Yelp Analytics Paper
There are many papers and articles that have been written out there regarding Yelp and the analytics associated with getting more and better reviews, making the most of advertising, and whether or not any of this matters at all. Depending on who you ask, there is no shortage of opinions about Yelp and how to best market yourself on this platform. Yelp was started by a few very excited and imaginitive young people with big hopes and dreams, and as often is the case in technology firms it had rough beginnings and nobody would have ever guess how big it would become from its humble beginnings.
Jeremy Stoppelman and Russel Simmons were part of the original PayPal founders who later became famously called the ‘PayPal Mafia”. They started Yelp when they were working in a business incubator, MRL Ventures, in 2004 after they sold PayPal to eBay. What first began as an email information sharing platform became Yelp after Stoppelman caught the flu and had a difficult time finding an online recommendation for a good doctor in his area. I can relate, as there aren’t many good doctors around anymore, and since then we now heave http://www.healthgrades.com. I remember feeling the same way when I was looking for a good doctor in Glendale. I was battling a strange kind of flu that persisted for over 3 weeks, something that I had never before experienced in my life. I called so many hospitals and doctors, going through multiple variations of press this number for that department and “please leave a message for Dr So and So.” It reminded me how terrible or health care system truly is. We do have one good rule in the United States: don’t get sick.
Anyway, I finally found an Armenian woman doctor in Glendale and made an appointment. Now of course I would rather just have dealt with this myself, and I was, drinking Nyquil and Dayquil for 3 weeks straight. When I got to the office, it was crowded with sick people that were ALL coughing out loud as if in sync to some kind of strange virus infused orchestra. This woman doctor made me wait for over 45 minutes for an appointed I had made well in advance, and by that time I could take it no more and ran out the door as quickly as possible before I caught more viruses from her patients. Suffice to say I will never go back to her for anything. What if there was a web site that can help us determine how good a business is before we visit it. That web site is Yelp.
It has a curious name, and the story of how that came about is different depending on who you ask. There are many theories and urban legends all over the internet about how this name came about. Instead of listening to so many others, though, since most of them are usually wrong, I found the true source of the name, answered on the question and answer site Quora by none other than the founder himself. Take a look:
Jeremy Stoppelman, CEO and co-founder of Yelp
“David Galbraith (a guy in Max’s incubator MRL Ventures who was helping us with Yelp in the early days) found it on his own. It was available for purchase from a squatter for 5k. Russ and I didn’t immediately like the name since it was “the sound of a dog being kicked” and I was strangely enamoured with “yocal” – a terrible name. Fortunately Scott Bannister (another guy hanging out in the incubator, who was also involved in the naming of PayPal) immediately loved it. He told us he’d buy it and sell it to us the next day when we came to our senses. In the ensuing discussion Jared Kopf (yet another incubator employee) put down his credit card and actually bought the domain. The next day it was transfered to the company (we paid back Jared) and the rest is history.”
I have organized the information for this part of the chapter in a way such that those looking for this information can hopefully us it and benefit from it; this took weeks and weeks of research. It’s up to you wether or not you will end up advertising with Yelp or which of these strategies you will ultimately use. I can’t decide what to do for you in terms of where your marketing advertising and dollars will go, but consider this: your customers are already on yelp and are using it every day with or without your help and consideration. Also, many (in fact most) of the beneficial things you can do on Yelp as a registered business owner are free.
You owe it to yourself to at least study this material, as I have really researched this in depth for you and have done my best to put all of the relevant information in one place. Many of this work you can do on your spare time as a business owner, little a time in the early morning or late night hours. So that being said, I would like to present all of the facts and figures I’ve researched on this subject, both in terms of academic research through all available books and articles as well as personal experience being a restaurant owner and having advertised with Yelp on and off for the last 5 years.
The TOP Ten ways to Advertise on Yelp with different Paid Ads
The Top Ten ways to Market your restaurant on yelp for Free
The top Ten Mistakes Restaurants make on Yelp
#1 Mistake. The #1 mistake restaurateurs make on yelp is to create a new account and give your new business a positive review right away.
This, more than anything else, drives people crazy about Yelp. You can’t just go and open a bran new account and market your new restaurant by giving yourself 5 stars as soon as possible. More than likely their software will detect this and delete your review entirely. Some people find this reason enough to hate Yelp and ignore the web site entirely. Take, for example, this situation with Forbes contributor writer Jim Handy. When faced with a situation where he was trying to give a positive review for a company he liked, South County Process Service, Yelp arbitrarily deleted it with no reason or explanation whatsoever, and when he wrote in to complain Yelp didn’t even get the dignity of a response. In his own words,
…”To put things into simple language, don’t believe Yelp reviews. Who knows how many of them have been deleted or obscured according to some secret policy? Would Yelp be a prudent investment? It appears that the company is in a position that could well be undermined by a competitor with a more honest approach.”
By the way, as a side note, Yelp, Facebook , Google, and just about every other internet based web site or review company will almost always have a terrible or none-existent customer service department, as anyone who’s had an issue with these companies would attest. The reason for this is simple. These companies serve millions of people a day, every day. In the case of Google and Facebook they both serve over a billion people per day. It is nearly impossible for them to give people customer service. The only way hey have any kind of personal customer service is when and if you are an advertiser. Even if you are a paid advertiser on Facebook and Google, they will deal with your issues 99% of the time through their FAQ and email. Rarely, if ever, will you get a human being on the phone. With Yelp, if you are a paid advertiser each month, you do get a sales rep and you can talk to them on the phone.
#2 Mistake : Ignore Yelp
Ignoring Yelp is the easiest thing to do, and I am sure 99% of small business in America, especially those with owners that are not as savvy with the internet or social media, choose this route. Why is it so easy? Because this is the route most take be default. Don’t do anything, and you are automatically thrown in this camp of business owners and restaurateurs who may lose business because they have chosen to ignore their Yelp reviews entirely.
Anne Philips is the president and founder of Go Green Gardeners. In her blog on The Huffington Post she asks a great question: what would happen to all the businesses that may go bankrupt because of unfair Yelp reviews? The answer is simple. Nobody would care. In this cut-throat business of the restaurant industry (and almost every other industry in America right now, unfortunately )your competitors would cheer if you lost business and ultimately had to close down shop due to bad reviews and word of mouth.
That’s why reading this book, going out there and doing your homework and research, and constantly watching your pages is so important. Nobody is going to do this for you; consider it like your little Zen garden. Every once in a while you have to visit your Yelp pages. You must kill the weeds and take them out (do your best to fight bad reviews, I will tell you exactly how to do this later), encourage good reviews, and make sure your menu, hours of operation, manager’s information and address are all up to date.
Anne Philips suggest in her article that Yelp not filter ANY reviews. Many business owners across the board have asked for this and pleaded for Yelp to go this route, but that may not be the best solution. You see Yelp’s “secret sauce” is their powerful and reliable filtering system. Reliable to them at least, lithesome and woefully inadequate to almost everyone else. Still, I can see Yelp’s point when they say their filter system is pretty powerful and that, although it is not perfect it is still much better than their competition. Consider, for example, Four Square. They do not have such a filtering system. If you post a review on Foursquare, unless you used unnecessary profanity or hate speech, it will stay up. Yet that web site and app are not nearly as popular for people to use as Yelp is. So for one reason or another, Yelp’s filtering system and web site have been deemed reliable by the general public.
Anne reiterates the case that many business owners feel, that by advertising with Yelp many of the positive reviews, the ones you see in that odd state of “limbo” where as the business owner you can see them yet they are filtered, somehow becomes magically visible after you begin an advertising campaign on Yelp. Of course Yelp disputes this every time it’s mentioned, but so many people say the same thing you just have to wonder if there’s any truth to that.
Anne puts it this way:
“You lose business because they filter out the good reviews and keep the bad ones. Another disturbing theme appeared — that Yelp will make sure that your good reviews show if you advertise with them. I really hope this isn’t the case.”
#3) Another mistake people make is to sue the actual PERSON that issued the review. A lawyer can easily subpoena that information and issue a letter to threaten a lawsuit unless the review is removed.
This is not hard for a lawyer to do as they know that process, or say, for example, a businessperson that has a cousin as a lawyer. We would advise against this unless a serious breach of Yelp guidelines and a PERSONAL attack is what is going on. Most reviews are not personal. However if your name, your character, and /or your good reputation is being assassinated you are well within your rights to sue or threaten a lawsuit.
Be careful to do this, however as you may incur the wrath of the public. In what’s known as the Streisand effect often times your threats to retaliate will incur additional negative reviews and bad press. This comes from the true story of how Barbara Streisand threatened to sue people taking pictures of her home, and in doing so more and more people decided to do this on purpose just to annoy her.
This already happened in the case of one wedding banquet hall and hotel business which threatened to levy fines on the guests. Specifically they threatened to fine the party $500 for every negative review ANYONE in their party posted online in ANY review site. Obviously this backfired when many people that heard about it as the story went viral, as it’s not hard to do nowadays. When people got wind of it more and more posted fake negative reviews. Even though Yelp erased most of them they just kept coming. Customers will fiercely fight any company or business that tries to silent their voices so be careful.
That article can be found here
The top Ten Alternatives to Yelp
(Place small decryptions of each)
#2) Zagat Guide
#3) City Search
#4) Yellow Pages.com
#5) Google Places
#6) Angie’s List. (this is a great site for construction services and other contractual based services; restaurants not so much)
#7) Yahoo Local
#9) Trip Advisor
#10) Urban Spoon
More apps and stuff to talk about (this is a different chapter…one we can write later..on the use and power of Restaurant apps)
Top 5 restaurant apps (come up with 5 more)
- Grub Hub
- Google Local
- Open Table (this is a reservation app…highly recommended for sit down restaurants to ease service and placing tables in advance for customers)
The Top Five (or more?) ways to Encourage Good Reviews
#1) Post links to your locations corresponding Yelp page directly on your web site.
This will encourage people to visit your Yelp page just after they visit your home page. More than likely these people will give you positive reviews. After all they are known fans and customers. This is especially true about some social media outlets. Which leads me to #2…
#2) Post your Yelp pages from time to time on your other social media outlets including Facebook and Twitter. You can even do small giveaways like T-shirts to encourage people to write reviews. People click on these links and check out your Yelp all the time anyway, so why not send your best fans there.
#3) Post a “Find us on Yelp” poster on the walls and/or windows. If you feel that’s too intrusive post a small flier or fliers by the cash register area. You can also put this on the paper menus. This will remind people to review you on Yelp!
#4) Host a “Customer Appreciation Day” event on Yelp. Go online and visit
yelp.com/events. Remember to invite the “Elite” members and any possible influential bloggers or local area community leaders who may be influential with others. This is how positive word of mouth works. People with lots of friends and who influence heavily others can bring a lot of people to you establishment by coming to these events.
You can take lots of pictures, make it look great and post it all over your social media. You can also include it in your email campaign with something like “Check out the last Customer Appreciation Day” we held…Now talk about it and mention a few funny moments: how someone spilled their Pepsi all over their dress. How a few people were late but then it seemed like everyone arrived at the same time ..etc
Some people will feel left out, which is great because you really want them to WANT to come to the next event. You can even give away a few things that are inexpensive for us in the restaurant industry, like a free drink or a small free side. This is a small cost to you but would go a long way towards awesome word of mouth advertising. You can also give away mugs and T-shirts and other promotional stuff. Good luck!
#5) Do Yelp Deals. Yelp has a feature which you can host Yelp deals. First ask your co-owners if this is OK. Many restaurants still don’t like discounting their food at all, even for publicity on Yelp or anything else.
If that’s the case it’s OK. Offer to do a Yelp Deal everyone can agree on . Free drinks? An extra side? How about something that is not cheaper but just being more generous like buy one wrap get another free? This might encourage many people to bring their friends to your restaurant, and if your staff does a great job and the food is good guess what they will keep coming back! So pull don’t push the rest of the co-owners and see what everyone agree on doing. If they don’t want to do ANY Yelp deal, that’s OK too. Go down this list and do the other things.
#6) Offer deals on other check-in apps like Facebook or Foursquare. There’s a good chance that’s someone who uses one of these apps uses all of them, and if they use Facebook regularly and have synced their accounts their friends on Facebook and Instagram will see and hear about your restaurant. Encourage the use of hash tags. You can make one poster and just put all of this information smartly organized in one place (I recommend that actually to reduce clutter).
#7) Teach your staff to respond to Yelp reviews, positive and negative.
What this does is a few things.
- It forces everyone in the organization to see what actual problems may be under the surface. If managers have to go through reviews they will see what the staff is doing right and what they’re getting wrong and will hopefully react accordingly. They should immediately make necessary changes and re-train staff to better handle whatever situation occurred to garner 2 star or 1 star reviews.
Remember, all of us get these bad reviews from time to time (yes even us). So don’t be discouraged just train the staff to work on the Yelp account and respond to 3-5 people per day. A,ll they would have to do is scroll down and find the low scores, take a moment and respond accordingly.
I would say their name, repeat their grievance or issue, not verbatim but just so they know you have heard them out. And after doing this you can answer their call and provide them with excellent service by making up for the mistake staff made.This can be anywhere from 10-20 minutes and they can do it on their down time. You can even write the response yourself and just have other staff like managers or supervisors copy and paste some of your wording and message your customers. Remind them to never, ever argue with the customer and tell them they were mistaken when they gave you a bad review. If you feel like doing this trust me I understand, I have felt the urge to do that many times. And yes I am guilty once I did that because I just couldn’t take it anymore, and guess what this customer was even more pissed than she was before I addressed the situation.
We must all be professionals and not act like this. Take a minute and relax and come back before you click that send button because Yelp does not have a retractions for customer messages.
- Reward the best reviews by sending them a free T-shirt or offering to meet them and give them a free Family Meal once a week for the best review! Make it a tradition and keep doing it! This is great Customer Relationship Management.
- Consider framing and posting the very best review once per month in a great place inside the restaurant where people can see it. This will encourage them to do the same when they go home
#8) Post pictures of your staff doing great teamwork on the Yelp page. Make sure they’re smiling and look happy. Hopefully this will have some kind of emotional response and make people less likely to leave negative reviews. And by the way this is not funny nor is it a joke because many business have actually shut down due to bad reviews. Ignoring the problem won’t make it go away you must address it head on.
#9) Add a Yelp QR code next to each location on the paper menu and make sure it will lead people directly to that location’s page on Yelp.
QR codes make it easy for people with Smartphones to just take a picture with their phone of the QR code and it will directly take them to that Yelp page their looking for. This will obviously make leaving reviews a whole lot easier. The QR code can be placed on menus and other areas where you think it would help.
#10) Add a Yelp link to the email newsletter as well as on your email signature. Since these are emails you are sending all the time anyway, why not encourage people to click on that link and review your location right away? The impulse will pay off even if only a small percentage of all the emails we send goes through .
#11) Add a Yelp Badge. You can go to the Yelp web site and on there they have badges you can proudly display right on your web site. One even has a 5 star review and one has 4.5 or more. If you are lucky enough to have such a highly trusted and rated establishment, you’d be a fool to not let everyone know. Yelp makes it easy by providing the codes to your graphic designer or web site programmer.
Click “Review Badges” from the Business Owners launch pad (provide photo for ease of use).
The Top Five (or more?) ways to Counter Negative Reviews
Before I talk about the ways to counter reviews let’s talk about what NOT to do:
Offer Free stuff in exchange for a positive Yelp can find out if business owners are offering free food or drinks in exchange for reviews. If this is happening it’s a violation of Yelp’s rules and guidelines, and even though you never have to sign up on yelp to be part of their process like at other web sites, it doesn’t mean you can ignore all the basic rules.
Don’t ask SPECIFICALLY for positive reviews. This is especially true on written materials like menus. If you are considering this right now is a good time for a change of heart. You can do this morally and legally without getting yourself in trouble. Simply doing all of the other stuff I already talked about and will talk about will almost GAURANTEE you more positive reviews, so please don’t ask people to give you positive reviews on any official restaurant promotional material. Especially coupons and such. I mean never mind the fact that it can get you in big trouble with Yelp (if they decide to drop the nuclear bomb and remove your location entirely you will be guaranteed to lose business. Think of how cheesy you will look to the public if you’re begging for positive reviews. It just doesn’t look good.
Buy Yelp Reviews: Web sites like Fivver offer reviews on Yelp. Yelp hasn’t sued them yet although I’m sure that’s not far off into the future. The problem with buying reviews is threefold
- You pay them good money (up to $35 or more per review ..cheapest is $5) and if Yelp removes their review giess what…they still keep your money.
Take that hard earned money and go buy pigeon food and feed the pigeons in the park instead.
- It can get you in big trouble with Yelp and also the Better Business Bureau if you’re a member.
- Last but not least it looks fake. These people that get paid for doing reviews are not very gifted writers. They’re just teenagers making a few bucks to pay for books. Later on it just doesn’t look sophisticated. And besides, every time you see it you’’’ remember it’s fake and it will annoy you. That’s assuming Yelp will allow it to stay up at all.
They’ve now hired people that go through and read reviews to spot fake ones.
Yelp has an augmented reality feature called Monocle. Monocle were those old-school single round lens for one eye that helped people see. You might remember it from old movies. Anyway this easter egg is discovered by shaking your phone 3 times while your Yelp app is activated. Once you do this, you can point in any direction and based on your phone’s GPS and the direction you’re pointing the camera (phone) you can see all the businesses that are classified and rated on Yelp instantly. It’s a cool little toy Yelp built in for free; so if you’re somewhere with friends and family such as Disneyland and wish for a few moments of senseless amusement feel free to give it a go.
Many business owners still hate on Yelp, and many due to this have resorted to always speaking against it, not buying stock on Yelp, and advising customers to stay away.
Consider two of the anonymous responses posted under a recent Success.com (Success Magazine) article on Yelp:
“Oh Brother “……………………• a year ago (he calls himself or herself “Oh Brother “
C’mon give us a break. This is just a puff piece with a bunch of comment spam that is falsely positive, my humble opinion.
Everyone knows that Yelp has 700 FTC complaints recently shared that talk about bogus bad reviews, extortion and more.
Even Yelp’s review on it’s own site is just a 3 out of 5.
Leaving online reputation up to a monopoly is very dangerous for American Business. There’s also websites about Cointelpro and how domestic spying and harassment of citizens take place through Yelp.
People will find new places to go, besides Yelp. And their Elite? Just a squad of mediocre writers and online trolls incentivize to help the advertisers and hurt the rest. There’s too many complaints of fake reviews to think otherwise.
He does have a point, but for us that want to be on Yelp and get more business through their users, and yes there are thousands of them that come our way every single day, it’s hard to say no or ignore this powerful web site. It feels like these business owners just kind of got frustrated and gave up, versus trying to figure out the game and how to play it.
Business Owner • a year ago (He or she is calling himself, simply, “Business Owner”)
As a restaurant owner, my advice to people who take a lot of stock in Yelp (and others like it) is to not take too much stock in it until you’ve tried a place yourself. My restaurant received three awards in 2012 and yet it has only three stars on Yelp due to the filtered reviews that are hidden. Most Yelp users don’t know about the filtered reviews. When I called Yelp to question why they don’t show all of the reviews, their answer was “not everyone can be that good”. Really!? It’s not fair to a business owner for the people of Yelp to decide which reviews to post. While I’d like to provide excellence in customer service every single day, it doesn’t always happen. In that one instance, not-so-perfect service might anger someone enough to write a scathing review which really isn’t fair. And then there are the reviews by competitors who want to sabotage a business. So while social media can get your name out there it can also hurt it if someone doesn’t take it for what it is and give a place at least one try.
Citysearch got sued for posting false reviews and asking for advertising dollars afterward, Yelp will be next.
But not all posts were negative. Consider this post
Hurrah Jennifer! I couldn’t agree more with this article. I’ve been a member of Yelp for years, although have not been posting many reviews for some unknown reason. Yelp is my first resource whenever I am in a new area, or looking for a new service in my home city. I even found a new vet clinic on Yelp!
Businesses really need to pay attention to “the little platform that could”, which has given foodies and consumers a home where they can share the best and the worst of their experiences.
Find at least another 20
The Goal is clear. At least 50 pages on Yelp, give or take. It very well might be the most important and best researched chapter of the book, as it should be
We can do the editing later. Better to have more than less.