5 Tricks to Improving Your Yelp Review Score

Yelp greatly affects consumer behavior. Is your page helping or hurting your small business?
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Just having a Yelp account won't help you. Maximize your Yelp account's success with these tips. (Photo: Tero Vesalainen/Shutterstock)

Thanks to the wealth of online customer reviews available online, it’s easier than ever for consumers to make an informed purchasing decision. According to the 2016 Consumer Review Survey by BrightLocal, 84 percent of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation, and 74 percent of consumers report that positive reviews make them trust a local business more.

Consumers regularly look to review sites to make decisions on where to spend their hard-earned cash, so how do you ensure your small business is accurately (and positively) represented? Follow these five tips to boost your review score on Yelp.

Ensure your business profile is complete

This is probably the easiest task to complete with the highest ROI for the time you invest. According to Yelp, businesses with complete profiles receive five times more page views, so make sure your hours of operation, contact information and address are always kept up to date.

Additionally, Yelp allows you to upload pictures to showcase your business. Make sure you take advantage of this free feature and upload as many great pictures as allowed. Pictures help consumers get a better feel of your business and what it’s all about. Yelp reports businesses with at least one photo receive an average of 12 times the customer leads on Yelp as a business without photos.

Related: How to Get Positive Online Reviews

Also, be sure to leverage the specialties section of your profile to show users how your business is different from competitors. Describe your niche to really stand out amongst other business.

Provide excellent service

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The first step to receiving stellar reviews is giving your customers stellar service. (Photo: Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock)

Kimberly Barnes, founder of the content agency ContentPark, offered this advice: “First and foremost, offer great service. You can’t expect four and five stars on Yelp if you’re not offering four- and five-star service.”

But as you probably know, there will always be a few dissatisfied customers despite your best efforts to provide excellent service. So how do you deal with negative feedback?

Always respond to every review — good or bad

Positive reviews are easy to respond to. A quick thank you on their review shows that customer, and others, that you are listening to their feedback and appreciate their kind words.

As for negative reviews, Yelp makes the distinction between “a legitimate concern,” “a simple misunderstanding,” and “a possibly false rant.” The platform advises businesses to publicly respond in the first two cases, but to only direct message a user who has gone on an angry rant. However, doing so only addresses the unhappy patron, and leaves all other users wondering, “Why didn’t they respond to that especially irate man? What did they do to make things right?”

Instead, Barnes advised to “Respond to every review — good and bad. Thank reviewers for their positive feedback, and apologize for a negative experience. In addition to an apology, do what you can to rectify the situation. Often negative reviewers will change a low review to a better one simply because of what a manager does to make it right.”

Related: How and When to Respond to Negative Reviews online

According to Yelp, businesses that respond to reviews experience a 10 percent upgrade in average star rating.

However, Barnes noted businesses should never ask customers to change their review. “Then you’re clearly in it for the review and not the person.”

Also, she said, “Do not respond with canned answers. Personalize each one based on what the reviewer has said.”

Do not solicit reviews from customers, families and friends

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Contrary to what it may seem, asking friends and customers to leave you good reviews may actually hurt your Yelp score. (Photo: WAYHOME studio/Shutterstock)

It might sound crazy, but asking for reviews can actually hurt your score. Yelp’s algorithm actually filters out reviews that may been have been solicited.

For instance, say you ask a customer to leave a positive review, but they haven’t signed up for Yelp yet. If he or she creates an account and leaves one review — yours — it looks like they signed up specifically to endorse your business. Because this interferes with Yelp’s policies, some of your good review could be filtered out. These reviews are not gone forever, but are significantly more cumbersome to find and do not impact your numeric Yelp rating.

It should be noted though, that if this customer becomes active on Yelp, by adding friends and leaving a substantial amount of reviews over the next few months, it is possible for the filtered message to move to your “recommended” reviews. These reviews are the ones that count. Instead, try to target customers who are already active on Yelp and review often.

So how do you get reviews without asking for them? Active Yelp users are likely to review you anyway, but you can remind them subtly of your Yelp presence by requesting a free “Find Us On Yelp” sticker to display at your business. Yelp also provides badges you can add to your small business website.

Screen negative reviews for content violations

Aside from responding to negative reviews and trying to resolve a customer’s issue, there’s another, more obscure trick. Yelp has strict content guidelines banning lewd language, harassment, pictures of employees without their consent, etc. Take the time to screen your negative reviews. Does one personally attack an employee by name? Is the review criticizing your business ideologies but not the actual customer’s experience? If so, then you can flag it for removal by Yelp.

According to Brian Patterson on Search Engine Land, his agency has improved clients’ pages by half and full stars by simply weeding out poor reviews that violate Yelp’s content guidelines.

What’s the real value of having a great Yelp rating? Review sites tend to drive more business than search engines or the leading social networks. If you follow these few steps, you’ll be get steady, positive reviews that will bring new customers in your door.

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