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Why I HATE Yelp & What We Use Instead For Online Reviews…

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 78,589 clients
  • We have a 4.4 rating (out of 5) on Google (221 reviews)
  • We also have an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau

Now 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 78,589 businesses over 19 years, we’ve built up an A+ rating with the BBB and 4.4 stars on Google (based on 221 reviews).

Yet to glance at PostcardMania’s Yelp page, you would think that we’re mediocre at best.

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 (aka, “algorithm”) 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, hidden “not recommended” pages (which automatically sort from lowest rating to highest, so the good reviews filter straight to the bottom!).

Here’s a screenshot of our 5-star reviews in the unrecommended section:

5 start Yelp reviews for PostcardMania

 

NOTE: These awesome reviews are NOT readily visible to Yelp users, unless they take the time to sift through the reviews in the grey “unrecommended” section that’s hidden all the way at the bottom of our profile.

All together, we have 67 recommended reviews and 105 (105!) not recommended reviews. But there’s actually more to it…

Here’s how Yelp chooses to display my business’ reviews:

  • “Recommended” reviews: 37 out of 67 are 4+ stars (55%)
  • “Not Recommended” reviews: 73 out of 105 are 4+ stars (70%)

Here’s where they hide all of the 4 and 5-star reviews that aren’t recommended:

Yelp's not recommended reviews section

 

You probably need a magnifying glass to see that. Plus, it’s all the way at the bottom of our Yelp page.

If you click on that obscure grey link, you’ll go to this place where it looks like you have a pool of MORE bad reviews, that is, until you get halfway down page… 4. Yup, if you make it to page 4, then you’ll start reading 73 stellar reviews.

That doesn’t exactly seem fair, does it?

It’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 78,589 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 (1,435 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 3 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!

If you’ve had the same experience I’ve 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 even Yelp about Yelp now. (In case you’re wondering, they have 2 stars based on 8,027 reviews, and 9,651 unrecommended reviews.)

Now get this:

97% of consumers take the time to read online reviews for local businesses they’re considering, plus —

The majority of U.S. consumers — 68% in fact — say that positive reviews make them more likely to use a business, so you need to find a way to boost your online reviews while you mitigate the negative bias of Yelp.

Therefore, I recommend you invest some time into your Google Reviews.

Google reviews not only assist your business in ranking higher in Google searches, but 84% of consumers trust these reviews just as much as word-of-mouth recommendations.

Plus, the golden review stars that googlers see when they find you can increase the number of people who click on your business — to go to your website — by 35%.

Woman looking at star ratings

 

It’s like Google has trained us that more stars = better business, which means click here!

And it goes without saying:

Google Reviews are on Google — the #1 most-used site where 65% of internet searches take place. I can pretty much guarantee that no matter what your business is, some — if not ALL — of your prospects use Google in their lives.

I mentioned before that Google doesn’t use a formula to filter its reviews. Instead, they show every single one which eliminates bias (take notes, Yelp.)

FREE report: How to get more Google Reviews to improve your online credibility

In helping rank your website higher in Google searches, Google takes a couple key things into account, namely:

  • How many reviews you have
  • How good they are

Of course, there are other SEO (search engine optimization) factors at play, but no matter what:

You want to get as many 4- and 5-star reviews as possible.

Remember, your prospects LOOK and take note of good (and bad) reviews, which influence if they reach out to you… or not.

There are several ways to get more reviews without blatantly violating Google’s terms of service, such as:

Including a link at the bottom of your emails with something like, “Did you enjoy our service? We’d love your feedback!”

You can also post signs in your office reminding customers to review you on Google if they’ve enjoyed their experience.

But if you’re looking for an easy, proven solution to getting more positive reviews online, I can’t recommend Podium enough. Podium is a software solution that automates the getting-reviews process so you and your staff don’t have to manually follow up with customers emailing them links. Podium handles everything for you.

No, I’m not getting paid to promote Podium — I’m just a HUGE fan, and here’s why:

When my company started using Podium, we generated 25 5-star reviews in ONE MONTH. Plus, our 1-star reviews diminished by over 50%.

customer rating 5 stars

 

It was incredible, so I recommend if you need help ramping up your online reviews, hire Podium to help you.

What people say about your business affects your business whether you like it or not, and your customers pay attention. Let’s help each other as small business owners by filing complaint reports (where warranted) for unfair business practices, and also by taking the time to reach out to disgruntled clients who — with just a little TLC — may turn into winning clients again!

If you need help with anything regarding your business’s marketing in 2018, feel free to call one of our marketing experts at 800-628-1804, their advice is FREE, and we’re here to help!

My business to yours,

Joy

P.S. Want to improve your Google reviews (and online reputation) to generate more leads? Download this FREE Google reviews report for step-by-step help!

Get More Google Reviews

 

20 Comments

  • I do not find your experiences with YELP surprising or unusual. What you do not say because you are a polite and professional marketer is YELP is only useful and important to people who are uninformed, lazy, engage in group think and probably believe anything they read on the internet. And they are most likely liberal to boot! Tell me I’m wrong.

  • Thanks for articulating my feelings about Yelp for the last five years! They have improved, I think due to a lawsuit from a VA carpet cleaner LOL. Keep it up Joy!

  • Very useful information! Thanks for sharing your experience and how to manage online reviews… very helpful and appreciated!

  • The part you left out about yelp is if you become one of their customers they will filter the reviews the other way. They won a lawsuit in San Francisco allowing them to filter the reviews the way they do in order to gain clients as part of their business practice

  • I’m glad to hear I’m not the only frustrated one! I’m glad to hear they have improved, although I still refuse to ever use them again! Thank you for your comment, Michael.

  • You know, it’s very funny that when Yelp was all over us to advertise with them (which we finally did about 7 months ago), we started noticing quite a lot of customer inquiries for service. However, after about 5 months into our 6 month agreement, they dramatically fell off, and Yelp started calling us to see if we wanted to increase our marketing budget with them. After we told them not at this time, we noticed about a 70% decrease in customer inquiries!
    We’re figuring on just canceling them all together now, switching to Google, and more marketing with Postcardmania!
    Interesting to see we’re not the only ones having issues with Yelp!

    Thanks Joy for the info!

  • We had this same exact problem! We went from having over 100 reviews on yelp and a 4 star rating to having a 2.5 rating and only 32 reviews. All of our other reviews were “not recommended”. When I called to ask why they took all of our good reviews away, they said, “you shouldn’t ask for reviews, but let people naturally review you.” This also “mysteriously” coincided with us cancelling our yelp advertising package days before.

    Thank you for writing this because this is exactly what I have felt about yelp for about a year now!

  • Wow – that is VERY interesting, James. I think you’d be right to switch to Google and leave Yelp in the dust!

  • I’m sorry to hear you had the same terrible experience! I would definitely recommend focusing your efforts on getting more Google reviews instead. Thank you so much for your comment, Tony!

  • Great article, very informative and insightful! Even as consumers my family and I have been frustrated that Yelp’s algorithm skews reviews and there’s no way to adjust that in settings.

    About your point regarding negative reviews, it reminds me of what my marketing professor taught me- negative experiences tend to make exponentially more noise than positive experiences. Sadly Yelp amplifies this problem with their algorithm. I know people that look at 1-star reviews before positive reviews, sometimes even for entertainment (pissed off people are usually more entertaining than satisfied people on the internet I guess?).

  • James, that’s a good point. It might be a bit of a steep price for some businesses but we definitely feel that it’s worth it for us. Thank you for your comment!

  • Ivan – EXACTLY! That’s why I much prefer checking Google reviews before I do business with someone. I’m glad you liked the article!

  • Reading this with interest. The situation with James is one that I tend to believe, Yelp’s strategy for holding their client base hostage is one they’ve been accused of for many years. Unfortunately, they also typically own many of the top search engine results, especially for certain categories, so they do hold some sway. You give good advice Joy and hopefully many will read this. Thanks for sharing it.

  • A lot of liberals think really well.

    What you’re seeing is people fed up with knee-jerk reactions and spoonfed religious conservatism. So they seem a little abrupt. It’s because right-wingers had already crossed the line.

    Human beings deserve better and liberals know that. Not that conservatives don’t, but a lot of conservatives think they deserve a lot more than they do. You better earn it cause you don’t.

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