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storefront-yelpMost local businesses know the importance of Yelp in driving customers to their location, but they typically aren’t aware of what value Yelp can add to their business. According to a 2013 study, Yelp contributes an average of $8,000 in yearly revenue to small businesses. And, even more if they advertise through Yelp.

If you haven’t already claimed or configured your Yelp listing, it just takes a few simple steps. If you have already claimed your business, then you are probably aware of the ups and downs of Yelp. Being a public review site means that anyone can review your business. Yelp does its best to block fraudulent reviews, but it is ultimately up to the business owner to settle any negative reviews through making contact with the reviewer publicly or privately.

Here are a few steps a local business owner can take to get the most out of their Yelp listing:

Research

Check out your competition – the ones doing well and the ones doing poorly. What is the difference between their listings? How can you emulate the success, but also stand out from your competition? Do they have a professional website? Are the photos high quality? What about the reviews? What are businesses doing right, in the reviewers’ opinions, and what are they doing wrong? Using this information, you can help steer and adjust not only the online appearance of your business, but also the manner in which you conduct your business.

Ensure your listing is complete

Don’t just complete the bare minimum. Take the time to go the extra mile and fill out every section and area of your profile. And not just upon initial setup. Try to keep your listing updated with offers and announcements. Yelp is used widely, but it also appears in search results. The more information you add, the greater your chances of exposure. So take the time to complete your profile and keep it updated.

Don’t be afraid to ask for reviews

You won’t hear from most of your customers unless they are unhappy. And, given how easy it is to leave a bad review, you need to be proactive and ask your customers who are pleased with your service to go online and help get the word out. Many people shopping at local businesses are there for a reason – they want to support you. So, if it isn’t too awkward, ask for their help. And, your friends and family are great sources of happy customers as well. Or add the request to your business card or other takeaways, as a gentle reminder to your customers.

Engage with your reviewers

Depending on the volume of your reviews, this may be an easy or Herculean task. But there is value in responding to your positive and negative reviews. It shows that you care about your customers and you care about your business. A simple, “thank you,” can go a long way toward building a strong relationship with a customer. Regarding the negative reviews, it is your business and it is extremely difficult to not take a negative review personally, even if it may be directed at you personally. But Yelp is not the place to take personal offense. Search for Amy’s Baking Company to see just how wrong things can go when you start lobbing personal attacks. If that means not responding, then don’t respond. The worst thing you can do is attack in your response.

For most businesses, Yelp is a positive force. But either way, it is a force in driving or keeping away business. Using the tips above can help you get the most out of your Yelp listing and help you build and grow your local business.

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