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Why Small Business Needs Help From Yelp! (or is It the Other Way Around?)

Posted on the 06 September 2011 by Sidewalkbranding @sidewalkbrand

(or is it the other way around?)

I’m a big believer in the power of customer testimonials and as the owner of a small business marketing firm, I have always worked with my clients on finding ways to increase the number of client testimonials they get.

In my experience, satisfied or not; people are less than inclined to write a testimonial for a business they patronized for one of three reasons:

  • They simply don’t think of it.
  • They don’t know where to write one.
  • Because nobody asked them to.

Enter, an online review site where a business patron can share their experiences with a business to the world!  Hallelujah!!

An online review site where a business can have a presence, a link they could share with their customers, and a handy-dandy shiny new social media icon they could put on their website – sounds like the perfect answer to the problem doesn’t it!?

Well I’m writing to say it isn’t.

Imagine if you will (come on – humor me) that you just set up your business profile on so you could have a single point of reference for your Yelp businesses reviews (rants & raves) and maybe if you’re lucky; even have those Yelp business reviews picked up by the search engines thus giving your great business even greater star power.

So now – just how do you think you would promote this awesome new service?  well if you were like me, you would tell all your customers about it.  Maybe even paste a Yelp icon on your business cards and definitely put one on you website – yea, I’d let everyone know how to brag about me!

Actually, asking for a testimonial is standard business marketing.  As Professional Speaker Patricia Fripp says “the answer is always no if you don’t ask” – so ask and ye shall receive.

I’ll bet probably thinking that sending an email to your clients and maybe even posting a message with your link on Twitter and Facebook would increase your chances of having your raving fans share their feelings on your new review tool.  You are – aren’t you?

Yep – that’s exactly what I did too; and my Yelp business listing bit me in the ass nearly immediately.

Contradictory to standard business practice – Yelp “{actually discourage business owners from asking their customers to write reviews”}.

Seems has this intelligent “Filter” that limits spam and potentially fraudulent reviews from posting.  It’s kinda fuzzy how it has filtered all the nice comments people have said of my business but it has; and now those comments are nearly invisible.  To make matters worse – my main profile isn’t showing any review credits for those reviews either.  Thanks for the help Yelp.

The answer I got as to why these got filtered was fuzzy too, but here’s my guess. . . .

  1. I received too many positive reviews in a time period
  2. The reviewers had low or no earlier activity
  3. The language was overly rich in details
  4. The reviewers had incomplete or minimalistic profiles

And here are the reasons for these infractions. . . .

  1. They answered the call-to-action quickly because they wanted to share their experience on
  2. They opened a new account specifically to write my review                                                 (Which means I actually brought new subscribers)
  3. Some of my reviewers are in marketing and/or journalism, and write pretty swell
  4. See #2

The worst thing about this was whole fiasco is the fact that a reviewer called me asking why I took down their review – much to my surprise, Yelp had removed it (or moved it to the Filtered Reviews” list as they call it), nonetheless – it’s nearly invisible and are clearly missing from my “Reviews” count.  I don’t think they show on the mobile app at all – making my Yelp listing utterly useless.

I wrote a letter to Yelp thinking I had done something wrong here – their reply follows.

Hi there,Yelp is a website where people read and write reviews about their favorite local businesses. Therefore, it might seem counter-intuitive that we actually discourage business owners from asking their customers to write reviews: would an online review site discourage review solicitation? Two major reasons:- Would-be customers won’t trust you. Let’s face it, few people would ask for a review if they thought there was any chance that review would be negative. Over time, these self-selected reviews create intrinsic bias in the business listing — a bias that savvy consumers (read: yelpers) can smell from a mile away. But no business is perfect, and it’s impossible to please 100% of your customers 100% of the time.- A lot of solicited reviews get filtered, and that will drive you crazy. Solicited reviews get filtered all the time. If you’ve never heard about Yelp’s review filter, or you’ve had a review inexplicably”disappear” from your business page, this video ( does a good job of explaining why reviews disappear and reappear from time to time. It’s tough to design algorithms that can tell the difference between a person writing fake, 5-star reviews about him/herself, and that same person handing their laptop to a customer and watching the customer write a biased review.Yelp exists to connect people with great local businesses. This is achieved by providing people with trustworthy information about said businesses. If consumers don’t trust our content, people stop using Yelp, and everyone loses: consumers don’t have a resource they can trust to make spending decisions, would-be customers stop visiting your business listing.There’s no silver bullet for a great reputation: the best way to succeed on Yelp is by focusing on great customer service (building out a robust business listing using’s free tools also doesn’t hurt)

There is a way to let your customers know you’re on Yelp without being overly solicitous.

Regards,Why Small Business Needs Help From Yelp! (or is it the other way around?)
Yelp User Support
San Francisco, California

For your reference this is Case #: 225902


 Wow – is that corporate mumbo-jumbo or what? clearly has its filters set too tight and judging by Marvin’s reply they’re drinking their own Cool-Aide in thinking that their filter is working for small business.  I wonder at this point what the ratio of registered Yelp users is to active reviewers and active check-ins.

Yea, I know the power of Yelp on search is strong, but imaging how much more powerful it would be for businesses if it opened its filters just a bit more; and had an option to reinstate filtered reviews.

Customers would indeed be the greatest benefactor of any filter change (if it’s in the right direction).

  • Am I alone with this situation?

  • Have you had the same experience?

  • Does this change your perception of Yelp? (it has for me – and for many of my clients too)

I would love to hear from other people who have had similar experience – I’m not alone here – am I?


About: Sidewalk Branding Company is a Rhode Island internet marketing & SEO/SEM firm. Award winning and internationally published, they focus on getting solopreneurs and small businesses (less than 25 employees or so) discovered online – locally.

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