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It’s such a great concept: Allow people to write reviews and share their experiences at local businesses with the rest of the world. We’ve used Yelp reviews repeatedly ourselves over the years to choose everything from salons to restaurants, and not just here in Metro-Detroit, but in cities all across the country.
But over the past year, Yelp has lost its way.
And if you are a business owner or occasional “Yelper” (the term for people who write reviews on Yelp), Yelp has demonstrated that your opinion doesn’t really matter much.
We’ll set aside the allegations (and pending lawsuit) that claims Yelp “extorts” small businesses for money to remediate negative reviews. We just don’t know enough about the details of this to know if this is true or not.
But we do know that Yelp is regularly filtering real, legitimate reviews of businesses and not publishing them to a businesses Yelp profile. We know this because right now there are four of our client’s reviews that are not being shown with our listing.
Why does Yelp do this?
Well, they claim that they have developed an algorithm that can sort out real reviews from fake ones.
They claim this is done to protect businesses from nasty competitors writing nasty, negative reviews of you on Yelp. But they also openly admit that the algorithm filters legitimate Yelp reviews in the process. And they also admit that there is nothing that they can do about it (we have the e-mails from Yelp to prove this.)
In other words: It’s the machine that does it all (never mind that they wrote the “machine”) and Yelp takes no responsibility for the flawed monster we created. Sorry Mr. or Mrs. small business … You might have all kinds of fans out there writing reviews on Yelp about you, but our machine knows better than anyone else who is real and who should see them or not see them.
We have written and spoke with Yelp repeatedly at Urban Optiques about the volume of reviews that are being filtered on our listing. The answer is always the same: “Sorry, it’s the machine doing this. Can’t do anything about it. You can buy advertising with us, however.”
Must be very fulfilling for all of those young people in San Francisco to know they work for H.A.L..
I can only empathize with the hundreds of inquiries they must receive from small businesses each day saying “Why aren’t our legit reviews showing?” Good thing they have a nice, canned response ready in Outlook.
And to rub it in even more, Yelp loves to regularly send us emails telling us how we can make Yelp work for our small business. Whenever we receive one, I always forward it to Yelp and mention to them the best way they can help us is to start showing our reviews.
I don’t get many replies back to that one.
No one knows how the algorithm at Yelp works (and based on Yelp’s public response to the problem, I’m not even sure Yelp understands it) but it is clear that it’s broken. We can prove that each client on Yelp who has written a review of Urban Optiques is real. If Yelp would like us to produce the names and telephone numbers (with the client’s permission of course), we’d be glad to put the “algorithm programmers” in touch with the human beings the machine is saying are “fake.”
There is also some evidence that Yelp just doesn’t really like you people that don’t spend all your waking days writing reviews. The majority of the filtered reviews of Urban Optiques are from people who have only written one review. So the frequency and volume of a Yelper’s reviews seems to somehow play into the determination of whether it’s “real” or not.
The irony in all of this is that Yelp would not exist as a business or website were it not for the new users joining the Yelp community.
All of Yelp’s content is written by non-Yelp employees … In other words, written by you, the client or customer. Without those reviews, Yelp would have no content and no revenue model.
Zero. Zip. Zilch.
Unfortunately, new members of Yelp don’t have much incentive to write additional reviews when their first review never shows up for the business they are reviewing. Why would you want to write additional reviews when Yelp’s algorithm more or less says you don’t exist?
Fortunately, Yelp does provide business owners with the ability to see the filtered reviews.
It’s a bit like pouring salt in an open wound when you see that only two of the six reviews people have written about you are actually appearing with your listing. However, it does at least let you find the reviews on the Yelper’s individual profile page and thank them for taking the time to write a review that Yelp will probably never show.
Because we appreciate our clients taking the time to write a review of us, we think it’s only fair to do what Yelp won’t do: Which is to acknowledge your contribution and allow the public to see what you have written. So we grabbed some screen shots of the reviews Yelp won’t let you see about Urban Optiques and placed them on our “Raves and Reviews” page. You can see all of our Yelp reviews (both filtered and unfiltered) there.
We encourage every small business to claim their listing and see exactly who and what Yelp is filtering. And then we encourage you to post those filtered — but probably completely legitimate reviews — to your website.
If “The Machine” at Yelp won’t display them, then you should.
Just for fun, we’ve included a couple legit — but filtered — Yelp reviews below as well.
So to all of the clients who made the time to create a Yelp account and take a few minutes to review us, we say “thanks” even if Yelp says “No Thanks.”
Thank you for taking the time to express your feedback. We do appreciate it.
Read on ….