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Jared Hamilton
From: Jared Hamilton
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To Yelp…Or Not to Yelp?

Yelp Can Be a Headache for Dealers –
Advice on Getting a Successful Review Presence There

   One of the most common questions I get from dealers regarding online reviews is whether or not to gather reviews on  I have found that there are definite do’s and don’ts – and that auto dealers face SERIOUS backlash if they don’t gather reviews the right way on Yelp.

Why does Yelp matter?

  • As of January 2011, more than 45 million people visited Yelp in the past 30 days, making it the most frequently used online review site today.
  • Yelpers have written over 15 million local reviews, which get pulled right into Google Places listings.  That means that many of the reviews written on Yelp about your dealership will, of course, appear on Google too.
  • Because of the special nature of the Yelp community (explained below), Yelpers uniquely trust and turn to Yelp reviews – so pound-for-pound a review on Yelp can have more impact than so many other review sites.
  • Yelp has expanded coast-to-coast, and is now covering many/most major markets. Check here to see what cities and regions they cover:

Warning: Dealership Backlash!

Yelp does not function like the majority of review sites across the Internet. Their site is driven by passionate reviewers called ‘Yelpers.’  Yelpers write reviews on all types of local businesses, and the more high quality and useful the reviews they contribute are, the more esteemed they are by the Yelp community – with people eventually achieving an ‘elite’ reviewer status.   

Because Yelp is driven by its user community, when a dealership has customers write a review without being an established Yelper, the community often thinks that the dealership is posting fake reviews. So, it’s absolutely critical that dealerships don’t just send any old customer to review on Yelp. 

Furthermore, the Yelp community is unique in that it flags (through a review filter) reviews written by users that have posted no other reviews at the site – these are called ‘Drive Bys’ or ‘501s’ (from, 5-star review, 0 friends on Yelp, 1 review written). When a business has several reviews flagged as 501s or drive-bys, Yelp often simply removes the reviews. Sometimes the reviews show back up again, and other times they are gone forever. We have heard from so many dealers: “I gathered a dozen reviews at Yelp and they just disappeared!” And it’s not just the time and energy wasted - when other Yelpers start posting about how these are suspicious or fake reviews, it can do more harm that having NO reviews at the site.

So, What’s A Dealer To Do?

Since there is so much traffic on Yelp - and passionate, engaged Yelpers tend to really trust the reviews there - and those reviews are getting pulled into Google Places listings, dealers want to make sure they have positive content on the site. But the review-gathering process differs…

Tip 1:  Add a sentence on your review-gathering email or email template that reads, “Are you an established Yelper? If so, please Yelp about us!” It’s typically not even necessary to drive the general customer to your Yelp listing, because if someone is an established Yelper, they will know exactly how to find your listing. 

Tip 2:  Ask your customers in person if they ‘Yelp.’  If they know what Yelping is, ask them to write a review for your dealership.  If they don’t, DON’T send them to Yelp to write a review for your dealership!

By having only established Yelpers review your dealership, the reviews will not be flagged for removal. You will have less reviews than you may at other targeted review sites/directories, but the reviews you do receive will be much more impactful.

I know if I were still at a dealership, I would take the following actions:

  1. Make sure my Yelp listing was updated with all the proper contact and dealership information.
  2. Assess how many reviews I have on Yelp compared to other dealers/my direct competitors in my local market.  By doing so, I would determine how many positive reviews I needed to shine on the site.
  3. Set a firm goal at the dealership (and share with my sales and service staff) the necessity to gather X amount of reviews on Yelp – only through established Yelpers.
  4. Put a process in place that identifies happy sales, service and parts customers that are already ‘Yelpers,’ and ask them to share their experience at the dealership on Yelp.
  5. Test out Yelp’s advertising options.  I get it - if we signed up every single provider that was just a few hundred bucks a month, we would be broke!  But, the data and dealership results that Yelp recently shared with me seemed pretty cut and dry…advertising can give you a built-out listing, and because comparatively few dealers do it compared with many other retail categories, you can stand out with no/few competitors on the most visited review site in the US. And your positive reviews should convert into more calls, leads and car deals. 

Other questions I often get asked:

Q.  If I advertise on Yelp, will they remove my negative reviews?
A.  According to Yelp, paid advertising can never change or re-order their reviews.

Q.  I have asked customers to write reviews on Yelp, and now they are missing!  Why?
A.  Remember the ‘501’ Issue – Yelp has an automated filter/algorithm that suppresses reviews they deem ‘suspicious.’  It’s doesn’t always seem either consistent or fair, but that’s the way it is.

So…the answer to the question, “To Yelp, or not to Yelp?” Yelp!

Reviews on Yelp really HELP! But be sure to follow the right process.

If you have any questions, please just call or email...

Merla Turner, Director of Dealer Training for eXtéresAUTO, or 866-475-5553 

Jared Hamilton
wow - incredibly insightful to the world of yelp. What do you recommend dealers do to optimize their pages there? What are the options? Do you have any advice on their advertising packages? really merla - this is stellar info with a step by step process. Very helpful.
Brian Pasch
Merla Great post which gives dealers clear insight into how Yelp works.
Russell Grant
Merla, As usual, great work !!
Merla Turner
Hi Jared, Thanks for the kind feedback. To answer your questions… Dealers are really limited to what they can do to optimize their Yelp page - the most important thing is that the dealership information is accurate. It’s hard to reach a dealership when the phone number and address are invalid, yet we see it all the time. If dealers want an enhanced listing on Yelp it will cost them roughly $300 a month. An enhanced listing has several benefits including: • Photo Slideshow • Removal of Competitors Ads – Banner Ads and Local Ads • Special Offers & Announcements I am in no way promoting that dealers spend money on Yelp, or that you even have to do so to see benefits. However, given Yelp’s popularity, I would take the time to make sure my reputation on their site was authentically positive and then test out whether or not an enhanced listing increased my phone calls and website traffic. Hope that helps! Thanks, Merla Merla Turner Director of Dealer Training eXteresAUTO 866-475-5553
Kathi Kruse
Great post Merla! You make good points about how important it is to make customers aware of Yelp. We've been working with Yelp for a few years now and I'd like to add 3 points: 1. Dealers must be very careful about how they ask for reviews. Yelp has a very strict policy about soliciting and rewarding customer reviews. I remember many dealers rewarding their customers with a free tank of gas if they gave an excellent rating on CSI. If that goes on with Yelp, they will shut you down so dealership management needs to communicate well with their staff. 2. Signs in the store that say "Love us on Yelp" work well in creating awareness in both the customer and the staff. 3. You make a good point about excluding non-Yelpers when requesting reviews and I see it differently. Yelp likes new users and what better way than to invite them to the store's profile to see what others have experienced. I consider Yelp a Social network and a chance to engage a customer is always worth it. If their review gets filtered, it's not forever. I agree that some of Yelp's policies seem counter-intuitive but like all Social Media, that changes regularly. Kathi Kruse

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