Recent studies show that car dealers with a presence on are seeing a significant return on investment — and that’s not just among paid advertisers, although those tend to see a higher boost.

A Nielsen survey released in June found that 99 percent of Yelp users have purchased from a business they found on the consumer review site. What’s more, four out of five Yelpers visit the site with the intent to buy something. Morgan Remmers is Yelp’s manager of local business outreach. The magazine sat down with her to learn how auto dealers can use this information for their benefit.

ADM: Yelp gets a lot of attention for its restaurant and retail reviews, but what does the site have to offer in terms of a vehicle-shopper audience?

Remmers: We asked consumers, “Why do you go to Yelp? What specifically are you looking for?” Forty percent of respondents said they went to Yelp searching for businesses in automotive categories. And the end goal of Yelp is to “click to brick.” So it’s to drive those consumers that are coming to our website to make buying decisions back into the local community of local businesses.

It’s definitely important for every kind of business, including auto dealers, to have claimed their business page on Yelp and to activate the free tools available in their business accounts — not only to gauge the estimated revenue coming from Yelp and the customer reviews you’re driving, but to also optimize the “virtual storefront” to better represent themselves to the consumers who are already looking for them.


ADM: We know Yelp is cracking down on fake reviews. You have a lawsuit against a so-called online reputation management company that allegedly submitted fraudulent reviews to Yelp, as well as recent sting operations that caught businesses which now have consumer alerts on their pages for the next 90 days. We’ve heard a lot about what not to post to Yelp. What, then, should dealers be looking to solicit in terms of content?

Remmers: We actually say, “Just don’t ask.” I would recommend — in face-to-face interactions — providing great customer service day in and day out. We had our programmers do a study on all the reviews on our site that included the words “good customer service,” and they were five times as likely to give that business a five-star rating over a one-star. What that demonstrates is that what you’re doing in the offline world is going to be reflected online.

Yelp’s famed algorithm isn’t the only way the tech firm polices its site  for fake reviews. Yelp staffers also conduct sting operations to catch businesses trying to game the system. If a business is caught purchasing fake reviews, a consumer alert will appear on that business’ Yelp page for 90 days.

Yelp’s famed algorithm isn’t the only way the tech firm polices its site  for fake reviews. Yelp staffers also conduct sting operations to catch businesses trying to game the system. If a business is caught purchasing fake reviews, a consumer alert will appear on that business’ Yelp page for 90 days.

ADM: Do you have any other best practices for car dealers looking to improve their reputation on Yelp?

Remmers: A private message is a perfect way to send a quick thank-you note to those that have taken the time to write a nice, positive review for the dealership. It’s also really great if there’s something negative in terms of what [the customer] wrote in a review. [The dealer] can ask, “What can I do to rectify this situation?” and get additional information.

Then there’s public messaging, which is your greatest PR tool when you use it properly — just by posting directly underneath that review on your business page for all future consumers to see. So, in that instance, you don’t want to draw attention only to negative reviews, but you want to respond diplomatically.

State your policy where appropriate. Thank the person for his or her review. And also, it’s really great just to let people know what you’ve done to make the experience better going forward — if there’s a place that’s appropriate to say that.

ADM: How about tips for improving each dealership’s Yelp page?

Remmers: For dealers, it sounds so simple, but making sure your hours for which you answer your phone are running and accurate. Yelp Deals, Check-In offers and adding your phone hours are huge, because — not only on mobile but on desktop — consumers can scroll through their websites based on “Who’s Open Now?”

ADM: We came across a recent study from The Boston Consulting Group that says Yelp is having quite the impact on revenue streams within the automotive industry. Can you explain how that is?

Remmers: Yelp is driving real revenue to a lot of small businesses. The main finding for automotive — dealerships, auto repair or body shops, etc. — is that businesses claiming their free account saw an average annual revenue coming from Yelp in the amount of $8,000. And then, when they surveyed the automotive-related businesses, they saw an average in revenue upward of $39,000, so that’s paying advertisers with us. The average spend from local advertisers is $4,200 annually.

ADM: “Call to Action” is another recently released feature. Can you tell our readers how they can take advantage of the tool?

Remmers: The actionable options are Book Now, Call Now, Get a Quote, Sign Up, Buy Tickets, Contact Us, Schedule an Appointment and Print Coupon. For car dealers, the ones that make the most sense would be Call Now, Get a Quote, Contact Us and Schedule an Appointment. The cool thing is that, in any business owner account, they can actually have this Call to Action button optimized, so they’re actually able to track those clicks that are driving people directly to that landing page on their site.

ADM: What about Yelp Platform? That was rolled out in July to people wanting to set up food delivery and pickup. Are there any plans to extend that to other industries?

Remmers: As it stands, Yelp Platform is only available for restaurants that have a relationship with our two platform providers, Eat24 and Consumers have the ability to order their food for delivery on our site without going to an external website to do that. The plan, essentially, is to figure out if there are other businesses that have transaction services — car dealers could book test-drive appointments. The idea behind it is to make the site more useful and helpful to consumers over time.