Paying Yelp will NOT improve star ratings
if you are a restaurant or bar owner, sooner or later you will get the call from Yelp asking to advertise with them. They offer several options including wifi marketing and call to action buttons. One of their main products is “Putting your listing at the top of the search results”. What this usually means is giving you a “sponsored” (paid) listing which looks like this:
These listings have the “AD” designation in front of your business name. The problem with this is, no one pays attention to “ADs”. People will subconsciously filter these out of their attention. This is the same issue with Google paid ads, they don’t exist on people’s mental radar. Most people will start paying attention to the results directly UNDER these paid ads.
Yelp will show you all sorts of analytics of how paying them can improve your visibility. This is technically true. More people will see your listing but does this convert into people walking in the door? Not really.
If you have a bad star rating, increasing eyeballs on this poor rating does not equal people walking in your door.
Bad overall star ratings are the kiss of death these days. Improve your star rating by improving your customer experience and reaching out to those who gave bad reviews in order to make it up to them. This will give you infinitely more improvement than having a ton of traffic sent to your bad Yelp rating page.
Responding to your reviews (as I’ve said about 100 times on this site) is a proven cheap (or free) way to improve consumer trust in your brand. It also allows you to voice the other side of the argument with a poor review. See this post on Responding to Your Yelp Reviews here. For example, a review that says “Drinks were way too expensive, they are $12 each!” can make you look pretty bad. If you respond with something like “We do offer $12 drinks on the high end but wells start at $6” it defuses the poor review. People will now know the truth and that the poor review was in fact very misleading even though it was technically true.