Yelp Can Help Your Small Business

YelpAre you feeling the Yelp love? As of January 2011, Yelp has received over 12 million unique visitors and that number is growing steadily every month. As a small business owner, it’s important to take charge of your Yelp profile and use it to your advantage.

Google Places is another prominent tool for local listings but many business owners feel that Yelp is more useful in helping them understand customers and find new clients. Because let’s face it, if you’re looking for a new hairdresser or reviews on an unfamiliar restaurant, you’re going to jump on Yelp way before Google Places.

Staking your claim: If your business is already on Yelp, it only takes a few minutes to officially claim it as your own. You’ll need to fill out some information and your profile will be verified by a call to your business phone number.
If you’re new to Yelp, creating a profile is just as easy and you’ll go through the same verification process.

Your information, please: Remember to check the accuracy of your business information and to fill as many information fields as possible. Your description and categories are also a great place to throw in those desired keywords that you want linked for your business. This is helpful for customers as well as SEO.

Don’t be afraid: So many businesses are afraid of Yelp because they fear bad reviews and “losing” customers. If you have products and services you can stand behind, there’s no need to worry. You can only GAIN customers and new business through another form of online exposure. Beauty Utopia in Eagle Rock is a great example of a business that thrives solely through word of mouth and Yelp reviews.
Sure, negative reviews are inevitable but it also gives you another perspective and way to understand your customers – where you wouldn’t even know that something is wrong if you’re not on Yelp. Take a look at our previous post on reputation management.

People talk about Facebook and Twitter as an extension of your online site but Yelp is another site that can’t be missed. Whereas other social media sites help with conveying your brand personality, Yelp boils down to the information and reviews that will really help you get more business.

A Yelp for Help: Alleged Extortion

As a consumer, it’s only right that you can to take to the internet to share your good and bad experiences at certain establishments. Some prefer personal blogging but Yelp provides a standardized platform for consumer-based business reviews. Yelp is pretty great. I’m continually surprised by the hole in the wall restaurants and have even managed to find a new dentist. Then again, there are times when you stumble upon some horrible reviews and wonder how owners feel or react to this type of criticism. I’ve heard of lawsuits against Yelp before, but not like this.

Last week, Yelp was hit with a class action lawsuit alleging “extortion schemes”. In short, many business owners are claiming that Yelp hit them up for $$$ (so-called advertising packages) after they received bad reviews. Some claim that Yelp offered to remove the negative reviews in exchange for convenient monthly payments.

Of course, Yelp’s CEO has a different story. In the way Jeremy Stoppelman explains it, their marketing tactics are completely legal albeit, a little “weird”. Things are looking more than weird for Yelp right now as more cases are rising against their favor. Time will tell what will happen, but can Yelp’s credibility be fully restored after this case? CEO Stoppleman claims they have nothing to hide, so we’ll just have to wait and see.

There are a lot of cases where small businesses have benefited from Yelp reviews. I’ve even seen negative reviews completely reversed when owners take the time to reach out and contact the negative reviewers. Everyone deserves a second chance at correcting their mistakes but maybe, Yelp has had one too many?

What do you think about Yelp’s current dilemma?