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Yelp's Review Filter Poses Unfair Disadvantage for Many Businesses

frustrated man punching computer monitor Are you frustrated because Yelp is hiding all 10 of your positive reviews, and showing just the one, bogus, negative review? You’re not alone. Thousands of businesses have suffered through the exact same situation. In fact, Prospect Genius is one of them! While Yelp may often succeed in its purpose—”To connect people with great local businesses”—it actually hurts many of those businesses with much the same frequency. This is to say nothing of the countless businesses who have publicly voiced complaints about Yelp’s practices, which include hiding all of a business’s positive reviews and then reportedly offering to display them if that business agrees to pay for advertising. If that sounds an awful lot like extortion to you, you’re not crazy. What’s worse, you could be one of the unwitting victims. Although Yelp denies all of those extortion claims, there’s no arguing against the fact that its review-filtering system hides perfectly legitimate reviews and leaves many small business owners out to dry.

First, Some Background

Yelp started out as the West Coast’s favorite source for restaurant reviews. Through savvy marketing, organic growth, and a lawsuit against Google (for what we believe are unfounded claims), Yelp has spread to both coasts and has grown to be a significant player in the local search space. That said, it still gets the most activity in the restaurant sector and struggles to get any real traction for service providers like plumbers, electricians, and the like. We suspect this is largely because the people who use Yelp tend to be young urbanites, not homeowners. Yelp is making a lot of headlines these days. Most of the headlines are regarding the questionable quality and balance of reviews on its listings. It’s a well-known fact across the web that many online reviews are unreliable. They’re either completely fake or at least prone to being one-sided hyperbole. For that reason, Yelp had to figure out a way of evaluating the authenticity of the customer reviews left on its site. It somehow needed to identify reviews that may have been left by the business owner and his/her friends, as well as reviews that may have been fabricated by a competitor looking to hurt a rival. Yelp’s solution: a review-filtering algorithm.

The Problem With Yelp’s Review Filter

Unfortunately, Yelp’s review-filtering algorithm very clearly holds newer accounts in low esteem. While the filter is designed to cut down on questionable or spam-like reviews, it winds up targeting brand-new listings, brand-new accounts, and accounts that have left very few reviews previously. One of the side effects is that you and many other small service providers find the majority of your positive reviews blocked by the filter. It’s a preemptive strike against spammers on Yelp’s part, but it actively hurts honest businesses like yours.  We don’t pretend that accurately filtering reviews is an easy task, but Google and others have somehow managed to find much, much better ways of handling this same problem. Perhaps it’s because, by strategically hiding certain reviews, Yelp discovered a new method of “hard bargaining”?

So, What’s the Solution?

You have two options. Option 1 is that you fight the good fight by constantly monitoring your Yelp listing and responding to all of your reviews, both positive and negative. In this option, you’ll pour time and energy into collecting as many good reviews as possible and hoping that some of them stick so that when the inevitable happens—an unhinged person leaves you an entirely undeserved bad review—it doesn’t bring your score below a 4-star rating. Option 2 is to stand up for yourself and demand removal from Yelp entirely. If you determine that you’re getting little to no traffic from your Yelp listing, and you’re not a restaurant owner, then you probably will be just fine if your Yelp listing is vaporized. This is the path that Prospect Genius chose and we’ve never looked back. A huge upside to this path is that it’s one less place where you need to monitor your listing and maintain your reviews. You can channel that saved energy into your Google+ reviews, which carry more SEO value, anyway. Alternatively (or additionally), there’s always your Facebook Page, where you can work on collecting “Likes” and reviews, as well. Don’t have a Google My Business or Facebook account? Don’t worry: They’re free to set up if you have the time and skills to do it right. Don’t have the time or skills to optimize your accounts effectively? Ask us about SocialStart, a unique Prospect Genius program that’s designed to hatch your social media presence and give it a good, swift kick out of the nest.  Don’t let imperfect review filters slander your reputation and dictate your company’s online success! When you let Prospect Genius outfit you with the right tools and resources, your web presence will speak louder than any Yelp listing ever could.