The Beginner’s Guide to Reputation Management (Part 12 of 34): Yelp


When we talked about Ripoff Report in the last lesson, we gave specific information about how to handle reviews on the site, since each review site has different community styles and best practices. In this lesson, we’ll go over what Yelp is, why your business should be concerned, how to claim your business on Yelp, and most importantly, how to respond to and improve the reviews on your page.

What is Yelp?

Yelp is a business directory that helps people find and review local businesses in their area. It has some social networking features and has over 100 million monthly unique visitors (as of Jan. 2013).

Yelp can either help or hurt your business, depending on your rating and your ability to generate positive reviews. I want your business to succeed, so let’s talk about how to master Yelp’s review system and get this site working for your business rather than against it.

How Do Yelp Ratings Affect Businesses?

Michael Anderson and Jeremy Magruder of Berkeley published a paper in The Economic Journal that detailed their study of reservation availability for nearly 400 restaurants in San Francisco during the August/September timeframe. The study looked at the number of stars Yelp gave them based on their average rating, with the knowledge that a business that averaged 4.24 and a business that averaged a 4.26 would fall under two different star ratings (4 stars or 4.5 stars, respectively).

They found that in the 7pm time slot, restaurants with 3.5 stars were 21% more likely to be sold out than restaurants with 3 stars. Similarly, restaurants with 4 stars were 19% more likely to be sold out than restaurants with 3.5 stars.

What this shows is that your Yelp ratings can have a lot of impact on whether someone is willing to try your products or services for the first time.

The study also estimated that a bump of a half-star on Yelp could account for an additional $816 in profits, which is money that no business wants to leave on the table.

Another study by Michael Luca from Harvard Business School found that a one-star increase on Yelp leads to a 5% to 9% increase in revenue.

The Bottom Line: It’s valuable to improve your Yelp reviews. I share exactly how to do it in this lesson.

A Three-Tiered Approach to Responding to Negative Reviews

After pouring through hundreds of pages of Yelp reviews, I’ve found that 99% of negative reviews fall into one of three tiers. I’m going to share the three types of negative reviews your company is likely to get and also share the specific ways to respond to each one using my three-tiered framework for responding to negative reviews.

Tier 1: The Rational Negative Review

The first type of negative review you might see on your Yelp page is the rational negative review. This is usually a review that someone has posted due to a one-off negative experience. It can come from a first-time customer, but can also come from a customer who has enjoyed your product or service before. For example:

I usually love the steak and eggs at this restaurant, but the last time I went the meat was undercooked and the eggs were over cooked. Very disappointed…

The person who writes a review like this is rational, logical, and reasonable. You can pick out these reviews because the person describes their personal experience, offers positive or neutral feedback in addition to the negative feedback, and expresses a reasonable amount of disappointment.

How to Respond To the Rational Negative Review (3-Step Approach):

Step 1: Publicly thank the user for commenting and bringing the issue to your attention. Apologize and assure them it won’t happen again.

Step 2: Private message the user to come to a resolution over the situation. For example, with this review, the restaurant might want to invite the person back for the same meal “on the house.”

Step 3: Once the situation is resolved and the customer has received outstanding service (and perhaps a free meal), ask them if they’d be willing to update their review with an explanation of how the situation was resolved and their reaction to the gesture.

Tier 2: The Emotional Negative Review

The second type of negative review you might see on your Yelp page is the emotional negative review. This is usually a review that someone has posted due to bad service, but the difference between this review and the rational negative review is that this review is typically a harsh, visceral response based on a first-time bad experience. Let’s use a restaurant again as an example:

The service at the restaurant was horrendous! I am never ever ever going back again.

The person who writes a review like this is angry, frustrated, or vindictive. The review is not only about the restaurant, but also about the person’s mood at the time of writing. The person typically does not offer any positive or neutral responses to their experience, preferring to highlight the bad only.

How to Respond To the Emotional Negative Review (3-Step Approach):

Step 1: Post a public response and apologize for the bad experience.

Step 2: Private message the user to come to a resolution over the situation. For example, with this review, the restaurant might want to offer the person reimbursement for their food.

Step 3: Once the situation is resolved and the customer is disarmed, ask them if they would be willing to delete the review. Your goal is to get them to delete their review because there is no chance that you can turn this type of review into a positive experience.

Tier 3: The Irrational Negative Review

The third and final type of negative review your company might encounter is the irrational negative review. This is a type of review that blatantly attacks a company and gives no explanation as to why.

This restaurant sucks! The owner is a horrible person!

How to Respond To the Emotional Negative Review:

There is no need to respond as the user is acting irrationally and has no basis to their argument. This means that there is nothing to argue against and no true defense that can diffuse the situation. Luckily very few people will put stock in this type of review, especially if your company has an overwhelming number of positive reviews.

How To Respond To False Reviews

At times, you may see a review that is not negative so much as inaccurate or false. When it comes to these types of reviews, we recommend not responding at all. It will be tempting to respond with accurate information, but similarly to responses on Ripoff Report, these types of responses are culpable of starting flame wars, being misconstrued, or further painting your business in a negative light.

Instead, we take the sale approach we would take to negative search results. We drown out the negative reviews by garnering more positive Yelp reviews.

How To Generate More Positive Reviews

Now that we’ve talked about how to respond to negative reviews, I want to give you the greatest secret of all to combat both negative and false reviews.

The secret is to drown them out with positive reviews. Here are the best ways to do this:

#1 – Become a customer-centric company

First and foremost, it is essential to provide the best customer service you can. This will automatically boost your ratings, plus it will help creating raving fans who can spread word-of-mouth. Remember, no amount of reputation management can fix poor customer service.

#2 – Use Yelp signage to give people a visual reminder the you are on Yelp

By placing Yelp stickers in your door and near your register, you can remind frequent customers to leave a Yelp review. You can even offer incentives to your most loyal customers who leave honest Yelp reviews. Of course, since they are loyal customers, they are most likely to leave a positive review.

#3 – Post positive Yelp reviews in your store, preferably where people are waiting to place their orders

You can leverage positive reviews you currently have to generate more positive reviews. When people see positive reviews while they are waiting in line to order, be seen for their appointment, or pick up their goods, their decision to be a patron of your business is reinforced. They also want to be like others on your walls by leaving their own reviews, with the hopes that their words could be seen by your customers someday.

#4 – Engage with customers on social media, especially location-based sites like Foursquare

Yelp reviewers tend to be engaged in the online community and often have multiple social media accounts that they update regularly. You can target Yelpers by finding them through social media channels. Offer them a reason to visit your store and you can expect to see more reviews on Yelp overall. (Of course, it’s your job to make sure your product or service deserves positive reviews from them!)

#5 – Host a Yelp event

If you engage with your loyal Yelp reviewers and the Yelp Elite in your area (this is a special status on Yelp for reviewers who review a lot of different places) you can ask them to help you host an event in your restaurant or store. Hosting an event for Yelp reviewers will boost your overall reviews, especially if you give them something exciting to do during the event.

#6 – Add reminders everywhere

You can integrate Yelp into your current marketing plan by adding a request for Yelp reviews to your newsletter, your website, your email signature, your business cards, and even your menu! Adding a simple sentence like, “If you enjoyed your meal, please leave us a review on Yelp,” goes a long way toward boosting your review count.

There are easily a dozen places you can probably incorporate your Yelp review campaign into to boost your total reviews and star rating. The key is to incorporate it into your marketing plan and to make it a priority to improve your rating there.

Thanks for reading this part of the guide and if you have any questions, you can email me at Jun [at]

About the author

JunLoayza Jun Loayza is the President of Reputation Hacks. In his entrepreneurial experience, Jun has sold 2 internet companies, raised over $1,000,000 in Angel funding, and lead social media technology campaigns for Sephora, Whole Foods Market, Levi's, LG, and Activision. Find Jun on Google or Twitter

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Jun Loayza is the President of Reputation Hacks. In his entrepreneurial experience, Jun has sold 2 internet companies, raised over $1,000,000 in Angel funding, and lead social media technology campaigns for Sephora, Whole Foods Market, Levi's, LG, and Activision. Find Jun on Google or Twitter

6 thoughts on “The Beginner’s Guide to Reputation Management (Part 12 of 34): Yelp”

  1. Hi Jun,

    Great article and I will soon be sharing it with my Twitter followers and on Facebook. I deal with a lot of pizzeria owners.

    I would like to know not how to replace Yelp, but become a Yelp alternative for pizza lovers and pizzeria owners. I create what I call review listings and am trying my best to get people to leave reviews. I just don’t know how to get that done.

    Here’s a link to one such review (Sorry it’s taking so long to load today, 12 secs last time I checked. Not typical)

    I’ve encouraged people to use avatars too.

    But I’d like to create hundreds of these review listings but without people leaving reviews, there won’t be any way Google rich snippets can be used and there won’t be any reason for people to visit the review listings except to see the info I include.

    I’ve gotten some pizzeria owners to put a logo for our site or some other link on their site because of what we’ve done for them with this enhanced type of listing and while that’s good, I still need reviews like Yelp has on their site.

    Well, I’ve already tweeted this post to my followers and I’m sure they’ll love it. I sure did.

    Head pizza guy at

    1. Interesting. So you’ve created a niche site specifically about pizza. It’s going to be difficult to get user-generated reviews like Yelp does because you need a brand name and traffic for that.

      Best bet is to reach out directly to the pizza shops and let them know to leave their own reviews on your site and then link to your site from their site. This will help you gain rankings on Google.

      What’s your business model?

  2. We began trying to earn money with an advertising/affiliate model. But are now offering online ordering in select cities and use cause marketing to encourage people to use our site to buy pizza. An example can be seen for our Ann Arbor Pizza Guide that will cater mostly to Univ of Mich students in the fall We also have the largest directory of pizzeria websites, pizza games, pizza videos, recipes, reviews, etc.

    We are looking to get user generated content too via our top ten pizza lists. These are lists that have any relation to pizza, we stretch it a bit sometimes, but as long as pizza is in the name, it can most likely be included at PizzaSpotz. Last night we added The Top Ten Frank Sinatra Songs to Listen to While Eating Pizza. A list like Top Ten Silicon Valley Startup Founders is not out of the question either : )

    Pizza is our passion. It even runs in my blood. A second or third cousin of mine founded Pizza Hut. I’m not exactly sure of our exact relationship, we’ve talked a couple times and emailed and I know his father better than him, but it’s cool to be related.

    Great to meet you Jun.

    Talk to you later,

    1. That’s really great. I love that you’ve turned something that you’re passionate about into a real business.

      How has the reception been from pizza restaurants and users?

      I see it’s difficult in that restaurants don’t care how much traffic you have on your site — they care about how much local traffic you have on your site. And Yelp dominates that right now.

      How do you get most of your traffic right now? Through search engines?

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