Everyone talks about Twitter and Facebook when examining social media strategies for your business, but often forget about Yelp. Yelp is a powerful social media outlet for businesses of all sizes, but most especially for local operations. When potential customers want to do some background research on your company’s reputation, more and more the first place they look is Yelp, which is usually the easiest option because your business’ Yelp profile is almost always going to be on the first page of Google results.
Let’s say you want to check out a new restaurant in your city; somewhere you’ve never been before. How do you figure out where to go? You can ask your friends, but they go to all the same places you do. Where do you go after that? The internet! More helpful than Googling “restaurants in Your City” is going to a site like Yelp, a database of thousands of restaurants in and around your city, complete with helpful information (hours, location, type of food, etc.) and – best of all – customer reviews. So you select a restaurant and that business just got a new customer. The same process goes on every day for thousands of people for every kind of business out there. The need to have a quality Yelp profile is obvious, or it should be. So, why is your company not on Yelp? Or, if you are, is your company doing all it can to attract new customers?
1. Are You Already Listed?
Before you leap right in to designing your profile, check to see if your business is already listed. If so, you’ll want to unlock your business page. If you want technical help setting up your business’ page, check out Yelp’s support pages.
2. Complete Your Yelp Profile
The best Yelp profiles provide as much information as possible to customers. Particularly, you should complete the following sections:
- The Name of Your Company – this seems obvious but if your name is misspelled, no one will be able to find you online, and if they do, you’ll look sloppy.
- Category – if you miscategorize your company, customers looking for the type of products or services you provide will see you listed.
- Link to Your Website – do make sure that this is an updated link to your current website, and make sure your website is worth going to. The best Yelp profile in the world will be spoiled by a link to a terrible website.
- Detailed Address and Phone Number – make sure this information is updated and best for local users. For example, if it is customary in your city to include a cross street in the address, do it. Also make your address tourist friendly if you’re likely to attract people from out of town. For example, note if you’re located across from a local landmark.
- Quality Photos – bad photos are just as harmful as no photos, and great photos can also set your business apart from your competitors. Also, include at least one photo of the outside of your business to make it easier for customers to find you.
- Important Information – be accurate here with hours, price range, parking information, outdoor seating, dress code, nearby public transit, etc. Accuracy is vital here since it can make or break a potential customer’s decision about your business.
- About Your Business – even though this section can be hidden and not everyone will see it, it is vital for those who seek it out. Don’t blow off this section.
- Restaurants Only: Open Table Reservations and Menu – Yelp allows restaurants to incorporate Open Table reservations into their Yelp profile. There is no reason not to take advantage of this – it makes it that much simpler for a potential customer to choose your restaurant and make reservations. As for the online menu, it is a key decision maker for potential customers and putting it online and making it easily available just makes it easier for someone to choose your establishment.
3. Round Out Your Profile
Your next step is to make your Yelp profile be all it can be. Read your competitors’ pages and reviews. Note the differences in the profiles that have four stars and up and those that have less than three stars. Why are some better than others? Is the profile more filled out? Are the photos better? Does it link to a fabulous website, or one that could use an overhaul? (Is there a website?) What do the reviews say? Take particular note of what the local market likes and dislikes and reflect these trends in your own profile and in your services. This market research is an important way to ensure success in the local market.
This is the most important part of your Yelp profile. You could have the best looking profile out there, but if your reviews give you two stars, no one will hire you or buy your goods. Reviews, of course, go beyond the star ratings. Most people will read the reviews, so what the reviewer says is important for you in multiple ways. In the most obvious way, the reviews are important to you so you know what people are saying and what potential customers are hearing about your business. Beyond that, if there is a recurring issue, you can improve your products and services to better reflect the local market. Treat negative reviews as constructive criticism.
Negative reviews also provide a public platform to demonstrate your amazing customer service. You can reply to reviews and provide help or otherwise try to rectify the situation. But, before responding, do take a minute and strategize. Do not get defensive or attack the reviewer, no matter how much you disagree with the review. Respond calmly and respectfully, because the response is online and the entire internet and many potential customers are watching you. In you response, show that you care, thank the reviewer for the feedback, and then try to fix it. You can point out something the reviewer may have missed, or how you are going to fix the situation or improve the source of the problem. If you need more help, Yelp has a guide on responding to reviews.
The screenshot above is an example of how not to respond to negative reviews. Note how the business immediately gets defensive and attacks both the reviewer and Yelp itself, all with bad grammar and typos everywhere. This response reeks of bad customer service and unprofessionalism. Even if I were still interested in this dentist after the review, Emery Dental’s response would turn me off from the business forever. If the dental office had responded in a professional manner, and tried to resolve the issue, a potential customer may still visit the office.
Positive reviews are also useful beyond Yelp. You can post them on your website. You can put the “people love us on Yelp” sticker on your front window. You can also have more market research as to what the local market is pleased with. If, for example, there are lots of comments about how great your hair salon is at coloring hair, emphasize that in your marketing strategy. Respond to positive reviews too; show customers you appreciate that they took the time to leave such a great review of your business and their patronage. Remember Yelp is a social media platform – be social!
5. Behind the Scenes
By now, your profile is up and running and optimized. Updated in March of 2012, Yelp’s metrics show you information about your business’ performance on the site. These metrics show you data such as user views, user actions, yelp ad clicks, percentage of views from mobile sources, etc. User actions show you how users are engaging with your profile. All of this data is valuable market research that can inform you as to the best days to run specials or how important a mobile site may be to your business.