Where Are My Positive Yelp Reviews?
Is your business listed on Yelp? Most businesses are. Do you check your reviews and comments? If so, you may have noticed that some reviews are “filtered” out and don’t show on your front page. You may also have noticed that most of the filtered reviews are positive ones. So, why do Yelp reviews get filtered?
@Yelp It is unreal how many legit reviews users don’t get the benefit of seeing due to your super buggy filter.
— John O’Connor (@johnsoconnor) September 26, 2013
Yelp uses its filtering software to try to pull out the best, most reliable reviews. Filtered reviews don’t factor into the star rating, although users can still see them by clicking a link at the bottom of the page. Like big search engine algorithms, Yelp’s filtering software is proprietary; they don’t want anyone to game the system and sneak dishonest reviews past the system. That makes the site trustworthy for consumers and relieves business owners of the worry that competitors will write negative reviews to affect their Yelp rating.
What gets filtered?
Yelp is trying to filter out fake and malicious reviews to make sure its ratings are reliable for consumers. One study found that about 16% of reviews posted to Yelp are fake, and Yelp has to keep those out of the rankings in order to maintain its trustworthy reputation.
While the factors Yelp’s software uses to filter your reviews are secret, research shows that certain types of reviews are more likely to get published than others. Reviews from established users are key. An established user has a complete profile and a long history of regular, reliable reviews.
Users’ first reviews, reviews from users with incomplete profiles, and reviews written from places other than the business itself are most likely to be filtered out. Extreme reviews (one- or five-star reviews) are more likely to be filtered as well. Yelp assumes it’s not in anyone’s interest to post a mediocre fake review because that won’t affect the overall rating, whereas an extreme review is much more likely to be fake.
Yelp states that its filter does not give preferential treatment to paid advertisers, nor does it punish businesses with free listings. Studies generally confirm Yelp’s statements on the matter; Yelp’s advertisers don’t seem to get any special treatment.
Despite Yelp’s protestations of neutrality, business owners complain that Yelp only filters out positive reviews. Of course, no one complains when a negative review gets filtered, so the complaints themselves are somewhat biased. The filter software uses the same analysis for each review, but more positive reviews are filtered out because Yelp members write more positive reviews than negative reviews in general. Yelp’s filter also seems to pull out highly positive reviews that are posted shortly after negative ones; they’re likely to be false reviews written by the business itself to try to repair a damaged reputation.
Managing Your Yelp Presence
So, what can you do to protect and improve your Yelp rating? First, interact with your positive reviewers. Answer the comments people leave about your business and vote the review “Useful” or “Funny.” The more attention the review gets, the more likely the filter will view it as legitimate. Keep in mind that you can ask for reviews in general, but Yelp doesn’t want you asking for good reviews specifically. Whatever you do, never pay for reviews. If Yelp catches you, it will post a message on your business’s page warning visitors about it.
To get the most out of your positive reviews, encourage your clients and customers to create a real Yelp identity. Ask them to fill out profiles completely and leave reviews regularly. Ideally, clients will connect their Yelp account to their Facebook pages and start making friends on Yelp. You should do all of these things, too. With a respectable Yelp identity, your reviews will be safe from the Yelp filter and will show up higher on the list of results. The filter software also constantly revisits filtered reviews, so your filtered reviews may be reinstated once your Yelp footprint increases.
Yelp’s business depends entirely on its integrity as a review site. Consumers really trust it, making it a powerful tool to generate new business. Neglecting Yelp can leave you with a low rating and a stack of negative reviews. You might have plenty of positive reviews, too, on your “Filtered Review” page, but have you ever checked the Filtered Review page while looking at a business on Yelp? No? Neither have your potential clients. Careful management of your Yelp presence can take you through the filter to the top of Yelp’s search results.
A Word to the Wise
No matter what Yelp’s rules are and no matter what it filters, make sure you’re following your state bar’s rules for advertising. Never pay for a review and don’t trade reviews with other attorneys. If your employees pose as clients and leave fake reviews, you’re on the hook for them, too. Only genuine, unpaid reviews are acceptable. You’re also responsible for anyone you hire to manage your online presence, so make sure you choose someone reliable who knows the rules for attorney advertising.