In part 1 of this article, we explored the reasons why Yelp reviews are important to your business and what some of the challenges are that business owners face when trying to get them. Now it is time to learn some of our tips and tricks about how to hacking Yelp reviews for your business can save you time and money. If you are not 100% clear about why Yelp Reviews matter or how they can benefit your business, please go back and read part 1 of this article.
Hacking Yelp Reviews for Your Business. The Easy Stuff
Let’s start with some easy and obvious steps to get more reviews. I don’t mean to insult anyone’s intelligence but it never hurts to be reminded about the basics. Internet marketing can be complex but it doesn’t always have to be.
- Ask For Reviews
It’s true. If you ask your customers for reviews, you will get more of them. It’s simple. Our experience with our clients is that you can expect 5% to 10% more reviews simply by asking for them. How do you ask for reviews? In person at the point of sale is one way. Dropping a little card asking for a review in their bag at checkout can also be effective. Our favorite way is to send a follow-up email within a day or two of the completed transaction (or service) with a link pointing directly to your Yelp listing.
NOTE: Be careful with this! There are some pre-qualifying steps you should take BEFORE inviting a review. The last thing you want to do is to solicit a review from an unhappy customer! There are some excellent tactics we have used to ensure you get ONLY positive reviews. It’s beyond the scope of this article … but if you think you may wish to start asking for reviews, make sure you pre-qualify them first.
- Reward People for Reviews
There are tons of rewards you can give for a positive review. Restaurants can give a free appetizer or desert. Clothing stores can offer $5 off any purchase. The possibilities are endless. Use your imagination. Make it fun. Make it valuable! The worst thing you can do is to offer something that is perceived to be “cheap” or “meaningless”. If you don’t take it seriously, neither will your customers. There are some great ways to maximize the participation. We will be sharing one of them later in this article.
Beating the Yelp Filters
In part 1 of this article, we discussed the difficulties with getting Yelp reviews to “stick”. There are also problems with dealing with negative reviews. Here are a few tips, tricks, and hacks that should help in hacking Yelp reviews for your business:
- The Power of Checking In
Most people don’t seem to be aware but if you install the Yelp app on your iPhone or Android phone, there is an easy way to check-in. We have definitively proven that most reviews will “stick” if the reviewer has “checked-in” to the business they are reviewing, recently. This is an amazing “hack”. Business owners; encourage people to check-in on Yelp and write a review before they leave your store. You can literally hand them a $5 bill. Don’t underestimate the power of handing someone physical money for writing a review. Budget $200 or $300 for this campaign. It’ll be the best $200 or $300 you’ve ever spent on advertising and marketing.
- Active Users
Reviews rarely “stick” if the reviewer isn’t ACTIVE on YELP (see the image below). There is not a lot you can do about forcing your customers to get more active on Yelp. Don’t despair, the filter is fluid! We will discuss this more in a minute … but be aware that even reviews that don’t “stick” today, may reappear down the road.
TIP: The Filter Is Fluid
Many reviews come into Yelp, appear on the page for a day or two, and then disappear. These reviews are stuck down in a “not recommended” section, causing them to no longer be (easily) visible. This does not impact the overall Yelp score.
To find these filtered reviews, scroll to the bottom of the page and find the light gray text referencing them:
The filter can be a blessing and a curse; on one hand, some of your great reviews can slip into the filter, but, on the other hand, some of your 1-stars might slip into it, too.
Those lost 5-star reviews are painful; however, when something slips into the filter, all hope is not lost. We know that the filter is fluid, so even if a review initially goes to the filter, it can be pulled back out.
Combine this fact with what Yelp says in their explanation video, and you can start to build a strategy:
Every Yelp review is automatically evaluated by Yelp’s recommendation software based on quality, reliability, and user activity on Yelp. More often than not, those useful reviews come from active members of the Yelp community.
The key phrase here — and what you can actually do something about — is “user activity.” Often times, those reviewers relegated to the filter have just a handful of reviews and minimal friends on the site.
If you can identify the customer who left a positive review in the filter, you can reach out to them and let them know their great review is being hidden because they aren’t active on Yelp. Additionally, you (and other employees) can add them as a friend and mark their reviews as useful and cool.
At scale, we’ve found a strategic approach to de-filtering positive reviews is able to pull ~20 percent of 5-star reviews out of the filter. This can have a tremendous impact on a company’s star rating.
TIP: Flagging Does Work, And You Can Ask For A Re-Review
When a negative review comes in for a business we are working with, the first thing we do is assess the content to see if anything violates Yelp’s Content Guidelines. Not all reviews violate them, but if there is anything questionable, it is certainly worth a shot.
The Content Guidelines are short and definitely worth understanding well. We often find ourselves quoting aspects of the guidelines when we flag a review and request its removal. We look at flagging as our chance to play armchair lawyer; we’ll write a compelling case, citing evidence from the review and text from the content guidelines to build a compelling plea for removal.
If there is a violation and you’ve done a good job of highlighting it, you’ll be rewarded with an email like this several days later:
Build a plan. Set goals. Set budgets (if you will be rewarding reviews). Hold your staff accountable for following the plan you develop. If you develop a short strategy of exactly how you are going to solicit reviews, what the language and offer is going to be, and how you will measure success – you will be successful. If you need help planning or implementing a successful Yelp Review campaign, don’t hesitate to contact us, we love this stuff!
Our favorite way to help with these sorts of campaigns is to work directly with one or more of your staff members. We develop the strategy, the scripts, the offers, the emails (if they are needed). We train the staff and monitor their performance. We measure progress and support the staff members directly. You are busy running your business, it often makes sense to let us work in collaboration with your team members and remove this from your plate.