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The Undeniable Influence of Online Reviews

August 12th, 2014 by Jason Hartman | Comments Off on The Undeniable Influence of Online Reviews

Whether you’re a business owner or someone who simply uses the resources in a town, you’ve probably used Yelp or a similar online review site to evaluate your options. Especially popular with vacationers, these type of sites often provide valuable insight into the operational practices of a particular business.

They’re often used to critique the food or service and can make or break a business. Sites like Yelp have really changed the way we’re doing business, shifting the focus entirely to those writing the reviews–the customer.

Yelp is celebrating it’s tenth anniversary this month, and the two most reviewed sectors (restaurants and bars) will never be the same. The San Francisco company, at ten years, has perhaps influenced the way we travel and the way we’re treated when we travel more than anything else affecting the tourism industry.

In ten years, Yelp has accumulated 61 million user reviews–and 138 million visitors per month, a number that has doubled since 2012.


Since the rise of Yelp’s popularity, businesses have had to rethink marketing, media, social media, overall online presence, and management of staff. The appeal of Yelp is such that it’s even expanded to include a reservation system.

The problem (and/or the solution)

The problem with users reviews is of course that naysayers are much more likely to speak up about an issue. Owners of small businesses often feel overwhelmed by the anonymous critics reviewing everything–whether they’ve been there or not.

Small businesses with new reputations feel more at the mercy of the reviewer world and have tried to sue reviewers–to no success. A business owner cannot opt out of a Yelp listing.

On the other hand, Yelp and sites like it have allowed small businesses and restaurants to be discovered by the general public. Gone are the days of word of mouth advertising, replaced instead by a little gold star that hold all the power.

The internet has provided a way for people to advertise on behalf of businesses.

Using Yelp as a tool

Yelp is a great way to advertise because a lot of people are on it. But it is also a great chance for business owners to interact with their customers. They’ve got the chance to make amends, explain themselves, as what the customer wants.

Think of it as a current day phone book that includes all of the extra information you might need–hours, menus, a company’s website, reservations, etc.

To effectively use Yelp, businesses should search it for useful data that will help them improve their business. Changing the atmosphere, cutting back on the cumin, or lowering the price might be useful suggestions–and ones that contribute to a better business. The careful business owner will be quick to notice trends and correct them.

Yelp provides a good picture of your current market without costing a penny, and it does so before critics even have a chance to review a restaurant. In fact, many owners are hosting pre-parties for Yelp reviewers.

Yelp is a big deal.

So how do I get a good review?

It’s difficult to manipulate unsatisfied customers into giving good reviews, so the best method is probably to provide good service, good food, good prices. As more and more people begin evaluating potential purchases based on how much other people like them, managing your online reputation will be essential.

Around 87% of consumers are influenced by the reviews of others–so you need to make everything count.

Hire someone

There are a number of companies you can hire to manage your online reputation for you if the task seems too daunting. Such services can manage your social media accounts, respond to negative reviews while convincing the person to leave a positive review (or at least remove the bad one), or simply monitor mentions of your company online.

The package can be customizable and can really help your reputation.

Encourage customers

The best way to get good Yelp reviews is to cultivate an environment in which people are intrinsically motivated to write good things. If you’re doing your job, people will want to say nice things about your business. Begin by becoming a good manager.

When you’re confident that you’ve got a good thing going, encourage your customers to write reviews. Mention it to a few regulars or ask new customers to give you some feedback online. Of course, you’ll want to make it easy to do so. Promote the sites you’d like them to write for in store and on your website.

Ask your fans on social media to help promote your business to their friends or by way of a review site.

You can also, if you choose, offer incentives for Yelp reviews–but be careful not to compensate them simply for endorsement. Offering a discount for a review (positive or negative) can encourage participation.

You should also be monitoring review sites and interacting with your reviewers (either positive or negative) every once in awhile. As a business owner, you should always be professional, even if you feel that a reviewer was unfair. By engaging in a professional way, you send the message that you care about all of your customers–and people will recognize this.

Be a good reviewer

And if you’re going to new businesses in your town or while you’re traveling around the country or world, be sure to do your part and leave a review or two when you feel it is deserved. Engaging with your peers may do wonders for your own business, and it will give you insight into the Yelp (and other review websites) world.

Know that the idea of “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say it at all” simply doesn’t apply to modern day marketing. Take even your negative reviews and look at them as a unique (and free!) opportunity for learning something about your customer base.

Online reviews aren’t going anywhere, so embracing the changing face of marketing and business ownership is inevitable–the sooner you get on board, the better!

photo credit: Ludwig Gatzke via photopin cc)

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The Jetsetter Team


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