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Yelp: How to Respond to Negative Reviews in an Age Yearning for Authenticity


I’ve had a couple clients recently who came to me with the issue of how to deal with negative reviews on Yelp. Yelp is such a powerful resource for consumers and can be a really great tool to build your business. It’s brought me alot of work and I appreciate that.

But negative reviews suck. We are are talking about small businesses—real people with real feelings who have alot of “skin” in this game.

I’ll briefly touch on 3 important points in dealing with negative reviews:

First important point is that no one trusts all positive reviews. So it’s ok to have some negative reviews in there.

Second important point to remember is that negative reviews won’t last forever. Reviews (both good and bad ones) filter on and off a Yelp business profile based on a secret formula. The formula is all about assuring  the authenticity of the reviewer and authenticity is what Yelp has built its entire business around. No one knows exactly what that formula is but here are some factors…

Yelp Filter Triggers – for removing reviews. Some of these are from my direct observations of my account (today I’m at 19 reviews with 22 filtered) and my clients accounts and other are from reading other postings

  • Status of reviewer – The biggest reason a review will get filtered is if the reviewer is a new Yelp user and doesn’t have an account that has been around for a while. Related factors:
    • Number of reviews (You don’t have to be an “Elite” with 1000s of reviews but that gives a sense of the scale)
    • Timing of reviews (If there are 5 at once that is not as authentic as 1 per month for 5 months)
    • Number of friends/followers
    • Profile photo (did the reviewer upload a photo of themselves)
  • Status of review — If a review is marked as “useful”, “funny” or “cool” by other authentic users it may stick around for longer.
  • Time-distribution-based – If a business recently got a negative review and then starts quickly receiving positive reviews, these reviews may be filtered
  • Location-based – A user’s location can trigger a filter. For example, if a business is located in San Francisco and received reviews from New York it is possible Yelp will filter this review
  • Frequency – Yelp Businesses that receive small quantities of reviews and then have a quick increase in positive reviews may trigger the filter

It’s never easy to read negative things about your business on the Internet.

Third important point(s): some advice from the Official Yelp blog on how to respond when it happens:

  • Step 1: Stay Calm. Give yourself a cooling down period.
  • Step 2. Respond Privately If you haven’t already, unlock your business listing on Yelp.
  • Optional Step 3. Respond Publicly

via Yelp Official Blog: Tactics for Responding to Online Critics.

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