For a small business and/or restaurant, there is no better or worse way to get customers than Yelp. Yelp dominates search engines. The star system it uses shows up directly next to your website in search results. It is, by far, one of the most important websites on the internet to make or break your company, which means it should be one of your online marketing priorities.
It’s in your best interests to do what it takes to get better Yelp reviews. That does not mean:
- Pay for reviews
- Write fake reviews
- Cheat the system in any way
You should prioritize Yelp. You should not try to game it. Gaming it is unlikely to work, and there are enough ways to get better Yelp reviews without trying anything unethical.
With that in mind, below are several strategies to help you get better Yelp reviews for your company.
Improve Your Yelp Reviews
- Be a Better Company
Let’s start with the elephant in the room: Are you even a 5 star company? Not long ago I worked with a landscape company that was struggling with their Yelp reviews. They were only 3 stars. They prided themselves on their customer service and support, affordable prices, and quick service, and didn’t understand how they could be that low.
So I asked them what happened. They said that they have excellent personal reviews but they often contract to other landscape companies, and those companies sometimes deliver poor service. While this company didn’t want to be punished for the service of their contractors, I told them that their 3 stars accurately represented a customer’s experience. The customer doesn’t know or care that the contractor doesn’t work for you. They called you to do work, and they received subpar service. That’s a 3 star company, no matter how good the service is from the “actual” company.
The same thing happens with restaurants. Restaurants offer boring food and mediocre service, and want to be 5 stars. It’s not going to happen. If you have a menu you printed from the internet and you do nothing special with your food, you’re not going to get good reviews in Yelp. Focus on yourself long before you focus on Yelp reviews and you’ll get better Yelp reviews. It’s that simple.
- Suck Up to Bad Reviews
Yelp Business allows you to log in and message those that gave you a bad review. This is a service you should take advantage of. As every business owner knows, the customer is not always right, and there are times to call out a customer that is trying to take advantage of you.
This is not one of those times.
Apologize profusely to the customer in a private message, tell them what you’ve changed to ensure it doesn’t happen again, and ask them if there is anything that you can do to improve their experience. Free meals, free work – whatever. It may work, it may not, but there’s legitimately no downside – either they improve their review or their review stays anyway. A small change from 1 star to 2 stars can have a significant effect on your company, so if there’s even a small chance you should take advantage of it.
In some industries, you may want to call the client directly if you have their contact information. But as always, make sure that is appropriate, and treat it like you’re being recorded. You want to make them feel like their review is okay with you, and you’re simply trying to improve the experience. Do not pressure them in any way.
- Drown Your Profile with Amazing Photos
You can’t always control the bad reviews, but you can still control your Yelp profile. Take the time to add some amazing photos of your business, food, or whatever you provide on your profile, because many users look at photos first before they even look at reviews. Make sure you use a professional photographer and highlight only your best work. Adding 20 or so spectacular photos to Yelp can help change the immediate perception of your business.
- Flag a Review – But Only if Appropriate
I worked with a client that ran a tour group, consistently rated one of the best tours in their city. Every review was immensely positive, not only on Yelp but also on TripAdvisor, Google Places, and more. But then they had this one terribly negative review – a 1 star rant about how terrible their business was. After reading it over, I noticed that the bad review was about a pedestrian that was crossing the street and was almost hit by their tour bus. They had never taken the tour. They didn’t even know the tour. But they felt like the tour group was responsible for almost hitting them when they were crossing the street.
While that may be a big issue, that’s not what Yelp is for. So I flagged the review and Yelp agreed and removed it manually because reviewing a company you haven’t used is against Yelp guidelines. Suddenly they had zero negative reviews.
Flag conservatively, not liberally. 95% of all reviews will not violate Yelp guidelines, and if you flag them all you are likely to get ignored in the future. But still – check every bad review just in case you find one that doesn’t conform to Yelp guidelines. Perhaps you’ll get lucky and there will be one or two you can remove.
- Apologetic Public Response
If you do not hear back from the user after a few weeks, and they don’t seem to want to change their review, it’s time to leave a public response. Once again, people will be judging you based on this response. There is zero reason to try to defend yourself because most people will not believe you or care. There is no reason to say anything bad about the reviewer either.
Make your public response a lot like your private response. Apologize genuinely. Do not blame the user for their experience in any way. Say what you’re doing to improve things in the future and once again reiterate that if there is anything you can do to improve their experience you’d love to find out what it is and provide it. This way anyone that sees your public response will know that you have a commitment to the customer and that you’re trying to make things better.
Focusing on the Future – Not the Past
Improving your current reviews is important. But ideally, you want to focus on future reviews instead. Be a better company. Offer better service, products, support, etc. The better you are, the better your reviews will be, and eventually you’ll be able to drown out any negative reviews with extra positivity.