In the past decade, businesses have had to jump on the digital train to stay on top of new trends, capitalize on new markets, and expand reach. From social media channels to review sites like Yelp, there’s a lot for entrepreneurs to monitor in the instant feedback, smartphone-crazed world we live in.

Yelp, for instance, can have a big impact on the growth of your business. This review site allows customers to rate your business and leave feedback about their experience. Here’s a quick look at what it looks like today:

A look at YELP.

A look at Yelp.

If you’re not actively seeking feedback, monitoring the comments, and publicizing the positive reviews customers leave, you’re probably behind the digital eight ball. To help you master the fine art of Yelp, we asked Darin Alpert, who owns BirdEye, a company that helps businesses manage their online reputation, to offer some advice.

“Having lots of 5-star reviews can make you golden. Having negative reviews, or no reviews, can seriously hurt your business,” Alpert says of the popular review site.

How to boost your Yelp reputation:

1. Claim your business

If you haven’t done so already, go to Yelp and claim your business. By doing so you’ll be able to create a business profile and upload business hours, contact information, and pictures. You’ll also be able to directly respond to customers and even create a specific deal for Yelp using customers.

2. Ask customers for feedback

There are mixed reviews on whether or not you should ask your customers for feedback, but Alpert says it’s a good idea.

“A lot of businesses forget the simplest best practice—ask your customers directly for reviews, especially the happy ones,” he says. “Visual reminders at the customer touch points are another simple approach.”

You could also send an email with your Yelp link in it to encourage feedback. Once your business racks up some quality feedback, Yelp will even send your business “People Love Us On Yelp” stickers.

3. Monitor feedback

One of the best things you can do to manage your online reputation is to monitor and respond to feedback on Yelp.

“Checking your Yelp site everyday is not too much,” Alpert says. You don’t want to be “one of those rank and file businesses that are so afraid of getting a bad reputation on the site that you avoid it all together.”

Even if a comment is less than positive, if you respond in the right manner, you can still show others that you’re listening. If you do have a poor review, Alpert suggests the following:

  • Thank the customer for the feedback
  • Don’t use an angry or accusatory tone.
  • If there was a problem, address it. Offer to make amends, if necessary. Or, offer to speak about the issue in private.

Here’s a good example of an owner addressing a customer’s concern:

A good way to address concerns.

A good way to address concerns.

4. Watch your competition

It’s always a good idea to keep an eye on your competition. Yelp makes it fairly easy to do just that. You can see what customers like and dislike and use that information to improve your business too.

If you need a little help addressing reviews on Yelp, get a little inspriation from others in your industry.

5. Promote your positive reviews

If a customer gives you a positive shout out, mention it on social media and tag the customers in the message, if you can. It’s the digital way to gather and promote testimonials. You can even hook your Yelp site to your social sites so you can share reviews in few clicks. (Check out Yelp’s frequently asked questions page to learn how to set this up.) You can also use these quotes on your website to encourage others to check out your business too.

Do you use Yelp? Tell us how you monitor your reputation online in the comment section below.

AvatarLisa Furgison

Lisa Furgison is a journalist with a decade of experience in all facets of media.