Yelp, like other review platforms, has its own rules and guidelines. Many clients come to us asking how to get more positive reviews, and how to get rid of negative ones. There’s no one easy way to do either, but we do show our clients the ins and outs of the platform so they fully understand all of the guidelines. This help’s them to put their best business profile forward, and take control of their account. Here are the important tips to further your understanding, whether you are just a personal Yelp user or you plan to leverage your Yelp for Business account.
Know Your Role & Be Very Careful Requesting for Reviews
On Yelp you can create two different accounts, the most common being a personal Yelp user account, which anyone can create. The other account option is creating a business profile, which is exclusive to business owners. If you happen to be a business owner, it can be beneficial to have both a personal and business account. The reason for this is to simply get engaged and familiarize yourself with the platform.
For the basic Yelp user account, adding as many details as possible will help you to stand out on the platform – I’ll tell you why that’s a good thing later on. Yelp requires a profile photo when you sign up, as well as your location. They also encourage you to add friends, add “things you love”, and other random facts about yourself. Just like any other social media platform, presenting yourself in a transparent way to others on Yelp will result in more friends and more engagements.
For the Business Yelp account, the most important details to add to the page initially are location (adding your address), hours of operation (be sure they are correct and match your other listings for every day of the week), and contact information (the correct phone number and email are super helpful to all customers). Once again, it’s important to present your business in the best light, which means including professional photos, not blurry photos taken by guests. Add as many other details as you can to the page. For example, if your business is a restaurant, be sure to add the menu, and highlight your most “popular” dishes.
Now that you’ve signed up, start navigating the platform, visit other business pages and other user profiles to see how people leave reviews, and how you can engage with others.
Commonly we will have a client come to us asking to help improve their Yelp score on their business page. We of course assist them in all areas regarding Yelp while making sure they understand that Yelp does not support soliciting reviews, as you can read about here: Don’t Ask for Reviews | Support Center | Yelp. We like to help our clients have open conversations with their customers and vendors regarding Yelp. This in turn gets the client thinking about the platform and how they can use it in their personal lives. Adding these people as friends and liking their reviews is great engagement with the platform, which Yelp encourages! If you’re a business owner, showing clients and vendors that you yourself are a Yelp user, as well as giving them knowledge about the platform will get a conversation started, which is absolutely allowed without being pushy or encouraging them to review your page.
Understand Yelp’s Content Guidelines & Reasons a Review Can Be Flagged for Removal
Leaving and receiving reviews is why you’re a part of the platform. You will want to fully understand Yelp’s content guidelines and the reasons a review could be violating those.
Yelp’s Content Guidelines
- Relevance: Please make sure your contributions are appropriate to the forum. For example, reviews aren’t the place for rants about political ideologies, a business’s employment practices, extraordinary circumstances, or other matters that don’t address the core of the consumer experience.
- Inappropriate content: Colorful language and imagery are fine, but there’s no place for threats, harassment, lewdness, hate speech, or other displays of bigotry.
- Conflicts of interest: Your contributions to Yelp should be unbiased and objective. For example, you shouldn’t write reviews of your own business or employer, your friends or relatives’ business, your peers or competitors in your industry, or businesses in your networking group. Businesses should never ask customers to write reviews.
- Privacy: Don’t publicize people’s private information. For instance, please don’t post close-up photos or videos of other patrons without their permission, and don’t post other people’s full names unless you’re referring to someone who is commonly referred to by their full name.
- Promotional content: Don’t post promotional material unless it’s in connection with a Yelp advertising product and through a Business Account. Let’s keep the site useful for consumers and not overrun with commercial noise from every user.
- Intellectual property: Don’t swipe content from other sites, users, or businesses. You’re a smart cookie, so write your own copy and share your own photos and videos.
- Personal experience: We want to hear about your first hand experience, not what you heard from your partner or co-worker, or what you saw in the news. Tell your own story without resorting to broad generalizations and conclusory allegations.
- Accuracy: Make sure your review is factually correct. Feel free to air your opinions, but don’t exaggerate or misrepresent your experience. We don’t take sides when it comes to factual disputes, so we expect you to stand behind your review.
- Demanding payment: Writing a review should be informative and meant to help the broader Yelp community. You should not threaten to post or offer to remove a negative review as a way to extract payment from a business.
- Review updates: Review updates should reflect a new experience or interaction with the business. Don’t keep posting about the same old story you’ve already told. If you’d like to add new insight to an old experience, you can edit your review within 30 days of posting it.
Reasons a Review Can be Flagged
- It contains false information
- It was posted by someone affiliated with the business
- It was posted by a competitor or ex-employee
- It contains threats, lewdness, or hate speech
- It doesn’t describe a personal consumer experience
- It violates Yelp’s privacy standards
- It contains promotional material
- It’s for the wrong business
- It represents an extraordinary circumstance (e.g. COVID-19, media-fueled)
The big takeaway from the guidelines above is that your profile is personal to you! There is no such thing as a family Yelp profile, as some people might have on Facebook. Leaving reviews on behalf of someone else can get your review removed from the platform or placed into Yelp’s filter, which I will detail below. Another rule to remember is to keep privacy in mind. For example, if you had a bad experience at a law firm, don’t go onto the platform and start listing off your lawyer’s full name and his office ID. Although you can get away with using a person’s full name within your review if they’re in a public-facing role, it’s important to not publicize people’s private information within a review.
Another way to contribute to the platform is by flagging reviews that violate the content guidelines. If someone starts a review by saying “My wife had an experience here the other day.”, this review should be flagged for removal, as that user is violating the guidelines by describing an experience that’s not personal to them. Other reviews that should be flagged include ones that contain threats, lewdness or hate speech. When you flag another user’s review, they do not get a notification that you did so, or that anyone did for that matter. The only time they would receive a notification is if the review was indeed removed from the platform. You can also report a user’s profile if you see that they’re violating Yelp’s content guidelines multiple times or something else that you believe doesn’t align with the guidelines. You simply click into that review’s profile page and scroll down under their profile picture where it says “Report this profile”. Click on that link and it will bring you to a page that will ask you the following: Please identify what’s inappropriate about this user profile: (e.g. profile photo, headline, spammer, etc.). You can also block a user if they’re making you feel uncomfortable in any way on the platform. Clicking “Block [user]” on their profile page will restrict the user from engaging with you and your reviews in any way.
Here are the simple steps to flagging a review:
- Be sure the review actually violates one or more of Yelp’s content guidelines
- Access the flag icon in the bottom right corner below the review, and click on it
- Once the Pop-Up appears, “Why do you want to report this review?” then select one of the options
- Next, type out your reasoning under, “Please provide specific details below:” and then click “Report”
- You will receive an email with a review report ID number for your records
- Then, over a period of time, which could be 1 day or 3 months down the road, Yelp will send a follow-up email telling you the status of the review and if they’ve decided to remove it or leave it live on the page
Engage with the Platform & Stay out of Yelp’s Filter
Engaging with the platform is very important if you want to see your reviews stay on the page for any business you left a review for. Many users and businesses don’t realize that Yelp has a filter where many reviews go when Yelp deems them as not fit to be on the page, and to contribute to the overall star rating for a business. Yelp has rebranded, and added a section that gives users details about their Automated Recommendation Software – also known as their filter. Every business page has one. On their support page, Yelp answers questions regarding the filter. These filtered reviews are placed at the bottom of the first page of reviews in small font titled “(number) other reviews that are not currently recommended”. These are two blog posts written back in 2009 and 2010, which is an interesting comparison to the information we have access to now.
Outdated Information about Yelp’s Filter:
- Why Yelp Has A Review Filter | Yelp – Official Blog
- Yelp’s recommendation software explained | Yelp – Official Blog
Current Information about Yelp’s Automated Recommendation Software:
- What is Yelp’s recommendation software? | Support Center
- Automated Recommendation Software | Yelp Trust
- Yelp Updates Recommendation Software to Better Target and Mitigate Content from Online Review Exchange Groups
What we have gathered as reasoning for this is that Yelp prefers to highlight the most credible reviewers and reviews, using many factors included in the links above. They do state “the software also looks for things like unfairly biased reviews — such as reviews people may write about their competitors or businesses they’re affiliated with — which other local search platforms may fail to catch. We work hard to protect the integrity of the content on Yelp so consumers get authentic information and businesses are protected from those that might try to “game the system.” This gives us a little more of an idea about the criteria that go into the decision made.
After gathering the information above, we cannot forget about the many unique cases we have run into while working with our clients. We have seen many cases where Yelp places a review into a filter, despite having all of the details listed below. In other cases, we have seen reviews that have only one or two of the details listed, yet Yelp does not put them in the filter. Yelp seems to be transparent about its automated software, however, seeing examples like these firsthand would lead me to believe that this software still remains a mystery to not only users but also Yelp reps who can’t seem to answer questions about it. Although some of these factors remain a secret we believe that some of them include the following:
- Profile pictures on your account
- More than 10 total reviews
- Yelp Elite member badge
- Quality & Quantity of the review content
- A high number of friends
- Engagement with other reviews and profile pages (likes, comments, useful, cool, & funny buttons)
Become a Yelp Elite Member & Attend Events
A great way to keep your reviews out of the filter and take advantage of all Yelp has to offer is by becoming a member of Yelp’s Elite squad. This is a private club that not anyone can join, you must qualify! The perks of becoming a member of your community’s squad are that you get to attend Yelp Elite Events with local participating businesses that host them. It’s a way of being able to engage with different businesses in the community, meet new people, and also receive a badge on your profile that shows other members your credibility on the platform. In order to join, you must nominate yourself or be nominated by someone else on the platform. Yelp states the following: “What makes a great Yelp Elite Squad member? Thoughtful reviews, Awesome photos, Sending compliments, Up-voting reviews.” On the elite squad page you will find out who your local community manager is, which is the leader you can email if you have any additional questions regarding your status, and any other questions surrounding elite or community events.
Attending Yelp events or hosting them as a business can really help your business page’s engagement. It brings awareness to your business from attending members sharing and posting about the event. You may think this would bring new positive reviews to your business listing page but be aware that Yelp frowns upon that, which is why they create a unique business event page for attending guests to leave their reviews on. We have seen businesses in the past work with Yelp to create an amazing event to gather new reviews for their business page, and then have Yelp in turn reach out to those reviewers asking them to delete their review and only add it to the event page.
Official Yelp Events have a separate business listing on Yelp where guests can review and post photos of the event. We welcome honest feedback about our events, but it’s never mandatory to write a review of an event. Because Official Yelp Events do not represent a typical consumer experience, if you do choose to post reviews or photos of an Official Yelp Event, be sure to post them on the event’s business listing, and not the business listing of the businesses that hosted or participated in the event.
It’s a really wonderful opportunity to become an elite member and attend the Yelp elite events that are offered in your community. However, you don’t have to be an elite member to attend events that are offered to the community, attending in general is a great way to show why you should be nominated to become an elite member of the community. You can find which events are happening in your area here: Events
Businesses can work with their Yelp representative to host Check-In offers. This will help to generate more reviews that will stay out of the filter because showing Yelp that these patrons actually checked in will give Yelp a signal to leave the review live on the page. Businesses can create and post a Check-In Offer as a way for customers to receive rewards for their loyalty to the business. When customers check-in at a business that is offering these, they will receive an offer on their phone that they can redeem on that visit, or save for another time. For example, this could include a free dessert with any meal if you’re a restaurant owner or a discounted foot massage for a spa owner.
Using Yelp’s app on your phone users can simply pull up their profile and click “check-in”, if the business is offering anything, it will pop right up on your screen. Even if the business isn’t participating in offers, it’s still a great way to keep track of where you went, and when, and reminds you to leave your corresponding review when you have time later on. It also shows Yelp that you were actually there as “proof” by leaving a little “check-in” note next to your review on that business page. Not to mention, this is another great signal to show Yelp to keep your review out of the filter on that page.
There are many details that can be leveraged on Yelp that most people don’t realize, which is why it’s important to get familiar with the platform by reading up on every section of the support page. Yelp is always updating its algorithm and platform, so it’s crucial to stay involved whether you’re a business owner or not. If you have additional questions regarding Yelp or are just looking to see how many reviews you might need to improve your Yelp score, feel free to reach out to our reputation management team here at Go Fish, as well as access the GFD Yelp Improvement Calculator.
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