Yelp is a website many people rely on to read and write online reviews based on the customer experience they recently had. It was founded back in 2004 by former Paypal employees Russel Simmons and Jeremy Stoppelman. It was not until 2012 that it became a public company that everyone could use around the world.

As of last year, there were approximately 77 million unique visitors using the website on their computers and 64 million more using their mobile phones to look up reviews. By the end of 2017 Yelp had a whopping total of 148 million reviews!

These numbers are a big indication that Yelp is a website you cannot ignore as its star ratings will determine how highly or poorly a business is viewed as online. This makes maintaining your profile on Yelp a crucial part of keeping your business’s online reputation trustworthy. Some owners don’t use Yelp because they don’t know about it or they don’t know why it should be used at all. This is not a good way of thinking because the truth is Yelp does matter and people continue to use it every day.

If you are serious about your customer service, you need to understand how to use Yelp and how it works either for or against your business’s brand and reputation. These are 7 things business owners really need to know about Yelp.

1: Never ever leave a review go unanswered

It looks terrible on your part if you don’t respond to any reviews on Yelp, period. Especially the bad ones. If the negative reviews have a common theme—for example, they were unhappy about the customer service—you need to look at your business closely and fix the problem.

Ignoring the reviews and complaints people have will only make things worse for your business. Not being responsive will make it appear you don’t care about your business at all. In addition, ignoring the good things people have to say may make you seem ungrateful towards your valued customers, leaving them ample time to revise their reviews or take them off of Yelp—neither of which you want to happen! So, always answer back to the reviews on Yelp, even the bad ones.

2: The best reviews aren’t always accepted by Yelp

To keep things under Yelp’s control and try to have as many legit reviews as possible, Yelp has some rules to consider people legit or fake. If a reviewer’s profile picture is not their own face, or the account has what could look like a nickname instead of a real name, Yelp will most likely not accept it as a legitimate review. This is why some reviews that are positive end up never making it publicly on Yelp, because they use pictures of their pets or an animal instead.

3: Once your response is posted, it’s there forever

For some reason Yelp does not accept revisions of any of the online reviews that are posted, nor is there an option to delete reviews yourself. Remember, thousands of people leave reviews every single day.

Whatever Yelp’s reasoning is, you need to be absolutely certain there are no grammar, spelling, or punctuation errors in your response before you post it to your customers. The responses you post should also be as professional and courteous as possible, even if the review is a negative one.

4: There is more than one reaction

There are a few options to respond to reviews in Yelp: Useful, Funny, and Cool. These are options to help people understand where the other person’s review, good or bad, is coming from in terms of their sense of humour or their sincerity.

If a negative post is outrageous to the point where it makes you laugh, you can choose to fight humor with humor (i.e. let them know that’s what you think of them). Many negative reviews are simply posted to create a reaction out of you, and many more are not to be taken seriously. That being said, humour is incredibly subjective, so if you’re not sure about a review, don’t respond with humour. Respond with an apology instead.

If the negative reviews are truly angry and make you feel the same, the last thing you need to do is respond to their review in turn with anger. This will only escalate the problem rather than solve it. If what you read really makes you angry, step away from the computer, take a few deep breaths, and come back to it later that day. You should never resort to writing an angry response or blaming the customer who left a bad review that it’s their fault (even if they may be in the wrong). In cases like this, it’s always best to apologize.

5: Thank your happy customers publicly, not privately

There is private messaging available from business owners to customers on Yelp. However, if it’s about the positive review, your answer in response to these reviews should be public, not private! Remember, you need to be responsive to every comment you receive – not just the negative ones. In contrast, if there is a truly unhappy customer not only leaving a poor review on your profile, but also causing your business trouble behind the scenes, you ought to deal with them in private, hence why there is an option to message them privately instead of publicly.

So, remember: positive encounters should be public, negative ones should also be public, and the really negative ones should probably be handled in private.

6: Your business needs to be claimed before you can start commenting

Make sure that the business information you are entering into Yelp and also claiming as your own is correct. This means double checking the address, phone number, e-mail address, website link, and the name of your business before claiming it.

This information also needs to be correct on your business website’s contact page, on Google, and on your social media such as Facebook before you go claiming it on Yelp. If it’s inconsistent, don’t claim it. Fixing these inconsistencies is harder to do after the fact than it is beforehand.

7: Multiple addresses are a pain

If you have more than one business address, you must enter it in the description and not register it as a separate address online. This will only lead you and your staff and especially your customers to great confusion, and afterwards frustration!

If you plan to move your business, you unfortunately cannot change that information publicly on Yelp. What you can do instead is to leave a message to all of your customers privately and give them the new information there. They’ll thank you for keeping them informed!

So, to recap:

  • Be positive, warm, and considerate in your responses; this will show you care about your customers
  • Don’t get angry at your customers, even the rude ones
  • Always proofread your comments before posting them publicly
  • Always apologize if you’re in the wrong
  • Be graceful and professional at all times in your reviews
  • Always respond ASAP to reviews, both good and bad—don’t leave them alone for years!

If you really need assistance with online reviews, hiring an online reputation manager or an agency such as KIAI can help patch up your online reputation unless it’s absolutely been destroyed, in which case a new branding strategy will be needed.

Daniela Torres

Daniela Torres is the founder and Creative Director of KIAI Agency Inc. With over 12 years of experience working as a journalist, press officer and graphic designer, Daniela is a brand strategist that has been leading design and marketing projects for multiple industries. She’s also the author of the book “Build Your Brand – The 10 essential steps before launching your business”.

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