Perhaps the biggest complaint you’ll hear about Yelp from business owners is the issue of filtered Yelp reviews. Discussion boards, forums, and blogs are littered with complaints: “All my positive reviews are filtered”, “I have 12 five star reviews, and 10 of them are filtered!”, “Why aren’t my negative reviews filtered?”, and the tirades continue.
There are lots of stories behind the famous “filter” and how it works. And, that leads us to the elephant in the room: is the filter really just a dirty sales tactic? That’s a question that is beyond the scope of this article. However, my brief perspective is that the filter is not a tool that’s been programmed to favor certain businesses or reviews based on business spend or relationship with Yelp. And, regardless, there are clear and undeniable patterns that exist amongst reviews that have been filtered. If you know the pattern, then you can avoid it; and, therefore, minimize the likelihood that your reviews will be filtered.
1. Don’t solicit reviews from people that have never and will never log in and use Yelp again.
If a review is generated by an individual (no matter how real or authentic both the person and the review are) who has done nothing else on Yelp other than write one or two reviews, then the reviews will likely be filtered. Yelp is attempting to combat situations in which businesses have “bought” reviews from 3rd parties. These 3rd parties just setup an account, post a review, setup another account, post another review, etc. If you do find yourself in the situation with real reviews from real people that have been filtered and you notice the reviewer has posted no other reviews, then ask that person to post other reviews, add friends, or take any other action while logged in. That can cause their reviews to become un-filtered.
2. Don’t ask a large group of people to post reviews for your business on the same day.
Another method Yelp uses to ascertain whether reviews have been solicited is by analyzing the timing of the review. If a number of reviews are all generated within a short time span of one another, regardless of where they originate from (e.g. different people using different computers), there is an increased chance that the reviews will be filtered. Again, don’t send out blanket solicitations for reviews to a large number of people all on the same day.
3. Don’t setup a computer in your store / business for submitting reviews.
Similar to the point above, the Yelp filter is looking for patterns amongst reviews and review submissions. If the filter sees that a number of reviews are being generated from the same computer (or, to be more technical, IP address), it’s another indication that the reviews are likely being actively solicited. Even if they aren’t, Yelp will take the hit from false positives in an attempt to over protect the quality of the reviews and the community. If you want people to submit reviews, tell them to go home and submit them from their own homes.
4. Don’t post a review for your own business.
This is pretty obvious, but if you post a review for your own business – from an account with the same name or from the same computer you use to administer your business Yelp account – it’s another fairly clear indication that the review is inauthentic.
Following these steps isn’t a guaranteed safeguard against the review filter, but it will dramatically reduce the likelihood that your reviews will end up siphoned off and useless. Ultimately, the best protection against filtered reviews is more reviews. The more reviews you get organically from your customers in the process of running your business, the less likely you are to feel the impact of the occasional filtered review.
Remember, you may have very legitimate Yelp reviews that are filtered. The filter isn’t perfect. However, Yelp is willing to run the risk of filtering some percentage of authentic reviews if it means that a significant number of the illegitimate reviews are caught.
It’s not perfect and it may not be fair, but it’s the Yelp world we live in.
*This is a guest article by Neal Vora*