Why a Single Yelp Review Made a Big Difference

By , Published October 18, 2014

A deli-pizzeria is down the street from me, meaning I’m usually found there when I am hungry and have an empty fridge. Is it great food? Not particularly, but it’s consistent and convenient. The other day, though, I got to talking with the owner and he asked what I did. Content marketing, I said. I mainly manage social media accounts, research trends and create lead-capturing posts for business blogs.

That got the owner’s attention.

He told me about a problem he’s been having with Yelp which, honestly, I am not incredibly familiar with. His problem, he said, is that people keep posting negative reviews about his restaurant based on menu items that don’t exist.

Is this fair? No, it’s not. But reporting these fake reviews has gotten him nowhere.

This problem extends beyond the ma-and-pop deli down the street. In fact, I see restaurants struggle with poor online reviews all of the time. “Review us!” they tell customers. Some even go so far as giving discounts for popular reviews because they know how critical they are.

Yelp does a lot of things for restaurants, especially small ones. It indexes them, allows them to show up in local searches and doesn’t cost anything. But when one customer has a bad experience, the restaurant suffers. This is expected – In fact, the restaurant owner I spoke with said he was absolutely fine with negative reviews as long as they were honest.

How does a small restaurant without a marketing budget (or a very limited one) deal with this problem?

There are two ways: 1) Report false reviews on Yelp and 2) Don’t worry so much about it.

A bad review isn’t the end of the world. In fact, just by having a dozen or so mediocre reviews on Yelp makes this restaurant more visible on Google. It’s the fake reviews that are a concern, though, ones probably generated by some inconsiderate customer who had (or pretended to have) a miserable experience at this restaurant. Or, perhaps, these reviews are posted by local competitors.

When I was in this restaurant and discussing Yelp with the owner, he asked if I could post a review. I did – it was honest. It wasn’t spectacular, but it’s my interpretation of the restaurant’s quality and service. I went back two days later and he thanked me for the review – he looked it up – and I got a free sandwich.

At the end of the day, it was the actual customer service that won me over and the fact that this business owner – located in a difficult area to have a business – thinks about marketing. He knows it’s important, knows that he has to put effort into it. He just doesn’t know how.

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