It’s Yelp’s Movie…We’re Just In It

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yelp-reviews-tips-consulting-trainingEvery single time I speak to a group about Social Media, someone (or two) raises their hand with a question about Yelp – and with good reason. Like all Social networks, Yelp has its idiosyncrasies. It takes time and effort to learn the ins and outs of Yelp and how to make it work for your business.

I have a friend who lives in Silicon Valley. He decided it was time to replace his old car. He began his buying process by researching online (like everyone else) and came across some Yelp reviews of a particular salesperson. This salesperson had done her homework by diligently asking her customers to share their experience online. My friend caught those reviews, called the store and bought the vehicle from her. He tells me the deciding factor was her Yelp reviews.

It’s not a coincidence that I get a lot of questions about Yelp. I see a lot of dealers and other businesses treat Yelp and Google+ as secondary concerns in the daily operation of their business. Judging by the tactics my friend took, more attention should be paid to these platforms.

Managing Yelp reviews certainly does have its challenges. The number of possibly fraudulent reviews on Yelp rose from 5% is 2006 to 20% in 2013 {source}. Yelp does a pretty good job of “not recommending” those reviews that their algorithm deems fake but many, many times, real reviews get filtered too. Managing your online reputation is hard enough without Yelp adding another layer by “not recommending” your authentic 5-star reviews!

Whatever you pay attention to gets better. The more you learn about how Yelp works and how to manage your own reputation, the better positioned you’ll be when buyers come calling.

After my recent presentation, an e-commerce director from a dealership approached me. He had very genuine concerns about their presence on Yelp and had been very diligent with handling things. He expressed concern over reviews posted by non-customers who only wanted a bone to pick with someone. He was very disheartened by the fact that these reviews would remain on his store’s profile and that happy, loyal customers’ reviews were being filtered away. He’d tried to get support from Yelp but got the same canned response he always got: “Our algorithm, or review filter only selects about 75% of reviews to highlight at any given time.”

It’s frustrating when an online forum/social network doesn’t appear to listen to their customers’ concerns. After all, it’s the merchants who pay the ad fees. It conjures up feelings of hopelessness for business owners who are just trying to do the right thing and provide a mirror copy of their business’ reputation on Social Media. It’s easy to get caught up in the “I hate Yelp” thinking.

Take a deep breath and remember: It’s Yelp’s movie, we’re just in it. Outsmart Yelp by accepting its drawbacks and then capitalize on what you CAN do to improve your results.

Train salespeople to ask for online “referrals.”

Many more buyers are “Googling” salespeople. What does Google say about you and your individual salespeople? (try it and see!) Maybe you’re not that concerned with Yelp and Google+ reviews. I can tell you that my friend isn’t the only person who Googled his potential salesperson. Set yourself up for success – get your salespeople trained on how to ask for online “referrals.” This will build your online reviews, give you more visibility on search and increase each salesperson’s trust factor with their own individual network.

Review and restate your current Conflict Resolution Policy.

Every dealership I managed had a very clear policy on how to handle unsatisfied customers. Today, it’s 1,000 times more important to know how to handle situations when they go negative because what’s said online, stays online. If you suck in real life, you’ll only suck harder on Social Media. Get yourself a Social Media Policy for your staff and be diligent about keeping everyone on the same page when responding to conflicts.

It’s all about the numbers so get in the game.

Don’t stick your head in the sand when it comes to building your online reputation. Many owners think that a vendor is going to magically turn your online profiles into the land of unicorns and rainbows. Get in the game! You MUST have an internal process to capture your happy, loyal customers’ opinions so that when a negative review happens, you don’t get buried. This stuff takes hard work but at the end of the game, you’ll score a touchdown instead of fumbling your online reputation.

When you get a negative review, respond eloquently.

Always, always, always come from a place of calm concern. It takes finesse and experience to handle negative online remarks because each one is different. Consult with an online reputation specialist who can guide you and your customer to a successful resolution. Here are 3 important tips I give our clients:

  • Never make the customer wrong (even though they may be). War only brings on more war.
  • Never provide a canned, corporate-sounding answer (online or off). This will only serve to exacerbate the issue and it’ll make your audience think you don’t care enough.
  • No business is perfect and potential customers know this. It’s a fact that some reviews will be negative and many times your community will come to your defense.

For every unhappy customer, there are 100+ happy, loyal customers that can tell the real story of what it’s like to do business with you. Capture their opinions successfully and others will witness the trust you’ve developed.

It’s Yelp’s movie, we’re just in it..but if you work it right, you can be in the starring role.

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  • Betsy Gustafson


    You make a good case for “paying to play” at Yelp’s game because… a business ought to be proactive. But it still seems like once a business is in, it’s in for life and it feels like extortion (not to mention that it’s expensive for a small business to subscribe to Yelp).

    I believe in the consumer and that they will become wise to Yelp’s practices and discount the Yelp reviews for what they are. Maybe they’ll find Google reviews to be more objective.

    • krusecontrol

      Hi Betsy, it is a struggle for small businesses especially when you feel like you can’t trust Yelp. Yelp has made some serious missteps in that arena for sure. As a user of Yelp, I like the social aspect and I do trust reviews from people I’m connected to (and others as well). I’m not sure that will ever change.

      Google reviews are awesome and managing them should also be part of your overall online rep strategy. But Yelp reviews get very good visibility in search, especially on mobile, so don’t discount the opportunity to work it as best as you can. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts!

      • Betsy Gustafson

        My pleasure, Kathi. You brought up some great points, thank you for a thought-provoking post.

  • egoebelbecker

    It’s been a while since I spoke to Yelp but when I did they wanted more per month than any other marketing channel I used, in return for gaming their search in my favor and hosting a video that I couldn’t use anywhere else.

    Meanwhile, they never show up in searches in my field and often show up 5th, 6th, or even lower for restaurants, which they allegedly “own.” In NYC, where restaurants are kind of a big deal.

    Why play their game at all? Their reputation is awful and it seems like deservedly so.

    • krusecontrol

      As I covered in my post, we play Yelp’s game because our customers and prospects play there and turn to Yelp for information. If a mobile user searches for information, Yelp reviews are right there. Is that enough of an incentive?

      • egoebelbecker

        I’m questioning “If a mobile user searches for information, Yelp reviews are right there.”

        I just did a bunch of searches. No Yelp.

        (I also just bought a new car in March. Yelp never crossed my mind.)

        • krusecontrol

          Good for you. Thanks for stopping by my blog.

  • Lori

    Hi Kathi, Have you or any dealerships you work with, tried to get some reviews removed? This is a huge challenge for the healthcare industry. I’ve had patients write profanity-laced reviews, reviews about other hospitals on my hospital’s Yelp page, and Yelp refuses to remove them. I try to explain to Yelp that we don’t want the review removed because we don’t want negative reviews, but that the review violates their terms and conditions and contains false information. Yelp won’t budge. Any advice?

    • krusecontrol

      Hi Lori! Are you guys advertising with Yelp? If so, you get a client rep that can step in for you. Yes, it’s sad that you have to pay Yelp to get them to listen but that’s the only way my clients have been able to get them to act. If you’re not advertising, I would still try to get a rep’s or manager’s attention. Maybe tell them you’re THINKING about advertising?