The truth about YELP reviews

Why do people put fences around their properties? Why do people put locks on their doors? Fences and locks don’t keep everyone out.  If an outsider is invited in, the fences and locks serve no purpose.  Fences and locks are designed to keep out people who are not known.  Once they are known, they can come through fences and find that doors are not locked.

The issue is with those who are not trusted.

That analogy goes a long way toward understanding Yelp.

Thousands of business people are in agony over Yelp “filters”.  They can see very positive reviews hidden behind the filters.  But, these great reviews are in limbo, very difficult to see and useless to the business owner.  Business owners reason that if people say nice things about them, these things should be published.

Yet, Yelp seems to only publish negative or neutral reviews and leave off most of the really good ones.

Yelp is trying to get their “machine” to think like a human.  Yelp reasons that if you say something that is not flattering, you probably are telling the truth.  Ignoring the possibility that the person posting is “out to get” the business in question, Yelp believes that people who take the time to write something critical about their experience at a business are probably sincere in their descriptions of the situation.

On the other hand, if a review comes back all puffy with positive comments, Yelp believes that the owner of the business asked for the review from friends or family (often quite true) and the review is, therefore, lower on the credibility score.  It is human nature.  People do not generally go out of their way to rave about service or food that they routinely expect to be good.  It is why they patronized the business in the first place.

Unfortunately, excellence is expected – taken for granted — these days.  And, Yelp does not expect people to go out of their way to say so.  So they filter.

Filter does not mean erase.  Positive reviews are still held on “purgatory” until there is enough evidence to release them.  So, what is that evidence?

People who consistently write reviews for Yelp are more trusted to be legitimate.  It is less likely that a family member or friend will go to the trouble of writing eight to ten reviews to legitimize the review of a business they are trying to help.  But, some people are “into it” and will write reviews – positive and negative – on every business they patronize.  Yelp trusts them.

That is why people who don’t routinely write Yelp reviews and write legitimate positive reviews about a business, are filtered and their reviews are not posted – until they have written more.  It is simply Yelp’s way of putting up a fence or locking a door.  Eventually, they will be allowed in.

So what is to be done?  The fact is that, eventually, there will be many more people who are “credible” with Yelp.  It just takes time.

Businesses that are proactive in soliciting Yelp reviews, however, will be far ahead of the pack when the market “matures” and more people are credible to Yelp.  It is a numbers game.  It would be a mistake to simply get frustrated with Yelp and ignore it.  Being proactive now will yield benefits later.

Creating a review solicitation strategy early, like the one Reputation Vigilance provides, is critical.  It can be a 6 to 18-month strategy.  Those business owners who decide to wait until the situation changes will be far behind those who clearly see the future and plan for it now.