Here’s how Yelp can help

by Alessia Girardin

Your online presence is a key driver of business, so it’s worth taking the time to develop your profile, according to agents and industry experts who are active on the platform.

Serena Dang, marketing manager at Smart City Apartment Locator in Houston, estimates that 100% of the company’s lead generation comes from online promotion efforts like Yelp. “Our business is entirely based on customer service experience, so a strong online presence is absolutely crucial for our business,” she said.

Founded in 2004, Yelp serves as a lead generation and marketing tool, helping clients and business owners connect with each other online in a way that enables clients to get a feel for the company before actually meeting them.

While advertising on Yelp is expensive — the cost per lead is 3.3 times higher than Google AdWords, according to a recent case study – it can also be effective, said Patty Newton, an agent with Newton Real Estate Group in Sugar Land.

“In 2018, we closed $1.7 million in sales just through Yelp,” Newton said. “In 2019, it was a little less – about $960,000 – and this year, even during the pandemic, I closed on a $250,000 house last month because she saw me through Yelp ads.”

While having a Yelp profile can potentially lead to bad reviews, no matter how hard working you are, it’s possible to control your ranking through the use of strategic advertising, which essentially gives you premium positioning on searches for your industry. “I pay $300 a month for ads, which is nothing, in my opinion, compared to the amount of revenue we are getting from those ads, so we pay for our spot to show up a bit higher,” Newton added.

Whether or not you decide to invest in advertising, there’s value in the number of organic reviews an online profile can attract, said Dang. “If you were to browse [our company] on Yelp, Google reviews, or Facebook reviews, all of those reviews are from organic, happy customers, and it is a great way for people to show their appreciation as well as for new folks who want to become our clients to know what type of customer service they should expect.”

It’s important to note the Yelp does not suggest asking for reviews. Instead, the company recommends simply letting customers know you have a Yelp profile. “The businesses that do best on Yelp are the ones that provide a great customer experience to everyone who walks in the door without any expectation or encouragement that they write a review,” according to the site’s support page.

Another thing to be aware of is that Yelp uses an automated filter intended to remove fake or illegitimate reviews and display only the most helpful and honest ones.

For her part, Dang makes sure to send out a customer satisfaction survey to her clients. And if they’re so compelled, they can leave a follow up review on Yelp.

But collecting reviews is only part of the job — responding to them in a timely manner is yet another, since Yelp rates businesses by how quickly they respond. Timely responses not only make you look more reliable as a real estate professional, they also provide a unique opportunity for genuine person-to-person interaction that larger companies or teams may not necessarily have.

That said, it’s best to take a long view with a platform like Yelp. “If you are brand new to the business, it is going to take you three to four years before people are familiar with your business,” Newton said. “There’s no magic bullet.”

But things will eventually start to come together when you dedicate the time to focus on your customers, both online and in person.

“Focus on your craft,” Dang said. “If you deliver the best customer service, then your clients will take on the role to be an advocate for you and give you the best reviews.”

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