How to not get burnt by Yelp
Wednesday, July 11, 2018
This article explains some simple steps to make sure you don’t get burnt by Yelp’s algorithm the way my practice’s Yelp page did.
When you put your business page up on Yelp, you expect you might be contacted about purchasing advertising. However, most business owners are not expecting that declining or discontinuing those ad offers may severely hurt their business’ ability to show real, positive reviews on Yelp’s platform.
Unlike Google Reviews, the moment you turn down Yelp’s advertising, their algorithm might start marking more of your positive reviews as "not recommended" and hiding them, making your reviews look sparse.
While at a conference earlier this year, I had the opportunity to speak with someone whose friend had just completed an in-depth documentary on Yelp and their business practices.
There, I learned Yelp’s algorithm basically has three buckets you can be sorted into based on your customer status:
- Businesses who have not yet said yes or no to ads.
- Businesses that are currently using pay-per-click ads
- Businesses that have said no to ads or discontinued ads.
Depending on what bucket you are sorted into, the algorithm will treat you differently. If you are sorted into the group with business that have said no to ads or have discontinued ads, Yelp’s algorithm will get much more harsh.
Many of your real, positive reviews will now be sorted as "not currently recommended," which means the reviews have been flagged by the algorithm as fake. The reviews will no longer have star ratings, will not be counted in your total reviews, and will not be displayed on your page unless customers specifically look for them.
This leads to a lower quantity and quality of reviews, reducing your credibility.
So what can you do?
If you don’t want to use pay-per-click ads, don’t say no. Say "at this point in my business, I am not quite ready for pay-per-click ads, but keep me on your list and check back in 6 months."
Say it for as long as you can and avoid saying no.
How drastic is the punishment if you do say, "no"? I can tell you firsthand.
When Yelp began calling about pay-per-click ads, I had physical therapy appointments booked for weeks ahead, and didn’t see the need for more advertising. I asked them to take me off their call list.
Shortly thereafter, more than half my reviews disappeared and became sorted as "not currently recommended."
I spend an hour of one-on-one time with each of my patients and knew every single one of those reviewers, but Yelp flagged them as "fake." My total number of reviews was cut dramatically, and sometimes I would only see three or four reviews on my front page.
My business has continued to grow, but my reviews are still being censored. Right now, I have 16 listed five-star reviews showing up on my Yelp page…but I also have 18 more five-star reviews not showing or being counted towards my total number of reviews.
If you don’t want to use pay-per-click ads, don’t say no. Avoid saying no and stay on their call list for as long as you can while you build up your business and credibility.
If you are already using their ads, definitely consider the ramifications on your review page before you discontinue them.
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