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If you are a business owner with a brick and mortar local shop, then you are probably well aware of the tremendous influence Yelp can have in directing potential customers to, or away from, your business. With advertising rates starting in the hundreds, paying for Yelp may not be an option for your business. 

When you take ownership of your Yelp profile and manage your engagement without opting to advertise, Yelp has safeguards in place to limit the number of direct and indirect engagements you or your business representatives can have with Yelp reviewers. Currently, the limit is three public responses and five private messages, for a total of eight Yelp reviewer interactions every 24 hours.

(Check out: “YELP HELP: The Ultimate Guide to Optimizing Your Yelp Business Page / Listing”)

What Is the Value to Your Business of Interacting with Yelpers Online?

Let’s face it. When using the most popular search engines, if people are looking for the services your business offers, then they are likely to encounter Yelp before they see your business listing. The competitive advantage that this popular review site has achieved, in terms of how it ranks in search, is sufficient reason for your business to partake and engage with Yelp reviewers as well as maximize your overall profile on this website.

The value to your business is simple. More Yelp means more exposure. High-quality Yelp engagements often translate into an increased number of high-quality business leads. Businesses that are intentional in the way they engage with Yelpers frequently report improvements in the overall traffic to their websites as well as new customers walking through their doors.

How Should You Prioritize Your Interactions?

The type of investment required to have unlimited engagements with Yelp reviewers is frequently price-prohibitive for smaller businesses. Given this condition, you need to carefully think about which reviews need your attention and engagement first. If you have been careful to manage your reviews from the very start of your enterprise, then chances are you don’t carry a backlog, and you simply need to prioritize the reviews for the day or days before. Selecting which reviews to tackle first is not as important, since all will likely receive a response within the same timeframe.

On the other hand, if you have recently made the decision to improve your engagement and strategy on Yelp, then you may need to consider additional factors when prioritizing all of your reviews. When getting ready to decide which reviews to tackle first, you should consider the following:

  • A negative review that expresses dissatisfaction with your product or service
  • A review written by an elite Yelper
  • A positive review that would benefit from additional information in the response, to address questions by the reviewer and inform future potential customers
  • A long, positive review that shows the reviewer took time to highlight the features or services of your business with a great deal of specificity

Of course, your final goal should be close to 100 percent engagement, but using the bullets above can help you decide which reviews to tackle first.

How to Respond to a Yelp Reviewer

Yelp gives you up to 5,000 characters to draft your response. When addressing a Yelper, consider becoming familiar with the policies set forth by Yelp, in relationship to review responses. In addition, take into account the following tips to ensure your response maximizes the content available to you at no cost (if you are not in a business relationship with Yelp).

  • Make things right by providing solutions to the problems voiced by the reviewer. Offer a sincere apology, and address every facet of his or her complaint. When possible, extend remedy by encouraging the reviewer to give you another chance to either comp an experience or fix something that failed to meet the reviewer’s expectations.
  • Make your response informative and directly relevant to the review. Be careful not to cross the line. Your response should not be an advertorial. It is a relational tool with a customer, aimed at increasing loyalty and furthering your brand.
  • It is important to be personal and personable. Avoid clichés and template-like responses.
  • When a name is available, address the reviewer by name. If his or her Yelp user name appears to be a nickname, then avoid using it.
  • Make sure your response is grammatically correct.
  • Use your judgment; some customer escalations are best addressed using private messaging.

Catching up with the Backlog

If you are just starting to manage your business reputation and reviews, then it is entirely possible that you hold a backlog of Yelp reviews. If you are planning on engaging via review responses, then you need to be smart about how you use your daily allocation if you are not currently a paying Yelp customer.

We highly suggest that you first tackle the most recent reviews. Maximize your daily allocation and go back at least three pages, when applicable. In some situations, it may not be wise to respond to an older review, particularly if it is negative and it has been a long time since it was submitted. If you do decide to respond, then proceed with care, and apologize to the reviewer for your tardy response.

When Is It Time to Consider Paying for Yelp?

As your business grows in size and online presence, you may come to the realization that there are tools within the Yelp dashboard that make Yelp advertising worth investing in. If your business is gaining traction, the per-day review volume exceeds the allocation for free interactions, and your business is able to directly attribute business leads to Yelp, then it is perhaps time to explore the ROI of paying for a Yelp-based campaign.

(Check out: “Here’s Why An Italian Restaurant Wants to be the Worst-Rated Restaurant On Yelp”)

While Yelp is an important player in the review landscape, you need to remember that effective, business-generating review management and online reputation development requires an inclusive and holistic approach. Make sure you take into account all review origination points, and seek to handle each review by taking a very personal and customer-focused approach.

Kevin Kent

Kevin is the Director of Finance and Operations at ReviewTrackers. Every day he finds creative ways to solve business owners' problems and identifies key issues to help them achieve top results.