How To Improve Yelp Reviews with 4 Simple Strategies

Chris Rumpf

Founder and CEO, 15+ Years of Restaurant Technology Innovation

How To Improve Yelp Reviews With 4 Simple Steps

Yelp ratings and reviews play a major role in maintaining the reputation of your restaurant and helping new people discover it. You may feel overwhelmed when trying to figure out how to improve Yelp reviews but there are some pretty simple strategies you can employ to improve your restaurant’s Yelp ratings!

1. To Increase Yelp Reviews, Create Experiences Worth Reviewing

It may seem obvious but it’s amazing how often this gets neglected. If you want customers to leave you a positive review, give them a positive experience to review. Word of mouth causes 19% of all purchases and influences 90% of all purchases so it is certainly important to any business.

But here’s the thing, if you want people to talk about their experience at your restaurant, you have to give them something to talk about. For example, 38% of customers of The Cheesecake Factory have talked about their giant menu in the last 60 days. That single differentiator accounts for a huge amount of word of mouth including reviews. Whether it’s something novel like a gigantic menu or something about the experience you provide, it will help you to identify what Jay Baer calls your talk trigger.

All of the Yelp tips and tactics in the world won’t be able to make up for a lackluster experience or mediocre food so make sure you address those things first so you cut down on negative reviews. You’ll never fully prevent negative Yelp reviews but you can make an effort to reduce them by improving the customer experience.

2. Don't Ask For Yelp Reviews

I know, I know, it sounds counterintuitive but asking for reviews goes against Yelp’s Terms of Service because it generates disproportionately positive reviews and that can lead to people not trusting the platform. The obvious ways you might think the generate reviews probably go against this policy. This is directly from Yelp’s support center page about asking for reviews:

  • Don’t ask customers, mailing list subscribers, friends, family, or anyone else to review your business.
  • Don’t ask your staff to compete to collect reviews.
  • Don’t run surveys that ask for reviews from customers reporting positive experiences.
  • Don’t ever offer freebies, discounts, or payment in exchange for reviews — it will turn off savvy consumers, and may also be illegal. Yelp has a Consumer Alerts program to let people know about businesses that engage in this sort of activity. For the same reason, you also shouldn’t offer incentives for users to remove reviews.

It’s not worth doing these things because you could inadvertently hurt your Yelp rating in the process.

Keep in mind that this is a Yelp-specific rule and there aren’t currently any rules against asking for reviews on other sites like Tripadvisor, Google, and Facebook. If you’re speaking to a happy customer you can politely ask them to share an honest review on one of those sites. Yelp matters, but it’s not the only place where people look for reviews.

3. Take a Subtle Approach to Get More Reviews on Yelp

You may not be able to directly ask for a customer to rate and review you on Yelp, but there is a more subtle approach you can take to encourage reviews. Here are some things you can do to encourage reviews without outright asking for them:

  • Embed a Yelp badge on your website and Facebook page so customers can click and easily leave a review. Make this convenient for them and they are more likely to do it!
  • Display Yelp signage at your restaurant to remind customers that Yelp matters to you. You can request a free Find Us On Yelp sticker here and if you have earned a “People Love Us on Yelp” window cling be sure to display it!
  • Claim your business on Yelp so your customers can easily find you. People don’t leave reviews for businesses that haven’t bothered to set up a profile. After all, if you haven’t bothered, why should they?
  • Share your positive Yelp reviews on social media for all to see. This allows you to show off your positive reviews while reminding people that they too can leave a review on your Yelp page. It also shows that you value reviews which will make followers more likely to review your restaurant.
  • Add a link to your Yelp page in your email signature as a way to show off your existing reviews and indirectly remind people that they can leave a review as well.

When it comes to Yelp reviews, encourage but don’t ask.

4. Be Active On Yelp

If you aren’t an active user of Yelp, you probably don’t know that Yelp uses an algorithm to decide which reviews to post to your page and positive reviews can get caught in their filter. The positive reviews that are stuck in the filter don’t impact your rating so even though you have great reviews from actual customers, you may find yourself stuck at 3 stars instead of 5.

Yelp filters reviews that their algorithm determines are somehow inauthentic or don’t add much value compared to the others, but their algorithm does make mistakes. At the bottom of your business page, you’ll see a link that says “Reviews that are not currently recommended.” When you click this link, it will take you to the reviews that the algorithm wouldn’t let through the filter.

Be sure to follow your positive reviewers on Yelp and message them to thank them for their review. Not only is this helpful for engagement, but it tells Yelp that this is not a spam reviewer. If that fails, you can message these Yelp user with specific instructions to signal to Yelp that this is indeed a legitimate review. Here’s are 2 things you can suggest to them:

  • If they don’t have a profile picture, ask them to add one and let them know why you’re asking them to take this step. They left you a review because they care about your business so chances are, they’ll take these small steps to help.
  • Ask them to “check in” on their mobile phones from a few local places. This just indicates to Yelp that they are humans and not bot or spam accounts.

When someone does leave you a review, respond to them and thank them for taking the time to do so. According to Yelp, if you respond to a new review within 24 hours, you’ll increase your chances of having a reviewer upgrade their review to a higher star rating by 33%. You should respond to negative reviews as well and because we know that can be awkward, we’ve written a blog post about how to respond to negative Yelp reviews to help you.