If you run a business, Yelp can either be your best friend or your worst enemy.
Stories abound about the businesses that have been ruined by Yelp reviews. And I’m sure just as many local businesses have flourished, in part because of the positive experience of customers who raved about their experience on the platform.
The truth nowadays is, managing Yelp is a part of managing a business. Whether you like it or not, customers use it. They are going to review their experiences, and others are going to read those reviews when they are deciding whether or not to try you out. So the best thing you can do is have a plan, or a strategy, in place to solicit positive reviews and respond to negative ones.
But not all reviews are built the same. Some have a greater impact than others. And some have no impact whatsoever.
One would think that a 5-star review is a great thing. If you are managing a business, or it is your job to manage the reputation of a company on Yelp, a 5-star review is the holy grail.
Here’s where it gets a little shady.
Over the years, Yelp has consistently changed their policies on reviews. Early on, those business that advertised on Yelp had a lot of control over what reviews showed up on the platform and which did not – giving an unfair advantage to businesses with deeper pockets. A lawsuit ended this practice, or at least drove it further underground.
Today, Yelp relies on an algorithm to determine which reviews are “recommended” and which are not. Reviews that are not recommended are hidden. Businesses can still see them, but they do not show up for users, and they do not impact the overall rating shown on the Yelp listing for that company.
So some 5-star reviews (and some 4-star, 3-star, and so on) don’t count.
Yelp tells companies that a review will not be recommended if it is done by an inactive user. They also say the algorithm will identify reviews that were clearly provided because the company asked for it, anything that looks too much like a testimonial.
(Anyone that can tell me the difference between a testimonial and a positive review knows more than I do about the English language)
Yelp’s official policy is that companies should not ask for reviews from their customers (though they still supply window decals and other signage that suggests the opposite is true). So the only reviews their algorithm is supposed to recommend are the ones that look natural, like a frequent user supplied an unbiased review without any suggestion from the business.
To those of you out there whose job it is to manage a presence on Yelp, I feel for you.