In the Trenches: The Yelp Conundrum

BrettSnyder by Brett Snyder on December 18, 2013

In theory, Yelp should be a great tool for any small business. After all, a ton of people browse the site daily looking for quality goods and services. This should help drive a lot of traffic. We here at Cranky Concierge, however, have found the online reviews site to be more problematic than anything else. Maybe we just aren’t using it right?

Although we’re primarily an online business, we had to provide a location in order to get listed on Yelp. I put us in Long Beach, because that’s where I’m based, even though my staff is scattered across the country. For that reason, Yelp only reaches potential clients in Southern California.

At first, things seemed to be going OK. People wrote great reviews about us, but then they started disappearing. Yelp arbitrarily decided that some of the reviews were “fake,” so it buried them in a small gray link at the bottom of the page where it says they were “not currently recommended.” Never mind that the reviewers were all clients we knew, and their comments were all legit. There is no way to dispute Yelp’s move, which is annoying. Fortunately, we eventually received a few more write-ups that were allowed to stay. With seven reviews now giving us 5 out of 5 stars, I should be happy. But I’m not.

What we’ve learned is that the prospects who come to us through Yelp are the most unqualified leads we get. I can think of maybe one or two people who have signed up for our services after reading about us on Yelp, yet we typically field at least one or two inquiries per week. Why is the conversion rate so terrible?

Most of these people are looking for travel agents. They see our Yelp listing and then call us. The category we’re in is Travel Services, and apparently people don’t bother to read the description of what that means in our case. We explicitly state, “Cranky Concierge is not your typical travel agency.” We also charge a fee in advance for our services (also noted in the description).

A usual inquiry comes from someone who needs a flight and wants a cheap fare. We explain the cost and benefits of our service, and they say they’ll “get back to us.” They rarely do. Frankly, this is a waste of our time (and that of the person who calls us). I wish there was a better way to clarify what we do, but despite multiple efforts, our message isn’t getting through.

Any suggestions?


Brett Snyder is President and Chief Airline Dork of Cranky Concierge air travel assistance. Snyder previously worked for several airlines, including America West and United, before leaving to create a travel search site for Snyder did his undergrad at George Washington and earned his MBA from Stanford.