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Why I Have A Love/Hate Relationship With Yelp

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What I Dislike About Yelp

As one of the most popular review sites, Yelp can be a great asset or a great liability to business owners. Yelp can really help a struggling business take off. It can help give a business social proof and make them an instant authority. At the same time there is a dark side to Yelp. Yelp can sink a struggling great and ethical small business without an ounce of care.

How does Yelp do this? Most people who use Yelp do not know that Yelp has a mysterious algorithm that filters reviews. In the past they were called “filtered” reviews. At the time of writing this article, they are now called “Not Recommended Reviews.” This link is found towards the bottom of any business listing.

The “Not Recommended Reviews” are often legitimate reviews left by customers that are not taken into account of the overall star rating. This means a business could have ten 5-star reviews that get filtered out and one or two 1-star reviews that do not get filtered out. On search results, the business only shows to have one star. Potential customers may pass on this business from that.

This can potentially destroy a good struggling business that would have received far more business if the ten 5-star reviews had not been filtered out. I find it an unethical business practice that Yelp engages in. Yelp does not clearly inform their readers that they do this.

As a struggling small business owner a few years ago, I had many patients who left me 5-star reviews. In my field, I spend at least 30 minutes with my patients. I know their stories. Although I was fortunate that all my reviews were great, Yelp filtered out most. Let’s face it, having many 5-star ratings looks much better than zero or one. This hurt me me. Potential patients were more likely to pass me by if that’s what came up on a Google search.

I have also had colleagues who have asked Yelp to take down bad reviews that they know were not written by clients. Yelp refused to take down the reviews even when they were able to provide proof. Although these may be unsubstantiated claims, getting a bad review off of a listing seems to be nearly impossible.

At some point while I was struggling, they called and offered to help. They promised to help grow my practice. I regrettably ended up signing a one-year contract with the promise they would bring in more patients for me. Taking a significant amount of my money back then as I struggled to grow my business, I’m not sure that they lived up to their promise. Hopefully this sheds some light about Yelp from the perspective of a business owner.

What I Like About Yelp

As much as I dislike Yelp for the reasons above and find Yelp to be unethical, Yelp is here to stay. Ignoring it is not there can be harmful too. Used correctly, Yelp can be a great springboard to help grow a business. Yelp can make a business stand out over any other businesses. Customers can make their voices heard, assuming their voices are not filtered out. This can significantly increase the visibility and customers of a business.

Having found a way to leverage not just Yelp but reviews for my business, it brought in many patients to my medical practice. Currently I have more 5-star reviews by myself than many of the medical practices in my specialty put together. It quickly brought me potential patients after moving to a new state.

As a review site, Yelp is powerful for businesses. I understand Yelp does take their reviews very seriously and have taken legal action against companies that have immorally paid for fake reviews. Perhaps there is no easy way to do this, but I appreciate their dedication.

Some Tips To Leverage Yelp

Fortunately, there is a way to leverage Yelp correctly that can help offset bad reviews. This is based on the assumption that your business is ethical and strives for quality. If not, I doubt these strategies would help.

Generally there are going to be two types of customers who are likely to leave Yelp reviews. Raving fans and people who are angry about the service or product they received. People who have a mediocre experience won’t feel passionate one way or another.

If you run your business well, then hopefully you have more raving fans rather than rabid former customers. If not, then you better listen to what your customers are saying and make appropriate changes to turn them into future customers.

If you run a great business with many happy customers, ask them to leave you an honest review. Don’t ask for “good” reviews. Ask for honest reviews. Find a way to entice them to leave a review. Do not bribe customers for reviews unless you want to get in trouble.

Encourage customers to check-in to your business using the Yelp app on their smart phones. Encourage them to write reviews for other businesses. Place links on your website that point your customers to your Yelp listing.

Click on the link above to get access on more details about how a business can leverage Yelp more effectively. For now I hope this helps create some new ideas on how to leverage Yelp to grow ones business.

Finally, don’t rely solely on Yelp. Nowadays it can be easy to record  a short video clip of a raving fan or fans of your business and post those on your website. Give people multiple avenues to learn how others feel about your business.

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Daniel Lopez, D.O.

Author Daniel Lopez, D.O.

Daniel Lopez, D.O. grew up with a lot of pain trying many things that did not help. Realizing that if he could not help himself, he would be unable to help others effectively, he dedicated himself to finding real answers. Since that time, Dr. Lopez has found a unique but powerful style where he has patients from around the country and the world that travel to see him for headaches, TMJ issues, eye issues, neck pain, back pain, and more. Daniel Lopez, D.O. is an osteopathic physician with Osteopathic Integrative Medicine. Prior to that he had a private practice in NYC for 6 years. He is the author of the Amazon best seller "Unwinding the Body and Decoding the Messages of Pain: An In-Depth Look into the World of Osteopathic Physicians and How They 'Magically' Use Their Hands for Healing." He lives in Aurora, CO with his wife and daughters.

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