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The love-hate relationship contractors have with Yelp

March 16, 2016
There’s no way around reputation marketing today There isn’t a magic wand you can wave to grow a positive online reputation There are some great online reputation companies out there that can help you

Let’s face it, it’s not really a love-hate relationship, more like a hate-hate relationship contractors have with Yelp. Ironically, Yelp has had a scandalous reputation itself, from allegations of bullying small businesses to its infamous filtering algorithm. On the other hand, numbers don't lie and the power of Yelp is undeniable.

According to its latest fact sheet, Yelp’s cumulative reviews contributed since inception total a staggering 95 million as of December 31, 2015. The home services category makes up 12% of those reviews. What is more interesting are the demographics of users. More than half of registered Yelp users are 35+, more than 70 percent are college educated and more than 55 percent report income over $60,000 per year.

So the question is, do you need to play the Yelp game? My answer is, 100% yes. Learn to love Yelp. It’s worth it and they won't seem like the enemy if you have a bunch of five star reviews from happy customers.

There’s no way around reputation marketing today. Google looks at online reputation as an SEO ranking factor. Your customers are influenced by online reputation and, let’s face it, if you are not there actively participating in the online review space, your competitor down the road is, and it’s costing you business. Don’t just take my word for it. Dan Hinckley of Go Fish Digital, lead a research study to determine how influential online reviews were in consumer buying habits.

Two very important pieces of data came out of that study.

  1. 67.7 percent of participants said that online reviews greatly affected their buying decisions.
  2. Businesses risked losing as many as 22 percent of customers when just one negative review was found; that percentage jumped to 59.2 percent when three or more negative reviews were found.

Check out the entire article here.

I interviewed two contractors about their reputation marketing efforts. Ed Turek, owner of Turek’s Plumbing in Applegate, Wisconsin, admits he hasn't done much to be pro-active in the online review space until now. In fact, his Yelp page is empty. Lucky for him, he hasn't had any negative reviews but he realizes it is time to actively ask for reviews from his loyal customers if he wants to be competitive online. Turek is currently onboarding a reputation marketing program called Review Buzz in order to increase his Yelp reviews.

On the other hand, Pacific Aire Inc. owner Mark Schneider has been actively working on his online reputation for over a year. His HVAC company is in an increasingly competitive market, and Mark says he can’t afford not to participate in reputation marketing. Schneider’s team has been very successful in capturing five star reviews, which has increased their online presence and, as a bonus, has helped shape a positive employee culture. Mark attributes close to one hundred leads to his Yelp listing each month.

Like most marketing efforts, there isn’t a magic wand you can wave to grow a positive online reputation. It takes a plan and commitment on everyone’s part. And if you're thinking about cheating the system and having all of your employees and their families create a bunch of fake Yelp reviews, do yourself a favor and check out this New York Times article citing 19 companies who were fined up to $350,000 for faking online reviews. It’s not worth it. Ever.

So, what do you do if you are in Ed Turek’s position and you are just getting started with reviews? First, don’t stress about it. It doesn't have to be an overwhelming task, and you don't have to pay a fortune to a reputation marketing company to get the job done. That said, there are some great online reputation companies out there that can help you, but they should meet the following criteria.

  1. You should never pay someone to post fake reviews for you. (Obviously, but still had to say it) Authenticity all the way!
  2. Reviews on your website are great, but you want to have customers leave reviews on reputation directories like Google +, Yelp, Superpages, Angie's List, etc. 
  3. Most reputable reputation companies will offer a free trial of their service. It’s smart to try them out before you commit.
  4. The process for customers to leave a review has to be simple. You will get reviews if you ask and make it easy for them. The fewer steps you ask a customer to make the better.

Last, if you don’t have a budget to hire someone to help you, try these simple tips.

  1. Change your business card design, dedicating one side of the card to creatively asking for a review.
  2. Explain to your staff how they play a vital role in marketing your business by asking for online reviews
  3. Use your post service happy call follow up as an opportunity to ask for a review
  4. Use a monthly email newsletter as a way to send a links to review sites to anyone who’s home you visited in the last 30 days.

If you have made it this far, thank you for reading. I hope you find the cited articles and my tips useful. Now, go get those reviews!

SEO expert Lauren Edvalson owns Edvalson Marketing. She previously was the marketing director of a large home services firm. She can be reached at [email protected].

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