Maybe you’ve heard of Yelp and you’re thinking about getting a little more involved in managing your massage therapy practice’s online reputation on Yelp.

Or, maybe you’re thinking “Hey, slow down! I have no idea what the heck Yelp is” and you want a quick explanation first. Ok, here goes:

url-1-resized-600Yelp is a location-based online review site where consumers can check-in to businesses and post reviews of services like restaurants, bars, theatres, hotels, salons, massage therapists, and so on. Some areas of the country are more Yelp savvy than others. Cities like Portland, Oregon and San Fransisco (where Yelp started) are serious about the site. Businesses will post stickers like this one in their windows:

4153414329_bdd01ec140-resized-600As you enter the rabbit hole that is Yelp, there’s also quite a bit of controversy about how Yelp works and whether or not Yelp is evil (we don’t think so, and we’ll get to that in a minute), thus the comical parody:

With that short introduction, let’s get to some of the important things you should know about using Yelp for your massage therapy business.

1. Claim your page 

yelp-resized-600You may not be able to create a listing from scratch. Anyone can add your business to Yelp at any time. If someone has already added your business, you must claim your listing. Claiming your page allows you to:.

  • Track and respond to reviews of your business
  • Create special offers (more on that later!)
  • Add photos and information about your business
  • Monitor views of your business page
  • Post events and promotions

There are just a few simple steps:

  • Go to Yelp and search for your business name
  • If your page appears in the search results, click the title
  • Click the “Claim This Business” button at the bottom of the page
  • Follow the next steps for creating your business account
  • It will ask you to verify by filling out the correct phone number for your business. Add your extension if you use an automated system
  • Answer the phone and write down the verification code
  • Enter the verification code on your screen

 

2. How reviews work, i.e. the Yelp Review Filter

Anyone can post a review about your business, good or bad. This is scary territory for some because you have no control here. Some say the nature of Yelp is skewed to negative reviews, since people are more likely to post a negative review than a positive one.

There’s a lot of hand-wringing going on throughout the internet about the Yelp Review Filter. The service wants to insure that it’s reviews are authentic reviews, as opposed to the work of flamers or businesses paying for good reviews (or nasty reviews of their competitors). To do this, they use a set of algorithms in their Yelp Review Filter to keep spam at bay. This has resulted in more than a few legit reviews to be filtered out and removed from the site. There’s a great article about the Yelp Review Filter controversy on SearchInfluence.com if you’re interested in learning more.

As with all online reviews, Yelp reviews should be taken with a grain of salt. There are a few things you can do to deal with nasty reviews or lack of reviews (which could be potentially worse if you’re in a high density Yelp-lovin’ city).

3. Advertising

Yelp wants you to advertise on their listing, and they’re not afraid to hound you about it. One massage therapist was recently considering advertising on Yelp, and reached out for some advice in a forum recently:

If you pay a monthly fee, they will place advertisements on a competitor profile, and remove competitors advertisements from my profile. The purpose is to capture more viewers and ultimately turn those viewers into clients. The only thing is you must sign a one year contract.. I don’t want to sign anything until I hear some sound recommendations.

He got this piece of advice from another therapist and we tend to agree with it:

As far as advertising on Yelp goes, only pay for the Yelp advertising if you work in an area that is totally flooded AND you have to compete with a lot of other therapists for the front page on Google.

If the people in your city are heavy Yelp users, it might be worth trying Yelp Deals for a year to see what happens. Make sure you track your conversion rates to see if it pays off in new clients and increased business.

Another therapist on the forum had this experience with her free listing on Yelp:

I get 75% of my new business from my Yelp listing and I do NOT pay for advertising with Yelp. They are pushy pushy pushy, but it is not worth it in most cases.

4. Managing your listing

When it comes to managing your online reputation, you can either be an active participant or you can let others control the conversation. This is the case with your Yelp listing.

When you get a review, you can do a few things to engage the review and the reviewer. Add the reviewer as a friend, vote for the review (you can give it a tag like ‘funny’ or ‘useful’), and send the reviewer a message thanking him for the review.

Keep your listing current with specials, events, promotions, and important business information like hours of operation and your offerings.

5. Promote

If you decide to get active on Yelp, think about setting up a promotion or deal to your clients that check-in on Yelp. Promotions are FREE with your business listing, so it can’t hurt to try it out. Deals are different from paid advertising.

Set up a special offer for your community. Here’s a few ideas to get you thinking:

  • Mention Yelp and get an extra 15 minutes on your massage
  • Get 5% off your massage when you book online
  • Free massage for every 10th check-in (like a loyalty card)
  • 25% off when you check-in on Wednesdays (to boost business on slow days)
When client’s check-in to your business on Yelp, anyone who is friends with that person will see that they’ve visited you. If that client has their Twitter and Facebook accounts attached to their Yelp account, their check-in will pop up on those channels as well. Think of check-ins like word of mouth advertising (times 1000).

We want to know what you think of Yelp! Are you an active Yelp user? Do you manager your massage therapy practice’s business page on Yelp? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

**UPDATE** As you can tell from the comments below, and many on social media sites, there are plenty of people who strongly dislike Yelp (mainly for their filtering and advertising process–Yelp allows competitors to show up on your listing if they advertise with Yelp). Recently, William posted on Massamio’s Facebook Page a link to one great example of anecdotes about this: Think Yelp is Unbiased? Think Again!!

On October 14, 2013, we spent an hour with one of Yelp’s account managers and got their pitch about how Yelp can be useful for massage therapists. Here are some of the highlights:

  1. Compared to other directories like CitySearch and Google Places, Yelp attracts many more people looking for local business. See Yelp’s Current Traffic: Yelp vs. Other Directories here.
  2. Demographics are important, and Yelp’s audience tends to share similar demographics with ideal massage clients.
  3. Advertising on Yelp: According to Yelp, business owners make $3 for every $1 invested in Yelp. Yelp highlights a study by The Boston Consulting Group, “a leading advisor on business strategy, recently surveyed 4,800 business owners to learn the economic impact Yelp has on small businesses. The results are eye opening: small businesses with a free business owner’s account saw an average of $8,000 in annual revenue from Yelp.” Read the blog about it.
  4. At the time of our interview, Yelp offered 4 programs that vary based on how aggressively you want to advertise your business on Yelp. All packages include the mentioned* features and are based on an annual agreement.$1050/mo – includes 3000 targeted ads per month
    $800/mo – includes 2100 targeted ads per month
    $550/mo – includes 1200 targeted ads per month
    $350/mo – includes 500 targeted ads per month*Mentioned features include: video production, video hosting, picture slideshow, Call to Action button, competitors ad removal, tracking in your business owners account, and an Account Manager. An example of such features is found here.

image credit: barbary coast ranger

 

Comments from original Massamio post:

I signed up on Yelp after trying to decide if Angie’s List was a worthwhile investment. I went with Yelp, don’t pay for my listing, and am waiting to see results. We’ve also considered Google Ad Words, and Trip Adviser listing. Any ideas on these? — Posted @ Monday, April 01, 2013 7:53 AM by Janice

Hi there, Janice. That is a great question–in fact, one that merits a blog post in itself. We highly recommend registering on Google Places to get found. Be sure to check back in the future for a blog on the topic of Google AdWords and TripAdvisor. — Posted @ Monday, April 01, 2013 1:07 PM by Naomi Oliviae

Paragraph 3 should read “HENCE the comical parody”.  Good information. Thank you. — Posted @ Wednesday, August 07, 2013 3:41 PM by Constance

I DISLIKE YELP VERY MUCH. THEY FILTER ALL MY GOOD REVIEWS & LEAVE MY BAD ONES. Usually I get a good review so the yelp rep calls me & I turn her down. Then the very next day that good review is filtered. They are extortionists. — Posted @ Saturday, October 05, 2013 7:20 PM by Shirley

I had a similar experience with Google that Shirley had with Yelp. They had been trying to get me to do Adwords and I didn’t. I had always (or almost always) been the top listing in Google for my city. I Google and Bing pretty much weekly. A couple of years ago, I checked Google and did not show up AT ALL with them (still on Bing and other sites). Funny, next day Google called and asked if I would like to try Adwords. I did try it for a couple of months (showed right back up on Google). That hasn’t happened since.   — Posted @ Sunday, October 06, 2013 9:50 AM by LuAnne