What the Heck is Yelp Thinking??

I’ve bit my tongue long enough about Yelp’s review filter shenanigans. Here’s an email I received today. Go ahead and read it word for word. I’ll add my commentary at the end and would love your opinion, too.

Don’t ask your customers for Yelp reviews.


Yelp Blog

“The graph you see when logged into your business owner account displays the most important Yelp metric: the number of people viewing your Yelp listing.”
Yelp is a review website. Therefore, it might seem counter-intuitive that we actually discourage business owners from asking their customers to write reviews.Why?

The number of reviews isn’t the most important metric on Yelp, the number of page views is the most important way to measure your success. Even 50 5-star reviews are worthless if no one reads them (see: Falling in Forest, Tree).

Soliciting reviews creates a vicious, counter-productive cycle.

We get it: you want to spruce up your Yelp presence with great testimonials because it’s a platform where customers gravitate to make decisions. The problem? Consumers can tell when things start looking artificial or spammy, and at that point, they will ignore the reviews that you’ve solicited and make a decision to go somewhere else. When consumers don’t trust the content, they stop looking at business listings. It’s a lose-lose.

Yelp didn’t invent the review website, but we believe we’re the most dedicated to reliable content. Consumers continue to find it accurate and helpful, and you get new business from simply doing what you do best while providing great customer service. That’s a win-win.

Another reason to avoid asking for reviews: solicited reviews may get filtered, and that will drive you crazy.

Huh? Filtered?
If you’ve never heard about Yelp’s review filter, or you’ve had a review inexplicably “disappear” from your business page, this video can help explain it. Our goal with the filter is simple: maximize consumer trust by reducing reviews written with an obvious bias.

There’s no silver bullet for a great reputation. The best way to succeed on Yelp is by focusing on great customer service. (Building out a robust business listing using biz.yelp.com’s free tools also doesn’t hurt).

Initially, my jaw dropped when Yelp advocated against asking your customer for reviews. I do not agree with this at all. That is very bad advice from a marketing standpoint.

In fact, it’s the worst “marketing” advice I’ve heard all year.

It’s like making a video or television commercial then never telling people what to next or giving a call to action. The outcome would obviously be a flat-line in your conversion. When you ask someone for a review or honest feedback about your business, that is a direct call to action!

Also, for Yelp to imply here that proactively asking patients, clients, or customers for reviews is spammy or effects the reviews trustworthiness is completely ridiculous. These are real people that have done business with you and their experience is just as important that an unsolicited review.

Who’s running  Yelp these days anyway?

If you intend on participating on Yelp, you’ll obviously need to abide by their terms. Yelp still doesn’t even come close to touching Google Places (formerly Google Maps) so spend most of your time there getting reviews.

People trust Google way more than Yelp, as practically everyone uses Google for online search. I’m curious to hear your thoughts on this whole thing. Is it fair to “filter” or not show legitimate reviews?

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About the Author

Dr. Matthew Loop is an author, speaker, and the most sought after social media revenue strategist in North America. He’s famous for showing celebrities, entrepreneurs and small business owners how to create wildly profitable, sustainable 5 figure per month passive income streams by harnessing the power of the Internet. Connect with him on Twitter and Google+.

Comments

28 Responses to “What the Heck is Yelp Thinking??”

  1. Matt says:

    Hi Matt.

    Great post yelp is a beast on their taking down reviews. But the same wind blows on us all as the great Jim Rohn said. So he who gets the most reviews will have the most stick. Keep getting reviews!

    Cheers,

    Matt Prados

  2. I totally agree that is the worst advice I ever heard. Not only do we think getting reviews are huge for your business (as long as they are legitimate) but we advocate asking for them all the time and making it as easy as possible for your patients to give them to you.

    Dr. Aan Weinstein
    Creator of the Cross Platform Widget

  3. Jeremy says:

    I Completely agree Matt.
    I read that this today also.
    So let me get this straight…this is a review site but we should not ask people for reviews?

    strange thinking

    thanks for your post

    Jeremy

    Founder of Chiropracticjobfinder

  4. Lou Rice says:

    What I’d like to know is what formula/algorithm/genius-sitting-behind-a-desk makes the decision of discerning filtered vs. unfiltered reviews? So much for “objectivity”.

  5. faye says:

    humm!! theres the problem-they sitting behind a desk!!!

  6. Kip says:

    Don’t trust yelp
    http://blogs.wsj.com/digits/2010/03/17/small-businesses-join-lawsuit-against-yelp/

    Of course they want you to increase page hits from buying advertising with them rather than reviews. Rather self serving advice but that is to be expected if you read the link I posted.

  7. Matthew Loop says:

    Great link, Kip… Thanks for sharing. Every small business owner should know about this.

  8. Yelp is impossible.. but I don’t even waste my time with Yelp. I don’t know anybody that uses it. None of my patients use it at all.

    They use the basics: google, bing, yahoo, citysearch, insiderpages. It’s much easier for them based on having an email account with them already or able to use facebook to log in as on citysearch and insiderpages. None want to go thru the process of setting up an account on a site like yelp.

  9. This story pretty much says it all:

    Yelp Hit With Class Action Lawsuit For Running An “Extortion Scheme”
    http://techcrunch.com/2010/02/24/yelp-class-action-lawsuit/

    oh and this one says even more:

    S.F. Yelp user faces lawsuit, by chiropractor, over review
    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/01/08/MNN81559L2.DTL

    Best not to avoid the situation where you have to sue a patient or website review service to keep your practice healthy.

    Everyone wants great reviews. The reality is not everyone deserves them. Reviews should be thought of as feedback allowing doctors the opportunity to improve, if needed. The bad reviews are the ones that get all the attention, right?

    I have been following this same issue over the last year. Working on a blog post. I will share when it is completed.

  10. I couldn’t agree with you more, Matt. While I do understand that Yelp wants to avoid having lots of disingenuous reviews (which would delegitimize the site), the business owner HAS to be able to at least alert his/her patients to the fact that their clinic has a Yelp presence. In fact, I believe the only reason reviews accumulate with any frequency PERIOD on Yelp is because of discrete, appropriate requests by business owners.

    Great post – keep them coming! I’m always looking for more useful info on building a thriving Chiropractic practice!

    Sincerely,

    Daniel Bockmann, DC

  11. Jessica says:

    OK I hate the review filter. FYI we do get about 8-10 clients a month at our busy spa using yelp. Sometimes I want to give up! They just filtered 4 reviews this week! Which really affected our rating.

    They never help you with the filtered reviews, we have a whopping 52 filtered reviews and (14 showing) NOT GOOD.

    So our solution is paying $500/mo for pay per click adds which push us to the top of the list when searches are done.

    We initially built our entire business on Google Maps and we are still number ONE there!

  12. Robert says:

    Yelp hides or “filters” all my good reviews and leaves my one “neutral” review from 4 years ago on the forefront. I’m not even at that office location any more!

  13. Henry says:

    I hope Jeremy stoppelman gets syphillis.

  14. Josh says:

    I own a window tinting business and customer reviews on our business about our customer service and workmanship mean everything. I have over 100 5 star ratings on many different sites and only one 4 star rating anywhere… ALL 100% Legit… I have worked incredibly hard to keep it this way.

    Yelp chooses to display 3 of our reviews and filters 17 of them. The goal of the review system is for people to talk about experiences with the business but how does this help when THEY CHOOSE to display reviews that are years old…. April 2011, 7 Five star reviews filtered…

    As business owners and customers ourselves, we need to correct them and their system or shut em down! :) Remember we are the ones who make a site popular :)

  15. Dr Marks says:

    Matt, great post. It’s amazing that a review site would judge a business by numbers of hits, which can be artificially boosted much easier than bogus reviews, than actual reviews. Bottom line is, we need to continue providing great service and asking for reviews. Most people do not own businesses and therefore do not think to post positive reviews unless asked to.

  16. Matthew Loop says:

    Thanks Dr. Marks… I completely agree with you.

  17. Rachel says:

    I will not be using Yelp or referring any of our clients to it. They’ve blocked our IP address for over a year and we’ve tried everything to reach out to them and resolve the issue. Others have had this issue as well and I haven’t seen Yelp even attempt to address the problem. Bottom line, they treat businesses like dirt.

  18. Matthew Loop says:

    I don’t recommend Yelp at all, Rachel. You’re right, they don’t treat businesses well.

  19. Zany cakes says:

    Yelp has just come to the uk, I’m absolutely shocked at how these people work.
    I have had 4 reviews, 1 of which was absolute lies, never seen or met this person before, and she claims that she had bought a cupcake from me. I spotted her last week, with one of my competitors ( kooky bakes) trying to hide her self as I have walked past. ( what a b****)
    It’s so sad that people will stoop to such levels to destroy another persons business for there own personal gain!
    I’m up for constructive criticism, but not low life scum behaviour, malice and deception.

    All my good reviews have been filtered and this crazy ladies ( Debbie l) has been left there, I’m also convinced that she works for yelp as I haven’t had a response to my complaints.

    Zany Cakes don’t even know how to bake dry cakes!!!!

  20. Matt.

    I was glad to see that someone is pointing out this serious flaw of Yelp. I think we’ll all agree as marketers/businesses that we want reviews to be legit and honest, however, Yelp is really doing themselves a disservice by 1) having such a stringent filtering process, and 2) not having enough live bodies being able to address concerns on behalf of businesses to correct filtered reviews.

    We have 80 store locations in 9 states and have over 100 authentic customer reviews being filtered. We’re reviewing our online strategy as we speak and seriously considering omitting Yelp from any ongoing efforts.

    Thanks again for bringing up such an important topic.

  21. Glenn T says:

    ANNOUNCEMENT:

    We have recently implemented a system to outsmart yelp from hiding our filtered reviews:

    Step 1- First of all, if you’re advertising with yelp, we suggest you stop doing so and shift that money to optimize your own web site instead

    Step 2- Have a graphic designer make a yelp badge that is placed on your web site. It should say “we have …… filtered and unfiltered reviews on yelp”.

    Step 3- When a visitor clicks on the badge, it will go to another page ON YOUR OWN WEB SITE (instead of going to yelp’s. (why help them get traffic and rank higher anyways)?

    Step 4- On this page have your graphic designer get a screen capture (picture) of all your filtered and unfiltered reviews and have them pasted together onto one page (in 2 sections, the top section to be unfiltered reviews, leave a space, and then the lower section the filtered reviews). 

    Now, all your reviews (filtered and unfiltered) will be visible to all your web site’s visitors.

    5- Add the following words on the top: 

    “for your convenience, we have combined all of our filtered and unfiltered reviews on one page for you to view. If youd like to go to our live yelp page, please click here ——-”

    This is done so that your potential clients will not feel like you’re trying to hide something or trying to cheat the system. 

    6- Be sure to update your unfiltered yelp page every few weeks. 

    Advantages of doing this:

    1- Your visitors will stay on your web site instead of being re-directed to yelp’s

    2- Your visitors can’t be redirected to your competitors page (unless they choose to go to your live yelp page). 

    3- No more being a slave to yelp’s algorithm

    4- Yelp would not benefit from getting traffic from you and higher rankings on google. 

    5- This system cost us only $150 to implement 

    Just be sure to shift that $300 per month on yelp advertising and put it into KEYWORDS that people will search for. 

    **Please pass this on to all small business owners that may benefit from this. 

  22. John B. says:

    Matt,

    Yelp does seem to play dirty, bowing to the almighty dollar it seems. Their business model is strange.

    However, it likely evolved into the company it is. Do you remember what life was like before Google updated their review process to require you to join Google+ in order to leave a review? There was a local chiropractor with 80+ beaming reviews on his Google listing. They all seemed suspiciously similar. He was later found boasting, a little too loud in public, that all of his reviews were fake. Then, finally, there was one true review on his Google listing: one star, and it was the person who overheard this bottom feeder. Google has since then “cleaned up” and will likely continue to refine and filter everyone’s reviews, just like Yelp does.

    If you do a little searching, I know for a fact that you can purchase software that will leave reviews for you on any website you tell it to. Or, you can simply pay someone in another country $2 per review, etc. Are these the right way to get social proof and exposure? Absolutely not. I wish Google would slap these guys into oblivion.

    This seems like the only way to keep everyone honest. It’s unfortunate that the honest folks have to suffer from the devious acts of other businesses.

    C’mon Matt, we all know that there are liars and cheats out there. Yelp (and Google) are trying to level the playing field a little. Frustrating, yes. But the alternative is much worse.

  23. Matthew Loop says:

    Hey John… I’m not saying there aren’t people trying to game the system because we all know there are. However, those that try to cheat usually have similar patters. Quantity of reviews is not one of the them. Who cares if a business owner asks for client feedback online. There is nothing wrong with that like Yelp claims. Many times patients / clients don’t have Yelp or Google accounts, so they’ll open one up to write a review. Then, of course, it gets filtered because of how new the account. This is a terrible practice and proves that Google and Yelp are out of touch with small businesses.

    The filters on Yelp and Google are way to high. With the technology they have, these companies should easily be able to come to a middle-ground. Not to mention have a manual review department since they is such an important issue for small business owners.

  24. John B. says:

    Matt,

    The problem becomes WHO we ask to leave us a review. Let’s be honest. When a patient/customer has a bad experience at our office, do we smile and ask them, “would you mind leaving us a review on Yelp?” This is the heart of the problem. Most of the reviews we ask for are solicited from our BEST customers, giving a skewed view of our products and services. I feel Yelp is trying to foster honest reviews.

    The Yelp reps I’ve talked to told me that a place of business with 4/5 stars will likely rank higher than a business with 5/5 stars because it’s highly unlikely that every single person will think you walk on water. And, for people trying to game the system, it’s hard to imagine leaving yourself anything but a 5 star review.

    What’s worse is the patients/clients who threaten you with a “bad Yelp review” unless their demands are met. I’ve heard of people getting free meals, free product, and free services just to avoid having a bad review. Then, there are also stories like Zaney Cakes (above) where your competition leaves you an incriminating review.

    Manually reviewing all of the reviews is too labor intensive, so a filtering process is necessary. Not to mention, how is anyone to be able to tell whether a “low star review” was written by your competition, a mad customer, or otherwise. It’s simply not possible.

    The only alternative I see, is to keep asking EVERYONE for reviews, knowing that Google and Yelp will filter them eventually. We all need a mix of reviews, good and bad, as humbling as that is, in order to be deemed credible. Have a look at your Amazon reviews for your book, “Cracking the Cancer Code.” At least one person thought your book was horrible, and one thinks Chiropractors and Doctor should not be used in the same sentence. Humbling yes, a lot more credible, absolutely.

  25. Matthew Loop says:

    Yelp is baiting and switching small business owners. They been the subjects of lawsuits in the past for this. No need to manually review everything, however, this issue is WAY too important to let an automated algorithm help / destroy a businesses reputation online.

    Human review in some cases is critical and Yelp / Google shouldn’t have got into the game if they were going to make the process as fair as possible and have the appropriate customer service. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a negative review filtered by Yelp. The assumption is all negative reviews are legit. Nonsense.

    Yelp has a conflict of interest since they also try to upsell businesses on their paid packages. They’re financially incentivized not to review negative business reviews, as it helps them make a buck. I’ve received thousands of emails over the years about the promises Yelp makes.

    I agree… even the best products / services have negative reviews so to have a 5 stars looks fishy. However, for Yelp / Google to filter legitimate positive reviews is economically harmful to businesses. It hurts more than it helps.

    If you look at the negative review for my book, the man even admitted he didn’t read it. Are you serious? He has no experience with the product and left a bad review. That should not be permitted. At least try the product / service before leaving feedback.

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