shutterstock_171032261For the past decade local review and community sites on the Internet have claimed their place in the national buying cycle, connecting consumers with local businesses across the country and around the globe.  These sites typically encourage users to post reviews of all types of local businesses, and assigns them a rating from one to five stars.  By crowdsourcing business reviews to an online community of contributors, sites like Yelp achieve a wide range of reviews from a wide variety of local consumers.

It is rarely necessary for a business to create a Yelp page in order to have one.  Yelp licenses third parties to gather information from public records and other sources in order to create an extensive database of listings.  Users who cannot find a listing for a business they would like to review are also encouraged to add the listing, so opting out of Yelp is not actually an option for local business owners.  For this reason, every business should closely manage their Yelp page.

Impact of Yelp Reviews on Local Businesses

Good reviews on Yelp can go a long way toward bringing in new business, while bad reviews can quickly scare off potential customers.  Averaging 132 million visitors in the first three months of 2014, Yelp is a site whose reviews pack a powerful punch.  Is it any wonder some businesses have resorted to less than honest methods in an attempt to inflate their ratings?

From soliciting positive reviews from customers, friends and family to outright buying, bribing and falsifying reviews, these and other attempts to swing the scale one way or the other have forced Yelp to develop a rather complicated review filter in an attempt to ensure the honesty and fairness of its reviews.

Better Understand Yelp’s Controversial Review Filter

Some of the things that may trigger the Yelp review filter are reviews that are too brief and lacking any details, those that come from a location other than where the business is located, those that have an overly strong positive or negative slant, those from a reviewer who has written no other reviews and those from someone with no profile information and/or no friends.

Unfortunately, businesses that are just getting started often ask their better customers to write them a review, and that customer or that review is likely to fall prey to the review filter.  It may be too positive, ringing false to the filter, or the customer may have not written a review before and therefore have no real profile on Yelp.  Businesses find it enormously frustrating when their best customers’ positive reviews get filtered.

Since no filter or algorithm is perfect, it is inevitable that good reviews and bad will get filtered unfairly, and this has resulted in a great deal of heated argument and even lawsuits.  There are some things a business can do to help keep these good reviews from being filtered, however, such as responding to the review immediately.  Businesses should always respond to Yelp reviews, both positive and negative, to show customers that they care about their experiences with the business.

Yelp allows viewers to vote on each review, to classify it as “useful,” “funny,” or “cool.”  Selecting one of these tags for a review helps ensure it will not be sent to the “filtered” page.  Adding the reviewer as a friend and/or sending them a message may also help establish them as a real person — and not the business owner in disguise, thus strengthening their profile.

Local Marketing Mistakes

How Can You Get Good Reviews on Yelp?

Yelp does not allow businesses to buy or alter reviews.  If a bad review is posted, all the business owner can do is apply damage control, by replying to the reviewer and offering to make up for their bad experience somehow.   Unfortunately, there are a few treacherous people out there who will deliberately post bad reviews in an effort to get free services.  For this reason, a savvy business owner generally checks over business receipts in order to determine whether or not the review is legit.  It is not altogether uncommon to see a response that goes something like this:

“This person has never been a customer of our establishment.  We have no record of him/her ever purchasing our services.”  If this is the case, then that is a perfectly acceptable response.

A business owner should always “claim” their Yelp site, which allows them to add pictures and helpful descriptions, as well as respond to customer reviews.  Along with Google+ and Facebook, it’s one of the cheapest, most effective forms of advertising — free.  The only drawback is, it can be treacherous if not managed carefully.  The best way to get good reviews on Yelp, however, is simply to provide stellar customer service.