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How’s Your Yelp? What YOU need to know about on-line reviews

June 5, 2012

How's your YELP? The answer could either be helping or hindering your business. Yelp is an on-line review site which allows consumers to post reviews about local businesses. According to the company's website, it has more than 25 million local reviews written by "Yelpers" in 13 countries.

"Yelpers" assign one to five stars to a business, based on their experience with that business. The more stars, the better. But what happens when your business receives a harshly negative review? How you respond to such a review can either strengthen or sink your business.

Back in January, a media maelstrom erupted when Boner's BBQ in Atlanta posted a fiery and profanity-laced reply to and a lengthy and negative Yelp review. It was picked up and disseminated worldwide. While this may be a single incident, it more than amplifies how a bad response from a business to a negative review can generate a mountain of bad publicity, and worse yet, unwanted media attention.

Reviewer Extortion:
Recently news stories have aired about unscrupulous consumers who are shaking down businesses for free gift cards in exchange for not posting negative, even false information about their experience at the business. While this "trend" appears to be occurring mostly in California, you can bet that it may likely spread to other areas of the country.

How Do You Handle A Bad Review?
1) Take a deep breath. Sort out the truth from the fiction in the review. It's impossible to please all the people all the time. It's how you take care of the complaint that matters.
2) Investigate. How many reviews has the person written? Are they all negative? It will give you insight into the type of person you are dealing with.
3) Contact the reviewer by private message and try and deal with the situation that way.
4) Answer the review factually and with sincerity. If your business "sucked", don't make excuses. Admit the faux pox, apologize and explain what you are doing to prevent a re-occurrence. Don't argue with the reviewer. Instead, state where the review is mistaken.
5) Monitor Yelp, Super YellowPages, etc. regularly. Own your review site by clicking on the Unlock This Business button. Update your all of your on-line sites very regularly.


  • Don‘t wait until you get a negative review to figure out how to respond to it. Have a contingency plan in place. Make sure that you, the business owner are the ONLY one who responds to bad reviews.
  • Unlock your Yelp review page. Own it, monitor it, become a regular responder to reviews, both good and bad.
  • Read Digital Assassins by reputation experts Richard Torrenzano and Mark Davis. Their book provides detailed how-to information practicable for any business owner.
  • If you're too busy, hire a reputation monitoring firm to help keep track of your on-line business reputation.

On-line reviews are part of today's business world. They're both a blessing and a curse. How you respond to the reviews about your business are every bit as important as how you treat customers in your store.