« Yelp Engineers Get a Blog! | Main | Sneak Peak at Yelp Deals »

August 13, 2010

Don't Ask for Reviews.

Picture 55notwitterlogo
(Please don't do this.)


Yelp is a website where people read and write reviews about their favorite local businesses. Therefore, it might seem counter-intuitive that we actually discourage business owners from asking their customers to write reviews.


Why would an online review site discourage review solicitation?

Two big reasons:

1. Would-be customers might not trust you. Let’s face it, most business owners are only going to solicit reviews from their happy customers, not the unhappy ones. Over time, these self-selected reviews create intrinsic bias in the business listing -- a bias that savvy consumers (read: yelpers) can smell from a mile away. No business is perfect, and it’s impossible to please 100% of your customers 100% of the time.

2. The solicited reviews may get filtered, and that will drive you crazy. Solicited reviews often get filtered by our automated review filter. Why do these reviews sometimes get filtered? Well, we have the unfortunate task of trying to help our users distinguish between real and fake reviews, and while we think we do a pretty good job at it with our fancy computer algorithms, the harsh reality is that solicited reviews often fall somewhere in between. Imagine, for example, the business owner who “solicits” a review by sticking a laptop in front of a customer and smilingly invites her to write a review while he looks over her shoulder. We don’t need these kinds of reviews, so it shouldn’t be a surprise when solicited reviews get filtered.      

Yelp exists to connect people with great local businesses. We do this by providing people with as much trustworthy information as we can. If consumers don’t trust our content, people stop using Yelp, and everyone loses: consumers don’t have a resource they can trust to make spending decisions, would-be customers stop visiting your business listing.

There’s no silver bullet for a great reputation: the best way to succeed on Yelp is by focusing on great customer service (building out a robust business listing using biz.yelp.com’s free tools also doesn’t hurt).

There is a way to let your customers know you’re on Yelp without being overly solicitous.

The power of word-of-mouth is that folks generally trust recommendations when they occur as part of an organic process.  There is an important distinction between “Hey, write a review about me on Yelp,” [BAD] and “Hey, check us out on Yelp!” [GOOD]. It’s the difference between actively pursuing testimonials and simply creating awareness of your business through social media outlets.

The latter allows consumers to vet your online reputation without feeling like they’re being solicited. To an established Yelp community member, a reminder of your Yelp presence can act like a dog-whistle prompting them to share their feedback about your business with fellow Yelpers.

Here are three ways to remind customers on Yelp without being overly solicitous:

1. Stick a “Find us on Yelp” image on your website and/or print it out for your front counter or window. These have even been spotted on business-branded vehicles. All of these images are available via our Flickr (image sharing) page.*

2. Include a link to your Yelp business listing in your email signature with the words, “Check us out on Yelp!”

3. Embed a badge on your website. This handy widget can help you generate the necessary code to do this.


* - A word from the lawyers: “Please don’t alter these images or imply sponsorship, endorsement, or false association with Yelp! Inc.”