Online reviews, particularly on sites like Yelp, are increasingly important to an agent’s business. Such a development has good and bad effects: it can boost an agent’s digital profile and help spread the good word, but it can also amplify bad or negative reviews.
It’s not a position real estate professionals asked to be in, but it’s the reality of the business anyway. The question then becomes, how can an agent successfully navigate this world of Yelp-style, semi-anonymous online reviews?
The first thing to know is, no, bad reviews on a Yelp profile cannot be deleted, according Chicago Business Journal. A Yelp spokesperson told the publication that “There’s no amount of money you can pay Yelp to alter a business’s reviews or rating.”
The publication reached out to Yelp after reports surfaced that the business-rating company had asked small businesses for payments in order to remove bad reviews. Yelp has denied this charge.
There is one way to get a negative Yelp review removed, but only if it runs afoul of the site’s terms of service, is considered defamatory or contains provable inaccuracies, according to the Business Journal. That would require the help of law enforcement, including lobbying a criminal complaint against a commenter.
Such cases are likely to be rare, meaning that real estate professionals will be stuck with the overwhelming majority of negative reviewed. But there is a way forward, according to experts.
How to combat
The answer is a bit old-fashioned for a new, high-tech problem. The most assured way to combat bad online reviews is to have excellent customer service.
“The single best tactic you can employ is to provide outstanding customer service to all your customers, so you are consistently getting positive 4-5 star reviews,” a real estate marketing company wrote in a blog post. “I know that probably seems obvious, but the reality is if you are consistently getting 3 stars or lower there’s something wrong operationally with your business.”
If an agent is satisfied with their customer service and interactions, they then should be asking each and every client if they are willing to give a “testimonial” or review, says the marketing website Easy Agent Pro. Getting public reviews from clients not only provides the agent with helpful feedback, it can also help push negative comments down on the Yelp profile (assuming the agent is confident they will get a good review).
It’s not enough to ask a client to email over a testimonial, because agents cannot manually add reviews to their own profile. The client would have to head to Yelp or any other rating site and enter the comment themselves, which in many cases requires signing up for an account and other logistical hurdles to jump.
Tyler Zey with Easy Agent Pro said sending a form email to clients is the best way to get them to post positive reviews. He suggests sending a link to Yelp or another site followed by directions on how to post. Zey said he also notes that testimonials are often used in his marketing material, which could hint to clients that they are seeking positive comments.
Benefits of Yelp
There are a number of reasons why real estate professionals should not shun Yelp, Trulia and any number of online rating platforms. Why? For one, they help build up an agents’ visibility on Google and other search engines. According to Easy Agent Pro, creating a Yelp page for your business (rather than have one automated) increases your chances for getting on the first page of a Google search result. A complete profile also helps with visibility on platforms like Google Plus.
Another reason is that customer reviews now play a key role in consumer activities. About 140 million people use Yelp on a monthly basis. One study suggests that 70 percent of customers say they trust online reviews just as much as personal recommendations. Only 12 percent of the population did not regularly read reviews for products before buying.
It’s obvious that client reviews or testimonials are a large part of business marketing now, and agents will have to learn how to deftly navigate this new space if they are to remain successful.