All businesses are on Yelp—whether they like it or not. And, true, managing your Yelp page can be quite the headache, but it can also be an excellent platform for reaching potential customers and gaining new ones.

Of course, negative reviews on Yelp are a concern. There are a few things, however, that you can do to mitigate the damage of a bad review without spending too much time.

First of all, though, don't necessarily take these reviews at face value, since a good number of them could well be fake. In fact, the occurrence of fake online reviews led one reporter to create a fake company called Freakin' Awesome Karaoke Express (FAKE), merely based on paid social reviews. The company's popularity grew quickly, even though it did not exist.

The other side of the coin is the very real, emotionally charged negative review. For many, the motivation to review a company comes from an extreme experience, most often when they feel as if they did not get their money's worth.

Dealing with such reviews is tough, but the first step is not to take any of them personally; receiving a negative Yelp review from time to time is inevitable.

Use Yelp's Tools

Though bad reviews can reflect poorly on your company and detract from you efforts to gain new customers, you can mitigate the "Yelp effect" by using the tools the platform provides:

  • If a negative review violates Yelp's guidelines, it can be reported and taken down. That doesn't happen too often, but if a review contains profanity or looks like it might be fake, report it and let Yelp deal with it. If you need help figuring out how to, and if you should report a review, read Yelp's FAQ. If you can't get the review taken down, see the next steps.
  • Yelp allows you to reply to reviews, offering you an opportunity to make amends with unhappy customers. Offering a solution for a negative reviewer might result in having the user replace the negative comment with a positive one. Moreover, making an attempt to make amends show that your company cares about its customers.

    Even if the customer responds in an angry and stubborn tone, their complaints may be disregarded by other readers. Why? Because you, as a representative of the company, acted kindly and were willing to help solve the customer's problem online. The key is that the customer was heard.

Responding to Negative Yelp Reviews

Fix the issues that commonly appear on negative Yelp reviews. Yelpers can be particular about certain aspects of a business, more so than regular patrons. If the problem is fixable, such as slow customer service or undercooked food, fix it.

After a while, Yelp reviews will improve, and the positive will dilute the negative. That will take time, but listening and acting on customer feedback is important. If the subjects of the complaints are out of your control, respond to the review on Yelp in a positive manner, and simply move on.

Be consistent in your responses. If you're going to respond to customers publicly, make sure to have a consistent tone. Use similar verbiage and tone as in all your other marketing and promotional and advertising messages to maintain a common tone of voice.

If you have yet to establish a company tone, talk it over with your business owner or executives and your marketing team to figure out the best approach. If you're going to incorporate light humor, be sure to use it consistently and appropriately. But be cautious of using humor in responding to a genuine concern a customer has expressed; doing so might add fuel to the fire.

Manage Your Yelp Page

To avoid complaints, make sure your Yelp page and website are accurate and up to date. Nothing makes a Yelper more annoyed than when a menu item is unavailable or your opening hours are misstated. The more accurate you are, the less complaints you'll receive.

If you're a new business and you don't have any photos on your Yelp page, add some professional-quality photos. Doing so makes your business appear up to date and trendy.

Every business has a Yelp page, but not a whole lot of owners take the time to update it. Simply keeping up with your Yelp page makes your business stand out.

Ultimately, your marketing team should sit down and develop a Yelp strategy. Everyone in the organization needs to be on the same page when a bad review hits, and you should know how to respond.

* * *

Once more, don't take every review to heart, and respond with a levelheaded demeanor. Reviews are usually skewed toward the happiest and unhappiest customers. The customers who are satisfied but don't make their presence known on Yelp are the silent majority.

Don't ignore Yelp, but don't let it be a crushing burden either. With a good strategy in place, your team won't have to dedicate as much time worrying about the negative reviews as they will working to benefit from the positive.

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The Yelp Effect: How to Deal With Negative Reviews

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image of Lee Evans

Lee Evans is a co-founder and the CEO of SurveyMe, provider of a mobile feedback and survey app.

LinkedIn: Lee Evans