Q: Should I be using Yelp for my business?
If you’re local, yes! You should use Yelp if you target local customers, and it’s REALLY helpful if you have a local physical location. What is Yelp? A place for customers to write reviews of local businesses, and a place for potential customers to find a business based on its reviews. Yelp has become incredibly popular, especially in certain industries. You may already have reviews on Yelp and not even know about it. Have you checked? Visit http://www.yelp.com and search for your business. If you’re on there and haven’t claimed your page, you should create an account and verify that you’re the owner.
The idea of online reviews makes some business owners nervous. If you’re doing a good job serving your customers, reviews are one of the best marketing tools you can use, and you don’t even need to pay for them! The key is to get lots of reviews (and, of course, to provide good service in the first place). If you only have two reviews and one’s good and the other’s bad, people will probably hesitate to do business with you. If you’ve got a bunch of reviews and there are maybe just a couple of so-so one’s mixed in, they tend to be discounted. Yelp has even added a new feature that lets you respond to poor reviews.
So, how do you get more reviews? My natural suggestion would be to contact your customers and invite them to write a review, or possibly give them something at the close of a transaction asking for their review. The folks at Yelp did not agree with me. It turns out that if a reviewer is not a regular Yelp user, their review will drop off the page fairly quickly. Yelp says they do this to avoid the influence of potentially fake reviews. I guess they figure if someone comes to Yelp just to write a review about your business and doesn’t come back, they may be someone you know who just raved about you as a favor.
Yelp wants you to go out and get existing Yelp users to come to your business so they can review it. Yelp gives these reviews more weight and leaves them on your page longer. How do you get Yelpers to come to your business when you don’t have many reviews yet? Why, advertise on Yelp, of course! So, is Yelp’s policy really about protecting visitors from fake reviews, or is it a ploy to get more advertisers? When I looked into this for my online boutique, I didn’t have any reviews yet. (Since I didn’t have a physical local location, my primary target market was not local.) I thought, why would I advertise to bring visitors to a Yelp page with no reviews? What conversion would I get from that?
What’s the answer? If you have a local business, I think you’ll benefit from a little of both – marketing to Yelp users and asking your customers to visit Yelp and post a review. Who knows? If your customers are new to Yelp, they may fall in love with it and become frequent users. Maybe some of them already are. Also, if you receive reviews on a regular basis, old reviews that drop off the page will be replaced by new ones. If you aren’t ready to dive into Yelp’s advertising program, there are other ways to increase your exposure. First, you should claim your business and fill in all the details in your profile. You can also post a special offer on your page (this doesn’t cost anything), and it will show up under your business listing in the search results. Change your offer frequently to attract attention and bring new customers, or test two offers to see which one gives you the best results.
To learn more, here’s a good article to read: http://mashable.com/2010/03/20/yelp-for-business/