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Most businesses owners have experienced the situation where they wanted to throw the computer out of the window, because they have had yelp reviews that were there one day and then filtered out the next.  This can be an extremely frustrating experience, as these reviews are key to consumers making purchase decisions in the age of the internet.  This has happened to my own business numerous times and I felt that this is a topic that many SMB’s may be interested in learning more about.  Not only why it happens, but some ideas on how to combat it as much as possible.

Why?

Although everyone wants to hold yelp up as criminals, they filter reviews because it makes sense for their business model, which is a powerful one.  The front running reason for the review filter is to increase the legitimacy of their platform.  Without some restraints in place, it would open them up to a slew of problems.  One of those problems are fake reviews, which even with an algorithm to deal with the problem still happens every day.  Yelp is tasked with making themselves the most legitimate and “accurate” review website in existence, so the filtering is probably a necessary evil.

Now for the other side of the coin, where people have a tendency to get a little upset and I believe this issue has drug yelp into court on more than one occasion.  This is the idea that if you advertise with yelp they will then “optimize” your account.  Many have claimed that once they stopped advertising with yelp that negative reviews that were previously filtered became publicly available and vice versa with positive reviews.  Obviously this is upsetting, but to my knowledge every time yelp has gone to court for this, the business practice has been upheld as perfectly legal.  Now for the action plan….

  1. Ask Often.

The best way to make sure you have reviews is to ask for them and ask for them often.  Remember that these websites are intended to let the public know how you are doing as a business.  We all know that you can’t win them all, but if you have a process in place to ask for reviews you will get honest feedback that will more likely outline how awesome you are, rather than sitting back and waiting and then getting a surprise 1 star review.

  1. Keep your Account Active

There is some evidence that suggests a more active account will help with the optimization.  Meaning, if someone writes a review, respond to it.  The website bases its advertising fees on the traffic and activity of the site, so it is intuitive to assume if you are contributing with more activity on the website that your page will be treated favorably.

  1. Set Up Page Correctly

Though I can’t be sure that it has a direct effect on whether reviews are filtered out or not, I will always recommend to my customers to make their profile as comprehensive as possible.  Fill out every applicable section with relevant information and make sure to update anything that changes as quickly as possible.  This holds true with all online profiles.  Though it can be a daunting task, it’s worth the time spent.

  1. Ask People to Review other Businesses

There is also evidence pointing to the authority of a yelpers profile that determines whether or not a review is filtered out.  This is one way that they combat fake reviews.  For example, if someone sets up a yelp account just to review your business the likelihood of that review being filtered out is VERY HIGH!  Whereas, if someone has written some reviews for other businesses, especially in your same area, the review is much less likely to be filtered.  Although, it is hard to coach people on this particular issue, when possible ask them to review some other businesses before you own to help alleviate the possibility that their review will be filtered out.

While there are a lot of differences of opinion when it comes to dealing with the yelp filter, I believe that these 4 tips are a good start for someone who has been struggling in this area.  There is no perfect science or silver bullet, it is all about having a process in place to ask and monitor what is going on out there about your business.  If you continue to get reviews filtered aggressively it may be worth a call to yelp.  There have also been instances that accounts get filtered more aggressively because they received “an unnatural amount of new reviews”.  If you have been getting 1 per month and all of the sudden you get 40, this is a BIG red flag, so I would avoid this at all costs.  That being know, keep it ethical and just ask people how you are doing and your online review presence will slowly improve over months.