It’s 2 weeks before Valentine’s Day and you’re looking for the best restaurant to celebrate the occasion with your special someone. Before Yelp, your problem would not only be finding the best restaurant but booking a table in advance. With Yelp, not only can you find the restaurant with the most glowing reviews but you can also confirm your reservation for Valentine’s Day.
The value of Yelp covers both the customer and the establishment. If your business is on Yelp, it can be discovered right away by potential new customers within your area.
It’s a great complement to your local search marketing campaign because Yelp has many users – an estimated 76.75 million every month and these subscribers love giving customer reviews.
And that’s why Yelp can be a double-edged sword for your business.
In the same way that positive reviews can give your business a boost, negative reviews can bring it down. While reviews are an effective way of keeping businesses honest, they can also be used – and abused – by the reviewer.
The pandemic has also created shifts in consumer behavior that have impacted the growth of Yelp. There are also questions about the accuracy of the company’s tracking algorithm and its seemingly aggressive tactics in getting businesses to buy ad placements on the site.
Take a few minutes to read this article before you decide to include Yelp in your local search marketing strategy.
We’ll tell you everything you need to know about Yelp so you can make an educated decision, come up with a risk management plan, and moderate expectations should you decide to register your business with the service.
What Is Yelp?
Yelp is an internet-based service that was founded in 2004 and developed to help people locate business establishments in their area.
Although Yelp is popular among locals looking for restaurants and cafes, it provides a listing of other businesses such as gyms, spas, gas stations, supermarkets, auto repair shops, and pharmacies.
To use Yelp, you can go to their website or download the company’s app which is available for iOS and Android operating systems.
The site is easy to use. The listings can be sorted according to the user’s preferences – price range, availability of outdoor dining, if reservations are accepted, and delivery service among others.
For business owners, opening a Yelp account is also easy. Just go to the Yelp website and click on the “Sign Up” button. The rest of the account-opening steps are easy to follow. You can also open an account via Facebook to make it easier for you to share your reviews and access your images.
To get the most out of Yelp, make sure your profile is complete and provides users with updated information about your business. Yelp will ask you to provide information on your products and services, specializations, company history, and the owners of the business.
Be as detailed as possible but write in a conversational manner that’s easy for users to understand. Lastly, upload high-quality images of your establishment, its products and services. Include images of yourself, the staff, and if possible, your customers.
In other words, personalize your Yelp profile. Present your business as an accessible establishment that cares about customer experience.
Yelp Customer Reviews: A Boon For Your Business
But what excites customers about Yelp is its social component. Users of the service are encouraged to write reviews on the establishments they’ve visited. Not only can you post a review but you can also give the business a star rating and share images of your experience with other users.
And the world has gone to social media. In 2022, there was an estimated 4.59 billion people on social media every day. That number represents more than half of the world’s population.
Social media has given everyone and anyone a platform to express their thoughts and feelings.
Did you find the burger and fries combo you had at the dive you stumbled upon the best you ever had? Take a high-resolution picture of the meal with your iPhone.
Zoom in and take close-ups of the burger from different angles. Include yourself in the picture. Then, upload it on Yelp, and post your review of the food and the restaurant. 5 stars? Go for it!
Give a shout-out to the restaurant by adding a hashtag or tagging them on your post. If your Yelp is linked to Facebook, everyone in your community will see it. Generally, food reviews get a lot of engagement on social media.
Some of your friends might take your word for it and eat at the restaurant. Others might share your post in their news feed.
Your Yelp review might generate engagement where many are in agreement with your review. If the percentage of positive reviews is overwhelming, it can help the restaurant generate more business.
What makes customer reviews powerful is they are seen as authentic. These aren’t paid reviews. Customers go out of their way to post a review to share with the world the wonderful experience they had with the establishment.
But what about negative reviews?
Yelp Customer Reviews: A Bane For Your Business
Consumers will base their decisions on the type of reviews a business gets. In some cases, it only takes a small difference – 4.8 stars to 4.5 stars – to influence a decision. According to a study, 82% of consumers don’t patronize businesses that have a 3-star review.
However, if the negative reviews are scathing, they can damage the reputation of the business.
Consumers can get emotional. Service that’s perceived as poor can trigger a customer to vent on Yelp. It’s possible the circumstances were exaggerated but other reviewers might agree and validate the poor experience with their own.
And that’s the keyword – perception. Customers react differently. What’s fine for others might be foul for some.
Customer reviews have the benefit of making businesses accountable and conscientious of their service and the quality of their products. While the ability to post customer reviews has tilted the balance of power slightly in favor of the consumer, such power can be abused.
It’s not uncommon for a customer to “threaten” a business with a 2-star rating or a bad review if he can’t get his request – a corner table or extra sides free of charge – accommodated.
Of course, Yelp has built-in features that allow the business to remove negative reviews. You can flag a negative review and report it to Yelp’s support team. It doesn’t mean that Yelp will remove the review.
Yelp’s support team will conduct an investigation into the review and determine whether the negative review was warranted or not. If the support team’s findings are in favor of the customer, the review will stay.
Is Yelp Still Relevant For Business?
Similar to other businesses that have successfully transitioned from Start-Up to Big Business, Yelp has had its own share of controversies.
Businesses allege that not all of the customers’ positive reviews are posted on the site. This is because Yelp’s algorithm that was developed to track fake reviews tends to index all questionable posts and store them under “Filtered Reviews”.
Many of these businesses that use Yelp claim a good portion of these reviews are positive and authentic.
Yelp has also been accused of practicing questionable sales strategies that are intended to generate more ad sales for the company. Other businesses also allege that it’s difficult to track customer feedback on Yelp.
While Yelp’s stock price have declined since 2020, the company continues to maintain its stream of revenues largely from the high-teen users of the app. The decline in stock price can be attributed to a number of reasons:
- The effect of the pandemic on consumer spending.
- The slowdown of the global economy; particularly in China.
- The Ukraine-Russia War.
Curiously, Yelp appears to have realigned its business strategy to move slightly away from the restaurant market and toward home, health, and beauty items.
The pandemic has influenced consumer behavior. Even though health restrictions have been lifted in many cities, consumers seem to prefer dining at home than in restaurants.
Likewise, the pandemic has made consumers become health conscious as evidenced by the substantial increase in global sales for healthcare products.
So – does your business still need Yelp to give your local search marketing efforts a boost?
Perhaps the most troubling development about Yelp is the steady decline in the number of mobile users of the service since 2019. A big reason for the decline in users is that Yelp is facing increased competition for market share from other companies.
Food delivery services such as Uber Eats and Door Dash are fast becoming the preferred choices of customers. Social media networks and search engines remain good sources of information for Internet surfers.
Given the shift in revenue sources of the company, if your business is engaged in healthcare products, exercise equipment, health food and supplements, and cosmetics, Yelp might be worth a try.
However, don’t put all of your eggs in the Yelp basket. Diversify your local search marketing strategy to include other tactics such as social media marketing, online search directory listing, and creating/distributing optimized content.
If you need help in your local marketing efforts, give us a call or drop us an email and we’ll put you on the right track to get the desired results.
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