Yelp. Love it or hate it, it's here to stay.
In 2015, Yelp's average monthly mobile unique visitors swelled to 89 million. Yet, despite its growing popularity, Yelp has been a thorn in the side of many small business owners. Yelp's purpose is to help people find great local businesses, but who (or what) decides if a business is great?
Yelp lets consumers (Yelpers) be the jury. Yelp trusts consumers to leave authentic reviews about their experiences. And with the importance of online reviews, nothing is more frustrating than when Yelp filters a perfectly legitimate review into the dreaded "not recommended" section. In the words of Brian Fantana, "60% of the time it works...every time."
In this post we'll tell you why Yelp sometimes filters legitimate reviews and give you some tips for improving the chances that your reviews stay recommended.
What is the Yelp filter and why should I care?
Yelp uses an automated filter to hide certain reviews in order to display only the most helpful and honest reviews. The purpose of the filter is to remove fake or illegitimate reviews. The filter is intended to protect businesses.
But there's a problem with this. Because the filter is automated, sometimes even authentic reviews get filtered. This is an issue for business owners, who need the feedback (both positive and negative) from their actual customers.
Positive Yelp reviews can impact small businesses in a huge way. 79% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Businesses can even see a 5% to 9% increase in revenue if their Yelp rating increases by one star (and all those five-star reviews that are being filtered out also don't count toward your star rating).
Why is Yelp filtering my reviews?
When real reviews get filtered, it's frustrating. It's especially annoying to think that, while your legitimate client reviews are being filtered by Yelp, fake reviews, or even an entirely fake business, can still appear on Yelp.
Kashmir Hill, an editor at Fusion, decided to try an experiment to see if she could trick the Internet. She created local business listings for a fake karaoke company. She then paid for social media followers and reviews, in order to make her phony business to appear to be real.
Even Yelp, with all its suspicion and scrutiny, allowed her to set up a business listing after verifying the "real existence" of her fake business. And while many of the fake reviews she paid for didn't make it past Yelp's filter, others did. Isn't the Internet fun?
Anyway, here are some common reasons why reviews get filtered:
- Yelp doesn't trust users who have only written a few reviews, especially if they have no Yelp friends or profile information.
- The review is too positive or too negative. This also goes for reviewers who only post positive reviews everywhere they go. I guess Yelp assumes you can't enjoy every experience.
- It isn't funny or useful. Other Yelp reviewers can mark a review as funny or useful. Reviews that are too short also get filtered. "Great service!" really isn't helping anyone.
- The review violated Yelp's Content Guidelines, which are pretty straightforward.
- The IP is wrong. Yelp uses IP addresses to determine whether or not a review is fake. So, if a reviewer is on vacation and visits your business but waits until they get home to review it, that review is probably going to get filtered.
- The CEO thinks your reviews stink. Okay, that's probably not a real reason, but he does say so in his Yelp profile.
How do I make sure real reviews don't get filtered?
While you have no real control over what gets filtered, you can still do a few things to make sure nothing you do causes problems for your Yelp page.
- Never pay someone to review your business. That's illegal, and if you do, Yelp will find you and they will make sure everyone knows about it.
- Don't offer a promotion to Yelpers in exchange for a review.
- Don't use Yelp as a contest or ad space. I mean, unless you're actually paying for Yelp's slightly shady advertising service. (Yelp has been accused of pushing this service on businesses by threatening to push negative reviews higher on the business' Yelp page.)
- Don't ask your family and friends to write reviews for you. They will spot Grandma's glowing assessment a mile away.
- You can also attempt to help legitimate reviews be recognized by Yelp. If you see a review a real customer has written on your Yelp page, but the review is being filtered, you can add the reviewer as a friend or vote the review useful, funny, or cool.