The Good, the Bad and the Ugly Side of Yelp
I recently created a new business page on Yelp to allow my customers to write reviews of my business. As a marketing and PR writer, I figured this would be a good way to get the word out about Writer For Hire by letting my clients tell others about their experiences. So this week, I got down to it and created a Yelp page.
Early yesterday, I started contacting people with whom I had worked to let them know that I had created a Yelp page. Many of them were very enthusiastic about writing me a review as they wanted to share their level of satisfaction with my work. By the end of the day, 10 clients had posted reviews – but mysteriously, 3 others that people told me they had posted, were absent.
This morning, I eagerly opened my new Yelp business page, Writer For Hire, to see what was going on with my reviews. To my surprise, half of my reviews had been taken down and hidden by Yelp — and the 3 that had been missing were STILL missing!
So I called the “nice” advertising guy, Joe, who I had previously spent 2 hours with on the phone reviewing advertising options, about this new glitch with the system. (Joe had recommended that I spent $300 – $450 a month on advertising – and another $75 a month if I wanted to hide the advertising by my competitors, which automatically shows up on my business page!). I told Joe that my reviews were being removed by Yelp and I needed his help to restore them.
To my surprise, he told me that there was “nothing he could do,” – that it was their algorithm software that made those decisions, and that “nobody really knew what the parameters were for choosing what reviews to post and what reviews to hide.”
When I questioned him further about this, he said it was probably due to the reviewers not having enough experience in writing reviews – or it could be that they didn’t have a photo posted.
Well this didn’t make any sense to me because some of my reviewers DID have photos and HAD reviewed other businesses and they were still hidden, while other reviewers who didn’t have a photo and hadn’t written other reviews, were visible. I told Joe this and waited for his reply.
He then told me that it was probably my fault that the reviews didn’t post because I had asked people to write me reviews in the first place!
On the Yelp business “How To” page, it explains this policy of hiding people’s reviews:
Why would a review not be recommended?
“There are a number of reasons why a review might not be recommended. For example, the review may 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 we see originating 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.”
Then it further explains that their algorithm can actually change what it approves, from one day to the next:
Why are different reviews recommended on different days?
“Our recommendation software runs on a daily basis, so the results can change day-to-day. For example, the software might pick up new information as time goes by that makes a reviewer seem more trustworthy, or the information we have about a reviewer can grow stale.”
Now as a marketing and PR writer, I know that when you have any kind of vehicle – be it a blog, a press release, an article or a new book published, you promote it. How else are people going to know about it? So it stands to reason that when I set up my new Yelp Business Page, I was going to let people know about it. In doing so, it was understandable that there would be a flurry of activity with people writing and posting their reviews. This is a good thing, right?
Apparently not. Joe questioned me – wanting to know if I go on Yelp to write reviews or to find businesses. I said I did both. “Well,” he told me, “Yelp is a business directory and that’s why we recommend you use it rather than just to write reviews.” I could tell by the way he said it, that he was inferring that I was using it “wrong” and furthermore, that this was a waste of his time even discussing it with me.
I wish I could write a review of Yelp, itself, because I would tell users that it has not been a positive experience for me in setting up a business page for Writer For Hire. No, in fact, I’ve learned that my customer reviews will be viewed with suspicion if there are “too many positive reviews” and also, that they will hide them if they choose to and that there’s absolutely no one who can do anything about it because it’s controlled by their “algorithm software” which nobody understands (or is willing to re-program).
So I decided to try another strategy. I wrote myself a positive review, and then sat back and waited to see if it got taken down by the algorithm software. And guess what? It didn’t! So much for their algorithm software being able to detect suspicious posts. Eventually, I took it down myself – my point being proven.
Over the past few months, I’ve heard a lot of gripes and grumbles from business people who have used Yelp and gotten bad reviews by competitors looking to cast aspersions on their business. I’d be interested in knowing what you think about Yelp: Have you had any experiences like mine? What happens to those reviews that are “hidden” – do they ever see the light of day? Is there anything anyone can do about it?
For anyone interested in seeing my page, you can go to “Writer For Hire” on Yelp – but if you want to write me a recommendation, I would recommend you NOT waste your time here because it’s probably not going to be posted. Instead, go to my LinkedIn page: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ghostwritingbrandingexpert where at least I know the reviews I get will be visible.