Bring up Yelp in a room full of business owners and you get a lot of mixed reviews.
It’s not that businesses don’t like reviews. We love reviews, in fact, both the good and the bad. From the bad, we can reach out to and build stronger relationships with unhappy customers by addressing their complaints. From the good, we can celebrate a job well done with our customers.
And thanks to the internet, there are any number of places a customer can leave a review. Google, Facebook, the Better Business Bureau, to name a few. But Yelp… Yelp is a whole other beast.
How Yelp is Different
When you search for a company’s reviews, like “In-House Plumbing Company reviews,” you’ll find any number of review sites in the results. And if you go to any of these sites except Yelp, you can see a list showing every review.
But Yelp doesn’t do this. They show some reviews and leave others out. The reviews they do show are called “recommended reviews.” And the ones they don’t are hidden below those reviews by a grayed out link. You have to click that link you want to see the reviews that are “not currently recommended.”
Recommended Reviews vs. Not Recommended
A question many business owners and the people who leave reviews have is why are some reviews recommended and some not?
Yelp explains it like this:
It makes sense, on the surface. And when you consider there are companies buying— or otherwise incentivising— good reviews and other companies leaving negative reviews on competitor’s pages, finding a way to filter those out makes for a better experience for you, the customer.
But is that what’s really happening? Is it only fake reviews being filtered out?
If you look at our reviews, recommended and not recommended, there doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to it.
There are some reviews in the not recommended section where the reviewer has no picture, no friends, and a single review. But that is also the case in the recommended reviews.
Additionally, a one-star review came in that was in the recommended reviews and counted toward our total star rating. But after we worked with the customer and she changed her review to five stars, it was removed from the recommended review section and no longer counts toward the total.
According to the video and on the site, the reviews are sorted using an algorithm (software).
Here are some of the factors the algorithm considers when filtering the reviews:
- the quality of the review (one line, heavily slanted in one way or the other)
- number of reviews
- how the reviewer signed up (email, Facebook, etc.)
- lack of profile photo
- reviewer’s location in relation to the business location
Additionally, the software runs every day so it’s possible a review is recommended one day but not the next.
And they also admit because it’s an automated process, some legitimate reviews occasionally find their way into the not recommended section.
Yelp, the Big Bully?
While the other big review sites also filter for fake or spammy reviews, Yelp has been accused of using their recommended/not recommended review process as a way to pressure business owners into becoming paid advertisers on the site.
Buy our ads and we’ll ‘get rid’ of your bad reviews.
On sites like Yelp Sucks and the Facebook page Yelp Extortion, you’ll find numerous complaints against the company from local business owners about the tremendous pressure they get from Yelp’s sales people.
In 2010 and 2014, two class action lawsuits were brought against the review company accusing them of lying about requiring small business owners to pay to filter out the bad reviews. There’s even a documentary about similar complaints against Yelp called Billion Dollar Bully.
In this video from The Washington Post, they talk to business owners who claim their reviews were changed based on whether or not they signed up as advertisers on the site.
However, this three year study presented by the Harvard Business Review found being an advertiser on the site does not affect the algorithm.
And Yelp themselves said the reviews cannot be manually changed from recommended to not recommended despite their sales people’s claims to the contrary.
Who Should You Trust?
So what should you do when looking for a company’s reviews?
Staying informed is the best option at this point. As a potential customer when going to Yelp, make sure you look at all the reviews, recommended and not recommended.
And of course, trust your gut. When you call a business or read about them online, if you get a bad feeling about them, trust that. Sometimes your instincts are right on the money.
Also remember. Nobody and no business is perfect. Before leaving a negative review, reach out to the company and see if they are willing work with you to resolve your issues. Then once the company works with you, consider leaving a review of the whole process from initial call to unhappy result to how the company handled the problem when you went to them.
Here are In-House, we are proud of our unofficial policy of running to the problem. But if we don’t know there is a problem, we can’t fix it. And in the end, that’s what we all want.
As always, we’re here to answer any questions you have. If you want to know more about us or any reviews you found about us, call us at 972-203-6479.