Using Yelp For Marketing Accounting Firms & CPAs

We all know the best way to find a reputable business referral is by word of mouth. Over the last several years, word of mouth has migrated online. In many cases, we no longer ask our colleagues and friends for referrals. Instead, we use our mouse to see what people say about their experiences.

Accountants can capitalize on the online trend, but you have to make sure you have an explicit presence on websites such as Yelp, Google Places, CitySearch and InsiderPages. We normally think of these sites as a way to rate restaurants or car washes, but in professional services, these sites offer clients the opportunity to post anonymous opinions and feedback about all kinds of businesses, including accounting and tax-prep practices of all sizes

Let’s focus on Yelp. Its purpose is “To connect people with great local businesses.” At this writing, Yelp had 78 million unique monthly views and “Yelpers” have written 30 million unique local reviews. In June 2012, Yelp announced it would power local reviews on Microsoft Bing. Apple, too, has also joined forces with Yelp on its new maps application, along with providing more local content to its iPhone assistant, Siri.

Here are some of the things accountants should do to tap the power of Yelp:

  1. Claim your listing. The free account allows you describe your business, respond to reviews (privately as well as publicly), add photos and edit listing information. You can also add information about yourself, your history and the industries you serve. You also can track overall traffic to your page. This ensures that Yelp will include your business page in search results it provides to consumers. Go to biz.yelp.com to register.
  2. Get more reviews. More on this below.
  3. Use Yelp’s resources. Yelp offers pointers for reviewers and business owners, including how to respond to negative reviews.
  4. Consider advertising on Yelp. According to Forbes’ contributor TJ McCue, “This is one of the areas where owners feel it is a bit of extortion. If you advertise on Yelp, you can remove competitor ads from your listing/profile page. I understand the small business owner’s perspective here, but it isn’t much different than other search engine result pages that show “sponsored ads” from your competitors. It’s a tough web world out there.”

Glowing or Not, Reviews are the Name of the Game

Reviews are the reason Yelp is a powerful tool for consumers and business owners, but unfortunately, negative reviews are much easier to come by than positive ones. Think about the last time you got great service. Did you tell anyone? How about the time you got lousy service and food poisoning at the local sushi place? You probably told EVERYONE about that and you might have even posted an online review.

What do you do if you get a negative review? The first thing is to keep your cool and learn from it. Yelp offers you the option of replying publicly or privately to all reviews. Think twice before responding publicly. You could end up looking defensive.

Always reach out to the client privately to get more details and ask if there is anything you can do to fix the problem. If there is, do it. Many times, the act of reaching out makes a difference and can even get a client to change his review. If you find a customer service glitch, fix it. This is the opportunity to turn it around for the future.

Finally, get more reviews. Positive reviews will move negative reviews lower. They will still exist, but they won’t dominate your profile. Yelp offers some good advice about how to handle negative reviews.

And the positive reviews? Always say thank you.

Getting More Reviews

Although Yelp discourages business owners from requesting positive reviews from clients and customers, it seems that there are two reasons accountants should ask for a review. Not only would you want your clients to talk about great service or your knowledge; asking clients for a review also serves as another “touch” point in an ongoing effort for consistent and regular communications. You can ask a client in person or even consider a statement at the bottom of your email such as, “Like our services? Tell a friend on Yelp.”

The Yelp Review Controversy

Yelp wants to be seen as the most credible place to learn about businesses within the community. To do this, the site employs the use of a review filter, a controversial tool in the eyes of many business owners and web marketers. The filter looks for frequent reviews, a complete profile, and a review that is not too positive or not too negative. As a result, clients who want to review your firm may fall in to these buckets and their reviews may end up in the filter. You will be able to see your filtered reviews on your business account, but no one else will. Click here for some tips on how to get a filtered review to show up on your listing.

So Why Join Yelp?

With the possibility of negative and filtered reviews, you might be asking, what is the point? Online reputation management is the cost of doing business in today’s marketplace. Like it or not, your business probably already has a listing on Yelp’s page and possibly has a review. Own it. Make sure the content is right and start monitoring your reviews. Yelp’s broad appeal means you’re out there. The good news is you can take charge of your online reputation if you invest the time.