As the leading customer review site, Yelp has changed the way that consumers interact with businesses online. Having seen everything from 5-star rave reviews to one-star critiques, business owners have experienced both the good, and the bad, of having a presence on a website devoted to helping others make more well-informed purchases.
Yelp Initially Protected Business Reputations by Starting Small
Now over a decade old, we have been able to watch Yelp and its users grow and evolve through what many would consider normal growing pains. At first, Yelp started by focusing on a single city, their home base of San Francisco. This allowed them to refine their process and application over a controlled environment before launching to a global scale.
While experimenting with thousands of users for over a year and a half, Yelp learned many valuable things about itself and its users. Among these learnings was the probability that false reviews will be posted in order to either boost or destroy small businesses. This helped them develop their review filtering software, which was designed to detect reviews that meet certain criteria for suspicion.
False Yelp Reviews vs. Yelper Zealotry
The prospect of creating a false review isn’t the only non-tangible ailment lingering among the Yelp community. The enthusiasm some users share for writing dramatic reviews has also created an adverse public reaction of its own. Perhaps best depicted in the Emmy-nominated South Park episode, “You’re Not Yelping”, the public’s attitude towards Yelpers shifted as the application grew in popularity.
Yelpers were no longer viewed by many as champions of an honest business review system, but rather proponents of an ego-driven venture. Yelper “Zealotry”, so to speak, has devalued the work of professional food critics while driving a sense of entitlement in every Yelper; one that they could very easily harm a business with their newfound power if they were not served to their standards.
But a primetime cartoon won’t provide the empirical evidence needed to prove this perception existed. Instead, there are examples of businesses who have embraced, and even encouraged, patrons to write bad Yelp reviews. Whether this is for free publicity (and fun), or for a bigger effort to devalue Yelp’s own credibility, is at the discretion of each business.
The Evolution of the ‘Yelper’
For business owners who don’t want to pursue this route, know that professionals see hope down the line for this type of consumer behavior. A blog by LinkedIn brings the perspective of user age into the psychology of Yelpers:
“My belief and sincere hope is that as the present day Yelpers age and mature, a good number of them will now become business owners themselves. Perhaps they will now see the minute-to-minute challenges of present day customer services from the other side.
Maybe the less-than-piping-hot latte or the half centimeter wrinkle in the freshly dry cleaned shirt will no longer seem like life and death issues worthy of a scathing one-star review. Perhaps they will see the impact that a few keystrokes can have on not only the owner of the business, but on the employees who depend on that business to feed their families.”
A Strong Yelp Presence is Essential to Business ORM and SEO
With hope on the horizon, business owner can rest assured that Yelp’s inherent issues will resolve themselves in time. Meanwhile, a strong Yelp presence is still one of the best tools for visibility your business can have. It is also one of the best tools for self-reflection in developing your business. A blog by Marketing Land had this to say about the value of an honest Yelp presence:
When a business owner starts using Yelp and leaving honest reviews, they start to see the little things that make a big difference from a consumer experience perspective. They can now apply this new lens to their own business and make improvements, so that future Yelp reviews have a better chance of being positive.
Despite all this evolution, Yelp has remained constant in the influence it can have over your business. Online reputation management companies such as InternetReputation.com know and understand Yelp’s authority on SEO, and seek to help businesses with a small or negative Yelp Presence.