Yelp, the crowd-sourced online platform for local business reviews, can be a great tool to help door and window dealers boost their businesses, according to Welton Hong of Ring Ring Marketing in San Jose, Calif.

“I just love Yelp, and most of my clients that are taking advantage of Yelp are doing very well,” Hong said during his recent Webinar, “Making Friends with Yelp.”

Yelp is becoming the major player in the online-review field, Hong said, noting that Yelp reviews are often highly ranked in Google’s search results. Additionally, Bing and Yahoo pull reviews directly from Yelp.

“It’s very safe to say that people Google you because they do not know who you are,” Hong said. “Your competition is getting free leads from search engines thanks to Yelp.”

While most customers land on Yelp via Google, Hong said the search function on is powerful, too. Its algorithm is based on the number of reviews a business has and its proximity to the searcher’s physical location.

“Yelp will continue to get bigger and bigger in your local area,” Hong says. “Especially from mobile devices.”

Next, Hong went through the best practices for creating an effective Yelp page.

When setting it up, you must make sure your business name, address and phone number match other local directories, especially Google Plus. Next, select the neighborhoods and service areas that best match your local market. Then, post a photo and bio of the business owner so that person can respond to reviews directly. Finally, try to add at least 10 photos of your business to your page.

Hong then discussed the meat of the site – the reviews.

Yelp filters out about 25-30 percent or reviews — both positive and negative — so despite what you might have heard, paying Yelp for advertising does not help you stand out.

“Yelp says on its site that advertisers do not get special treatment,” Hong said.

So how does the Yelp filter work?

Hong said only “true Yelpers,” or frequent users, don’t get filtered. Yelp typically filters out reviews from accounts with very little activity, because the algorithm can’t tell if they’re business owners or angry customers creating fake accounts and leaving overly positive or overly negative reviews. Profanity also gets filtered out.

Yelp also filters reviews by IP addresses. For example, if a customer at your office tries to leave a review via a mobile device while using your WiFi, it’ll be filtered out, because Yelp assumes that someone at your company is trying to game the system. To prevent that, ask customers to write Yelp reviews when they get home.

Hong said it’s also good to interact with Yelp users – send them public or private messages, or click on the “useful/funny/cool” buttons under their reviews, which resemble “likes” on Facebook or Twitter.

Hong said that while about 67 percent of all Yelp reviews are positive, it’s suspicious if you don’t have any negative reviews.

With positive reviews, respond privately to thank them, then share the review on social media. That can generate positive referrals and repeat business.

With negative reviews, Hong said it’s crucial to repair them and try to get them removed.

Send a private message to the reviewer to document the message, then call them immediately and work on fixing the damage offline.

“Negative reviews can be turned positive if you reach out to people,” Hong said.

If all else fails, respond publically – and respectfully — to tell your side of the story.

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