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Biz Bites: How to Get Yelp Reviews Without Asking


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In episode eight of the “Biz Bites” series, we talk about how to get reviews without asking. An important part of managing your online reputation, especially on Yelp. From providing memorable experiences, responding to reviews publicly, and making the most of Yelp’s free features, this episode breaks down five things businesses can do to encourage customers to share their experiences in a review. We also dig into creating photo opportunities for customers and weaving Yelp into your marketing materials.

On the Yelp Blog: How to get Yelp reviews without asking

Hey there. I’m Emily Washcovick, Yelp’s Small Business Expert and the host of this podcast, Behind the Review.

Welcome to “Biz Bites,” our biweekly extra episode where we share a few minutes of tactical advice about topics affecting small business owners. If you have a topic or question that you’d like us to cover on Biz Bites, just send me an email! You can reach me at We’d love to hear from you – and just for submitting a question we’ll send you a link to request a copy of one of our current business book giveaways. 

Let’s dive right in. Biz Bites episode 8.  How to get Yelp reviews without asking for them. This is a topic I get asked about all the time. And it’s a really important topic, because Yelp takes a firm stance against review solicitation.  It’s against Yelp’s policies and terms of service for businesses to ask for reviews, or to offer incentives of any kind in exchange for reviews.

And the main reason is because those reviews should happen naturally.  Customers might feel uncomfortable or pressured if you ask them to write a review. It can inflate ratings, and it’s also something that could potentially alienate future customers. 

According to a recent survey Yelp did, conducted by Material, 54% of review readers say they wouldn’t trust a business that asks customers to leave a review.  So while other platforms might let you ask for reviews or even encourage it, just remember that it’s against Yelp’s policies to ask for reviews or offer incentives in exchange for reviews. 

Yelp creates a level playing field for all businesses, and all businesses should rightfully earn their great reputations on Yelp. Businesses shouldn’t be able to pay off customers and get ahead in what should be a natural sharing of customer experiences.

At the same time, you can trust that Yelp is hard at work protecting your business and your customers interests. We have automated recommendation software that evaluates reviews based on hundreds of signals of quality, reliability, and user activity on Yelp.  It’s also programmed to identify and not recommend reviews that it determines may be solicited. 

We also have a team that manually moderates content on our site. They evaluate whether reviews that are reported to us adhere to our content guidelines.  This not only helps to protect the content that informs consumer spending decisions, but it also protects businesses from anyone who might break or ignore the rules. This allows you to focus on your customers and let the reviews happen naturally. 

So the question is: How can you get reviews for your business organically? One of my colleagues wrote an amazing article about the five ways to get reviews without asking. And I’m going to walk you through those recommended tips. I’m also going to link to the blog post in the show notes so you can check out all the great additional info in there, including real business examples 

I want to start by saying that reviews happen when consumers have an amazing experience. And amazing experiences are based in customer service. They’re based in surprise and delight. They’re really all about expectations being met or exceeded. And memories being created because of a relationship or a connection to your business or brand. So keep that top of mind. 

All right, let’s get into it. We all know that building this online reputation takes time, and it’s not going to happen overnight. 

But, you can think of your review strategy like leaving a trail of breadcrumbs. Each little thing you do and each action you take, like responding to your reviews or messages – or putting up a Find Us on Yelp sticker in the window of your business, shows customers that you care about their experience. 

Step by step, these different breadcrumbs can lead customers back to you, back to your Yelp page, and also inspire them to leave a review.  So instead of asking for reviews, inspire those reviews organically by using these five strategies. 

Let’s dig into each one. Number one: Surprise and delight with great customer service. 

Customers love sharing positive experiences. Whether it’s a flawless landscaping job or the perfect mani pedi, most Yelp users write reviews to share love for businesses that they just can’t live without. Nearly 70% of all reviews on Yelp are 4 or 5 stars. And a stat that I like better than that, is we have more 5 star reviews than 1, 2, and 3 star reviews combined. So overwhelmingly people turn to Yelp to share those great experiences!

And you can create those great experiences by focusing on your customer. Welcoming them when they come right through the door. Asking them before you leave, if there’s anything you can do to improve their experience. Those touch points and moments of delivering joy to your customers, because you met or exceeded their expectations, make them want to share that with friends, family, and everyone on Yelp. 

Even the smallest of gestures can make a big impact. One of our former guests on the podcast, Keith, owner of Paws on Chicon, actually sends handwritten thank you notes to new customers after they visit his pet shop. That personal touch has helped make a really good impression on visitors. And it keeps them coming back! When they see that the business not only cares about that one transaction, but wants to welcome them into their community, that makes them want to return, and it feels personal.  

You can also use your customer service skills to tie the positive feelings back to Yelp in a subtle way that doesn’t violate our policies. For example, if you’re following up with a client after a sale or a service, you can ask how they found you.  If the answer is Yelp, say something like, “Yelp helps our business so much. I’m so glad you found me there.”  

That’s actually a tip from another former podcast guest, Jay, owner of the New York City business, Lockbusters. He said that he mentions Yelp almost every time he talks to a customer, but never asks directly for a review. They do that part on their own, if that feels natural to them.  

Number two is respond to your Yelp reviews. And if you’ve been listening to the show for a while now, you know I always say you should respond to all of your reviews. But when we’re talking about it as a strategic way to get more reviews, the reason why responding to your reviews matters is because it shows customers you care about your reviews. And feedback!  

A lot of consumers are going to find you on a review site like Yelp. Or they’re going to go to a review site like Yelp after they’ve heard about your business.

If they look at those reviews and see that you engage with them, they’re more likely to share their own experience, cuz they know you’re going to read it and that you care.  

And that’s why responding to reviews publicly on any platform is extremely powerful.  Remember, you don’t have to respond with a super detailed back and forth message, getting into everything that they wrote. It can be a general response, acknowledging their review,  thanking them for their concerns, maybe addressing one of them, and then taking that conversation offline. 

But by simply having a response strategy that future consumers can see, you’re more likely to get those customers to share their experience after they visit your business. 

Pro tip: If you’re not sure how to respond to reviews or want to move beyond just a simple thank you – especially for those positive ones – Yelp has resources to guide you through the process. So check out the show notes for this blog post and you’ll see the resources there.

Number three: improve the customer journey with Yelp’s free features. So this tip refers to some of the free tools on your Yelp page that you can use to not only help increase exposure to your business and deepen engagement, but also inspire customers to leave a review organically.

The first one is Request a Quote, which allows users to message you directly through Yelp. Request a Quote is great for service-based businesses like HVAC repair, plumbers, hair salons, and more. When they land on your Yelp page, that feature allows them to fill out a message or a quote request with information about their project or service.  Maybe the customer is too shy or too busy to jump on a phone call. So opening up that messaging through Yelp, allows you to build that trust and connect about a potential job.  

Make sure to  follow up promptly, and turn on notifications so you’re alerted in real time when a customer has sent you a message or a request. 

To make sure you’re set up to receive messages or requests, log in to your business user account at or on the Yelp for Business app, and navigate to your inbox. Then go to your settings and toggle the “messaging leads” option to “on.”   

Little pro tip here: To stay on top of those messages, download that Yelp for Business app and enable push notifications – that way, you get the alert right to your phone when you get a new quote request or message.  

Tip number four: create a visual interest in your business.  I love this tip because as we all know, photos are a huge part of your online presence. Consumers come to look at online review sites for more than just the ratings and the reviews.  48% of the respondents in that recent survey I mentioned say they rely on review platforms to look at photos of a business. And one of the best ways to inspire customers to take photos at your business is to give them some visuals they’ll be excited about!

If you’re a food business, what are some fun items you can add to the menu to get customers pulling out their phones, and taking photos?  What opportunities do you have to create photogenic areas in your business?  And that applies to video too. As of April of last year, Yelp users can post high resolution video up to 12 seconds along with their reviews and photos.  

So put yourself in your customer’s shoes and think about the features that you find most visually appealing and engaging about your business. What’s unique about your product or service? What makes an experience worth capturing?  What aspects of your business show up in the largest numbers of reviews and photos? 

Maybe it’s the products or services themselves. You could have a great professional latte artist behind that counter, or maybe you do some amazing color for your hair clients.  Maybe you have a cool branded sign in your entryway.  Regardless of what it is, the more you can encourage photos, the more likely customers will be uploading them on Yelp.  

For those of you with a brick and mortar location, consider adding an aesthetic element to your business that inspires customers to take photos, such as a pleasing product display! Or a cozy corner filled with plants. Or maybe you have a mural done by a local artist.  I love those neon signs I see in small businesses all the time. It’s like they’re calling my name to take a photo in front of them.   Anything you can do to create a little photo op will encourage your customers to pull out their phones.  

Even if your business isn’t as photogenic, maybe you’re a plumber or a pest control business. You can still create visual interest in your business. The next time you’re on a job or finish a service, ask the client if you can take before and after photos and post them on Yelp.  If you include your client in this process, you show them you care about their experience. And it might even inspire them to share their own photos, or write their own review. 

Little pro tip here: You can use customer photos of your business from Yelp in your marketing materials. Make sure you give them credit, and it’s always a good idea to ask for their consent before you share their images. Then you’ll be able to use them to spread the word about your business. 

Did you know, users who upload photos get regular updates from Yelp about how their photos have helped support the business – through page views? This helps keep Yelp top of mind after their visit, making it another great reason to encourage them to take those photos. 

Our last tip is to strengthen your marketing materials with Yelp. By highlighting Yelp in your marketing, you can guide your customers organically to your business page. For example, a plumbing company could train its technicians to mention Yelp in their sales pitch by telling customers they can get detailed quotes on Yelp. Or directing them to the Yelp page to check out photos of previous jobs.  

You can also weave Yelp into your marketing using visual cues. We have these awesome Find Us on Yelp stickers that you can request for free and put in your storefront or on your service vehicles.  You can also do fun things like put your current star rating on a chalkboard sign outside your business. Or frame Yelp reviews on the wall in the waiting room.  I’ve even seen businesses debut a review of the week in their newsletter. If you use Mailchimp for your email marketing, they actually have a Yelp for Business extension that makes sharing Yelp reviews super easy. 

When you put all of these efforts together, you have a trail of breadcrumbs that will inspire your customers to leave their own reviews. 

One of my podcast guests this year said, “When you see that Yelp logo on a restaurant door, you know that restaurant wants you to give feedback. They want to better themselves because of that feedback. You walk in and you can tell right away that they cater to you.”  And I think that quote is very true and very powerful. A simple thing like putting a sticker in your window, that associates your business with Yelp, can show customers that you care about that feedback. And can be the subtle cue to inspire someone to share their experience on your Yelp Business Page.

And you can keep the cycle going by sharing those great customer reviews online. It shows you appreciate that customer engagement and also provides that social proof that backs up your marketing.  By putting those things on your Instagram, for example, you’re telling other customers who have maybe already experienced your business, but not yet written a review, that it’s important to you. 

You can even create your own template to share reviews on social media. Using a free tool like Canva.  I see businesses do this and they’re constantly posting, every time they get a new review. And then those customers often reshare on their social channels as well. Which is just a great way to extend the promotion of your business. 

Some small businesses I work with get super creative and put customer reviews on everything from their menu to their business cards. One of our previous guests, owner of a bespoke clothing company, Uncommon Closet, created a lookbook of all the positive Yelp reviews so clients can browse it while they wait. 

I’ve also worked with a ton of different marketers, particularly Elizabeth Sexton at Aligned Modern Health, who displays Yelp reviews in strategic spots around their different clinic. She told me that those visual cues are a great way to follow Yelp’s rules of engagement and create that natural connection to their customers to share their own experiences, without directly asking. She’s also heard clients say it makes them more excited to share their own journey when they see previous customers’ stories shared.  

A little pro tip for following Yelp’s brand guidelines when using reviews: don’t take reviews out of context, and make sure you keep the original wording. Only use recommended reviews and give the proper credit to the reviewer. You can read more about how to share review content effectively in the blog post, which is linked in the show notes. 

At the end of the day, the best way to get great online reviews is to create memorable experiences. To have wonderful customer service, and to connect with your consumers and show them that you care.  By naturally creating that connection, they’ll be more inclined to write about it.  And by leaving a trail of breadcrumbs through photographic opportunities in your business, and responding to online reviews, you paint the bigger picture that your online reputation matters to you. And that makes customers engage back with you.  

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