Incentivized Check-ins: A “White-Hat” Trick For Getting More Reviews On Yelp

  • Yelp will prompt users to write reviews after an offer-driven check-in.


    At the LSA-SMX West Local Search Advantage Workshop this week, Yelp’s Luther Lowe offered a number of “white hat tips” for marketers on reputation management and reviews. There was one gem that I was totally unaware of: “incentivized check-ins” can help generate Yelp reviews.

    Yelp’s influence and footprint are substantial and growing. The company now feeds content and reviews to Apple Maps, Bing, Yahoo and elsewhere.

    However Yelp’s strict “no review solicitation” policy has left many marketers and local business owners frustrated and even angry. And Yelp’s “review filter” practices have been the subject of lawsuits and numerous unproven conspiracy theories.

    Yelp check-in offer

    Unlike with reviews themselves, Yelp allows for incentivized check-ins (“check-in offers”). Here’s the trick I didn’t know: if users check in to receive an offer, they are prompted by Yelp to review that business upon their return to the site or mobile app. Users must be signed in for this to work however.

    Below an example screen: “your next review awaits.”

    Yelp review prompt

    As a practical matter Yelp is allowing business owners to create a pre-review reward for users, who then are asked to review that business. While Yelp doesn’t allow businesses to create rewards directly for reviews, this is an indirect version of that.

    For businesses with few Yelp reviews this appears to be a good strategy to generate reviews, which are more likely than not to be favorable — coming off the incentive or offer. As a statistical matter I don’t know if that’s true however. I also don’t have any data on what percentage of check-in offers translate into reviews.

    Yelp partly wants business owners to encourage check-ins because it helps Yelp prove value and usage. (If anyone has used this approach to generate reviews let us know what you’ve seen and whether it’s effective.)

    As Yelp adds more booking and transactional capabilities it will be able to solicit reviews (a la OpenTable or from verified purchasers. I suspect the company will move in that direction. For now, however, this is a little-known and “legal” way to get more Yelp reviews.

    About The Author

    Greg Sterling is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog, Screenwerk, about connecting the dots between digital media and real-world consumer behavior. He is also VP of Strategy and Insights for the Local Search Association. Follow him on Twitter or find him at Google+.

    (Some images used under license from


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