Updated January 13, 2023Reading Time: 3 minutes
Charged with Pandering & Extortion
Managing online reviews and press coverage is all a part of reputation management. But what if the biggest review repository has its own PR “black eye?” Yelp is experiencing (yet again) reputation management issues. Most of our clients fall into one of two categories: Lovers or Haters of this popular online review system. In this post we’ll share some news about Yelp and tips to resolving online reputation management issues.
Yet Another Lawsuit
Last week a Southern California NBC Affiliate reported on another lawsuit against Yelp. It’s a class-action suit citing that “Yelp controls its reviews to pander to its advertisers.” The NBC story cites several examples of small business owners who had negative reviews (highly visible reputation management issues) that magically disappeared when sales got involved… only to reappear when they didn’t commit to a monthly ad spend. Others experienced that their positive reviews were removed. Warning: here’s the link to the news article; when it opens up a video clip starts automatically (annoying and bad online etiquette IMHO).
One of our colleagues likens Yelp to the mafia. You’re going to pay either way… with stellar reviews filtered (hidden from the public) or pay for advertising. We’ve seen legitimate reviews removed or hidden, in effect severely hampering a small business’ ability to grow. We’ve also heard of strong-arm tactics from Yelp sales reps in order to close monthly advertising contracts.
The Stats Are Stacked Against You
In reality, only 1% of the population contributes to online content. According to another source, less than 10% will write an online review. If that doesn’t completely depress you, here’s another one: Business Insider reported that 20% of Yelp reviews are fake.
By the way, Yelp’s system doesn’t block non-customers (or even disgruntled employees or competitors) from leaving a bogus, bad review. Sadly, these fake reviews can break a small business. That’s a lot of power in the hands of Yelp. Are they abusing that power?
Terms of Service
According to Yelp’s own Terms of Service, they put the responsibility on the user:
You alone are responsible for Your Content, and once published, it cannot always be withdrawn. You assume all risks associated with Your Content, including anyone’s reliance on its quality, accuracy, or reliability, or any disclosure by you of information in Your Content that makes you personally identifiable.
So what about Yelp’s right to use your content? Well… they have a lot more wiggle room when it relates to your reputation management issues:
We may use Your Content in a number of different ways, including publicly displaying it, reformatting it, incorporating it into advertising, and other works, creating derivative works from it, promoting it, distributing it, and allowing others to do the same….
Resolving Reputation Management Issues
The most obvious resolution to your reputation management issues: push down negative reviews by adding new, positive ones. This is where you encourage happy customers to leave a positive review. Easier said then done. If your business is like most others, it’s hit the barrier of human inertia: good intentions… and no action.
Plus, you are also risking your kneecaps from Yelp’s mafia enforcer. They frown on businesses soliciting customers to post reviews. Their official stance: No, you shouldn’t ask your customers to post reviews on Yelp. In practice, there are businesses who are working the review system… and doing it to their advantage.
In the event of a bad review is posted to your business profile, it’s best to respond sooner rather than later. However, only respond when you have a cool head. Getting to an argument in this public forum won’t help your reputation management issue. Be courteous, factual, and apologize when appropriate. The good news is that most (read: rational) people can figure out nut jobs and when reviews are mean-spirited and nonsense.
Hmmm… maybe advertising with them will give you more leverage? More on that subject later.
Love ’em or hate ’em? Which camp are you in?
Photocredit: F Delventhal