Yelp is a community-driven local directory that offers business owners the opportunity to connect with their customers via responding to reviews and rich information display. This community platform pushes hyperlocal to its core to ensure the user experience is second-to-none. It achieves this phenomenon via a savvy mobile check-in app that both rewards the user (badges and baronships) and plugs them into the community at the same time. Yelp has real traffic. Through the app, people search, discuss and visit local businesses based on friendship meetups; recommended trusted reviewers they follow; and events held by community managers which can bring brand awareness. Yelp also has longevity on its side. Founded in 2004 in San Francisco, Yelp has recently celebrated its 10th birthday, it has been growing and shows that it isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Yelp works across multiple categories/industries, so even service-area businesses can obtain listings, which makes it a must for most local businesses. As of April 16, 2015 Yelp is now available on the Apple Watch.
Why is Yelp important as a citation?
Yelp in Australia is fast becoming the most important citation a business should have. Beyond the standard NAP citation that all directories can deliver, Yelp has two very important feed relationships with Yellow Pages, and Apple Maps.
The first is a partnership whereby Yellow Pages sends Yelp a business listing feed in return for a customer review feed from Yelp. This was necessary for Yelp, because unlike other markets where they could simply purchase business listing data from an aggregator, the Australian market is quite different. There are no clear data aggregators in the Australian digital market, though Factual is present it is a new-comer, and Foursquare simply does not aggregate enough data to be comprehensive. Therefore, Yelp forged a partnership with Yellow Pages, whose presence in the local business listing market precedes the internet itself.
The second is a mapping relationship, where Yelp content is integrated into the Apple maps app. Users searching for businesses or business-types will be presented with snippets of reviews & photos from Yelp (from iOS6 onwards) – With this integration, users will be able to add photos and Tips to a Yelp listing, call and map directions to a business’s front door and check-in to a business directly from Apple maps. Users can also easily link to the Yelp app directly if they’re looking for additional information.
In addition to these partnerships, Yelp also provides a mechanism to gain real traffic that many directories cannot deliver… That mechanism? Buzz.
Yelp has a buzz, that has many new users joining the cause. With a community manager in major cities in place to ensure people flock to their system, they are able to generate buzz for almost any business, whether it is a restaurant, hotel, bar, retail store or professional service. A clever business can harness the power of this community to build momentum for their business, through the power of positive reviews. When a business goes all out and showcases their customer service; quality of product; cleanliness; design & functionality; they can often obtain rave reviews from the Yelp community which in turn drives traffic to their business, in the form of other yelp users eager to try out what they have to offer, based on these reviews.
Why are Yelp reviews trusted?
The development team has implemented an algorithm that weeds out fake or untrustworthy reviews from the ratings system. This acts like a trust filter to ensure that manipulation of ratings doesn’t occur. They continually tweak this filter to ensure that it captures the clearly fake reviews. Not convinced? Check out this in-depth analysis of What the Yelp fake reviewer filter might be doing (28-06-2013) by Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence, which concludes that it is 86% accurate under behavioural conditions.
There was also a study conducted by Michael Luca (a professor from the Harvard Business School on 26-11-2014) which analyses business-owners who commit Yelp review fraud, and the impact that it has on the system as a whole. The data is focussed on reviews that have been written for restaurants in the Boston metropolitan area – and the insight into why businesses have the incentive to try and game the system.
Because of its strong user base, Yelp also has real humans spotting and flagging fake reviews that may have otherwise slipped through the filter. By engaging with other users and talking as a community it becomes apparent who is real and who may be an owner pretending to offer a glowing review; a competitor attempting to sabotage; or a digital marketer trying to achieve both. These are flagged by community members, which is then sent to a moderation team who make the ultimate decision on whether to remove the reviews or not.
Even when fakes are able to bypass filters and humans, sheer volumes of reviews on many businesses will balance the outliers, and you can gain a true reflection of what a business has to offer from a diverse collection of real people regardless of the 1 or 2 fakes that may be present. However, in the instance where the reviews are minimal, the filter has been bypassed, and the community hasn’t flagged it, there could be adverse reviews positively or negatively for a business – but this is the smaller end of the scale, and for the most part, reviews from Yelp have a high trust threshold.
How do I respond to Yelp reviews?
Firstly, as a business owner, you should be responding to all reviews your business receives on the web. This can be a daunting task depending on the size of the business or the number of reviews received and so a local review strategy is recommended to ensure that you are leveraging the full potential of your positive reviews, and ensuring that your customers know you care about their negative or critical feedback.
This video provides best practice advice from the real business owners of Yelp’s Small Business Advisory Counsel about how they respond to customer reviews on Yelp.
The key takeaways from the video are:
- Use a Stop, Drop & Roll mindset; Stop yourself from reviewing immediately, allow some time to pass and respond with a clear head; Drop the defensive attitude; and Roll with the review because you cannot control other people’s opinions
- Address specific complaints or concerns and either change the way you do things or explain to the customer why things are that way.
- People tried the business after seeing the owner responding to reviews, because they considered that good customer service.
- 50% of people responded with and updated, and more positive, review after the owner had responded to their concerns.
- Respond to ALL reviews with a calm and clear mindset – this is business, it isn’t personal.
- Address specific customer concerns to show that you value their feedback and work to improve your business.
- Thank the reviewer. They’ve taken the time to provide an honest opinion of your business, so take the time to acknowledge that.
- Be original with your responses, never utilise canned or repeated phrases because it comes across as a lack of caring.
- Highlight the positives in a negative review (if any) as this can often negate the impact of the negative review
What is rich information and why is it important?
Rich information is anything that gives Yelp users a richer insight into what exactly your business is about beyond the standard NAP (Name, Address, Phone) and website link. Rich information consists of things like hi-res photos/imagery; opening hours; menu’s; videos; special offers; staff bio’s; business specialties.
Rich information is important because it allows your customer to engage with your business prior to visiting you, and see what you are all about. e.g. Yelp found that people searching on its site for local businesses spend 2 and a half times as much time on a business page with photos as opposed to one without.
That clearly highlights why richer information is important. It’s also interesting to note (in that particular photos instance) that of those photos, 50% are uploaded from a Yelp mobile app.
Recommendation: When looking to include rich information, go the full tilt and include everything you have. For photos in addition to store fronts, interiors, menu dishes, popular products — also include staff, the actual work you do, and installations and renovations where appropriate and possible. What this does is show your business as a living entity, and gives your customers a reason to visit you. Which is much better than just a static boring page with your name and phone number on it.