Your small business is already on Yelp. People are voicing their opinions about your business, and others are listening to their advice.
Yelp reported that 61 million people visited the site in the 3rd quarter of 2011.
Many small business owners don’t realize Yelp’s influence, let alone contribute to the conversation on the site. Including Yelp in your small business marketing plan can be a great way to build word-of-mouth-marketing. You’ll develop relationships with influential customers and encourage new customers to give you a try.
What is Yelp?
I would describe Yelp as an avid online community of passionate reviewers, eager to uphold their reputation and grow their influence. Casual users visit the site to find recommendations about nearby businesses, whether that be near where they live or where they are traveling.
Yelp got its start with restaurants, but it’s not just for restaurants anymore. You’ll find reviews on dentists, retail shopping, hair salons or even hardware stores. In many cities, the company has invested in local Community Managers, who develop and nurture relationships with local businesses and power reviewers.
Of course Yelp would tell you the best way to improve your marketing with their site would be to buy advertising. Advertisements appear in search results and on competitors’ business pages. Below is an example showing Hannoush Jewelers’ business page with an advertisement for Rogers Jewelers:
There are a few other perks to advertising, such as the ability to display a video. Advertising on Yelp ranges from $300-$1000 per month.
Yelp also offers a way to provide customers with discounts from your business page, called Yelp Deals. Customers buy the “deal” from the site, and Yelp keeps 30% of the sale. Here’s an example of a deal, shown in a search result:
It’s hard to say how effective Yelp Deals are, but they might be worth an experiment, especially since there are no up-front costs.
More Marketing with Yelp Tips
There are several things small businesses can do to improve their Yelp marketing efforts without buying advertising or posting deals. I recommend taking these steps before making any ad buys.
First, ensure your business information is complete and up-to-date. On your business’s page, “unlock” your listing to add hours of operation, menus, pictures or an OpenTable reservations widget. Here’s a screenshot:
Once you unlock your business’s page, you’ll also be able to see handy data about the visitors to your page.
Another benefit to unlocking your page is that you’ll be able to communicate with your reviewers. Responding to your reviewers can build your relationships with them… if you do it carefully.
To respond to a negative review, consider the customer’s input constructive criticism, and try to remedy the issues the customer experienced. If you can “make it right” with the reviewer, chances are she will revise her review more positively. Even if the review is unreasonable, your business will not benefit if you reply angrily or defensively.
Responding to a positive review is much easier. Consider sending a private thank-you to the reviewer with a personalized note that shows you truly read and understood the review.
To really engage with Yelp, find out if your city has a Community Manager. This person organizes events for Yelp reviewers, and you might be able to improve your standing with local reviewers by hosting a free event just for them.