Yelp Reviews: How to Manage and Improve Them

 When first launched in 2004, neither of its founders, Jeremy Stoppelman or Russel Simmon, thought it would become the phenomenon that it is today. For the past 8 years, Yelp has brought the “Food Channel Connoisseur” and critic out of all of us. Last month alone, had about 21.5 million unique visitors. They have not only made their way into millions of users homes and workplaces through their website alone, but they are present in the palm of our hands every time we ask Siri about the best place to have dinner in town. Who would’ve thought? People actually do care to express their thoughts and feelings online about a business… Of course we do! We love to think our opinion has value. And it DOES. We have been empowered!

Assume that each of those 21.5 million unique visitors has their own Yelp account. That makes 21.5 million people with the capability and voice to either help you build your business or destroy it.  So, as a business owner, take a moment and ask yourself the following questions:

  • How much is a sale or client worth to me?
  • How good are the services and products I sell?
  • How much attention do I pay to customer service?

The answers should read as follows:

  • $$$$$ :)
  • Excellent!
  • My customers and clients always come first.

If this isn’t the case, then you’re not reading this with the intent of learning more about Yelp because you’re in trouble and your business is hurting. Or, perhaps you’ve had your unfair share of bitter customers that had nothing better to do but to trash you on Yelp. Either way, these bad reviews hurt and hurt a lot.

Let’s Face the Facts

If you don’t have a good product or service and if your customer service is terrible, then there really is not much anyone can do for you. So, rather than reading this article, I’d start re-thinking my business model and/or restructuring my company’s customer service mentality.

For the purpose of this article, let’s assume you have a great product and that you’re committed to providing great customer service from this point forward. But the question is… What do you do now? How are you going to deal with these negative reviews as well as any future ones?

How to Manage Bad Yelp Reviews

The Bad Yelp Reviews Exist… What do I do now?

It is next to impossible to outrank a website like Yelp due to Yelp’s super high credibility and authority quotients in the eyes of the search engines; so the resources spent on the development of positive content to push it down and off of page one just won’t bear any fruit fast enough, if ever. Yelp is one of the most Authoritative Websites in terms of UGC (User Generated Content) reviews. You need to deal with it directly.  The advantages of being a business and having a Yelp Business Account are Analytics, Insights to Reviewers’ demographics as well as the fact that users have the right to change their reviews at any time. In other words: DATA, more DATA, are the gateways towards changing a negative situation into a positive one. How, you ask? A well-established Follow Up process of course. But first there must be an understanding on how Yelp works and how to use that to your benefit.

How Yelp Works

Vayama Reviews: How Yelp Works

The fact that Yelp allows users to change their mind about their reviews, and that it provides data about these reviewers, gives businesses the opportunity to create a follow up process for both Positive and Negative Reviews. This process is meant to build, maintain, and regain customers’ trust and loyalty. Ultimately, improving Positive Scores and pushing Bad Reviews down the Yelp main overview and, in turn the SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages).

Yelp doesn’t average ratings only on the amount of reviews posted per listing, rather it weighs the reviews based on quality and credibility. They call it the “Review Filter”. Quality and credibility are based on the user’s previous reviews, their following, interactivity, and it is speculated that it involves Facebook as well as Twitter following (they figure the more friends and followers you have the more important your word is online). So it’s very important to pay special attention to those reviewers with a full Yelp profile and a decent amount of interaction.

**Information on how Yelp “Review Filter” works is speculative.

Example of HIGH VALUE Reviews:



  • High number of posts.
  • High/decent amount of friends.

Example of LOW VALUE Reviews:


  • Only a single post.
  • It’s less credible for both the Yelp Algorithm and User.

Yelp and Facebook

Yelp Reviews: Facebook and YelpFor users that have it integrated into their Facebook, it automatically posts on their wall (it’s activated by default) whenever they write a review. So there is a Social Metric factor that may also affect their “value” and “credibility” rating system.

This means that Yelp has an outreach of 21.6 million users of its own but shares this outreach with Facebook’s 845 million users. Even those that don’t have Yelp can see a posted Yelp review on their friends’ Wall Feeds. This can either mean Positive or Negative Brand Awareness on a wide scale.

More Important Fun Facts about Yelp

Yelp has a single URL for each business page and it doesn’t allow for certain parameters to be indexed; this means that comments (which are on different <div>s) will not be indexed separately. This means users won’t see multiple results of your Yelp Profile when they Google a business and Yelp is at the top.

Yelp allows for businesses to respond to reviews publicly as well as privately. This allows businesses to reach out directly if things get sour or reach out in the open once resolved. Even a simple “Thank you” for a positive review goes a long way.

Now keeping in mind all these factors and realities stated above, let’s get down to a set process on how to handle and improve a business’s Yelp presence.

How to Manage and Improve Yelp Reviews

Yelp Reviews; How to Improve them

  • Claim your business on Yelp. Believe it or not most businesses have no idea how to do this.
  • Tracking of Yelp Reviews on a Daily Basis – Once the account is claimed, specific notifications can be set up.
  • Create a template letter for Both Public and Private follow up for both Negative and Positive Reviews – this will change on a per situation basis but the idea is to create a structural base line.
 Example: Intro>Apology>Thanks>Solution>Outreach
  • Follow and or Recommend Yelper – follow this user on Twitter, Facebook, Yelp itself; develop some sort of relationship. Remember, this is only for those “HIGH VALUE” reviewers. The rest will also have follow up messages, but these “HIGH VALUE” ones are the reviewers that appear at the top and have higher influence in the overall Yelp score.
  • Give something of Value back to the Positive HIGH VALUE reviewer.
  • Positive Reviewer on Yelp: send a $50.00 gift card of a favorite restaurant/ spot/ hangout. Perhaps a Visa prefilled card – say it was at random; they will share their positive experience on their Social Media sites, blogs, etc.… Although a consumer is more prone to write about a negative experience, a user is also prone to write about an unexpected positive event. Follow a similar process for those that change their review to a positive one.
  • NEGATIVE REVIEWS; Reach out to them in a private message
  • This message must be the first step toward fixing the problem. So, a “thank you for feedback” and “apology” must be made as well as an eventual outreach over the phone.

Phone Call Details – this requires a specific strategy.

  • Make sure the Customer Service Representative has a more “high profile” title in order to make the dissatisfied customer feel that his/her concerns have “gone upstairs”.
  • Thank them for their patience, business, and feedback.
  • Revisit the issues the customer had. Can it be solved? What is the solution? Come to an agreement with the customer.
  • Refer to a restructuring in Customer Service or a modification in procedure, explaining the fact the company wants their customers to be 100% satisfied and that the company takes their customer’s experience seriously. Keep in mind these users already have a negative opinion of your company, so they want to hear about change and whether or not it is going to benefit them right then and there.
  • Reward them for their patience and feedback (Visa gift card, et al)
  • Ask for Email (in order to follow up when needed) if you don’t have it already.
  • Take ownership of the problem.

Post-Phone Call

  • Follow up publicly with a response to the user’s original Yelp Review (whether Yelp Review is changed or not). This follow up must showcase the fact that your company had a conversation and tried their best to help this customer with their issue, whether the outcome of the call changed the customer’s mind or not.
  • Positive outcome – If the problem is fixed, follow up message must make that clear i.e. “It was great speaking with you [Tammy]! I’m very happy we were able to get this settled…. Etc” -. These messages will vary on a per case basis – this will influence Reviewers to change their minds about their initial “score” and edit their Review. Even if they don’t, there is clear proof to other customers that the company’s customer care is on top of it. This will provide comfort to other users and encourage them to reach out to the company directly instead of writing a negative review.
  • Keep track of this communication in your CRM system for record keeping purposes/or a system should be established. If you don’t have a CRM system, create a Google Doc (spreadsheet) to keep track of these customers.

Will this System Give You Positive Reviews?

Yelp Reviews; Success!

I’d like to tell you yes, follow these steps and you will always have an on-going flow of positive reviews, but the fact is that your reviews will only be as great as your customer service. A customer will always try to reach out to you before they go into Yelp and write something negative about your product or your business. Not taking care of a customer when you have the chance only gives them reason to go to their computers, type, create an account (if they don’t have one already) and say something terrible about the business you’ve devoted so much of your time to.

21.6 million users and outreach to 845 million more. That is almost 1 Billion people capable of seeing these reviews and judging your business. So, there you have it. A method on how to handle the “monster” Yelp and some facts to keep in mind whenever you see a Yelp review.

So let’s revisit the questions you asked yourself above. How much IS a sale/ client worth to you? How many could you have possibly lost because of a negative Yelp review? Even if your answer to that question is”only” one half of one percent of all users that have ID’d your business, that can mean a lot of money on the line, particularly going forward.