The Influence of Yelp
It seems that with every search on Google, whether you are looking for a plumber, a yoga instructor, or a dentist, you will come across Yelp and its thousands of reviews within a matter of seconds. Go ahead, try it. Search for any service that could be of any value to anyone anywhere at any time in the course of human history. Yelp will, unavoidably, find a way onto your screen. Now, it remains to be seen if consumers can trust the six-paragraph rants or remarkably, suspiciously earnest love letters that often show up in the review section, but the reliability of Yelp’s contributors makes little difference when you consider how huge an impact the site has had on consumer behaviors.
To almost the same extent as having an attractive website and social media presence, having a substantial record on Yelp has come to define your company’s profile in the eyes of consumers. Part of this, of course, comes from the fact that it appears at every opportunity, but another factor is the human appeal. As opposed to industry-specific review sites or comments sections on company sites, Yelp offers one definitive resource for all of your opinionative needs. By this standard, it has been able to create the impression that it is the only legitimate, unfiltered source of feedback in the world. No matter your station, sanity, or actual experience with the business in question, your review on Yelp can make a difference and hold companies accountable. The site enforces this idea by ensuring that a negative review, even if it is the only one the company has received, appears at or near the top of the page to provide balance. Working more as confessionals than a place for opinions, many Yelp pages contain pamphlet-length write-ups about how waitresses have misplaced orders and ruined the lives of diners. Although it has come to be known primarily for restaurant reviews, it has now reached a level of popularity that transcends spilled coffee and Saltines that are too salty. Additionally, other Yelpers are allowed to validate and encourage existing reviews with “compliments” or even follow a user as one would on Twitter. This means that a single negative review at one business can affect a consumer’s perception of various other, completely unrelated businesses. And all this from one disgruntled customer!
Of course, Yelp can be used for good as well. Most reviews on the site are reasonable, and the negative or excessive reviews tend to be balanced out over time. What makes it so relevant to business owners is its favorability among the public and its reach. Even though a business may be left to the mercy of anyone with internet access, there are ways to improve your stature on the site. For all its images of equality and honesty, Yelp offers upgraded profile plans and near-unlimited “pay per click” advertising. The “enhanced” Yelp profile for business owners removes competitors’ ads, which naturally appear, from your page and increases the media allowance to include video and slideshows on the page.
Whether or not you decide to enhance your Yelp profile, it is important to remember that every business will continue to be affected by Yelp users. As much (if not more so) even than Facebook, it gives consumers direct access to your business profile. Going to Yelp to check out a restaurant or hotel has become a tradition for millions of consumers, and the site has become the first stop for prospective clients. I understand that Yelp can be intimidating, but this is the new standard for customer feedback, and any business that is interested in positive reviews needs to take notice.