What is Yelp?

As defined on the Yelp website, Yelp is an “online urban city guide that helps people find cool places to eat, shop, relax and play, based on the informed opinions of a vibrant and active community of locals in the know.” However, local merchants view Yelp as a “yellow pages with attitude.” The Yelp community is large and growing, with over 41 million monthly visitors and 15 million reviews.

Merchants and Yelp

In general, merchants feel that Yelp leaves them helpless. While positive reviews can be a great marketing tool, merchants can also incur serious criticism, much of which may be unjustified.  However, the beauty of Yelp is that it enables merchants to reach out to disgruntled customers.  This means one bad experience doesn’t have to result in a lost opportunity; conversely, every negative review can actually be a great opportunity to make amends and solidify a strong reputation for customer satisfaction. 

Dangers and Risks of Yelp

Yelp is an open sourced website, and as such information is not always reliable.  Anyone is able to submit content and, in the past year, Yelp has been under heavy scrutiny for allegedly offering merchants the opportunity to remove negative reviews in exchange for the purchase of advertisement.  

How to Help your Yelp

The first step in having a good experience with Yelp is to create your page yourself, instead of waiting for a dissatisfied customer to take it upon himself.  Secondly, the open source forum is a two way street and it can work in your favor!  Don’t be shy- ask your loyal customers to speak up on your behalf.  

Think before you speak. As the merchant you do have the ability to respond to critics, but this does not always mean you should.  Use your ability to talk back as an opportunity to amend mistakes and re-engage potential lost opportunities.  

Learn from your mistakes. Although unflattering comments may be hurtful, they may also be great ways to improve your business. Make the best of the situation and don’t let it happen again.  And remember to take all feedback with a big grain of salt- some reviews will be valid and noteworthy- others are not worth a second look.  Know how to differentiate between the two.

Don’t be a drama queen.  Reacting too dramatically to a Yelp post will only draw more attention to it instead of letting it become yesterday’s news. If something is seriously wrong, it would be wiser to contact Yelp themselves rather than the reviewer.  

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