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Is Yelp the Enemy of Small Business?
Yelp and Small Business Does the Review Site Do More Harm Than Good? “Yelp is destroying my small business.” These words are becoming more and more common. Small-business owners are taking their stories public, claiming Yelp is hurting their brand. But is this true? Can Yelp harm businesses? At a glance, Yelp is a website and app where people can promote their businesses, and consumers can post reviews of those businesses. Yelp can be a consumer’s deciding factor in which restaurant to visit, which cleaning service to hire, which grocery store to shop at, and so on. Business owners claim that Yelp tries to extort them. For example, Yelp calls a business to sell ads. The business declines and, suddenly, good reviews get buried. Some business owners have even claimed that the best reviews disappear altogether. In their place are the lowest reviews, or even poor reviews that weren’t there before. When people search for the business, the worst reviews are front and center. Additionally, business owners have noted that Yelp cold- called them with the news that they have won an award for exceptional reviews. However, Yelp charges for the award, which is a plaque that can be displayed in the business, costing hundreds of dollars.
While the second example certainly isn’t extortion, it raises questions. The fact is that Yelp does cold-call businesses to get them to sign up for advertising packages, and in this, Yelp has leverage. If you don’t comply, they can alter what people see when they search for your business. Business owners also point to discrepancies in reviews on Google, Facebook, and Yelp. They may have four- or five-star reviews on Google and Facebook, but their Yelp reviews may be noticeably lower. It’s no secret that advertisements represent Yelp’s primary source of revenue, and cold-calling businesses can help drive that revenue. But can businesses defend against ad extortion? The answer is not really, unless businesses are willing to pay a big expense. Instead, the best defense is focusing on stellar customer service — and directing customers and potential customers to Google and Facebook reviews, ignoring Yelp altogether.
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