06 Jul

VIDEO: Yelp's Bite is Bigger Than it's Bark

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Happy summer, everyone. It's Matt Jones, your review and reputation management specialist, here to talk to you about everyone's favorite directory that we like to hate, and that is Yelp. Several months ago, as most of you are aware, Yelp came out with a change to their policy. And the change said, "Look. If you're a business owner, you can't solicit reviews on Yelp. We think it changes the culture of our review ecosystem. It makes it less…more inorganic. And because of that, we want things just to happen naturally without you interfering in that process at all."



So, we at WebPunch, we said, "Okay. We don't solicit reviews on Yelp for our clients. Want to make that abundantly clear." But I thought it was interesting because, gosh, maybe a few weeks ago, I received an email from a company called Signpost who's also a reputation management company. And they were soliciting a review for a client that they have, asking me to specifically post a review on Yelp.

Now, obviously, as I just said, this violates Yelp's terms and conditions in their agreement that every business basically should abide by if they want to have a listing on Yelp. And so, I thought it would be interesting not because I'm a snitch, but because I wanted to see what kind of process it would be or what kinda process it takes in order for a company to flag another company who they think is violating those terms and conditions.

So, I went on Yelp's website, I looked through all of their customer support pages to try and find an easy way for a business to report activity that violates Yelp's terms and conditions. And I really didn't find anything. So, there's ways you can flag reviews, but again, this wasn't a review. This was an email solicitation by Signpost. So, I went on there. I dug around. Finally, I just went to the business's listing, and I said, "Look. This review violates Yelp's terms and conditions."

Now, how was I able to prove that? They don't really allow you to attach anything that would prove that. So, what I did is I copied the email that I received and I pasted it into the body. The graphics didn't show up, just a text because that's all that really copied over. And I sent it off to Yelp to see what they would say.

It was interesting. I heard about a week later, and they said, "We don't find anything wrong with this review or the reviews that you said were a problem." And I thought that was very interesting. Is Yelp really toothless on this? Is this really a problem? When they made that change, they said, "We're going to lower your ranking if we catch you soliciting reviews. We're gonna put a consumer alert badge on your page that warns everyone else that you're gaming the system." It sounded pretty scary, and it's something that we would never put our clients in danger of violating those terms and conditions. But I thought it was interesting that people are soliciting reviews on Yelp, whether if Signpost is clueless or maybe they just know, "Hey. Yelp isn't really gonna do anything even if they catch us red-handed."

So, again, I just wanted to see what that experience was like, see what it would take for a company to flag something that violated their terms and conditions. And it looks like Yelp saw what I was saying, and they just turned a blind eye or they just didn't think it was convincing. So, there's really not a way for them to…there's really not a clear better way to flag a company that's doing this. So, if you are doing it, maybe you'll be okay.

Again, we're not saying that you should do that, and we aren't gonna do that for our clients, but it seems to be that Yelp was pretty toothless, and their bark was bigger than their bite in this situation.

So, what should you do? Keep doing what you're doing. Get reviews, get reviews on other directories. Make sure when people are searching for your company that they see a lot of positive reviews, not just on Yelp, in Google, in Facebook, in Yellowpages, but any other sites that might be pulling up on that first page of search results.

I am Matt Jones, your expert in all things reputation, and we'll see you next time. Oh. And don't forget to subscribe to our channel to get the latest news in reputation management and all things customer feedback, customer experience. We're kind of staying on top of those things and make sure that you're in the know.




Matt Jones is a co-founder of WebPunch. When he's not WebPunching, he is exploring the world, taking photos, creating edible art or making gains in the gym. The main love and joy of his life though, is his little boy Mac, who is his best friend.