I have taken the liberty to go through the YELP FAQ and someone customized it with my own answers to business owners and more specifically, restaurant owners, to help you figure out what this all REALLY means.
This of course is meant to be taken with a grain of salt.
It is by no means the definitive advice on all things YELP, nor is it legal advice OR the advice of a YELP professional. The YELP logo and their web site are copyrighted and this is meant for educational purposes only. For additional services or stats on your restaurant’s visitors and to increase leads you have to advertise with them and they can help you figure out according to your budget, how best you should market your restaurant on YELP. IN fact for certain businesses I HIGHLY recommend that you DO advertise with YELP. But not ALL restaurants should advertise with YELP. I will create a post in the coming weeks that will detail 5 types of restaurants that definitely SHOULD and 5 that SHOULD NOT. Stay tuned for that …
Having said that I hope this helps some people. Enjoy. And if it clears with the good people of Yelp I may re-word this and include it into my book when it comes out in 2016.
Note: My tips are in BOLD
Example: (I answered the first I will write the other ones later )
One of the reviews for my business is missing. What happened?
There are three possibilities:
- The person who wrote the review may have deleted it. This doesn’t happen very often, but you’ll typically see it when someone closes their Yelp account.
- The review may have been removed by our User Operations team. This only happens if the review violates our Content Guidelinesor if the reviewer violated our Terms of Service.
- The review is not currently being recommended by Yelp’s automated recommendation software. The review is still accessible to users on your business page beneath the recommended reviews, but it doesn’t factor into your review count or overall star rating. This is a routine function of our automated software and affects every business listed on the site. You can read more about the process below.
- REAL ANSWER: Yelp robots more than likely removedyour friend or relatives positive review because it picked up the fact that they were times too close to be relatively unrelated. Yelp software automatically filters reviews it deems to be from the owners or the owner’s relatives or friends.
Yelp’s automated software often removes reviews that are positive for first time reviewers. This sucks if you’re a new restaurant owner and simply asked friends and family to rate your food. Even if their review is fair and unbiased, first time positive reviews are often filtered. You may want to ask them to give an average rating to another company, then another company, and review you third of fourth. This will trick their mindless robots into accepting (and leaving online) their positive reviews of your new establishment.
- Why does Yelp recommend some reviews but not others? We get millions of reviews from our users, and we try to showcase the ones that best reflect the opinions of the Yelp community. The remaining reviews are accessible from a link at the bottom of each business’s profile page, but they don’t factor into a business’s overall star rating or review count. This approach is very different from other sites that tend to feature rants and raves from anyone and everyone. We do our best to nurture a community of users who actively contribute reliable and useful content.
Yelp used to allow advertisers to feature their favorite review. I used to post my favorite review from people that were hardcore fans and not only gave us an awesome review but also happened to be amazingly creative writers. Some people leave reviews on Yelp that can only be characterized as poetry. It was great fun and a wonderful way to showcase some of our greatest products by the most talented of Yelp writers.
Then Yelp pulled the plug on this feature because they were hit with a huge lawsuit by businesses claiming that advertisers were being given privilege over non-advertisers. I thought this was the stupidest thing I had ever heard. Of course they do, they are supposed to give some amount of privilege to advertisers! After all they are a business not a nonprofit organization. Ever since you can’t “showcase” your favorite quote and/or review I have been less reluctant to advertise with them, for reasons you clearly see.
- How does Yelp decide which reviews to recommend? We use automated software developed by our engineers to recommend reviews from the Yelp community. The software looks at dozens of different signals, including various measures of quality, reliability, and activity on Yelp. Most of all, however, it’s looking for people who are intrinsically motivated to share the wide range of rich and detailed experiences they have every day with local businesses. On average, our software recommends about three quarters of the reviews that are submitted to the site.
So we can safely read this answer to assume up to 25% of reviews are being detected and deleted by Yelp robots and employees. This means thousands, perhaps millions, of reviews. That is a fairly high number. The onus is on us, the business owners, to do everything we can to ask people to give us positive reviews, respond to negative ones, and do our best to give consistent, good customer service because no one at Yelp will help you with your score. It’s up to you to do your homework and play the game and win, netting your business the higher score and raves it deserves.
- Why would a review not be recommended? There are a number of reasons why a review might not be recommended. For example, the review might have been posted by a less established user, or it may seem like an unhelpful rant or rave. Some of these reviews are fakes (like the ones that originate from the same computer) and some suggest a bias (like the ones written by a friend of the business owner), but many are real reviews from real customers who we just don’t know much about and therefore can’t recommend.
Read this answer to mean that Yelp software detects your user IP. The user IP is your ID online, what every computer has to help detectives and others locate and find people in the online world. Changing your web browser from Safari to Firefox, for example, will not change your permanent web IP. Yelp software will know it’s you and not allow you to rate or review your own business. What they mean by “less established” is that if you are new to Yelp and signed up ONLY to give yourself a positive review, that review will automatically be filtered out.
Instead, use a different computer, from a different location, under a different user name. This can be done to offset fake reviews your competition is placing on your page (which, for some reason, their robots almost always let slip through.)
- Do Yelp advertisers get preferential treatment? Our recommendation software treats advertisers and non-advertisers exactly the same. You’ll find plenty of Yelp advertisers with negative reviews, and plenty of non-advertisers with five-star ratings across the board. Furthermore, there is zero relationship between the timing of when a review gets recommended and when a business decides to – or declines to – advertise: reviews can be recommended or not recommended days, weeks, or even months after they were first posted, and your friendly Yelp sales representative doesn’t have any influence over when that might happen. In short, there is no relationship between reviews and anything having to do with Yelp Ads or the Yelp Ads sales process. Period.
Yelp advertisers do still get preferential treatment, even if that is not directly linked to reviews. Yelp makes sure the people that work in sales (the people that call or email you asking you to buy ads on Yelp) and the tech guys that are in charge of reviews work at completely separate offices and don’t know each other. They are not allowed to contact each other. This is done for the obvious reasons of reducing corruption and any possibility that a high-paying customer that buys ads for multiple locations still not carry any weight with the review department.
This does not prevent you from telling your ad rep about a fake negative review, however this ad rep unfortunately has no real power to change that negative review.
Here are a few of the benefits Yelp Advertisers get:
- No ads from the competition on your locations page. This can be huge for big-ticket restaurants. Imagine if you own a high quality seafood establishment in Malibu and some shmuck decides to advertise his/her own business directly on your page. Actually they don’t do this on purpose, Yelp does it for them! And now imagine if this competitor owns a cheaper seafood place down the street, they can quite literally be stealing customers that’s searched online for you, by name. Being an advertiser stops that from happening.
- Yelp shows you how many people clicked your ad, they also show how many clicked without the ad so you can see comparative charts and analyze whether or not paying for your ad makes sense. The decision to continue or not then rests on you, however Yelp gives priority deals to businesses that sign up for longer service. They ultimately want you to sign contracts for a year or more and discourage month-to-month advertising, making the one year or more deals a much higher value and savings to their customers. I once cancelled such a contract and had to pay a few thousand dollars, practically once month’s worth of advertising, just to quit. So be careful what contract you sign with them and make sure it will work for you, speaking to everyone in your organization first. My advice is to not sign long-term contracts and do little at a time, monitoring your progress as you go.
- You can move the pictures in the gallery. This means you can move those shitty pictures someone took with a bad cell phone all the way to the last spot on the line for pictures.
- You can have a rotating, larger photo gallery. If you get the ads that promote this feature be sure to have high-quality, high resolution photographs of your food first. Buying this feature and not having great shots of your products is like buying a Lamborghini and not washing it or showing it off, it doesn’t make sense. Do the homework first and have amazing shots of your food that you would WANT to show off, that people would love to see.
These shots should make people salivate, even if they just ate. They should be glorious, colorful, with fantastic backgrounds and garnishes. Consider hiring a professional photographer as well as a “food stylist”.
Food stylists are specialists that deal specifically with food photography and video. They come and spend a lot of time washing, cutting, spraying a glow solution, rinsing, and slicing to make your food pictures truly stand out. The money we pay them is well worth it because this effort you make will only be done once or twice, but the pictures may last many years. We have taken some professional shots that we have used now for over 14 years, so much so that it’s time we re-take some of them (I’m in the process of doing 2 new photo shoots as I write this for our web site and regular menu).
The photographer should use a professional camera (Cannon or Nikon, high grade lens cameras are the industry norm), and have at least a few professional lighting instruments and at least one umbrella backdrop they bring along. Ask to see their previous work, make sure you have them sign a copyright release form giving you full rights to all images before you pay them (in many states photographers own the rights to the pictures they take, even if you paid them for an exclusive shoot). Some photographers charge extra for this up front.
#5) Your restaurant or other business may be featured on COMPETITOR’S pages, which is what you want.
- What should I do if someone writes a negative review about my business? You can’t please 100% of the people 100% of the time, no matter how hard you try. Negative reviews are an unfortunate — but entirely normal — part of doing business. We get them too. While it’s important to look for patterns in your reviews (e.g., people keep mentioning that the bread is stale or that a particular employee is rude), you shouldn’t read too much into any one review. Most Yelp users are looking for a consensus among all of the reviews they read rather than accepting the gospel of any one review, so you should do the same. Of course, you can always contact the reviewer or post a public response, but be forewarned that responding to criticism with criticism of your own will almost always work against you.
This is not always true. If the review is from a competitor, and you can prove that, publically shaming them is perfectly OK with me. They made the decision to come to your page and spew their filth and lies, we should be able to retaliate accordingly. Publically mention that this is a fake review, go over to their location or Yelp page and post a negative review there, then email, call, fax Yelp and do whatever is necessary to have that negative review removed. But even if it’s not removed people should be able to know that this review was fake and left by a personal enemy of your business, not a valid reviewer. Yelp will never fight for us, we have to fight for ourselves.
- What should I do if someone writes a review about my business that isn’t true? We don’t arbitrate disputes, so your best bet is to contact the reviewer or post a public responsein order to clear up any misunderstandings. If it is clear on the face of the review that it violates our Content Guidelines(e.g., the reviewer admittedly describes a second-hand experience or uses a racial slur), you can flag the review to bring it to our attention.
The reason they don’t arbitrate disputes is because if they did, they would have no time for anything else. This isn’t eBay where money is being exchanged and they act as a referee. It’s more of a glorified Yellow Pages type business that doesn’t want to get involved in fights and disputes, it just wants to print money and have business owners fend for themselves.
You can flag the review and respond as well. I have done this several times with people that were clearly out of line, making personal attacks against me, by name, and/or calling our employees names and racial slurs. I have had many reviews removed this way, by being diligent and not standing for it. You can do the same.
I once had a woman who I shall not name that probably had a mental disorder. She gave us a two star based on the fact that we currently don’t show nutritional facts. I told her I understood her concern and that we are indeed working on including nutritional facts very soon on our web site, as soon as they become available. In California you must post nutritional facts after you have 20 locations or more (check this fact online.)
After my response she was even more enraged. She wrote me an email calling me a liar, saying we were cheap and didn’t want to spend money, and that she would never come again. She even lowered her core from a 2 to a one star. It just gives us all pause and makes us wonder if we should respond to people at all….
However I did not take it personally, even though she posted my first and last name and called me stupid names like some kind of angry 6th grader. Anyway, I flagged her review and ultimately had it removed because it was bordering on threatening.
- Should I ask my customers to write reviews for me on Yelp? No, you shouldn’t ask your customers to post reviews on Yelp. For one thing, most businesses tend to ask their happiest customers to write reviews, not the unhappy ones. These self-selected reviews tell only part of the story, and we don’t think that’s fair to consumers. We would much rather hear from members of the Yelp community who are inspired to talk about their experiences without a business owner’s encouragement. As a result, you shouldn’t be surprised if our software fails to recommend the reviews that you’ve asked your customers to write. Your best bet to get high quality and unbiased reviews about your business is to provide a memorable and amazing customer experience – it has nothing to do with asking your customers to post on Yelp.
Yes, you should ask your best customers to write reviews for you on Yelp. I don’t know who wrote this, but I am sure they probably never took a marketing or business class.
Of course you should ask customers to review you! Many businesses do so indirectly by placing Yelp stickers and posters all over the place. And remember, posting a link to your Yelp page DIRECTLY on your web site is another way of indirectly asking many of your best customers and fans to post positive reviews. If you gave a customer exceptional service, went out of your way for them, simply ask them to give you a positive review on Yelp as a way of thanking you. That will go a long way since that may be a long, permanent thanks to you the whole world will see and also will slightly up your Yelp review. So please don’t listen to this advice on their web site and ask ask ask! Like the Bible says, “Ask and you shall receive. “ (find verse here)
- Yelp seems like a place for people to vent about bad experiences. Aren’t most reviews negative? We crunched the numbers, and here’s what we found (as of December 2013). As you can see, only a tiny fraction of the reviews we recommend are less than three stars.
- Independent researchers at Harvard and Boston University similarly debunked the myththat Yelp skews negative by showing that Yelp recommended far more positive than negative reviews.
While this is true some of the scathing negative reviews are so personal, they really hit home and actually hurt a lot of business owners. Don’t take my word for it, just do some research online and see how damaging some really bad reviews have been to many business owners and their overall income could very well be impacted.
Your ultimate response to this must be fanatical and assertive! Don’t take their shit lying down! Fight back and fight back hard. First try to be nice tot hem, offer them something free. Don’t even ask them to change the review, just be nice to them. As nice as possible, and do whatever it takes to make it right. Often a person is willing to change their review without you even asking for it if you simply right the wrong your employees did. As owners we can do this, and it is in our power to fix most of these problems and situations customers encounter. Not doing so probably makes us deserving of the shitty reviews. So get on your feet and make it right! Remember, every 1 that turns into a 5 star will amazingly up the average!
Why are so many of the positive reviews for my business not getting recommended?
Here are some possible explanations:
- Some of these reviews may have been written by people we don’t know much about, so they aren’t ranking high with our automated recommendation software. This is entirely normal, and it affects all businesses on the site and all types of reviews, whether positive or negative.
- Some of these reviews may fit a pattern that is different from what we typically see. Our automated software is trained to detect these anomalies, and even though there may be a good explanation, the software sometimes errs on the side of caution.
- Our users write more positive reviews in the first place, so you would expect to see a higher proportion of them being both recommended… and not!
Keep getting more and more positive reviews. Do Yelp deals, ask people to check in and give them a free drink, and make sure cashiers are always offering service with a smile!
All of these together will up your score!
- Why are different reviews recommended on different days? Our recommendation software runs on a daily basis, so the results can change on a daily basis. You’ll sometimes see situations where a review is recommended or not recommended days, weeks, or even months after it is initially posted. For example, our recommendation software might pick up new information that makes a reviewer seem more trustworthy than was initially assumed. The reverse also happens. Sometimes, the information we have about a reviewer grows stale or is incomplete, so the software can take that into account too. The important point here is that our recommendation software routinely produces different results on different days based on the information that feeds it.
Finish your profile and also fill in all relevant information to counter this. Make sure you post a few relevant reviews so their software and other users can trust you more.
- How did my business information end up on Yelp? We license basic business information from third party data providers who gather this type of information from public records and other sources. We also get business information from our users, who are helpful enough to correct the info we have, or let us know about a new spot that just opened down the street. Please feel free to let us know if our information is out of date!
Often times Yelp and other review sites like Zagat, Four Square, City Search, and Google Places will get your business operations days and/or hours wrong. So please remember to go to all of these sites and fill out a user form, then let them know you are the owner. Yelp has a different log-in for business owners. Then fix any mistakes and while you are there, be sure to upload the professional pictures I asked you to take from earlier.
Also, arrange the photos in a nice order, with the highest selling items first and least selling items last. I will tell you why we do this in a later chapter.
Besides the hours and the times also be sure to upload your menu, catering menu, business card, and /or any other promotional materials each of these sites allow like fliers for a promotional item (etc).
- Can I have my business listing information removed from Yelp? Consumers have the right to talk about what they like (and don’t like) about a meal they ate, a plumber they hired, or a car wash they visited. We don’t remove business listings, so your best bet is to engage with your fans and critics alike, and hear what they have to say.
You can let them know when you close down a store. Often no one will tell them and that location can stay on for months. This is not good for your reputation or your brand for people to be constantly reminded that one of your restaurants was shut down (for whatever reason, and I am sure you had a valid reason.)
- Will Yelp remove or reorder bad reviews if a business pays for advertising? You can’t pay us to remove or reorder your bad reviews — it’s just that simple. It’s worth pointing out some additional checks and balances that we build into the system: among other things, our sales team doesn’t have the administrative privileges that might allow them to remove a bad review for an advertiser; similarly, the folks who do have those privileges don’t have anything to do with sales and aren’t compensated on the basis of sales performance.
This might be true but they might have your ear a little closer if you are a good advertiser. Even though they purposefully made their ad department and review department in separate office space, the review people may take your complaint more seriously, especially if you can prove it’s made by a competitor as is often the case or a mentally unstable individual that did not change their review no matter what you did (as was my case).
- Can reputation management companies help me with my reputation on Yelp? There are many “reputation management” companies that claim to work with Yelp to remove your negative reviews or otherwise boost your ratings… for a fee (of course!). If you’re wondering how these companies can make good on this offer, the answer is simple: They can’t. There’s never been any amount of money one can pay — to Yelp or any third party — to manipulate reviews. If you’ve been contacted by someone offering something along these lines, we’d love to get the details so we can prevent them from preying on others. Please contact usto send us the details. Finally, as we’ve said in the past, the best strategy for reputation management is to provide great customer service, and respond diplomatically to your reviewers.
Instead of paying these companies just find people in Fiverr who will do the same thing for $5. Usually they are reliable, just check their reputation on that site. Remember, Yelp does not remove bad reviews, even if it’s from competition or from people that have proven themselves to be unstable individuals, so that might even the playing field.
- Does Yelp allow paid advertisers to move bad reviews to the bottom of their page? Absolutely not. Review order cannot be manipulated and is determined by Yelp Sort, our default ranking methodology that presents the most useful reviews to users. For example, the first review displayed for a business will be one that reflects the average star rating of a business. This methodology is applied to all businesses, sponsors or not.
“Yelp Sort” uses methodology nobody, not even the people that work at Yelp, exactly know about. The reason for this is simple. They are running programs that are using randomly fielded data that bring about inconsistent, unreliable results. It’s kind of like a slot machine. You can put the money in and roll a good spin, or you can come up with an empty dud.
The great reviews on Yelp are now being pushed down by their software, whereas just a few years ago you had the option of putting your favorite review on top. Thousands of people stopped advertising with Yelp since they made this change.
- Where does Yelp get its “business attribute” information (e.g., how expensive the business is, whether it’s good for kids, and suggested attire)? These subjective attributes are voted on by users who have reviewed the business. They can change over time as more people review the business and cast more votes. The more objective attributes that we show in the business listing (whether the business accepts credit cards or is wheelchair accessible) can be set by the business owner if he/she has signed up for a free Business Account.
Use stickers and posters throughout your restaurant letting people know it’s “Family Friendly” and pretty soon many users will get the picture.
- How can I get my menu or price list displayed on my business page? Yelp displays menus and price lists for businesses when we have the data. You can send us a copy of your current menu via the contact form, and we’ll make sure that it is updated. You can also contact our partnersLocuor SinglePlatform which provide menu and price list data to Yelp.
Make sure that you use relevant and up to date menu information. Many restaurants use menus without prices, which is efficient since they won’t have to update it as much. If you choose to upload a menu that includes prices be sure to update it immediately when prices go up, or else you can get in trouble for misleading advertising.
- How can I get a “People Love Us on Yelp” sticker? “People Love Us on Yelp” is a program that provides a sticker and a letter of commendation from Yelp’s founders to businesses that qualify based on their history and rating on Yelp. The stickers are sent out once per year to all businesses that qualify. Whether or not a business advertises on Yelp has no impact on their eligibility to receive a “People Love Us on Yelp” sticker. If you have not yet been selected for this award, but would still like people to know you’re on Yelp, you can request a “Find Us on Yelp” sticker with this form.
You can make your own “People Love Us on Yelp” sticker. Yelp is using your business to promote and make money from their web site. You should be able to use their name to promote and make money at your place of business. It’s only fair.
I’m considering legal action — what are my rights? Nobody likes to get a negative review, and it’s even worse if you think it violates your legal rights. But a good lawyer will tell you the truth: defamation suits are notoriously expensive and difficult to win. Worse, they are very public. We can point to countless examples of ill-advised lawsuits that hurt the business far more than it ever helped. Nor will you get far by bringing Yelp into the dispute since Yelp merely acts as a forum like any other where people can share their views. (The law is well settled on this point, but you are welcome to ask your neighborhood internet attorney to confirm.) There may be rare cases when it’s appropriate to take legal action, but in most cases, you won’t get what you are looking for by suing someone who gives you a bad review.
This is the one answer I wholeheartedly agree with. Unless you have a really crazy situation like a group of people stalking your page, leaving repeatedly negative reviews because they are a team from the competition, or some other likely scenario where you have a crazed individual threatening bodily harm to you or your employees, assume Yelp will take action eventually.
Just calm down and report them, and report them repeatedly. Have your friends and family report them. Have your best customers report them. After a while they will believe you. If they don’t, and it is a serious case, no one would be angry with you if you did take legal action.