Small businesses everywhere are sharing the same frustration over a mysterious algorithm they can’t seem to crack. Its Yelp’s cryptic automatic filter, which conceals numerous positive business reviews from business pages it deems as suspicious or deceiving.

Cracking the Code

It comes as no surprise that the review giant isn’t universally loved. In the last several months, Yelp has been riddled with rants, anti-Yelp websites, offensive message boards, and even some pending lawsuits from companies that have accused the site for favoring businesses who purchase paid ads.

Although Yelp has dismissed the conspiracy theories about favoring advertisers, what’s been maddening for many is that the algorithmic process, which is claimed by Yelp to enact and maintain fairness, helpfulness and authenticity within the site’s community. Much like other online giants like Amazon and Google, Yelp’s been criticized for its lack of transparency when it comes to revealing details about how the filtering system works. This is because the more they reveal, the higher the risk for scammers to defy the system. The only information Yelp will reveal is:

  1. Yelp favors reviewers who are most active and in good standing to find true user-generated data
  2. The software looks for red flags. For example, multiple reviews being made from the same IP address could suggest that a business owner is soliciting deceptive reviews made from one location.
  3. Reviews that overly sway in favor or with criticism of the business could be deemed as inauthentic or unhelpful to users.

Despite its shady filtering ways, Yelp still matters. And this is why it’s the cause of distress for many business owners. According to the Harvard Business School, a Yelp rating of just one star can increase a company’s revenue from 5-9%.

What Can Businesses Do?

Many reputation management services claim that they can beat the algorithm, cracking the code and placing great reviews on the top of a business’s review page. They’ll even claim they work with a “network of reviewers” that will post positive reviews. This, known as “astroturfing,” violates Yelp’s terms. And because of Yelp’s dominance in the marketplace as well as its effectiveness on online users, the black market sale of Yelp reviews has skyrocketed. Yelp has it covered though. In the fall of 2012, Yelp launched a consumer alerts program that acts as  “public shaming” for businesses that have been caught red-handed being involved in shady practices.

Yelp Algorithm Filtering Your Business's Reviews? You're Not Alone | Small Screen Producer Digital and Inbound Marketing Agency Houston

As a firm that offers reputation management services, we recommend the following ways to handle your business’s Yelp page:

Know the Yelp Rules

It’s helpful for all businesses on Yelp to know the rules in order to recognize a bad review. For instance, if a business owner catches a negative review that doesn’t follow Yelp’s guidelines or terms of service, this review can be flagged and removed.


Good Reputation Isn’t Bought, but Earned

Understand that in order to build or repair a business’s reputation requires time and some effort. There are also ways to encourage your customers to make positive reviews, but this will take consistent effort over a period of time. The alternative? Sitting it out or writing a fake review isn’t any good and can make your reputation even worse if you’re caught and shamed by Yelp.


Respond to Negative Reviews

Everybody loves positive reviews, but negative reviews happen too. And it’s important for a company to understand that it’s not the end of the world and that they have the power to relieve their own distress. Some good that businesses can do when they receive a bad review is to respond immediately and actually repair the problem. There are user-friendly reputation management dashboards out there that businesses can use to monitor and receive real-time alerts anytime a user mentions or makes a review and respond right away.


Do Your Homework

When searching for reputation management services, don’t look with blinders on. A great reputation management firm won’t make grand promises. If they’re promising “immediate improvement” or “quick removal,” that’s just not the reality of reputation management and it won’t ever be.

Business owners are faced with two choices when it comes to dealing with a site like Yelp. 1. Take action to build and repair their reputation on the review sites or 2. sit back and take the big hit. What a business owner can’t do is opt out of the whole thing entirely. So what will it be?


About Small Screen Producer

Small Screen Producer is a full service, marketing firm located in Houston, Texas that specializes in online digital media marketing through a 4-step process. Step 1: WE PLAN a custom web presence strategy for your business through website design and development, mobile development, social media account creation and branding. STEP 2: We then POSITION your brand through Pay-Per-Click advertising and search engine optimize tactics that include on-page and off-page SEO that are Google and Bing approved. STEP 3: We then PROMOTE your brand using an Inbound marketing strategy or a content marketing strategy to help you accomplish your marketing goals. We do this through blogging, video production, infographics, call-to-actions, landing pages, and free educational offers. We help you build trust and rapport with your customer base. STEP 4: We then PROTECT your brand’s web presence with a reputation management program that monitors social media and on line reviews. Get started today with a free online marketing assessment of your company’s web presence. Your company deserves it.