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Is Yelp Making You Yell?

Some collision repairers claim they’re being strong-armed by the consumer review website to advertise in order for their good reviews to appear up-front.

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BSB Contributing Editor Mark Claypool has more than 30 years of experience in the fields of workforce development, apprenticeships, marketing and Web presence management with SkillsUSA, the I-CAR Education Foundation, Mentors at Work, VeriFacts Automotive and the NABC. He is the CEO of Optima Automotive (www.optimaautomotive.com), which provides website design, SEO services and social media management services.

Some describe it as an insidious outfit seeking your sponsorship dollars or else. Others say it is the best thing since sliced bread and has been working well for them. Those businesses on its side have been the defendants in many class-action lawsuits. I’m speaking, of course, of the website Yelp.

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Good and Bad
Yelp is best described as a consumer review site. Consumers create accounts and leave testimonials or reviews of businesses depending on their experience with them. They rate them with stars, one star for the worst and five stars for the best. These reviews stay online for years, which can be good and bad. However, some shop owners claim that many of their good, recent reviews get filtered out, yet their bad reviews never get filtered and seem to be at the top. Ironically, that’s when a Yelp rep stops in or calls to see if they want to become a sponsor.

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Worse yet, when someone searches for your business on Yelp and you aren’t a sponsor, a competitor may be…and their ad shows up on your page! The same Yelp rep can take care of that for you, too…if you become a sponsor. No wonder there are class-action lawsuits against this company all over the country. But Yelp has prevailed in just about every one of them.

Search Engine Results
Another negative of Yelp is that it competes for search engine result positions and often outranks shop websites. So when you Google search for your shop, it’s quite possible Yelp will come up first – unless your site is well optimized. Making this even more of an issue, recent studies show that consumers may not go beyond page one when looking for a business website, but 57 percent will go as far as page three or deeper when seeking reviews about a company – all the more reason to claim your free listings with sites like Yelp and respond to all reviews, not just negative ones.

Real-Life Stories
Here are a few stories from your peers who have had dealings with Yelp:

Robbie Berman from Robbie’s Automotive in Dover, N.J., highlights Yelp on his website, www.robbiesauto.com. Berman is hoping website visitors will review his business. However, at the time I wrote this article, all reviews had been filtered. There’s not a single review displayed on the front of his Yelp page, and all his reviews are five stars. Explain that one!

Luis Pineda, general manager of Spectrum Collision in Irvine, Calif., has seen Yelp consistently filter out all his five-star reviews. When he emailed Yelp to ask how to deal with this, they told him it was time to take out an ad.

“All they want is for me to advertise,” says Pineda. “I feel like I’m being strong-armed.”

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Daryl Banks, general manager of Bellevue Collision Care Auto Rebuild Inc. in Washington, is fed up.

“Yelp seems to go out of its way to be negative and ruthless beyond the unsolicited complaints. They tell you if you sign up as a business account, they won’t advertise your competitor on your Yelp page. Well, I’ve looked at businesses with sponsored accounts. All the good reviews are up-front, and the bad reviews are filtered out. However, go to our company’s unsponsored page and you’re greeted with old, bad reviews dating back to 2006 up-front. Then, go to our filtered reviews, where recent good ones are hidden. We shouldn’t have to fear Yelp; we’ve got enough to worry about, primarily keeping our customers and insurance companies happy.”

Banks thinks that Yelp reviews should be listed in order of date and also should be verified. He claims he has had erroneous reviews that make no sense, yet claims there’s no easy way to get Yelp to consider removing these.

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Claim Your Business
Be sure to at least claim your business on Yelp. That’s free. Control the contact information and make it entirely consistent with everything else. It needs to exactly match what is on your website, Facebook page, Google+ page, Twitter page and any other sites like Yahoo Local, CitySearch, Manta, etc. You may decide that becoming a sponsor makes sense and give it a try. That’s your call. Just be sure to track the results to make sure you’re getting a positive return on your investment.

Thank You
To all my loyal readers out there, I want to thank you for the great comments I’ve received as a result of writing this column in 2012. I have much more to share with you in 2013, so please keep reading and providing me feedback. Have a safe and wonderful holiday season!

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BSB Contributing Editor Mark Claypool has 30 years of experience in the fields of workforce development, business/education partnerships, apprenticeships and Web presence management. He is
the CEO of Optima Automotive (www.optimaautomotive.com), which provides website design, development, search engine optimization (SEO) services and social media management services. He’s also the Director of Business Development for Metro Paint Supplies in Chicago. Claypool’s work history includes VP of VeriFacts Automotive, founder of Mentors At Work (now a division of VeriFacts), executive director of the I-CAR Education Foundation and the National Auto Body Council (NABC), co-founder of the Collision Industry Foundation and national director of development for SkillsUSA. Claypool served, on a volunteer basis, as the SkillsUSA World Team Leader for the WorldSkills Championships.

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