Yelp can be a hot button for many fitness business owners and managers. Everything from responding to bad reviews, to flagging reviews for removal, to the pesky Yelp algorithm that keeps some reviews hidden – Yelp can be a source of stress for small and medium size gyms and studios, but it doesn’t have to be! Below we cover 5 Yelp tips that will eliminate some of the mystery and make your life easier in the process.
#1 - Asking for Reviews Is Okay
While Yelp discourages business owners from soliciting reviews, it is not against the terms and conditions to ask for reviews. Keep in mind Yelp strictly prohibits soliciting reviews in exchange for compensation of any kind (including free passes, swag, or discounts on memberships). This means you cannot incentivize customers for positive reviews OR incentivize customers to remove negative reviews. Here are some ways to encourage Yelp reviews:
- Setup an email to go out to new customers after their first week asking for feedback. People are the most excited the first week of starting a new exercise program and are more likely to tell everyone, on every medium.
- Place a Yelp badge on your website.
- Add a link to your Yelp business page in your email signature and/or your automated email setup in your info@ account.
- Share reviews on Facebook and Twitter.
#2 - The Yelp Review Filter Simplified
Have you ever gone to your gym’s Yelp page and scrolled all the way to the bottom “not recommended” section?
This Yelp Review Filter can be the most frustrating part of Yelp. Of all the reviews that come into Yelp, you lose 1/3 or more to the filter. We’ve started working with gyms that had 75% of their reviews in the “not recommended” section. This can obviously be a good and bad thing. Negative, angry rants with 1-star can be hidden, but so can glowing 5-star reviews. This “not recommended” section is continually changing, so if there is a great 5-star review in there, it may eventually show in the recommended reviews section.
According to Yelp, “Every Yelp review is automatically evaluated by Yelp’s recommendation software based on quality, reliability, and user activity on Yelp.” What does this mean for your gym or studio? If you all of a sudden ask all your members to review your business, Yelp will see this as possible spam. If you get an influx of reviews by new Yelp profiles that are incomplete or haven’t reviewed other businesses, these reviews my get filtered out. Check out Yelp’s explanation of their filter video for more details. Of course occasionally legitimate reviews are hidden often, which leads to our next tip…
#3 - How to Flag Reviews, Ask for Re-Reviews, and Get Reviews Un-Filtered
There are a few different approaches for taking control (as much as you can) of your Yelp reputation. The most straight forward way is by engaging customers who write great reviews to let them know their review is hidden. Don’t make a big ordeal out of it, just let them know that because they aren’t very active on Yelp, their great review is hidden. In addition to this, you and your staff can friend them on Yelp, mark their review useful or cool – this adds legitimacy.
Another approach is to flag for a number of reasons including: untrue statements, membership or billing issues, or violates Yelp’s Content Guidelines. If you find that your flagged review will not be removed (you will receive an email with the status update) you do have the option to escalate your claim to be re-reviewed. Of course, the success rate here is much lower and you’ll need a very compelling argument to get Yelp to overturn their original decision.
#4 - Do Not Ignore Negative Reviews
As much as you may feel the urge to ignore negative comments, or even get upset by them – don’t! Be quick when responding to negative reviews – within 2-4 days, be respectful and diplomatic in your responses. This will diffuse the situation, show your great customer services skills, put prospects reading negative reviews at ease, and can possibly persuade the reviewer to change their review later.
#5 - Your Yelp Rating Is More Important Than Advertising with Yelp
Sales Reps at Yelp can be quite aggressive, but is their sales pitch really worth exploring? Based on fitness studios and gyms we’ve worked with, we can tell you that your overall rating is much more important than advertising when it comes to ROI.
Advertising on Yelp will get you to the top of the list in your geographic area, but it won’t help if you have a low overall rating. If you are planning to go ahead with Yelp advertising – try out the Yelp Check-In Offers. It’ll be much easier to identify ROI using this form of Yelp advertising.
Start with the above Yelp tips and see how it helps your business grow. If you haven’t done so already – claim your Yelp business page, upload some pictures, begin asking customers to give you feedback, and be responsive to any negative complaints. Don’t forget to make sure you are recording referral sources, so you know how many new customers are coming in because of Yelp reviews.
Need help managing your online reputation? SWETI Services is a fitness marketing agency that provides a full suite of marketing services designed to help fitness businesses stand out, grow, and get more customers in the door! Want more tips to improve your marketing? Join our free weekly fitness marketing eTips.