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Yelp’s Director of Local Biz Development Talks Winning in the Feedback Economy

By Brent Leary

Customers leave reviews and recommendations on every kind of purchase today from buying pizzas to million-dollar machines. Reviews are playing a vital role in the buying process. I recently spoke with Yelp’s director of local business development Darnell Holloway to get his perspective on the importance of having a great reputation on sites like Yelp. Below are a few takeaways from that conversation.

What’s the Feedback Economy?

Darnell Holloway: It’s a concept that we now live in a world where consumers are relying on online reviews for every type of purchasing decision. When it comes to Yelp specifically, we know that reviews play a big part in where people are going to spend their money.

Nielsen did a study and found 82 percent of Yelp users are on the site because they intend to buy a product or a service, and of course they’re going to look at a business’ reviews. It’s important for businesses to pay attention to their reviews.

Yelp is a platform that allows businesses to engage when they are getting reviews. Every business out there should get in the habit of responding to their reviews, whether they’re positive or negative, within 24 hours.

What’s the best way for a company to recruit customers to write reviews on their behalf?

Darnell Holloway: We recommend that you don’t ask for reviews. That might seem counter-intuitive, but instead, what you want to do is focus on good customer service, first and foremost, in the offline world. There is a direct correlation between customer service and reviews on Yelp. Our data science team found that if somebody mentions good customer service in a review, that review is five times as likely to be five star versus one star.

The second thing is you do want to engage with your profile as well. You want to do things like adding photos, adding content. Why? Because the more content you have, the more traffic that you’re going to get on Yelp, and then you’re going to get more reviews as well.

You also want to let people know that you have a presence on Yelp, so while you don’t want to go out and solicit reviews, you do want to let people know that you’re on there. You can do that by putting html badges on your website. You can put signage in your storefront. We give stickers away that say, “Find us on Yelp, at”.

Responding to reviews is incredibly important. One interesting bit of information that our data science recently surfaced is that if a business responds to a negative review within 24 hours, if they send a personalized message that reviewer is 33 percent more likely to upgrade the rating and the review.

Any other factoids you could share?

Darnell Holloway: Most of our searches are happening on mobile. Most of our content is being added via mobile devices. Also, people are transacting directly from Yelp. It’s a transactions platform.

We developed a tool called Request A Quote, that allows service-based businesses to take quotes directly from people on the Yelp app. I could use the Yelp app and find a plumber, and I can request a quote right there from the app. I can also take pictures of the pipe underneath my sink. At the same time, I can also request quotes from multiple plumbers to make sure that I’m finding the person who’s available, who would come to my place within an hour or so to get the work done.

And I’d highly recommend that you respond to your reviews within 24 hours. AT


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