by Dan Lenehan
If you’re a local business–a doctor, electrician, restaurant, you name it–no doubt you’re familiar with Yelp, the popular local reviews site. Though popular with many consumers, Yelp is also the bane of many small businesses; because anyone can post reviews to the site and there’s no formal editing process (though reviews are sometimes filtered out), it means that bogus reviews (for instance, a 1-star review of a dentist because the reviewer thinks the sidewalk outside her office is dirty, or a 5-star review of a restaurant that hasn’t opened yet) can be posted and thus affect a business’s overall rating. At the same time, given the site’s popularity as a de facto local search engine, it offers a great opportunity for local businesses to be found by consumers and to drive them to their website. Local businesses ignore or reject Yelp at their own peril.
I use Yelp all the time, whether I’m looking for a good lunch spot in a particular neighborhood or someone to clean the gutters on my house. But I don’t read the reviews much now, for same the reason I mentioned above–I don’t trust them enough. Rather, I treat Yelp as a business directory and use it to go to the websites of businesses that offer what I’m looking for. As I wrote on Monday in a post about Facebook pages, the majority of consumers view a business’s website as the most reliable, authoritative source of information about a business and its products or services. I’ve talked to a number of friends and many say the same thing: they use Yelp, but they typically go immediately to a business’s website if the link is provided on its Yelp page. For them and for me, seeing a link to the business’s website is a sign that the business is legitimate, which makes us more likely to become customers.
What does this mean for you, the local business owner? First, if you haven’t claimed your business on Yelp, do it. The easiest way is to search your business name on the site, go to your page, and click the Claim This Business button.
You’ll need to create a Yelp business account, which is free. Once you’ve done that, you can edit your business information, such as hours of operation, add a note about your business, upload photos, and most importantly, add a link to your website. I can’t stress enough how important this last part is in establishing credibility and driving traffic to your site. In your Yelp business account, you can even see how many clickthroughs to your website you’ve gotten, along with lots of other useful data.
And if your business doesn’t have a website? vFlyer Sites gives you all the tools you need to create a website quickly and easily.
Love it or hate it, Yelp has a firm footing in the local reviews space, and local businesses would be wise to leverage it to promote themselves, build their brands, establish relationships with customers, and (again) drive traffic to their websites.
Feel free to share your opinions about Yelp or the experiences you’ve had with the site as a business owner in the comments section.