Yelp doesn’t have to be a 4 letter word: Why Yelp is a necessary evil and how to embrace it
Ask any small business owner their feelings on Yelp and you will likely be on the receiving end of some impassioned and largely negative opinions. In fact, many of the practice owners and managers we’ve talked to have abandoned their efforts to work with Yelp in any capacity out of sheer frustration. We often hear frustrations around the company’s lack of transparency and suspicions that they are a pay-to-play operation.
The problem is… your business listing on Yelp is providing a huge amount of web and phone traffic to your practice, which can translate to dollars. New client acquisition is incredibly important to veterinary practices, especially in today’s competitive landscape, and Yelp can play a significant role in it. In this series of Practice Edge posts, we’ll examine Yelp’s business practices, explain how to play by their rules, and suggest best practices and next steps for driving traffic and business using Yelp’s platform.
We’re not proposing you allocate thousands of dollars per month to Yelp advertising, or hire one of those “reputation management” firms that pepper your general inbox with inquiries, but it is worthwhile to understand how you can utilize your Yelp presence to drive traffic to your practice and dollars to your bottom line.
In this week’s series of Practice Edge posts, we’ll explore three topics relating to Yelp specifically:
- Tuesday: Why Yelp is a necessary evil
- Wednesday: The 3 things you should know about the inner workings of Yelp’s platform
- Thursday: Our suggestions for leveraging Yelp to drive business to your practice
Section 1: Why Yelp is a necessary evil
Yelp plays an incredibly influential role in today’s consumer landscape. While veterinary practices first and foremost provide clinical care, we can’t lose sight of the fact that they are also still business-to-consumer operations. Your practice’s Yelp listing may have implications that go far beyond what you’ve ever considered in terms of your online presence overall.
- Online reviews are incredibly important to the consumer decision making process
In 2017, 85% of consumers surveyed in BrightLocal’s Annual Local Consumer Review Study said they trusted online reviews as much as recommendations from friends and family members. Think about that; we now trust strangers online as much as we trust our loved ones! 97% of those consumers had looked online for a local business in the last year. BrightLocal conducts this study every year, and the numbers increasingly underscore the importance of online reviews, but Yelp most specifically, as respondents highlighted it and Facebook as their most trusted review sites in 2017.
- Yelp & Google go together like Peanut Butter & Jelly
Yelp has done an excellent job optimizing all of their individual business pages for Google, which simply means that when someone Googles your practice they will (hopefully!) see your website first, and your Yelp page second. They’ve also done a great job of making those two links look similar, so a consumer won’t necessarily know they are clicking on a Yelp page and not your website unless they are looking at the URL (spoiler alert: they aren’t.) Regardless, it’s an all-boats-rise-with-the-tide situation – it’s good that Yelp is pushing your business listing to the top of Google’s rankings, and it’s a boon to the argument that you need to be paying attention to what’s happening on your Yelp page.
Try It: Do a search for “Animal Hospital [your town name]” in Google. Do a lot of competitor pages show up before your page? Do Yelp directory pages show up before your listing (ie: 10 best Animal Hospitals in [Town Name])? If so, this might be an indicator that it could be worthwhile to throw some money at Yelp advertising (see Thursday’s post for suggestions.)
Spending advertising dollars with Yelp impacts your position on these Yelp directory pages. Look at it as a bit of a workaround for Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Instead of wading into Google’s murky waters to try and increase your organic Google ranking (which is a whole OTHER dragon to slay), you can advertise with Yelp rather cheaply and add an inroad to your website without doing much work to optimize your results in Google.
Come back tomorrow to learn a little bit more about how it all works and the best ways to drive a steady stream of reviews on your Yelp page.