Word of mouth matters, especially online.
Business owners constantly hear about the importance of managing their company’s online reputation. Why all the fuss? A Harvard Business School study showed that a mere one-star increase in a restaurant’s Yelp ratings translated into a 5 to 9 percent increase in revenue—proving that online reviews can make a major impact on your business.
But what if your Yelp reviews are nonexistent—or worse, negative? Mike Whaling, president of 30 Lines, a digital marketing agency in Columbus, Ohio, offers these tips for how a business can improve its Yelp ratings.
1. Know the rules.
Yelp policy specifically prohibits businesses from soliciting reviews from customers. Violate it (for example, by offering a discount or freebie in exchange for reviews) and your company’s page may be slapped with an ugly consumer alert banner—talk about a PR problem. Instead, Whaling suggests that business owners make customers aware of the business’ Yelp profile by posting a sign, adding a Yelp badge or a link to their Yelp profile on their business website, or including a link to their Yelp profile in company emails.
2. Unlock your page.
Anyone can create a Yelp page for a business, and Whaling advises that business owners claim their page by setting up a free account. Unlocking the page will allow you to flesh out the page with your hours, photos, specials, website links and more, which boosts search results and rankings. You can also view statistics on page views, click-throughs to your website and check-ins at your location. Finally, claiming your page allows you to respond publicly or privately to reviews as the owner.
3. Use other platforms.
“Outside of Yelp, it’s never unethical to ask for feedback about your business,” Whaling notes. You can complement Yelp by expanding your online presence with platforms that allow you to ask for reviews, such as Google+, Facebook or a page on your business website. “The more customer feedback you have online, the more likely people are to trust the online perception of your business—and hopefully buy from you,” Whaling says. “People trust information from other consumers more than they trust information from brands.”
4. Wow the customer.
“Online ratings are driven by offline service,” Whaling says. “First and foremost, provide a great customer experience. Customers are more likely to feel compelled to review a ‘wow’ experience than one that only creates a ‘meh’ response.”