Hello again!  In our last installment, we told you about Yelp’s business model, their online and in-person presence, their users and growth.  In this installment, we give you concrete advice on how to leverage Yelp to add value to your business.

How you can harness the power of Yelp

1. Claim you free business listing on Yelp

This is so incredibly easy and free.  It gives you the opportunity to put your business out there and not wait for a good Samaritan (or Yelper, in the case) or the dreaded D&B to list your business.  Your business will come up when people search either on the mobile app or the actual website.  You have the ability to post photos, give a detailed business description, list the business history, and your specialties.  Also, Yelp has free business tools associated with the business accounts, like how many page views you’re gotten or how your business comes up in searches.  Pretty cool.

2. Host or sponsor a Yelp event

If your business is in a city with an active Yelp community, consider hosting a special event for the Yelpers.  This is a great way to get Yelpers in your business and introduce yourself to the community at large.   Contact your local community manager for more details about this.

3. Read your Reviews

Read both the positive and negative reviews.  People are much more likely to complain about something than to praise it, so if a reviewer does praise something, take that as 10 people praising it and keep doing whatever that was.  As a business owner, you can respond to reviews publically, right on that review, or privately, by sending the reviewer a private message.

In reading negative reviews, it is important to read them thoroughly to truly understand the issue.  Do not be tempted to lash out at the reviewer, especially publically; nothing good can come of that.  My best advice for this is to respond privately to the user and apologize for their experience, tell them that is not how you do business, and invite them to give you another shot.  I have personally had this experience and was glad to have the opportunity to share my experience with the owner and give them the opportunity to correct the issue.   And after that better experience, I updated my review.  Remember, the customer that complains is your friend.

4. Buy Yelp Ads

Personally, I think if you do the first three steps well and often, you will not have to do step 4 or 5 at all, but the option is there if you want it.  In fact, there have been accusations of Yelp being overly-zealous with trying to sell ads to business owners and these ads not being as effective as other advertising purchases you could be making (see Yelp Ad Sales).  From my experience, businesses on Yelp that provide a good service, reach out to the community in general and the Yelp community, will do well without needing to advertise—word of mouth is so much more powerful.

5. Have Yelp Deals

This is another service offered by Yelp and again, is there if you want it.  These are similar to Groupon and Localiter Deals but on your Yelp page.  One benefit of these is that in the search options, users can filter on companies that currently have a deal, so depending on the type of business you have, this may be helpful in initially penetrating the market or trying to stand out among the crowd.  However, you want to be careful and avoid “Daily Deal Backlashes” which can actually alienate customers and employees and erode your prices and reputation over time.  Value and quality propositions are always better in the long run and it will pay off.

Good luck and happy Yelping!

About Melissa Arnett:
eConnect Email Blog Contributor, Elite Yelper, Master of Business, Music Enthusiast, pie-baker. Follow Melissa on Twitter @melissataustin