Ordinarily, if I have a beef with a company, I deal with it and move on. But this isn’t ordinary. Yelp has injured hundreds–if not thousands–of small businesses with their wicked “recommendation engine,” and they seem unwilling–and downright cavalier–about not doing anything about it. But make no mistake, there is no let up in the aggressiveness of their advertising sales efforts.
A few days ago, I located Yelp’s “Director of Local Business Outreach” on LinkedIn. With a handle like that, he seemed uniquely positioned to interact with an aggrieved business owner. I sent him an “InMail” message and to my surprise, he actually responded. Alas, having consumed vast quantities of the company “kool-aid,” his response was not a surprise, though he at least used his own words, not company boilerplate. Here is his note to me, and my reply. I replaced his name with initials, but if you want to find him, he’s right there on LinkedIn.
You can always find useful information at www.yelp.com/suport or by contacting a member of the Yelp team using the 800 number found on biz.yelp.com during regular business hours. It’s important to note that Yelp’s recommendation software exists to highlight the most useful and reliable content to consumers. More and more people use Yelp every day because they have trust in the reviews. There are several components of a review that the software evaluates (including things you can’t see on the front end) but some reasons why a review may not be recommended include:
- They are written by a less established user so the system doesn’t have enough information about the user to make a recommendation
- They suggest a bias (like reviews written by the friends and family of the business owner)
- They are possibly fake (like the ones the software detects coming from the same IP address)
It looks like you already have a five-star rating on Yelp, which is great. To build on that, it requires a few crucial steps, the most important of which is engaging with your customers:
- Provide great customer service offline because our data shows that a review is more likely to be 5 stars when the user mentions “good customer service”
- Claim your business page so that you can use the free tools to acknowledge and engage with your customers directly
- Respond to positive and negative reviews promptly and diplomatically
- Instead of personally asking for reviews, let them build organically by using storefront signage, website badges, and promotions like Gift Certificates and Yelp Deals.
All of the above can easily be done by registering at biz.yelp.com to get started and none if it is based on advertising of any kind. I hope that information is helpful for you.
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First, thanks for actually taking the time to reply. I’d be dishonest if I didn’t say I was surprised to hear from you at all. Your response was thorough and comprehensive, and I appreciate that you didn’t resort to boilerplate. As you may have read in my original note, I worked in digital marketing for a dozen years, so I understand algorithms better than most.
That being said, I have issues with several things you said and would like to address them:
- Your first point speaks to “less than established user(s).” One of the reviews that was suppressed was from an attorney I did a video job for. He has been on Yelp for years, with dozens of reviews and is actually a fan. I would consider him VERY established, so this argument is inaccurate.
- Bias? If someone tells the truth, and doesn’t inflate what was stated, how could that be bias? Isn’t the truth the truth???
- I can’t comment on “fake” reviews coming from same IP addresses…I don’t have enough for that to be a valid point. I do know the folks that have posted…hell, I worked for them!
- It’s nice that you acknowledge my 5-star rating, but ain’t that what I’m supposed to do??
Now to your other points:
- If I work hard to provide the “great customer service” that you allude to, why should it matter whether it’s online of offline?
- I already claimed my business page…did that months ago
- If I get a less-than stellar review, I would address it. See point #1 and bullet points 2 and 4.
- I DON’T ask for reviews…I am far more sophisticated than that! There are subtle ways to do it, but again, I’m not attempting to game the system, I just want the reviews I earned the old-fashioned way! As for “build organically,” I know what that means but it doesn’t make sense. People post when they post and if I don’t do anything to affect that, what is the issue?
Your last paragraph is a stumper because you allude to “registering at biz.yelp.com,” which implies that I hadn’t even created a biz page. I did. I trust you saw it.
So again, I want to thank you again, DH, for responding. Unfortunately, we are still on opposite ends of this discussion, and my opinion of Yelp hasn’t been changed one bit.
I received no further communication.
My advice to anyone contemplating using Yelp for their business: Don’t. You won’t get ANY cooperation from Yelp to help you do anything but buy ads. If you are in the restaurant, hospitality or other types of retail businesses, it may be a necessary evil, but if you are in the service sector, tread lightly. Apologies for the long rant — twice — but if I help one other business owner better understand the machinations of Yelp, it will have been worth the time and effort.
Now back to doing what I love…shooting and editing video!