Before I move into my critique of yelp (which I will make every attempt to keep from sounding like an angry Yelp review), there are a few things I want to mention first:
- When Yelp first debuted, and for a long time after, I LOVED the site and used it all the time
- My business, PostcardMania, has served over 63,000 clients
- We have a 4.9 rating (out of 5) on Google (115 reviews)
- We also have an A rating from the Better Business Bureau
Ok. So, what could cause someone who was a fan and advocate of a particular business to become so disenfranchised that she publicly gives up on said business and calls others to do the same?
Quite simply: Yelp is biased toward negative reviews, and it’s not fair to businesses.
How do I know this? Well, I’ve had the experience many of you have. I take pride in my customer service and the service-culture I’ve built at PostcardMania. After working with more than 63,000 businesses over 15 years, we have built up an A rating with the BBB and 4.9 stars on Google (based on 114 reviews).
Yet to glance at PostcardMania’s Yelp page, you would think we were a bunch of scam artists!
I encourage you to compare the difference between our Yelp page and our Google Reviews. It’s a stark comparison. Why the difference? Easy: Google displays every review. Yelp uses a software formula to choose which reviews they deem more important than others. For whatever reason, in our case, they “recommended” mostly bad reviews, and put most of our good reviews on the separate “not recommended” pages (which automatically sort from lowest rating to highest, so the good reviews go to the bottom!).
All together, we have 18 recommended reviews and 51 (51!) not recommended reviews. But wait, there’s more! Here’s how Yelp chose to display my business’ reviews:
- “Recommended” reviews: 7 out of 18 are 4+ stars (39%)
- “Not Recommended” reviews: 39 out of 51 are 4+ stars (76%)
Here’s where they hide all of the 4 and 5-star reviews that aren’t recommended. First, you have to scroll all the way to the bottom of the page and click on this link:
Which will take you to this place, where it looks like you have MORE bad reviews until you get halfway down page 2.
That doesn’t exactly seem fair, does it?
So that’s annoying, but I could live with it. The “straw that broke the camel’s back” for me with Yelp was when I tried to improve my rating on the site. I saw that our rating was for some reason out-of-step with every other rating service, so I emailed my client list and ask them to review us on Yelp. I figured we would get more positive feedback than negative since our complaints are overall a TINY percentage of the customers we actually service (we have over 63,000 clients) – and that’s exactly what happened.
But it didn’t help at all. Why?
Because the reviews all came in around the same period of time (when I sent the email), Yelp buried them in the “not recommended” section. Really? REALLY???
And after a little digging, I found out that many other business owners had complained to the BBB (1,485 total complaints) about Yelp doing the same thing. So that’s why I’m done with Yelp. I won’t use the site. I won’t advertise on the site. I’m done.
Still, many people still use Yelp to gather information and review businesses. So what are we to do? Here are three tips that should help you put your best foot forward on the site:
- Encourage happy customers to leave good Yelp reviews. The trick I learned the hard way is not to ask for reviews all at one time. Yelp will hide them. Instead, do it gradually over time so you are steadily building positive reviews.
- Respond to negative reviews and explain what happened. If there is a way to reconcile the relationship, try to do it! If not, at least you’ll get your side of things out there.
- Direct readers to your positive reviews. In your responses, you can tell people that there are many positive reviews hidden further down your Yelp page. You don’t want to sound petulant, but there’s no reason not to let people know the glowing reviews are there!
Lastly, if you’ve had the same experience I have had with Yelp, consider writing a complaint to Yelp about their review process. Then, file formal complaints with the BBB to ensure they are taken seriously! You can’t leave a Yelp review about Yelp the company, because they don’t allow you to review them, even though they refuse to remove businesses from the site due to their “open-forum” policy. I hope you haven’t had the same experience as me, but I’m convinced many of you have. So let’s do something about it!
Want to keep reading up on Yelp? Check out this business owner who actually ASKS for negative reviews. Or this article about how Yelp is being sued by its own shareholders to the tune of $81 million for artificially inflating both stock value and the “quality of reviews.” Or how about the fact that Yelp now has court permission to change business ratings for money?
Happy reading, my friends!
CORRECTION (9/29/14, 10:00am): It IS possible to Yelp about Yelp. You can’t do it by searching for Yelp though. It isn’t that easy! You have to search by their San Francisco address. But I’ll make it easy for you: here’s the link to Yelp about Yelp! And in case you were wondering, they have 2.5 stars based on 6,361 reviews, and 6,474 reviews that are not currently recommended.
My business to yours,