Recap: Maximizing Local Search & Review with Kevin Newsum of Yelp
So what is Yelp.com, exactly? Kevin explained that it’s a community-based website which connects people and local businesses through a series of ratings and reviews, while focusing specifically on the ever-important relationship between the business and its customers. The “sweet-spot” for a typical Yelp website visitor is an individual between the ages of 18 and 54, who possesses at least some college education. There’s an average of 71 million visitors to Yelp.com per month, all of whom have contributed a total of about 27 million ratings and reviews since the site’s inception. Meanwhile, Yelp’s mobile app is currently used on 6.3 million mobile devices, and the app constitutes about 40% of the site’s searches. (Perhaps unsurprisingly, Yelp’s mobile platforms are showing more growth than the desktop version.)
Kevin has been with Yelp for five years now, and he is obviously enthusiastic about how passionate and fired-up users can become about their community. He’s also a firm believer in the old PR adage that “people are talking about your business, whether you’re engaged in it or not.” In other words, conversation about your business will happen, for good or for bad, and Yelp can provide businesses with an ear to the ground, so to speak…a way to see what people are saying about them, and a means to participate in the conversation.
Furthermore, there are many tools available on Yelp for businesses looking to increase their presence on social media. Yelp allows businesses to give shout-outs to other businesses, post images in photo albums, and issue check-in deals (similar to Foursquare). In fact, Yelp will soon be collaborating with Apple to incorporate Yelp check-ins into Apple’s new iOS.
In addition, Kevin spent some time discussing Yelp’s filtering process when it comes to reviews. He pointed out that filtering is an action that all of us already do: we’re far more inclined to visit a business based on the recommendation of a friend or family member versus a complete stranger, which means that we prioritize/filter such recommendations based upon our relationship with its source. Yelp reviews can only be written by people with legitimate Yelp accounts (no self-promoting bots allowed here!), and as a user becomes more of a trusted member of the Yelp community, his/her reviews will begin to rise to the top and gain more exposure.
As for obtaining reviews for your business, Kevin suggests not to directly ask customers for them. Instead, he says, you should provide your customers with top-quality service (the “if you do it, they will come” mentality), update your email signature to include a link to your business on Yelp, incorporate check-in offers, and engage in newsletter marketing. Kevin stressed the importance of Yelp as a “community first” site, which prides itself on not treating reviews like stock-ticker statistics.
Overall, Kevin’s program was incredibly informative, and everyone in SMCFW left Monty’s Corner with a little more knowledge on using Yelp to promote our respective businesses. (Thanks again to Kevin and to Monty’s Corner for a very educational evening!)