-star rating, with an astounding 75 reviews since removed by Yelp for violating the site’s content guidelines and terms of service.

Build your own Yelp.

People don’t always have to go to Yelp or some third-party review site to find reviews of your business. In fact, wouldn’t it be better if you had your own reviews page, with content that you can control and great customer comments that you can show off? Besides, you might as well add your own stuff out there for people and search engine robots to see.

Here’s how you can get started. Aggregate all your online reviews (the best ones, of course) and put them all in one page. Add this page to your website. You can add source URL, reviewer name, star rating, review date, etc. But you have to make sure that the URL of this page contains the word “reviews”—as in, “www.BusinessName.com/reviews”. Why? Because if potential customers want to find out what existing customers think of your business, they’re likely to type something like “your local business name + reviews” on Google.

Stop soliciting.

Don’t worry too much about how to get five-star Yelp reviews. Just focus on what you do best—that is, running your business—and the praises will come unsolicited.

What you can do to raise awareness is download Yelp stickers from the designated Flickr photostream, print them, and place them in prominent spots in your business location: entrance, check-in counter, menu, bathroom door, business card, etc.

Also, be sure to sustain a high level of engagement with your community of happy customers. Create Yelp Deals and Gift Certificates, send messages to your most loyal patrons, say “thank you” privately or publicly to positive reviews: anything to let them know that you value their feedback and are committed to serving them as brilliantly as possible.

Want to manage your local listings better? The Vocus Marketing Suite can help: click to take a demo!

For more tactics and tips from Review Trackers on the Vocus Blog, click here.

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