How to Handle Negative Yelp Reviews

Since Yelp's inception in 2004, "Yelpers" have written over 77 million reviews. Fortunately, according to a 2014 Small Biz Trends story, those reviews are largely positive. Four- and five-star reviews made up 66.8 percent, with one-star reviews making up only 12.8 percent.

As if getting multiple positive yelp reviews is not challenging enough, a 2013 Steam Feed article illustrates how Yelp's filtering system has created an even bigger hurdle for businesses. In a worst-case scenario, this system may prevent any positive Yelp reviews from appearing, while allowing negative one-star reviews to consume their page.

Unfortunately for those who have fallen victim to multiple malicious attackers, Yelp often populates the first few spots on page one of Google, and with over 142 million monthly unique visitors, ignoring negative reviews is not a wise decision.

These five tips will help any business take back the reigns of their Yelp page.

Take Ownership
The first step to fixing a Yelp page overrun with negative reviews is getting business owners to act like they own the place, because they do "own the place". They need to take ownership, and if they have not done so already, activate and "claim" their Yelp page. This way they will be ready to respond to any and all reviews concerning the business. "Claiming" the page will also allow them to upload a current information specific to the services their business provides. This includes photos, hours of operation, ways of contact and additional business specific information.

Silence Isn't Always Golden
After a business has taken ownership of its Yelp page, one of the most important things they can do is respond to the negative reviews -- especially if they are accurate. Responding to negative reviews shows both the reviewer and potential customers that the business cares about its customers, and is willing to make things right when mistakes are made. When it comes to negative reviews business owners feel are inaccurate, it's best to spend some time on a thoughtful response rather than posting something immediately that will most likely turn out emotionally charged or combative. Another good option is to hire a company that specializes in review management.

A Picture is Worth 1000 Words
For some customers, looking through photos is an alternative to reading through comments. High-quality photos of the business' work and facilities are the first defense to complaints or bad comments. Similarly, photos of smiling personnel are likely diffuse any "poor customer service" complaints, so make a quick and lasting impression through "insta-worthy", quality photos. No matter the business, exceptional photos can do wonders for the brand and client first impressions.

Think Outside of the Yelp box
A plethora of other authoritative sites exist where business' can encourage guests to leave reviews. These include, Yellow Pages, Urbanspoon, Angie's List and not forgetting Facebook, which boasts 210 million active monthly users in the United States and Canada -- 30 percent more than Yelp. Business' should utilize these alternative resources to enhance online reputation and reach more potential customers and clients.

Keep Social Media Accounts Active + Updated
Regularly updated Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts with solid followings and positive fan interactions, are likely to outweigh a less than stellar Yelp page. Just like alternative review sites, active and regularly updated social media accounts are likely to occupy those top spots on the front page of Google, as well as positively influence more potential customers.

If All Else Fails...
Consider hiring a reputable online reputation management firm. One who can effectively push Yelp off page one of Google, rather than one offering to delete negative comments, or sell positive reviews. It is actually impossible to remove reviews, unless they violate Yelp's terms of service. Getting caught purchasing reviews will result in a public shaming courtesy of Yelp. Pushing Yelp off of page one of Google's search results will reduce the amount of traffic that lands on those negative reviews, and more importantly, prevents negative comments from reaching forthcoming clients.