Yelp – What is it and does it play fair?

So if you haven’t heard of Yelp ( yet – let me help you out – Yelp is the biggest, hottest review service on the Internet and it can help make or break your business.  It has a fanatical group of reviewers called “Yelpers” who “Yelp” about anything they try.  If you have been reviewed, you have been “Yelped”.  I think you get the idea…  Yelping is encouraged to be funny, off-beat, and often satirical.  After all, anyone can write – “He was a great dentist”. 

Yelp reviews actually get reviewed by community moderators and judged by other Yelpers.  Yelpers are encouraged to like or not like other reviews and to list whether they thought they were helpful.  There is even a category of Yelpers called Elite.  This group is only by invitation which is based on number of reviews written as well as quality of the writing (again, comedy counts).

So how do you get on Yelp?  Chances are you probably already have a listing and maybe even a review.  If you do you can claim it, much like you claim your Google Places listing.  If not, you can add one.  If you add or claim your listing be prepared to receive a phone call from Yelp within 20 minutes offering to sell you advertising on Yelp.  (While their advertising seems to show better results than Facebook, Google Adsense, or pay per clicks, seems to trump all the others still and is a better place to invest).

Yelp prides itself in its catch phrase “Real Reviews, Real People”.  Surprisingly most review services on the web can easily be cheated and reviews are easily bought.  Reviews usually sell at a rate of $5 for 1 to 10 reviews.  This can be a positive review or some will even write bad reviews for your competitors too.  Yelp however is different.  It is near impossible to trick their algorithms and human moderators.  Even real reviews that are slightly questionable get placed in a “filtered” section.  Yelp considers this a small cost, losing a real review, to keep their reviews clean.  Filtered reviews do not count toward your overall rating.

Yelp has been accused and partially caught pushing good reviews to the top of paid advertiser’s pages.  They have since stopped the practice but there is some evidence that having a paid ad may make your page more presentable.

A recent, detailed study by assistant professor Michael Luca from the Harvard Business School found that local restaurants experience a 5%-9% increase in business for every star their rating increased on Yelp (a 5 start point system).  The quickest way to get more customers is to increase your rating!  The study did not analyze the loss associated with decreasing ratings.  Though not statistically proven, it seems that when you drop below 4 stars on Yelp your business noticeably suffers.  It’s the dreaded 3.5 stars.

Many people are surprised that one site can influence so much in regards to your revenues – but it can.  You have to be careful because often times the negative reviews can come from disgruntled employees or ex-spouses.  These reviews are often not removed from Yelp despite pleading or threatening.  Some businesses have actually closed down and opened under a new legal name to escape bad Yelp reviews.

There are many ways to deal with negative reviews, but that’s another post.  The important lessons from this are:

  1. Know what Yelp is.
  2. Claim your Yelp listing.
  3. Know what your online reputation is with Yelp (and other review sites).
  4. Have a plan in place to handle negative reviews before they happen.
  5. Have a program in place to solicit legitimate reviews from actual clients. 

Contact us for our “Review Blast” program and reputation management.  It’s is a highly effective way to quickly increase your online reputation and presence.

3 Responses to “Yelp – What is it and does it play fair?”

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