Yelp Cracks Down on Review Solicitation: What It Means for Your Business
Yelp has done a great job of establishing itself as the go-to source for online reviews—but reviews are a tricky business. Even a few years ago, research showed that 88 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations from friends and family members. That’s a lot of trust to put into a stranger’s opinion on the internet.
One of the most crucial factors for securing that trust is knowing, for sure, that the review you’re reading was, in fact, submitted by a stranger—and not a representative from the brand they’re reviewing, or someone merely paid to say good things about the company.
Yelp has always had a strict policy about solicited reviews, but lately, it’s been cracking down on strategies that even indirectly encourage user reviews. And if you want to make sure your business—and the reviews attached to it—remain squarely in Yelp’s good graces, there are a few new things you should know.
Why Reviews Matter
Obviously, online reviews are beneficial, as long as you have lots of positive reviews in your corner. Positive reviews give new customers a better impression of your brand, and can boost your company’s visibility in local search results, as well as boosting your presence in the review platform’s search results.
The exact nature of Google’s search algorithm isn’t publicly available, but generally, the better your reviews are, the higher you’ll rank.
Yelp’s Policy on Solicited Reviews
There’s an incentive for businesses to solicit as many good reviews as possible, but Yelp’s goal is to gain and keep as much consumer trust as possible—which means ensuring that reviews aren’t influenced by businesses in any way.
Most online review platforms ban the practice of paying customers for reviews, or encouraging your employees and relatives to review your company, but Yelp’s policy goes a step further by forbidding companies from even asking for reviews.
From the policy directly:
- “Don’t ask customers, mailing list subscribers, friends, family, or anyone else to review your business.
- Don’t ask your staff to compete to collect reviews.
- Don’t run surveys that ask for reviews from customers reporting positive experiences.
- Don’t ever offer freebies, discounts, or payment in exchange for reviews — it will turn off savvy consumers, and may also be illegal.”
Under these guidelines, almost any direct attempt a business makes to encourage reviews from its customers is in violation of Yelp’s policy.
Yelp’s Latest Actions
According to SearchEngineLand, Yelp has been stepping up their efforts, sending emails out as a warning against actions it now deems to qualify as “review solicitation.” Since local reviews matter more to local searches than ever before, a number of marketing and advertising businesses have begun to offer online reputation management services, designed to help those companies attract more reviews, monitor them, and take action to keep their average reviews high.
These services, of course, range from innocuous to envelope pushing, but many of these businesses are now receiving emails from Yelp warning them to stop their behavior. One email sent to NiceJob, for example, directed them to Yelp’s policy on review solicitation, explaining that soliciting reviews for clients is an “illicit tactic” that results in “harming consumers, other businesses, and the overall review ecosystem.” It also threatened demotion in Yelp search results for continuing to solicit reviews.
The crackdown isn’t just limited to Yelp, either. In an email to the original author of the SearchEngineLand story, a Yelp representative alluded to harsh consequences for any partner of Yelp, or anyone using Yelp’s ROI in soliciting reviews on sites and platforms other than Yelp.
There are, of course, many platforms for online reviews beyond Yelp—including Google, Facebook, Amazon, TripAdvisor, and OpenTable—and soliciting reviews on any one of them could hurt your standing with Yelp, and have you removed from the platform entirely.