This is a question I’ve been asked many, many times by clients who get the weekly phone calls from Yelp telling them that they need to advertise their small business on the site. My response is always the same. I don’t think that Yelp punishes non-advertisers, but I think their algorithm with their “not recommended review section” is nonsense.
I am all for review integrity, and I’ve counseled dozens of business owners who wonder out loud how to beat Yelp, and I tell them you can’t. All you can hope to do is encourage and make your customers aware that if they have feedback to share, you have a great Google My Business page, a friendly Facebook page and a Yelp listing for your business where they’re welcome to share their thoughts. However, in Yelp’s world, you aren’t allowed to promote your page or ask for reviews. You also can’t link your page to emails sent to customers encouraging them to leave you a note of praise or statement of dissatisfaction, lest you be in violation of their standards. I tell clients that what’s nearly equal in importance to your “star score” is how you respond publicly to your reviews. But that is best saved for another article.
Having met a VP of standards for Yelp at a conference with industry professionals last Spring, I’m convinced that they do not target or punish businesses who don’t succumb to their non-stop (very annoying) sales pitch. Even though they are legally allowed to manipulate the placement of positive reviews on their pages according to the courts in 2009, jeopardizing their brand through such a practice would be ridiculous. This is not to say that they are guilty of setting up an unfair system, but life is not fair as every business owner realizes at some point.
As you’ll see in the article and news report linked below, there are major holes in how their algorithm deals with certain situations. They want their “Yelpers” to use their app to review businesses and post photos, but when a reviewer uses the provided wifi in the store, it has the same IP address (your digital fingerprint) that every other reviewer might use to write about their experience. When Yelp sees too many reviews from one IP address in a short period of time, they are all “discounted, not recommended reviews”, at least that’s been my experience with them.
This discarding of valid reviews to the back of the page with the not recommended label will eventually hurt them as I’m not really into writing Yelp reviews because I don’t want my time to be wasted. I’d much rather use Facebook or Google Reviews because at least they assume innocence, and my story gets published prominently amongst the other reviews.
Here’s a link to a news story out of Dallas: http://dfw.cbslocal.com/2018/01/09/yelp-accused-hiding-positive-reviews-non-advertiser/
If you have questions about how best to manage your digital presence, including Yelp, call us at Colorado Internet Solutions: 720-458-3046. We’d love to be part of your online reputation team.