Resources >   Business Finance  >  Business credit  >  

3 free ways small businesses can win on Yelp

Business credit

3 free ways small businesses can win on Yelp

Updated: March 27th, 2020

3 free ways small businesses can win on Yelp

In 2014, Union Street Guest House in New York went viral for all the wrong reasons — to keep their Yelp rating high, they decided to charge couples who booked weddings at the venue $500 for every bad review the wedding guests left unless the review was removed.

Unsurprisingly, their strategy backfired.

Not only did the internet swarm to their Yelp page to post negative reviews, leaving the inn with a paltry 1.5-star average, but the inn also became a well-known case study on how not to deal with online reviews (and social media in general).

According to its Yelp page, the guest house is now closed.

Yelp for small business is a polarizing discussion. Whether you like Yelp or hate it, it’s clear that you should take customer reviews seriously and have a clear plan for dealing with them. To put things in perspective, consider that:

  • On average, 28 million people use the Yelp app each month.
  • 91% of consumers regularly or occasionally read online reviews, and 87% say a business needs a rating of 3-5 stars before they will use them.

Happily, not every story needs to end like Union Street Guest House’s. If managed correctly, Yelp can help make your business stand out over the competition. Here’s how you can use it to your advantage.

1. Own your page.

The key here is making your business look as legitimate as possible so that prospective customers trust your Yelp page (and in turn, you). This just involves a few steps:

  • Claim your business owner’s account ASAP. This will allow you to manage the details about your business and respond to reviews. Don’t worry, the process doesn’t involve anything crazy — in most cases, Yelp will just call the number listed on your business page and prompt you to enter a verification code.
  • Update your business information. Here, you’ll want to update as much information about your business as possible, including your address, hours of operation, whether you take reservations — anything you can add that’d be helpful. Put yourself in potential customers’ shoes — what would you want to know about your business?
  • Add photos of your business. Yelp has found that people spend 2.5x longer on business pages with photos than ones without photos. If you own a restaurant, upload some quality photos of your dishes. If your business is hard to find, take a picture of the outside so people know what to look for. And while you’re at it, make sure you upload a profile picture of yourself so customers feel more connected and assured they’re talking to a real person, not a faceless business.
  • Track your business’s performance. Claiming your account also allows you to analyze how your page is doing. Specifically, you can track pageviews, calls that came from Yelp, and clicks to your website from Yelp. Plus, you can break down the age and location of customers looking at your page.

2. Respond to reviews.

Let’s be honest: you’re probably already monitoring your page. You might as well spend a few extra minutes replying to reviews.

This is critical, as it allows potential customers to see that you’re responsive, which may make them more likely to choose you over your competitors.

As a bonus, businesses that respond to reviews may experience a 10% upgrade in average star rating, according to Yelp.


If you’re not comfortable addressing complaints on your actual page, try direct-messaging the reviewer. Of course, you shouldn’t simply ask them to take their negative review down — as we’ve learned in the case of Union Street Guest House, that tactic can quickly backfire.

Nor should you get defensive and blame the reviewer or make excuses. After taking some time to cool down (if you need it), look at the review again and figure out the best way to respond:

  • If it’s not true, politely present your side of the story without being argumentative. You can also try flagging the review and requesting that Yelp remove it. While Yelp doesn’t guarantee it’ll remove every review you flag, it doesn’t hurt to try! If you’re just starting off, just one bad review can hurt your online presence.
  • If it’s a misunderstanding, state your business’s policies, and clarify any inaccuracies. You may also want to consider apologizing for the lack of clarity or confusion, and state an effort to avoid such misunderstandings in the future.
  • If it’s a legitimate complaint, apologize, address their concerns, and explain how you’re planning on fixing the issue. Even if you think the complaint is a bit silly, don’t delegitimize their concerns.

It may not be fun, but giving a heartfelt and personalized response can actually turn your detractors into your biggest advocates.

Positive reviews

It’s just as important to respond to positive reviews as it is for negative reviews. They did take the time to recommend your business, after all! Your response doesn’t have to be a novel — just a few sentences that sincerely thank the reviewer both for their business and kind words.

One last piece of advice for both positive and negative responses: Don’t write the same message over and over again. A lazy copy-and-pasted message will remove all sincerity from even the best-written note!

Potential customers have their eyes on you, and they’ll see how much effort you put into each response. It may take a few extra minutes, but try to keep each response unique. Think of it as an investment in your company. You wouldn’t put up a crooked sign in front of your business — keep this public image just as squeaky-clean.

3. Learn from reviews.

Yelp is a great way to get a pulse on how customers feel about your company. Continue doing the things people like, and focus on improving the less-successful areas of your business. While getting a negative review is never fun, if you look at it as an opportunity to improve upon the issues people care about, everyone wins.

Bottom line

Any way you look at it, if you take a little time to invest in Yelp, it can pay off in the long run.  If your reviews are positive, it could drive new customers your way. And even if your reviews are negative, you may be able to change their opinion with a quality response. Plus, you’ll know how you can improve in the future.

It doesn’t take much to win on Yelp. As for what not to do? Just remember four words: Union Street Guest House.


Affordable business financing. Crazy fast.

Funds delivered in days, not months.

dots image

Sign up for Funding Circle newsletter!

Get our latest news and information on business finance, management and growth.

Great Review: