Editor’s Note: This article was originally published by Web Marketing Today. Practical Ecommerce acquired Web Marketing Today in 2012. In 2016, we merged the two sites, leaving Practical Ecommerce as the successor.
Yelp is possibly the most restrictive of all the business directories and review sites when it comes to asking for customer reviews. Basically, “asking” is forbidden, according to its policy guidelines.
In this article, I summarize Yelp’s review policy and provide a list of ways to get customer reviews that won’t place you in violation.
Yelp’s Review Policy
The fact that Yelp discourages businesses from asking their customers for reviews may seem counter-intuitive since the site’s popularity is built on users reading and writing reviews about their favorite local businesses.
Yelp defends its policy by saying that review solicitation could lead to mistrust, due to the likelihood that businesses would only encourage positive reviews from their customers.
“Let’s face it, most business owners are only going to ask for reviews from their happy customers, not the unhappy ones,” Yelp said. “Over time, these self-selected reviews create bias in the business listing — a bias that savvy consumers can smell from a mile away.”
If consumers don’t trust that Yelp will deliver authentic reviews, they may deem the site unreliable and not return — something that would adversely affect the company’s bottom line. It’s a bit of “give to get.” In looking out for its users’ best interests, Yelp is protecting its own.
Another aspect of Yelp’s review policy has to do with the way its software algorithm determines which reviews appear on the site and in what order. The software looks at different signals, including various measures of quality, reliability, and user activity, and is attuned to flag fake or solicited reviews.
“Solicited reviews are less likely to be recommended by our automated software,” Yelp said. “[W]e have the unfortunate task of trying to help our users distinguish between real and fake reviews … the harsh reality is that solicited reviews often fall somewhere in between.”
On average, the software recommends about three-quarters of the reviews that users submit, even with those safeguards in place.
Ways to Encourage Yelp Reviews
Getting Yelp reviews is well-worth the effort, if you believe the results of a 2011 study by Michael Luca, a professor at Harvard Business School, which found that a one-star increase in a Yelp rating led to a corresponding 5-9 percent jump in revenue.
There are several ways to get reviews — some of which Yelp itself recommends — despite its policy forbidding review solicitation. Here are seven to consider.
- Give customers a ‘heads-up.’ Instead of saying “Write a review about our business on Yelp,” instead say, “Check us out on Yelp.” The first is a solicitation while the latter is a “heads up” — an FYI that raises awareness. The difference may be slight, but it’s worth noting.
- Place a Yelp badge on your website. Yelp offers several badges that you can put on your site, which link to your business profile. Just copy and paste the HTML code associated with each badge into the site. Review averages and counts update automatically as new reviews come in.
- Put a ‘Find us on Yelp’ sign in your place of business. You can make your own using Yelps brand assets or request one by via this form.
- Add a link to your business listing in your email signature. Companies often overlook the marketing value of an email signature, but it’s a subtle way to encourage Yelp reviews. Include the words mentioned in the first point: “Check us out on Yelp.”
- Share your ‘People Love Us on Yelp’ recipient status. “People Love Us on Yelp” is a program that provides a sticker and a letter of commendation from Yelp’s founders to companies that qualify based on their history and rating. Stickers are mailed twice per year to all qualifying businesses.
In addition to displaying the “sticker on your window, Yelp recommends that you hang the letter of commendation in a picture frame at a conspicuous location inside your business, such as on the wall behind the cash register or front counter.
- Share reviews on Facebook and Twitter. You can share Yelp reviews on social networks like Facebook and Twitter by logging into your business owner account and clicking the “Reviews” tab. It may be advantageous to include one or two negative reviews, so long as you add a comment citing your efforts to satisfy the customer. Fans and followers may become skeptical if they just see positive reviews.
- Use reviews in marketing materials. While Yelp discourages asking for reviews, it doesn’t mind you sharing those you’ve received in marketing materials. There are some guidelines, however:
- Don’t take it out of context (e.g., don’t excerpt a positive quote from a negative review);
- Stay faithful to the reviewer (e.g., no word substitutions or deletions);
- Only use Yelp’s recommended reviews (i.e., do not use reviews that aren’t currently recommended);
- Get permission from the reviewer and provide attribution;
- Attribute Yelp as the source using the logo guidelines above.
Yelp reviews may not make or break your business, but the fact that people rely on others like themselves for recommendations when making purchase decisions is sufficient reason to take advantage of the marketing benefits they have to offer. Just don’t violate the policy guidelines.