Yelp!, Small Businesses & The Fallacy of the Excluded Middle

Nov 06, 2014


Don't let hard feelings about Yelp! or a couple of bad reviews stop you from taking full advantage of your valuable free listing.


A lot of small business owner in general and florists in particular have a problem with Yelp!. They consider the paid advertising a kind of extortion, not unlike a protection racket, and want nothing to do with it.

It is easy to understand the frustration. The story usually goes like this – the florist has bad review or two that they don’t believe is justified, and they want to get it off their listing. Unfortunately their isn’t much they can do.

Then a Yelp! salesperson subtly implies, or the florist infers, that the bad review would go away if they were to become a paid Yelp! advertiser In that light it does start to feel like extortion.

In fairness Yelp! is adamant that paid advertisers do not get special treatment regarding bad reviews. Along the way there have been accusations that rogue salespeople made such promises, but it is not official policy. It is however easy for the small business owner to infer something different from a sales pitch.

However it happens many flower shop owners seem to come away believing that the only way to deal with a bad review is by paying a big monthly fee. True or not that is the impression and they come to resent it. Understandably.

I use and like Yelp! a lot as a consumer. And while I understand the frustration of small business owners I respect Yelp! for creating a playing field that isn’t just level – it actually favors small business over national brands.

That is no small thing. This world favors big. Big national brands get to do national advertising and dominate the airwaves. They get tremendous exposure from paid product placements. They can dominate online advertising with massive marketing budgets. Sophisticated SEO can take them a long way in natural search as well. In all of these areas big business has the advantage and it is difficult, if not impossible, for small businesses to compete.

From what I can see Yelp! is one of the very few places where the little guys have equal, or possibly even better, footing than the big guys. I admire them for that.

Recently a friend explained that a couple of florists who were interested in advertising on Yelp! asked a larger group of florists what they felt about it. The consensus was very negative – basically that Yelp! screws small business over so stay away completely. The two positions were basically completely ignore Yelp! or become a paid advertiser.

That leaves out a great middle-of-the-road position. If you really feel that Yelp! uses extortion to get money from small business owners I can understand why you would not want to support them financially. And, if you are frustrated by an unfair bad review I can understand wanting to just ignore Yelp! entirely.

But ignoring it means missing out on the great opportunity that comes with the free listing. No matter how you feel about Yelp! – love them or hate them – that free listing is incredibly valuable and you need to work it as hard as you possibly can. Forget about the bad reviews, focus on getting some good ones to dilute it, and work hard on getting the most out of that free listing.

That should help make the decision about paying easier too. Again it’s not ignore OR go paid – the smart move is to work the free listing and, if it pays off, paid advertising might make sense.

That free listing really is one of the very few gifts a small business owner ever gets. Don’t let it go to waste.

Category: Floral Industry

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