6 Ways to Improve Your Yelp Ratings

When my husband and I recently visited Galena, IL to attend a wedding, we decided to make a weekend of it. I had always wanted to go, and restaurants and shopping is our thing. On the way into town, we checked our reliable, go-to source for which restaurants to check out—Yelp. I am price-conscious, but on Yelp, I sort by ratings first. Armed with a top 3 list, we walked into town to find a place to eat. The reviews were right on—my husband got the best burger he’s ever had, and I downed a to-die-for peanut butter, chocolate, caramel malt.

The conclusion—Yelp works. A recent article in the Economic Journal claims that an extra half star rating on Yelp boosts business at peak times by 19%. And it doesn’t take much for a rating on Yelp to jump a half of a star. Because Yelp rounds up to the nearest half star, often as little as 5 additional positive reviews can improve the restaurants rating by a half of a star.

So what does this mean for businesses? It does not mean they should create five Yelp accounts to write 5-star reviews for their restaurant. Yelp has created a sophisticated filter to keep fake or biased reviews off of the site, making it a reliable and trusted source for patrons. And this filter will render any such attempts useless.

Yelp warns against such practices and I am witness that they mean what they say. It will not work. My auto asked their Facebook fans to review them on Yelp or Facebook, with the incentive to be entered into a drawing for a $100 Amazon Gift Card. They didn’t request positive reviews, but clearly if you followed them on Facebook you were a fan. I left a review, but I had to create a Yelp account to do so. I had been meaning to create an account anyway, and I meant every word of my positive review, but today I checked, and my review does not show up on Yelp. Their filter believes it is fake, likely because I have only written one  review, and because they jumped from having only 4 reviews on Yelp to around 10 the day of the Amazon gift card giveaway. They currently only have 5 reviews—Yelp is filtering out more than just mine.

Here are a few easy ways we recommend improving your Yelp listing to generate more authentic positive reviews (and possibly to bring more people into your business). Some are straight from Yelp’s own recommendations, and a few are our own thoughts:

  1. Claim your business page. Unlock your business’s page here. That gives you the freedom to control some of your listing information, add photos, and track stats.
  2. Put a link to your Yelp page on your website. Make it easy for people who are interested in you and familiar with Yelp to find your Yelp listing. Include a link to your Yelp listing on your website. This will help people who are already on Yelp to find you there, and it may make them more likely to leave a review. (Remember the issue Yelp had with my review of my auto shop—I only had one review, so they thought it was not sincere. Helping the people who know Yelp to find you there gives you more authentic reviews that are likely to stick.) See an example of two Yelp links on our client Merlo on Maple‘s website. One is in the upper right next to the Facebook and Twitter icons, and the other is in the right sidebar.
  3. Share your Yelp page with fans. In the same spirit as the above suggestion, share your Yelp on your Facebook and Twitter account occasionally. People who are active on social media are more likely to also be active on Yelp. Share quotes from positive reviews—this helps share positive experiences and expands the audience of great Yelp testimonials.
  4. Share special offers on Yelp. Yelp occasionally sends emails to people based on their location. The emails include specials and offers, recommending businesses in the user’s area. This free services helps Yelp users find you—and makes them likely try you and—remember, they are Yelp users—so they are more likely to leave a review if they are brought in by a special offer.
  5. Respond to negative reviews. If you can politely explain or respond to negative reviews, do so. Acknowledge what went wrong. Clarify anything that is incorrect. Thank them for their comment, and apologize when necessary. Invite negative reviewers to come back in and try you out again. A sincere, public response that is diplomatic will go a long way to mellowing a harsh review.
  6. Focus on customer service—be helpful, nice, and friendly. According to a Mashable article, Yelp’s research shows that if a customer praises “customer service”, they are more than five times more likely to leave a 5 star review, rather than a 1 star review. And almost 70 percent who complain about customer service give a 1 star review. Yelp shares this word cloud of words from positive reviews.

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