Yelp filters reviews based on personal judgment

Reputation Management: Yelp! Ratings Don’t Always Tell the Full Story.

The topic: Reputation Management. How can you do it if the “tools” in place battle against your efforts to improve customer service? My level of frustration with Yelp! is huge on this topic. Did you know that the star ratings don’t tell the full story? They only tell the story their staff wants you to see.

 

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There are HIDDEN reviews that are tucked away and not factored into the star ratings. I posted a review for a client. I used their services and was MORE than pleased with the results. My review showed briefly and then was tucked away to only keep poor ratings from a couple of years ago on display. I know several people who have used this plumbing business – Casey’s Plumbing – and given them wonderful reviews because they, too, were very pleased. Those are also tucked away as potential “non-legit” reviews.  We hire businesses, we take the time to review, good or bad, and staff at Yelp! decides which should show and not.

You have to SCROLL to the bottom of the business listing to just above their ABOUT THIS BUSINESS area.

caseys-yelp-filtered-linkNot only do you have to know there are FILTERED REVIEWS, but you have to fill out CAPTCHA to see them. Why? I don’t have to fill out CAPTCHA to view their “select” reviews.

It’s WRONG. It’s an abuse of power.  

DO NOT RELY ON YELP! reviews to make a decision. Get a better picture of a business by also checking on Google+, Google Places, MSN, Yahoo. Ask for references. 

This was Yelp’s justification to their actions:

First off, I’d like to explain that Yelp’s review filter is an automated system that works to protect both business owners and consumers from fake or biased reviews. We intentionally do not give out information on how the filter works – if we did, we would be overrun by reviews written by people hoping to game the system. What I can tell you is there is no amount of money business owners can pay Yelp to manipulate reviews and our filter does not punish those who do not advertise. The filter applies the same set of rules equally across the board for all users, no exceptions. I can provide plenty of examples of Yelp advertisers that have many filtered reviews. 
 
The Yelp automated algorithm determines which reviews to highlight based on information we have about the review and reviewer. It’s not a perfect system – after all, legitimate reviews sometimes look questionable, and questionable reviews sometimes look legitimate – but we think it does a pretty good job given the sheer volume of reviews. 

I did take a look at the reviews for Casey’s plumbing and it looks like there are numerous filtered reviews that are both positive and negative. When a business has a high percentage of filtered reviews, it can be an indicator that they have solicited their customers to write reviews for them – an act that we discourageIt may seem like a good way to generate more reviews, but it tends to create an unintentional biasThis type of deliberate campaign – rather than organic growth – can trigger the filter. Now I’m not saying that’s what happened in this case, Casey’s may not have asked for reviews, but regardless, I like to add this information in so as to help business owners understand that soliciting is discouraged and can simply result in frustration. 
 
Casey’s Plumbing asks ALL customers for feedback. They have a survey – good or bad with all ways to give feedback, including going to yelp to write a review. It doesn’t say, “If you are happy, review us.” They want all feedback. How else can businesses grow?
This has been a battle for three years for Casey’s and there has been no headway made. 
 

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Here is a sampling of the rest of their reviews. They go to both extremes. That’s fine by Casey’s, but they want to see the full story!
 
I posted this question to my Facebook friends – they are honorable business owners and have had similar experiences with Yelp. Their customers that take the time are seeing how Yelp filters to suit their purposes and judgment: “Any business owners out there who have had positive reviews on Yelp! hidden from your company profile because they thought the review wasn’t legit?”
 

“I have heard that happening so many times on Yelp, especially if you don’t sign up for their payment plan to claim your page. Such a shame, those ppl at Yelp seem to be running major scams. I don’t have anyone to send you in particular but I have heard many similar stories, if you Google it you’ll see them.”

 

“Aaron does. He mentioned that a couple of good ones are not there and one bad from years ago (things that happened before he got there) is there. And the kicker is that guy who ran the place (poorly) was also named Aaron.”

 

“Check out TILT Handcrafted Foods Twitter and FB feed for a local restaurant who goes after these guys. We’ve been working with local business to get their reviews unfiltered for a couple years.”

 

“It’s happened to us Susan… message me tomorrow and I’ll fill you in.”

 

What’s next? you may be wondering. I don’t know. We’ll see if local media is willing to help me with this topic. I’ll keep you posted. Track progress on twitter with #yelpfail

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