I use yelp.com a lot. I look up restaurants, service providers, hotels and much more nearly every day. Looking for a place in a new city to grab a bite? Directions to that restaurant you made a reservation weeks ago? Yelp is a great tool for consumers. It democratizes the food scene, it sheds light on poor service and keeps businesses on their toes. Would a one-time tourist’s poor experience at a restaurant really affect that business. Not in the past, however, with tools like yelp.com, now it is very important that even one-time users have good experiences. Pretty cool, huh?
What is it that Yelp provides to a consumer?
Information. More specifically, information on businesses – be it, restaurants, fitness studies or big box stores. This information comes in the form of reviews and though strong opinions abound in reviews and forums, a user like you and me is able to glean valuable content about a specific business. Take State Bird Provisions in San Francisco. After reading about the restaurant’s opening in a few magazines and winning numerous awards, I was convince I needed to make the 45 minute trip to San Francisco to try it out myself. One problem, they were booked solid for at least 6 months – not one open slot. I popped on yelp and without too much reading found out that the restaurant reserves a table or two for walk-ins each night. That said, my wife and I snagged one of those tables and had one of the best dinners we have ever had.
Here is the thing – more useful the reviews, the more useful yelp is to me (or you). On the contrary, if the review is not particularly valuable, yelp’s value diminishes as well. You could correctly say that yelp has a vested interest to have a robust inventory of quality reviews.
Two key take-away’s: robust and quality
Now for quality, yelp uses complicated algorithms and a filtering processes (that can be annoying if you’re the business with over half your 5 star reviews hidden in the filtered section) but I don’t really understand how that works.
For the robust part, they do some creative, yet simple tricks to show inflated robust-ness.
Here’s how it works:
Let’s say you are looking for a hotel in Half Moon Bay, CA. You go to yelp.com, go to the search bar, type “FIND: hotels and NEAR: Half Moon Bay, CA” and hit ENTER.
Voila! Hotels near Half Moon Bay, with opinionated peer reviews, stars rating system and customer tips.
Also notice the “quantity” of finding – “1 -4 pages”.
Click to the next page. Nothing funny. “2 – 4 pages”.
Click to the next page…and you realize, there isn’t one. Yelp really only had 2 pages of results, yet it cunningly reported it had 4 pages of results.
Those sneaky folks! Why? They are showing you they have pages, upon pages of hotels in Half Moon Bay that you can go through. How many people go past the 2nd page? Not many. It really doesn’t hurt anyone that they LIE about how many pages they have. Is it completely the truth? No. Is it sneaky? Yes.
Moral of the story? Ethically inflate the numbers. Don’t outright lie. It is okay to present yourself in a bigger way. If you are a small business and your only employee is YOU, include the word “we”, as in the royal “we”. Use it liberally. It’s okay. Send your packages through FedEx, to make yourself look more professional. I have heard of people even pretending to be their own receptionist when a prospect calls.
You do not need to outright lie. I remember walking into a dentist office and behind the receptionists desk was a custom built wall-to-wall patient file holder. Each file stuck out from its cubby and was visible from the waiting room. It was a massive wall and I think the dentist had done this intentionally – hey look at all the other patients (besides you) who trust me too! I am positive that at one time or another if more than a few cubbies were empty, they would have put blank patient files in there to inflate there numbers.
Bottom-line, inflate yourself, present yourself, put your best foot forward. Do not be shady or misleading but what’s wrong with displaying your pages of reviews, your patient files or using the royal “we”?