Understand and Avoid the Yelp Review FilterFew things are more frustrating than when customers post glowing reviews on your local business Yelp page, only to have those reviews filtered by Yelp’s seemingly arbitrary algorithms. While Yelp’s notorious review filter can be a source of great ire and frustration, it is also what gives the site its sense of integrity and value, and isn’t going away anytime soon.  Therefore, it’s important to understand how it works so that you can help your customers to avoid problems with it.

What Kind of Things Trigger the Yelp Review Filter?

The first thing you need to realize is that Yelp reviews are actually posted on the user’s profile page, where they will always be visible, even when filtered on the reviewed site’s business page.  From the user’s profile page, they are then syndicated to the business page of the reviewed entity.  That’s the reason reviews may seem to appear and disappear or shift positions; the more established and active the user, the more weight the reviews carry.  Therefore reviews may be filtered if the user who posts them is not an established Yelper:

  •      Does not have a complete profile
  •      Does not have any friends
  •      Has not posted any other reviews
  •      Does not live in the area for which the review is posted

That’s not to say that any one of these conditions will automatically get a review filtered; these are just some of the things that the software considers when looking at the overall review.  New users post reviews all the time; otherwise Yelp wouldn’t continue to grow as it does.  But the Yelp filter algorithm takes a hard look at these and other factors, to determine whether or not the reviewer is a real person.  Other things that can raise a red flag are:

  •      Reviews that are too strongly slanted, either positively or negatively
  •      Reviews that are short and lacking in detail

What is an Established Yelper?

A strong established Yelper is one who has completed their profile, including a photo and link to their Facebook page, who has a number of friends and/or followers, who posts regularly and interacts with other Yelpers.  Bonus points if you download the Yelp app and check in now and again at your favorite businesses.

The whole point of the Yelp review filter is to prevent businesses from using phony Yelp accounts to post false reviews about themselves, or just as bad, negative reviews about their rivals.  It stands to reason, therefore, that the more things you do to prove to Yelp that you are a real person, the less likely you are to have your reviews filtered.

Ways to Avoid the Filter Axe

When you have customers that wish to post positive reviews, you might explain to them that they should first complete their Yelp profiles.  You can also add them as friends, and even follow them.  Once they post their reviews, vote their reviews as “funny” or “useful,” and be sure to respond to their reviews as well.  This interaction will help convince Yelp that your customers are real people, and not you in disguise.  You can also vote on other reviews that your customers have posted.

Salvaging Filtered Reviews

As previously mentioned, reviews can drift in and out of the filtered section, depending on the strength of the user’s profile.  To help a filtered review escape the dark side, you simply need to work to strengthen the user’s Yelp standing.  One way to do that is to add them as a friend and/or follow them.  If that doesn’t work, try reaching out to them through Yelp’s messaging platform.  Explain to them that while you greatly appreciate their feedback, their review has been filtered, and ask them to complete their profile and update the review.

Should I Invest in Yelp Advertising?

Whether or not you decide to purchase advertising or coupons on Yelp should make no difference to your reviews and Yelp’s filtering policy.  Yelp very plainly states that the review process is completely unaffected by whether or not the business has purchased Yelp advertising.  Make your decision strictly based on the return on investment you expect to receive.

Things You Should Never Do

Yelp’s policy is to discourage owners from paying people to write reviews about their business.  They feel this is the same as looking over their shoulder or even writing it for them.  Therefore, while it’s okay to ask your customers to “Find Us On Yelp,” it’s not okay to incentivize them to “Review Us On Yelp.”  It’s a fine point, but one that Yelp takes very seriously.

Absolutely, never ever pay for a positive review, or offer a reward for a positive review.  You run the risk of getting banned on Yelp, which is a very bad place to be.  Yelp reviews can have a major impact, good and bad, on a business, and an enterprise that has been banned will suffer greatly.

Similarly, don’t be tempted to create fake identities and use them to post favorable reviews for your business.  You may get away with it for a while, but the risks far outweigh the rewards. Don’t get labeled as a cheater.

The best practice managing Yelp reviews for your local business is to provide stellar customer service, encourage your customers to visit your Yelp page, explain to them how Yelp works so that they can avoid any problems, and relax and bask in the glowing reviews!

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