Are Yelp’s New Tools Useful to Business Owners?

Recently, Yelp added images and a widget intended as a co-branding strategy. The announcement came just after Google decided against purchasing Yelp – a $550 million deal down the tubes. Amid the speculation that the news is bad for small business, could Yelp’s outreach be a placating attempt? In any case, it’s worth taking a look at what Yelp is offering.

On its Flickr account, Yelp has posted graphics you can add to your company’s website, newsletters, business cards and other marketing materials. There are different versions of the Yelp logo as well as “Find us on Yelp” icons. A Yelp button could be used to link your website visitors to your Yelp presence.

The other new service is a widget using Yelp’s API that allows your business to post its Yelp reviews directly on your website. The reviews appear in a badge that displays either a sampling of reviews or your average star rating.

Yelp definitely has its fans and foes. On the one hand, you have everyday people critiquing smaller businesses, therefore providing free advertising for those who might not have much of a promotions budget. On the other, those same amateur critics can post scathing, one-star reviews of a business, therefore causing others to shy away from patronizing it – even if those reviews aren’t necessarily representative of the business.

Then there are the claims against Yelp about its business tactics. According to NBC Bay Area:

“[S]ome business owners have accused the company of brutal sales tactics – some say extortion – to coerce businesses to advertise alongside reviews. The company will add negative reviews and remove positive ones if businesses don’t spend $300 or more to advertise on the site, some business owners say.”

What do you think?

Is Yelp a useful marketing tool for your business?

How does your business capitalize on its Yelp presence, if at all?

Will you try out the new tools?

Do you respond to negative reviews, and if so, how?