Posted by David Oates 4 years, 6 months ago

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Chances are you know of Yelp, and most likely use Yelp along with the 80 million other users. If you are a restaurant owner, you might get anxiety from Yelp, and if you are a regular Yelper, you love Yelp. The bottom line is that regardless of who you are, Yelp matters, especially for small businesses according to a new study by Merchant Warehouse.

Both positive and negative reviews can strongly influence where consumers will take their business. While Yelp is typically popular for finding/reviewing restaurants, there is an entire range of businesses on the platform from legal services to birthday clowns. Restaurants are the *top type of business searched on Yelp at 76 percent, and Financial Services was at the low end at 25 percent. However more and more service providers are finding value in the platform since many people trying to find a business will use the app/website as a means to search even before Google. 

An interesting Infographic from Merchant Warehouse paints a telling picture of how much reviews on Yelp matter. Ninety percent of Yelp users say positive reviews impact their purchase choice, and 72 percent said that a review is just as trust worthy as a personal recommendation.

So we can all agree it is important, but recently Yelp has come under fire for its secret algorithm that filters out both good and bad reviews – and the recent news from Yahoo that it will include Yelp’s search results has brought this issue to the forefront. Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman was challenged on Bloomberg this week when he was split-screened with a disgruntled pet store owner whose legitimate positive reviews were nearly all filtered out (meaning good reviews were routed to a separate page that is not displayed and does not factor into the star rating). Stoppelman maintained that Yelp has the algorithm to “authenticate” reviews, and retains the position that it would be a disservice to both customers and businesses if there were no such filter. We may not agree with the filters, and it is a cause of frustration for business, but like it or not, filters are here to stay.

A ‘fear of the filter’ should not deter you from attempting to acquire and encourage Yelp reviews. Trying to understand the algorithm may also help. Reviews are less likely to get filtered out if the reviewer is established (meaning they have an account on Yelp and have reviewed other places), and are using their own computer/IP address (versus logging in on a library, or public computer for example).

There are also ways to encourage customers to leave positive reviews (something I will cover in part 2 of this blog). In short, the most powerful thing you can do is ask be it verbally or digitally. Using tools, like those offered by Chief Ingredient, are useful because they allow you (the business) to understand and address the customer experience before they walk out the door. Tools like this can help correct a negative situation (or recognize a good one) before someone heads to a public platform where irreparable damage can be done.

While the Yelp review filtration system may be controversial, it does not change that Yelp matters and has huge implications on purchasing power. Its method is not deterring reviewers and business alike so get up to speed or get left in the dust. 

*Source: Merchant Circle, “How Yelp Can Help Your Small Business,” September 2013

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