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Yelp Is Mending Its Relationship With Small Business

The peer-review company is now interested in changing how small business owners think about the company.



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Business owners have long griped that Yelp should be more responsive to their problems, and less aggressive about selling ads. But until now, the company has done very little to address those concerns with the business owners directly.

Earlier this month, Yelp flew 100 small-business owners from around the world to its headquarters in San Francisco for a summit called ‘Coast to Coast.’

After years of making the reviewers the number-one priority, Yelp is now interested in changing how small business owners think about the company. CEO Jeremy Stoppelman, admitted: “You’re not changing an entire ecosystem with one event.”

A group of product managers for the company discussed various features they’re working on including advanced messaging. But the biggest problem business owners have with Yelp is not a lack of new products, but lack of accountability.

Business owners are under a lot of pressure from Yelp to advertise, sometimes receiving four phone calls a week or more. But exactly what the payoff of that investment is remains unclear. Advertising, which starts at $25 a month, means paying for things like having the best reviews of your company bumped up to the top of the page, or having your company appear at the top of a list of search results. Some business owners spend upwards of $1,000 a month on Yelp advertising.

Yelp says it is a myth that the advertising team will remove negative comments if you pay them. Bad reviews don’t just hurt a business owner’s financials — there’s an emotional toll as well. Business owner Wade Lombard gave a presentation at ‘Coast to Coast’ and said, “I know what a one-star review does to me and my dignity. It strips it away.” Lombard said the trick is not to react to bad reviews with anger; but that can be hard for vulnerable business owners who feel personally insulted. After a while, the conversation started to feel a little like group therapy.

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