Yelp Now Showing Review Summaries on Business Pages

If your business has more than about 10 Yelp reviews, Yelp now will try to summarize them in 2-3 sentence-long blurbs at the top of your page.

This appears to be new.  At least for Yelp.  Google’s been showing the same kinds of summaries for over 2 1/2 years.

Unlike with Google’s review-sentiment summaries, Yelp lets you see at least some of how the sausage is made.  If a specific keyword appears often enough in the (unfiltered) reviews, it will probably end up in a sentiment snippet.

Click on one of the blue hyperlinked keywords and you’ll see where in the reviews Yelp grabbed that word.  Similarly if you click on one of the gray “# reviews” links; Yelp will show you which specific reviews it bred together to beget the review-sentiment  lovechild.

Keywords in reviews have always seemed (in my experience) to help your local SEO in indirect ways.  They affect your reputation – or at least the “first impression” – in obvious ways.  Add another way.

I’m guessing Yelp rolled out these summaries as a way to make large bodies of reviews easier to digest for users of the mobile app.  In theory it may also be of minor use when you’re looking at a business with hundreds of reviews, though in a case like that I doubt Yelp’s summaries will satisfy most people.

I’m sure there’s also a monetization scheme stuck to the bottom of the other shoe.

When did you start noticing Yelp’s review summaries?

Why do you think they’re doing it?

Good thing or bad thing

Leave a comment!

Review Strategy for Enterprise Local SEO: How Big Brands Can Survive the Reviews Revolution

Last week I spoke at the Brandify Summit in LA.  Great event and great audience – full of people who run the local SEO for big companies (e.g. Wal-Mart, Disney, Walgreen’s).

I talked about how most big companies are awful at encouraging reviews, and how they can learn from the smartest small-to-medium businesses.  You can benefit from my review-strategy suggestions no matter how big or small your business is.  Here’s my slide deck:

Be sure to check out the further reading in my second-to-last slide (#47).

By the way, if you found that useful, you’ll love this post.

Any questions?

Any slides that weren’t clear?

Favorite strategy suggestions?

Leave a comment!

Review-Site Sitelinks Just Got More Local?

You might be doing well on reviews, but can you see your business when you search for the review site?

More so than I’ve ever seen before, Google’s showing specific local businesses in the sitelinks when I just type in “Yelp,” for example.

I also see specific businesses show up when I search for Urbanspoon – sorry, Zomato.

I’m not seeing this when I search for most other review sites, and I’ve mostly seeing restaurants so far, but it appears you don’t have to be a restaurant to get one of these sitelinks.

The common thread I’ve seen so far is these places all have a decent number of reviews.  Also, the jewelry store in the sitelink is BBB-accredited, which helps its prominence in BBB.org, and may in one way or another make it more likely to show up to nearby people as a sitelink.

City-specific sitelinks have shown up for several years, but this is the first I’m seeing of sitelinks that (1) are specific to the city you’re searching in and (2) are for specific local businesses.

I am seeing the same results on mobile.

I’m not seeing those sorts of sitelinks in Bing, though:

bing-yelp-sitelinks

It seems recent, Google-specific, non-device-specific, and most noticeable in search results for Yelp.

If you’ve got a good reputation on a given review site, this could be party time.

Have you been noticing more business-specific sitelinks when you search for a review site?  If so, on which site(s)?

Besides getting reviews, what do you think a business needs to do to show up there as a sitelink?

What do you make of this, in general?

Leave a comment!

Yelp Shows Phone Numbers in Local Search Results

Either Yelp or Google – or some combination thereof – has decided your phone number should show up in the search results, rather than just on your Yelp listing.

Here’s how a typical listing might have appeared until recently:

And here it is now:

As you can see, the phone number appears in the description tag.  In this case, the description is dynamically generated by Google (Yelp didn’t add the phone number to the description tag).  What’s not clear to me yet is whether Yelp recently made any markup changes to its listings that might have encouraged Google to stick the phone number into the description tag.

I can’t chalk it up to, “Well, now Google just likes to show phone numbers from local directories.”  I’m not seeing phone numbers in BBB or YellowPages or other directory results.

My guess is that Yelp wanted this.  Wouldn’t a call-tracking number in Yelp’s super-visible search results be a nice way for Yelp to “prove” its value as an advertising medium to business owners?

They’re not encouraging higher click-through by giving searchers more info in the search results.  So the phone number would have to pull some weight right there in the SERPs – if this change is intentional and part of a plan to boost ad revenue.

That’s my best guess, anyway.

When did you first notice phone numbers in Yelp search results?

Does the source code tell you anything about how Yelp might have encouraged Google to insert the phone number dynamically into the description tags?

How do you think this might help Yelp – and help or hurt business owners?

Leave a comment!

Why Send Good Customers to Crappy Review Sites?

https://www.flickr.com/photos/kim_scarborough/687997996/

Isn’t that a huge waste?

Think of how hard you worked to learn your craft, start your business, stay in business, get customers, and do a great job for them and earn those positive reviews.

That’s why it’s stupid not to ask for online reviews.  That’s even stupider than Stone Cold.  You’re missing half the payoff.

But isn’t it equally dumb to get reviews on sites most people ignore?  When there are Big Boys like Google, Facebook, and Yelp, why on earth would you ask a happy customer to go to a YellowPages or a SuperPages or a CitySearch to write a review?

Well, there are some reasons you shouldn’t overlook the smaller, less-prominent, less-glamorous review sites.  You should work them into your larger review strategy.  Here’s why:

1. They corroborate your reviews on sites where it’s harder to get reviews. Let’s say you’re killing it on Google, but you look like a one-hit wonder because you’re not doing as well on Yelp.  Getting reviews on other sites that rank well when you search for your business by name will make the Google reviews look less like flukes, and may make the bad Yelp reviews look more like the whiny exceptions.

2.  You’ll get more review stars showing up when potential customers search for you by name. Even if they don’t click through to your YellowPages listing (for example), good reviews there add to the overall effect of, “Hey, these guys have consistently solid reviews.”

3.  They’re easy backup options, for customers who don’t want to bother with Yelp or Google. Many sites even allow reviewers to log in with Facebook, rather than create a separate account just to review you on a given site.  Also, Yelp and Google are the only sites that really filter reviews (Yelp much more so than Google).  You don’t want to send everyone into the meat grinder.

4.  You can repurpose those “easy” reviews as testimonials on your site. That is OK, even on Yelp.  They won’t get filtered.

5.  You can include badges on your site that link to your reviews on the overlooked review sites.

6.  You’re more likely to rank well in those sites, which themselves often rank well in Google for relevant keywords. You might cultivate a little stream of non-Google referral traffic.

7.  You can always ask if they’ll post the same review on another, slightly more difficult site – like Google – where you’d like more reviews. I mean, they’ve already written the thing.  It’s the online-reviews equivalent of an upsell.

8.  There’s a small chance that reviews on “easy” sites help your Google rankings. I don’t know one way or the other (and neither do you), so please take that comment with a grain of salt.  I’m simply saying it’s possible.  Stranger things have happened.

9.  Those sites may become more important in the future.

10.  Sometimes the alternative is to get no reviews at all.

11.  Some customers might actually care about reviews on CitySearch or DexKnows or MerchantCircle.

12.  As Aaron Weiche of GetFiveStars pointed out, you’ll want to create the maximum “wow” effect when customers search for the name of your business + “reviews.” For that matter, even the overlooked sites often rank well when customers search for a specific keyword + “reviews.” It’s just smart barnacle SEO.

Do you agree it’s worth peeling off at least a few customers to review you on sites other than the Big Boys?

What’s your favorite under-appreciated review site?

Why do you like it?

Leave a comment!

Yelp Elite Saga Ends in Blaze of Glory

After 3 years as an “Elite” Yelper, I get this email out of the blue:

I’m only surprised by how long it took them to wisen up.  My Yelping was an experiment from the very beginning.  Also, since my profile has had a link to my site from day one.

Of course, their “conflict of interest” concern is ridiculous in my case. An unethical business owner wouldn’t need to be “Elite” to sabotage his or her competitors’ reputations. And if being “Elite” makes them better able to do so, I’ve laid out the rhyme and reason to that program. Unethical business owners could easily do it, and Yelp’s either unable or unwilling to stop them.

Which one of my deep crawls into Yelp’s rotting guts got their attention?

Yelp Elite for 3 Years with Only 66 Reviews: How?

How to Bulk-Identify Prime Yelp Reviewers with Yelp’s “Find Friends” Feature in 7 Easy Steps

New Spammy Emails from Yelp to Business Owners

20+ Depressing Observations about Yelp Reviews

Can You Repurpose Customers’ Yelp Reviews on Your Website? An Answer from Yelp HQ

Yelp Monetizes the Description?

Yelp Ranking Factors

(Yes, there are even more.)

I’ll keep reviewing businesses from time to time.  I’ll also continue to use Yelp as my little laboratory, and share with you everything I discover about how the sausage is made.

In the meantime, let us join in a glorious death-scream.

What are some questions you’d like me to explore next, as part of the ongoing “Yelp experiment”?  Leave a comment!

How to Bulk-Identify Prime Yelp Reviewers with Yelp’s “Find Friends” Feature in 7 Easy Steps

https://www.flickr.com/photos/digislides/6066906966/

You may know about Yelp’s “Find Friends” feature, which allows you to see whether specific customers (or other people) have joined Yelp.  This is a great way to encourage customers to write you a review, in a non-pushy way.

You may even know there’s a way to look up customers en masse.  You can connect Yelp to Facebook…

…or you can connect Yelp to your email account…

…and it will show you all your contacts who have Yelp accounts.

But you might run into problems, especially if you go the Facebook route:

Problem 1: You’ll have a bunch of non-customers among your email contacts or Facebook “friends.”  You don’t want reviews from them, and you don’t want to burn up a bunch of time on vetting your list.

Problem 2: Yelp will only give you a way to contact them in Yelp – in a message you can send customers if you add them as a friend – when you may prefer to send them an email.

Problem 3: You might want to be organized about how you contact Yelper-customers: you may want their full names next to their email addresses, next to some notes on their jobs, next to date you sent your first email or added them as a friend, etc.

It may sound like a pain, but working off a list of your customers’ email addresses is the only way (that I know of) to look up a long list of customers.

I recently vetted a list of 2500+ customers for one of my clients.  What could have taken me or someone else 10 hours ended up taking only a little over an hour, with some fancy footwork.

I suggest using my bulk-lookup approach if you’ve got more than about 100 customers on your list.  With fewer than that, it’s quicker just to customers’ email addresses one at a time

A couple other people have written about this – there’s a mediocre Wikihow post here and a decent post here – but they leave out some crucial details that may mean the difference between wasting time and saving time.

Eduard de Boer of Whitespark (and a key part of the LocalSpark service I offer jointly with Whitespark) also has an effective, somewhat different method that involves Yahoo mail instead of Gmail.

But Yelp doesn’t want you to ask for reviews, you say.  You don’t want to run afoul of their rules, you say.  Well, to that I reply:

  • Yelp’s “don’t ask” rule is stupid.
  • Yelp doesn’t filter reviews you asked for; it filters reviews based primarily on how many reviews someone’s written. Yelp doesn’t trust reviewers who’ve written no or just a couple reviews.
  • What you choose to do with the info you gather is up to you. Maybe none of your customers is an active Yelper, or maybe they’re all grumps who never give a business more than 3 stars.  But if you’ve identified some solid Yelpers, you can ask them point-blank for a Yelp review, or give them a nudge, or just say you’d love a review somewhere, or not ask at all.  Your call.

Anyway, here’s a quick summary of the steps to do a clean and efficient bulk “Find Friends” lookup:

Step 1: Create a spreadsheet of all your customers’ email addresses and first and last names, and save it as a CSV file.

Step 2: Create a new Gmail address to use strictly for Yelper-hunting.

Step 3: Import your CSV file of contacts into Gmail.

Step 4: Log into your personal Yelp account OR create a new personal Yelp account.

Step 5: Go to “Find Friends” and sync with Gmail.

Step 6: Scour the list of Yelper-customers and note down anyone who’s written more than 5 reviews.

Step 7: Decide whom to contact, and contact them.

Still not 100% clear on the steps?  Here’s much more detail:

Step 1:

Create a spreadsheet of all your customers’ email addresses and first and last names, and save it as a CSV file.

The first names should be in column A, the last names in column B, and the emails in column C.

Again, make sure to save it as a .csv.

On the off-chance you’ve got more than 4200 contacts you should break up your list into two CSV files.  Yelp can process up to about 4200 contacts, but chokes if you try more than that at once.

Don’t have your customers’ email addresses?  Unless you’re Starbucks and don’t even know their names, not having those emails is madness.  Come back when you’re serious about marketing.

Step 2:

Create a new Gmail address to use strictly for Yelper-hunting.

It needs to be a dedicated Gmail address so that you don’t run non-customers through Yelp’s “Find Friends” lookup.  I’m sure your college roommate and Aunt Ruth would be glad to put in a good word for you on Yelp, but that’s not what we’re trying to accomplish here.

Step 3:

Import your CSV file of contacts into Gmail.

First click the “Gmail” tab in the upper-left, then “Contacts,” then “Import.”  Then select “CSV or vCard file.”

If asked, choose to import from “old” Google Contacts.

Click “Import Contacts” (on the left).  Upload the CSV file you created in step 1, so Gmail imports that list of customers.

Once the import is done, stay logged into this Gmail account.

Step 4:

Log into your personal Yelp account OR create a new personal Yelp account.

It needs to be a personal Yelp account, not a business account (the kind you create at biz.yelp.com), because there is no “Find Friends” feature in a business account.

If you’re doing this on behalf of someone else (e.g. a client or employer) it’s fine to use your personal account, because you don’t need to contact any customers through Yelp, or even actually add them as friends.  All you need to do is identify who the active Yelpers are, so you can match them to names and emails on your spreadsheet.

But if you do want to “friend” them – as your initial way to contact them or as a friendly follow-up – you’ll probably want to set up a separate personal Yelp account and use that here.


Step 5:

Go to “Find Friends” and sync with Gmail.

Make sure you’re still logged into the Gmail account you created in step 2.

Once you click the option for Gmail, just wait a minute.  As I mentioned, Yelp will be able to process a list of roughly 4200.  If you’ve got more than 4200 contacts, make sure you’ve split it up into two or more CSV lists, as I described in step 1.  Compete steps 6-7 for the first list, and hold off on processing the other(s) until later.


Step 6:

Scour the list of Yelper-customers and note down anyone who’s written more than 5 reviews.

Why only pay attention to people who’ve written more than 5 reviews?  Because Yelp usually filters reviews written by people who’ve written no reviews or just a couple.  I’ve found that Yelp starts “trusting” reviewers more after about 5-10 reviews.

Anyway, what I’d do is add another column to your spreadsheet – one with the number of reviews each customer has written.  Put “13” next to Nick, and “675” next to Jim and Suzanne, and so forth.  Again, I wouldn’t bother with any people who’d written fewer than 5 reviews.

So no your spreadsheet should look like this:


Step 7:

Decide whom to contact, and contact them.

Only now can you can decide exactly what to do with those contacts.  What I’d do is prune the list a little.  That means you:

  • Cross off anyone you think had a mediocre-to-poor experience with you. (If you haven’t done so already, you should probably contact them to see what you can do to make things better.)
  • Read at least some of your customers’ reviews of other businesses. Cross off any clearly grumpy reviewers.  Don’t contact people who seem stingy with stars or who gripe too much about minutiae.
  • Contact people who already reviewed you on Yelp, but whose reviews got filtered. Thank them, and ask them to consider posting a review (maybe the same one) somewhere else.

(By the way, if you had more than 4200 contacts and had to break up the list into more than one CSV file, now you’ll want to process the remaining contacts. First log into the Gmail account you created specifically for friend-finding, and delete all the contacts you just processed in Yelp.  Then import into Gmail another batch of them (up to 4200) and repeat steps 4-7.)

Your list is probably pretty short by now – which is good, because it’s payday.  Here’s where I’d send each active Yelper on your list a quick email, in which you ask for a review.

If you’re going to be a goody two-shoes about it, you don’t need to ask specifically for a Yelp review; if you just ask these customers for a review somewhere, it’s likely they’ll pick Yelp by default.

Keep the email short, but as personalized as possible.  Try to allude to the specific job you did: “I hope you’re enjoying your new ___” or “It was a pleasure helping you to ___ your ___” or whatever seems appropriate

If you want, include a link to your “Review Us” page.

Congrats.  You’ve smelted tons of ore into gold, and you’ll probably get some nice Yelp reviews out of the deal (especially if you apply my basic strategy and troubleshooting tips).

Any first-hand experience with finding and contacting “friends” on Yelp?  What were your results in terms of reviews?

Any questions?

Leave a comment!

Yelp Elite for 3 Years with Only 66 Reviews: How?

I like to support local businesses that I want to stay in business, I love to write, and as an SEO I must experiment every now and then.

That’s why in spring of 2013 I started crawling around in Yelp’s guts, as just another local reviewer.  I’d written a couple reviews on Yelp a few years earlier, before I even knew about the filter, so those reviews never saw the light of day.  By 2013, I wanted to understand the filter better, mostly so I could help my clients put together a review strategy that didn’t just send perfectly good reviews into the grinder.

I learned some useful tidbits, like that a 3-star review is more likely to stick than a 5-star (even if written by a new, less-“trusted” Yelper), that the first review of a business is more likely to stick, and that it typically takes about 10 reviews – spread out over several months – for Yelp to stop filtering your reviews.

But things only got interesting once I accidentally became an “Elite” Yelper.

It wasn’t part of my intended experiment, nor do I have a particular fondness of Yelp.

It was also a surprise, because although there are people who’ve written hundreds of reviews who aren’t “Elite,” most EYs have written hundreds.

But then I get the nomination email in February 2014, after I’d written only 26 Yelp reviews in 2013 – for a lifetime total of 26 reviews.

I wrote those 26 reviews in a span of 8 months.

I kept up the reviews throughout 2014, but only wrote 20 that year.  Good enough for “Elite” again.

Same deal in 2015: only 20 reviews again (purely by coincidence).  Still an EY.

So even though I’ve never attended the little “Elite Squad” parties, have shown zero interest in becoming part of the “community,” rarely compliment or “friend” local reviewers, and have written only 66 reviews, they’ve kept me around for 3 years now.

Clearly becoming an EY doesn’t have much to do with quantity of reviews.  Or length or detail: most of my reviews are maybe 2-4 short paragraphs. 

So what factors do determine who gets the dubious title of “Elite” Yelp reviewer?  Yelp won’t tell you much.  But there are 7 factors that I’ve noticed (so far):

Factor 1: Reviewing some of the same businesses your “community manager” has reviewed.

Particularly places he or she likes and that you like.   I suspect this is the only person who nominates “Elite” Yelpers, so if you write a zinger review of a restaurant or some other place your CM likes, all of a sudden you’re on your CM’s radar, and you’re kindred spirits.  That didn’t even occur to me until I after I reviewed one of my favorite restaurants, which my CM also happens to like and frequent, at which point she sent me a Yelp “compliment” on my review.

Factor 2: Quality over quantity.

This one’s tough.  I’m not saying to channel your inner Tolstoy.  Many Yelpers get into narcissistic amounts of detail that nobody wants to read.  But it’s hard to pump out tons of reviews that still manage to be helpful, and it’s even harder to pump out reviews that people (especially a “community manager”) will enjoy.

One way to keep your reviews helpful – and sometimes funnier than you’d expect – is to review really boring businesses, which usually makes you dig deep to think about what you can possibly say.

Factor 3: Humor.

This one’s the toughest.  But even if your humor is the corniest since Roger Moore played 007, I’m tempted to say it doesn’t matter.

All that seems to matter is whetheryour “community manager” likes your reviews, and whether you get lots of “votes,” or if maybe even a “Review of the Day.”  Which leads me to the next point….

Factor 4: “Votes.”

Whenever someone labels one of your reviews as “Useful,” “Funny,” or “Cool,” that’s good (at least as far as Yelp is concerned).

Factor 5: Be the first to review some businesses.

Yelp wants to enhance its data on local businesses.  Also, once a business gets a review, Yelp has an occasion to call the owner and pitch ads as a way to keep the good times rolling.  Who better to carry out those two tasks than some chump who’s willing to write about local businesses for free?

Factor 6: Your re-nomination pitch.

If you’ve written at least a few reviews in the year, around Thanksgiving Yelp will email you to ask whether you’d like to remain “Elite.”

They’ll ask you to send in a pitch if you’re interested.  The substance and length are up to you.

You’ll want to put thought and creativity into this.  It shouldn’t necessarily be a rational argument.  Write it as you would one of your Yelp reviews – in the same voice (especially if that voice squeaks with corny humor).  Except this time you’re reviewing yourself.

 

Factor 7: Keep writing reviews even after you re-nominate yourself.

You’ll hear back around early January if you’re still “in.”  So from roughly Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day you’ll probably want to rip out a couple of reviews, just so the powers-that-be can see how much you care about Yelping and that you have no life.

Speaking of which, at this point you – a business owner or local SEO – might be wondering:

God, what a dweeb this guy is.  I don’t even like Yelp, and who cares who becomes an “Elite” reviewer?  I want my 10 minutes back.

Well, it’s important to understand how Yelp works if you want to get good reviews there.  For better or for worse, there is a huge human factor to Yelp.  Also, if for whatever reason you want to become an “Elite” Yelper yourself, any time you submit an edit or flag a review, they’re a little more likely to act on your suggestions.

Or maybe you’re just a curious cat, like me.

Have “Elite” Yelp reviewers affected your business in any way?

Any questions or relevant experiences?

Leave a comment!

Yelp Monetizes the Description?

Justin Mosebach of YDOP has noticed a new paid offering in some of his multi-location clients’ Yelp dashboards: the ability to add a description with “Specialties, History, Meet the Owner/Manager, Business Recommendations.”

Whoa, whoa…hold on: haven’t those kinds of business descriptions been showing up for years now on free Yelp listings?  Yes.  But the prompt to “contact Yelp sales” to add one appears to be new, which suggests that Yelp might be phasing out free rich descriptions for new listings.  Existing descriptions will probably be grandfathered in and stay put, at least for a while.

A few notes from Justin, based on a few questions I asked him:

1. He first noticed this on Friday.

2. It’s not showing up in all clients’ dashboards.

3. He didn’t use Yelp’s bulk-upload feature here.

4. He found a loophole / workaround to get a rich description for a new listing up for free.  (Justin asked that I not post it and prompt Yelp to close the loophole.)

Are you seeing this offer?  If so, when did you first notice it?

Have you noticed any other changes in Yelp?

Leave a comment!

 

New Spammy Emails from Yelp to Business Owners

I’ve seen Yelp’s advertising pitches and other pitches for years.  But this email I just got from Yelp HQ this afternoon is new:

The link just takes me to my business dashboard, where I see Yelp’s estimate of traffic to my Yelp page, clicks-through to my site, and their “revenue estimate” of how much money that traffic supposedly got me.

It seems like just another nudge to get you to pay for ads – and to pay for them now, before your link expires in 6 days (!).  Not too surprising, given Yelp’s recent struggles.

I like Yelp as a consumer, but hate it as an SEO and as a business owner.  This email isn’t going to endear Yelp to most people, although it may yield Yelp a little advertising lucre.

Have you received an email like this?  If so, when?

Do you think this is just another ad push?

Leave a comment!