Yelp: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

One of the services that we offer at Old Town Media is online reputation management. Rather than utilizing an automated service for this, we do it manually – one by one – so that we can actually take note of the negative (and positive) comments made by customers, respond with personalization and keep tabs on ratings.

That being said, we feel your pain when it comes to Yelp.

We call Yelp. We email Yelp. We flag Yelp reviews. We field calls from Yelp ad reps. I’m just going to come out and say it: I don’t like Yelp. But that’s okay, because Yelp doesn’t like a lot of businesses.

So let’s break this down: there is a good side to Yelp.

The Good Side of Yelp

Yelp has been around for 10 years, it has an average of almost 140 million monthly unique visitors and it’s responsible for approximately 61 million online reviews.

Yelp has changed how consumers make buying decisions and it has served as a resource for local businesses to use to tap into new markets and highlight their positive reputations in an online platform. Yelp has improved business practices by owners, managers and staff members because it holds people accountable for consumer experiences and expectations. Yelp also provides business owners and managers the opportunity to communicate with happy or disgruntled customers.

These are all great things, as long as the reviews are authentic and the representation is fair, right? Well, that takes us right into the bad and the ugly of Yelp.

Why I Don’t Like Yelp

Screen Shot 2014-09-05 at 2.32.08 PMYes, this is a real email that our client Aspen Grove Veterinary Care received via their website Contact form. Now, just to put this into context – Aspen Grove Veterinary Care is a locally owned and operated veterinary clinic in Fort Collins. Aspen Grove has one (negative) unfiltered review on Yelp and a one star rating and not one positive unfiltered review. However, it has 35 filtered reviews! How in the world does that make algorithmic sense?

Check out this excerpt from an article titled, “Yelp Is Allowed To Manipulate Ratings And Remove Good Reviews, Says Court”:

“Yelp has consistently challenged the notion that they’ve extorted small businesses by implying a pay-to-play structure when it comes to the way positive and negative reviews are displayed on the site, and so far, in court, they’ve won. Now a three-judge panel at the 9th Circuit has ruled that even if plaintiffs could adequately prove that Yelp has removed and replaced positive reviews and manipulated star ratings in exchange for paid ads, Yelp wouldn’t have been doing anything illegal.

It’s a weird ruling but perhaps cuts to the heart of what Yelp is responsible for, as a business, and what businesses’ rights are when it comes to user reviews.
As the Chron reports, writing for the 3-0 majority, Judge Marsha Berzon states: “As Yelp has the right to charge for legitimate advertising services, the (alleged) threat of economic harm … is, at most, hard bargaining.””

Long story short: no matter how much Yelp is screwing with your rating on its site, you probably won’t beat them in court.

Our advice for you if Yelp is “hard bargaining” with your business’ online reputation?yelp-hate-2

  • Direct your customers to other review sites. For example, Aspen Grove has a 4.5 out of 5 star rating on Google, an A+ rating with the BBB, a 5 out of 5 star rating on Yellow Pages and a 4.5 out of 5 star rating on Demand Force.
    • A side note for consumers: there are other review sites besides Yelp that you should take a look at before making a buying decision. Embrace the full scope of the internet!
  • Make a joke of it – there are many businesses across the nation that have opted to hang “People Hate Us on Yelp” signs vs. the “People Love Us on Yelp” signs that Yelp provides.
  • Take reviews with a grain of salt – this is actually good advice for any platform. The ability to openly vent about a negative experience can have a dramatic effect on a person, don’t take everything written on a review site personally. (Also, sometimes people are just crazy).
  • Do pay attention – if you start to see a common thread in your negative reviews, consider that there may be some truth to it and correct the issue internally to prevent additional negative reviews.
  • Respond. Even if you hate Yelp, publicly respond to negative reviews. Let the public know that while you may not care about Yelp specifically, you do care about what your customers are saying.