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Mention Yelp to a small business owner and the reactions you receive are generally mixed. While some relish their 5 star ratings, others have made it their mission to bring down the site.  The horror stories of how one online review can end a business have even made their way into pop culture and prime time TV:

You keep in mind that my sharply-worded comments on yelp.com recently took down a muffin store. 

- Sheldon Cooper, The Big Bang Theory

There is no denying though that great reviews online are essential to making sales these days, with almost every one of us treating reviews like personal recommendations. Even Google has stepped it up, attributing 13% of your website’s search ranking to reviews gathered from platforms like your Google My Business page, Facebook and yes, Yelp. Added to the mix, Yelp often populates the first spots on page one of Google, and with over 142 million monthly unique visitors, ignore it at your peril. 

Since 2005, there have been more than 77 million reviews submitted on Yelp. Most of them have been overwhelmingly positive, with only a small percentage of them being one-star reviews, but add in Yelp’s review filtering system and things get a bit more tricky for business owners looking to build a great reputation.  

So how do you embrace your “vocal and opinionated” customers on Yelp and respond to your reviews? 

1. Claim Your Yelp Business Page.

First things first, make sure you claim your free business page on Yelp and have filled it out completely. This includes adding photos, pertinent information specific to your business, hours of operation and contact information. The amount of traffic that can be referred to your site through Yelp can be substantial so it’s always good to ensure that your website above all is correct, and since we’re so visual, including quality photos can go a long way to setting a positive tone. 

2. Respond to Everything, Including Those Negative Reviews.

Claiming your business page on Yelp also lets you respond to any reviews related to your business. Reviews are public and so they’re a great opportunity to show your business’s personality and humanize your brand. Relationships and brand loyalty are built when a person feels that they’re interacting with a human behind the logo and so going the extra mile to thank someone for leaving a great review cements a great impression. 

While you may not feel so great about receiving a negative review, they’re arguably even more important to respond to than positive sentiments. While we’ve walked through the best way to respond to negative reviews, we can’t stress enough how much of an opportunity responding to a negative review can be for your business. Not only do you have the chance to turn a situation around and win a legion of fans through those that see your response, but a genuine negative review can lend authenticity to your brand since many of us view a perfect five-star rating with some suspicion. 

3. Focus on Getting More Reviews. 

Reviews are considered old news and irrelevant if they’re older than 3 months so it’s important to keep adding to your total on a regular basis from both a prospective client perspective and in terms of boosting your SEO and Google rankings. Implementing a process of following up with your customers and adding a request for a review into your communications with them can go a long way. You can also automate this process if you need to but don’t ignore this step. 

With a little bit of effort, Yelp can be an amazing source of traffic to your website and a potential boost for your business but it does mean responding to your reviews and interacting on the site. Follow these steps to get started and you’ll be on your way to making Yelp work for you. 

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