You may have heard about Yelp – it’s a review site that started in the Bay Area and primarily focused on restaurants. Now it’s all over the U.S., including in Corvallis, and any service-based business can have a profile.
What do you need to know about Yelp for your small business?
You can set up your own profile. Go to biz.yelp.com to create a business owner account and profile. Make your profile as complete as possible – it’ll take a few minutes to an hour to set up. You can add photos and that’s advised. You might find you already have a profile. In that case, you just have to “claim” it as your own, following the steps that Yelp lays out.
Determine how important the typical Yelp demographic is to your business. Most people who use Yelp to give and read reviews are well-educated and younger (20s-30s). If that’s your target demographic, please take some time to get familiar with Yelp and how to use it best. Although advertising on Yelp is expensive, if this is a make-or-break group for you to reach, it’s worth considering. Remember that people of all demographics do use review sites like Yelp – it’s just that some ages and types of people are more likely to use online tools like this.
Is your business likely to be reviewed? Restaurants and retail stores are the most commonly reviewed businesses on Yelp. All kinds of businesses can have a profile, though – but users tend to look for reviews when trying to decide where to eat or shop. People generally do a bit more due diligence when looking for a doctor, real estate agent or other professional – but Yelp may be one piece of the puzzle. Certainly you should be aware of the site and monitor it for any reviews, especially negative ones, so you can respond appropriately.
Understand that you can’t be all things to all people. An online review site highlights that. You will get less-than-happy reviews, simply because most people feel more comfortable letting it all out in a semi-anonymous online environment rather than face-to-face with you or your employee.
Most social media experts advise having a plan for dealing with negative reviews or comments and making sure to respond to all reviews that contain criticism or suggestions for improvement. Remember to keep from being defensive; simply acknowledge the criticism, say what steps you’re taking to improve and invite the reviewer to return. You may even need to have an employee or someone who is less invested than you as the business owner respond in order to come across as calm and professional.
Reviews show up according to a complicated formula. If you ask your customers to review your business on Yelp, and they have never reviewed a business before, their review is less likely to be featured. Reviews can stop showing up on your site after they have been there awhile. The exact methods Yelp uses are sometimes confusing and may be aggravating, especially if some five-star reviews simply disappear. Know that this can seem arbitrary coming in, and work to consistently request and earn good reviews from your customers so it matters less.
Finally, two more notes on Yelp.
- If you’re a business located in Corvallis, you may see more and more activity on Yelp and other similar review sites, thanks to the Corvallis Social Media Brigade, a group of local professionals who are trying to do more to raise the profile of Corvallis businesses. This makes it a great time to figure out how to use Yelp and other online tools like it to your advantage.
- Thinking about advertising on Yelp? Note that there is some controversy over whether purchasing advertising on Yelp can help with highlighting your positive reviews, or if not advertising can make your negative reviews show up higher. Yelp says no, although an advertiser can choose one review to promote over all the rest. (Use Google to search for more information about this so you can be informed; it’s beyond the scope of this post.)