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September 1, 2015

On the Internet, people often focus far more time and energy on reacting to negativity than on creating positive responses. It is important to address negative reviews on a site such as Yelp properly. However, doing so will not create the positive feedback you desire. To accomplish that, you need to stimulate positive reviews.

One way to do that is by hosting a Yelp event, which could take many forms. You could include outreach with a local dog adoption group or offer a vaccination clinic with a local veterinarian. You could also host an Ask the Trainer event. Think of a Yelp event as sort of a grand reopening where you introduce your business to a community of pet loving Yelpers—some of who might give your store positive reviews.

To get started, use the Yelp website to contact a few local Elite Yelpers. Elite Yelpers are people that Yelp considers first-class reviewers. Their reviews always make it through Yelp’s filters, so if an Elite Yelper reviews your business, it will appear on your Yelp page. Although this is unconfirmed, some believe a five-star review from an Elite Yelper is worth more toward your overall Yelp rating than one from a non-Elite reviewer. Regardless, Elite Yelp reviews are valuable and worth seeking out, provided you follow some basic rules.

Never offer Elites or anyone else compensation for a review. Doing so is against Yelp’s policy and can get you in trouble with the site. Instead, let the Elite Yelpers know you are a dedicated animal lover and an independent pet store owner, and would love for more people who share your passion for animals to learn about your store.

People love talking about their pets, which allows you to connect with them at a level that can be difficult to access. If you have a store dog or cat, your guests will most likely love to meet them, too.

If appropriate for the main event, you should also encourage the Elites to bring their friendly dogs for special treats and fun. If they agree, be ready to spoil their pooches. After getting to know your new two- and four-legged friends, give them a quick tour of the store. Keep it brief and positive. Let them know how much you appreciate their attendance and mention how long your store has served the community.

Don’t forget to invite those who have already given you positive reviews; you can also ask them to bring along friends, especially ones that have pets of their own. It is acceptable to offer discounts to those who attend a Yelp event, just as long as it is clear that the discounts are not payment or incentive to write a positive review. They are a way to introduce your store and products to new customers.

You have a huge advantage, as animal lovers tend to react positively to those they consider to be kindred spirits. Combine that with a proactive event at your top-notch store and you should end up with great Yelp reviews and a positive Yelp presence.

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