For small businesses, a positive web presence can be the difference between succeeding or failing, and even the slightest hint at a poor reputation on sites like Yelp has the ability to drive customers away and severely damage an image. Think about it, how often do you go directly to Yelp THEN search for a particular company? Usually you’ll start with Google. Unfortunately, sites like Yelp dominate search engine optimization, so more often than not Yelp will land at the top of your Google search. This is a bad thing, and worse than most people realize.
An example of this is my chiropractor’s office who is currently dealing with the damage Yelp can deliver to a reputation (I should note they have great ratings on all other review sites). With Yelp’s questionable filtering process for small businesses, a bad review can be crippling. Out of the 15 reviews their business has received, you will only find 2 of them present and visible on their page. One is a 5-star review from a previous patient and the other is some bizarre story (and 1-star rating) from a lady who clearly has more issues than just her “bad” experience with this business. If I’m deciding between chiropractors and see this review on Yelp, chances are I’m going to cross them off my list.
SO what happened to the other 13 reviews? Yelp has deemed “not currently recommended” and doesn’t even acknowledge them until the very bottom of the page (they’re linked in small grey text and very well hidden). One of the filtered reviews was mine, which was removed within 12 hours of posting it. Why did this happen? As a current and satisfied patient, am I not a reputable source? With practices like this, even having satisfied customers sometimes isn’t enough for your online reputation.
To have your reviews show back up unfiltered on the main page, all it takes is to “advertise” with Yelp. A rep will be sure to call weekly to indirectly tell you that advertising with them is the solution. It’s a pretty smart tactic, in an evil genius kind of way. Google search “Yelp scam” to find an unnerving number of examples.
Fortunately, there are ways to combat these damaging and somewhat questionable practices sites like Yelp are partaking in, and one way is through a strong web presence. In an age where Google has become a one-stop shop for information, this is an aspect of your business that is an absolute must to compete. Unfortunately, Yelp dominates SEO, so the only way to combat them is to fight fire with fire. When someone searches for your company, you don’t want Yelp to be the first thing they find on Google. You want them to find your website with customer testimonials, an updated blog, and social media platforms that stay current and engaging. Establish yourself as a thought leader in your industry.
Maintaining a company blog seems like a big commitment, but it’s also becoming a necessity, especially from an SEO standpoint. Chances are you’re passionate about your industry and have a great deal of insight to offer, committing an hour or two over the weekend is a great way to bust out content for the week. Start by going back on your website and finding material that can be transferred into blogs. Google Trends is also a great tool to utilize, allowing you to identify keywords people are using when searching for your business and others similar to yours.
Don’t let sites like Yelp control your brand. Disempower what they do best, which is controlling Google search results. Establish your business as industry thought leaders and start busting out content. All of a sudden, the crazy cat lady who wrote your bad review no longer controls your image or your business’ destiny, you do.