Yelp is the world’s digital solution to phonebooks and directories. Since 2004, the online platform and mobile app have become the go-to place for consumers and businesses to find other businesses and services, including hotels. Yelp reviews play a major role in a consumer’s decision to go or not go to a business, especially local businesses while traveling.
But, many have questioned Yelp’s business practices over the years, accusing them of unethical and immoral business practices. Yelp offers different tiers of service (outlined below) one free and two paid. Yelp generates revenue through ads that display in search results and on similar business profiles. Their sales team aggressively reaches out to local business in hopes that they will buy ads.
Many business owners who decline to advertise say that weird things happen after the initial call. Positive reviews disappear, negative reviews bubble to the top, and star ratings change. A Kickstarter was launched in early March 2015 to fund a documentary entitled Billion Dollar Bully. The film aims to stop Yelp’s “mafia-like” behavior. If you click the Billion Dollar Bully link you can see a video of real business owners who claim Yelp has negatively altered their Yelp listings.
Yelp has stated multiple times, in and out of court, that they do not manipulate reviews based on advertising, but many are not convinced. The documentary is still in production and it will be interesting to see how Yelp handles the backlash.
In 2014, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco gave Yelp legal permission to change reviews for money. But, Yelp’s FAQ states several times that they never alter reviews or their order for money. Whether you believe Yelp or not, it is a good idea to take reviews with a grain of salt. As a business owner, you should claim your listing and respond to any negative or distasteful reviews promptly.
However one feels about Yelp, it is hard to deny their success. On their website, they boast about the benefits to businesses who use their service:
- A business generates an average of $8,000 annual incremental revenue after claiming it’s free Yelp Business Page
- Yelp advertisers receive an average of $23,000 after creating ads
They also offer research about how Yelp influences consumers:
- 82% of users visit Yelp with the intent to purchase from a local business
- 89% of users who make a purchase at a business they found on Yelp do so within a week
comScore rated Yelp as the #1 local/regional website and mobile app in 2014. Many people use the service. Yelp had 142 million average unique visits in Q1 2015 and 83 million unique mobile users in Q2. In comparison, Yellow Pages reports 80 million unique visitors a month between desktop and mobile. Angie’s List, a subscription based review site, had 3 million paid member households as of January 2015. Yelp’s traffic is almost double that of Yellow Pages, so while Yelp is more popular, we also suggest managing your YP listing.
Businesses, including hotels, should claim their business listings in order to take advantage of Yelp’s free services. In a previous blog post, we highlight the benefits of responding to negative reviews. After you can claim your Yelp business page, you can manage unhappy guests. And happy ones, too!
Free users are able to do the following according to Yelp’s website:
- Respond to reviews
- Update business information
- Business analytics
- Upload photos
- Mobile App
- Yelp Reservations
- Deals and gift certificates
If a business does not claim their listing, the information provided may not be accurate. Important information such as hours, policies, etc. can be easily updated once a business claims their listing.
Responding to reviews should be a high priority for any business. But, many travelers rely on Yelp to provide accurate information and reviews. In a case study provided by Yelp, the Basecamp Hotel had a 150% increase in calls through Yelp after creating ads. Yelp ads gave Basecamp primary placement in property search results in the Lake Tahoe, CA area. Ads helped the hotel generate new revenue and guests easily discover their property.
Yelp provides added functionality with their two paid service models. The self-service model provides the following added features:
- Yelp ads
- Competitor ad removal
- Call to action button
- Dedicated account manager
Some argue that the Yelp ad model is a huge liability because Yelp requires an annual contract before a business has the opportunity to experiment. These contracts often put small businesses in jeopardy because advertising budgets are neither large nor fixed. We do not recommend using any sort of advertising that cannot be tested before signing a contract, or signing any annual contract.
But, at the very least, every hotel, B&B, hostel and other business should claim their free Yelp listing in order to provide users with accurate information.
If you wish to claim your free Yelp listing or Self Service model, you can navigate to this page and search for your business’ existing page. If you would like to take advantage of their Full Service model, call Yelp at (877-767-9357). Yelp provides a landing page to help you see the initial benefits of a business account. Because it is impossible to remove a business listing from Yelp, you should claim your listing to manage reviews.
Hoteliers have the laborious task of claiming online profiles on many websites. But, if you claim your profiles and manage them well from the start, you reduce headache and extra work later.