Yelp Experts Yelp Back About Billion Dollar Bully

Yelp Experts Yelp Back About Billion Dollar Bully

Body shop owners and Yelp experts who work with the collision repair industry weighed in recently about last month’s article (Does Yelp Bully Body Shops?) in the wake of Billion Dollar Bully, a documentary about how Yelp can adversely impact small businesses.

It claims that Yelp extorts small business owners for advertising fees in return for promoting positive reviews and hiding negative ones.

So, I asked four marketing gurus about the role of Yelp in this industry, and how can a shop avoid being bullied by it?

Micki Hazz, owner of Hazz Marketing: “Yelp comes up frequently in my talks with clients in building their brand online,” she said. “As frustrating as the platform can be for business owners (and understandably so), it is a tool that is not going anywhere; so, your best bet is to embrace it and maximize it! I’d recommend that your business claim its free Yelp listing and fill it out to the best of your ability.

“Make sure to add pictures of not only your logo but the front of the building, check-in area, employee pics (as long as you have had them sign a waiver) and some before and after photos of the work you’ve done,” she said. “Make sure to add an explanation to each photo and please use proper English with decent grammar! When customers give you a good review, you’ll want to click the ‘Thanks’ button in your dashboard at the very least. If you can, write a short, public response thanking them for taking time out of their day to write a review for your shop.

“Yelp is a tool that Americans nationwide turn to for validating a business of any kind. Even if you have some grumpy customers, it’s your opportunity to put your best foot forward and represent yourself honestly to make visitors to your Yelp page feel like you really care and that they won’t just be ‘a number’ getting processed like so many places of business have left them to feel.”

Chief Marketing Officer Megan Williams at Lefler Collision & Glass Repair Centers:

“With the majority of people utilizing smartphones, having a high-ranking website is crucial because we only have mere moments to get in front of that potential customer,” she said. “One of the simplest ways to work toward ensuring your shop has good SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is that you claim and keep your Google Business, Yelp, and Yellow Page profiles updated with photos, events, special offers, etc.

“Yelp was previously considered to only be used for restaurants but we are seeing an increasing amount of consumers using Yelp for research as well as leaving reviews following their repair experience. I would go as far to say that Yelp is the most important to be working on right now because they are the largest listing provider for voice search and within the next six months, research shows that 50% of all searches are going to be conducted by voice.

“Nearly 70% of all voice searches are conducted on Amazon or iPhone devices which are controlled by Yelp. This shows the influence that Yelp has by running the majority of the quickly growing voice search market. Having an updated Yelp account, mentioning to your customers the opportunity to leave a review, and responding to all reviews – whether good or bad, can help position your shop at the top of the search engine results.

“To conclude, review profiles such as Yelp, Google Business, and Yellow Pages are a crucial step towards a prominent search engine ranking. Applications such as Podium can help facilitate more customers to your review profiles, which can then lead to more reviews and a higher search results placement.”

President of Phoenix Solutions Group, Nick Schoolcraft: “I always tell my clients to respond to every review, because this is your best way to show the world and search engines that you are listening to your customers and aren’t afraid to address poor experiences,” he said. “It also demonstrates your appreciation for all of your customers. We feel strongly about the benefit of review response and believe that it’s one of the more critical components to ensure a well-rounded digital presence for your business.

“The best thing a business can do is deliver an amazing experience, but shops often get so caught up on how to get reviews that they lose sight of what their customers may be saying. How can a shop avoid being bullied by Yelp?

“I think it all starts with understanding how your customers actually get to your shop and recognize that Yelp is not the predominant driver of collision traffic in most cases. Regardless of your belief, arming yourself with details that are easily gained by marketing research, or even Google Analytics to a certain degree, can go a long way in understanding Yelp’s value to your business.

“At Phoenix, we have never purchased an ad plan from Yelp on behalf of a client. We’ve been asked many times from customers to look into exploring that option for them. But we’ve ultimately found the value to not warrant the cost, or the opportunity cost, of not having all of your reviews shown. If a shop can provide a differentiated experience, then it will absolutely show through, not by the number of reviews a shop has, but by the quality of the reviews. Improving your relationship with your customers should be the first effort in trying to generate more positive reviews online.”

Angel Iraola, owner of Net Business Consulting & Solutions: “We have a long track record working with Yelp, and although things have improved, they are still not ideal,” he said. “We have clients who have refused to join Yelp and punished for not taking part. They have also been accused of withholding positive, genuine reviews and won’t remove fake reviews unless you advertise.

“We had a real problem for a while with fake reviews, but now we are proactive about contacting Yelp whenever we see a fake review,” he said. “In some cases, they’re very willing to take it down right away, but they will always hit us up for advertising at the same time. They’ll give you the hard sell. But, if they keep the bogus reviews upfront because you won’t pay, now we have a problem that needs to be addressed.

“For our clients who are fed up with Yelp, we often now suggest that shops focus more on other review sites, such as Google, Glassdoor, Better Business Bureau and Angie’s List, for example,” Iraola said. “Google is well-known for being accountable and transparent, and they won’t try to sell you something every time you contact them.

“In the end, small businesses need to address these review sites, because from what we have learned from Billion Dollar Bully, Yelp is a fixture in our society now. We can complain about it all day long, but in the end, Yelp can impact your shop in a huge way, so you have to monitor it constantly. It’s like a naughty kid—once you forget about it for a minute, that’s where the trouble can start!”

Ed Attanasio

Ed Attanasio is an automotive journalist and Autobody News columnist based in San Francisco.

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