Scores in online rating sites such as Yelp can have a significant effect on business in that they directly affect the traffic you get from their own website as well as the traffic you get from search engines such as Google and Bing. This is because the ratings influence SEO and because they show up directly in map results.

For this reason, a poor reputation can result in a considerable drop in revenue, especially for local businesses. It is not hopeless, however: you can take control of the situation and proactively turn things to your advantage.

What You Should Not Do

Get Into a Flame War

It never helps. Haters have nothing to lose in this situation, and you have everything to lose. Poor reviews can actually come out in your favor if you show that you can handle them with class and dignity.

Try to Bribe Haters

Not only is this a poor business practice, but it will probably be ineffective. Also, it can get you into trouble with Yelp, as, obviously, it is against their policy.

Sue the Haters or Yelp

It has been done. The plaintiff usually loses. On top of that, even if you do win, it can be difficult to collect on that, because your hater probably doesn’t have the money. On top of that, the negative PR you get from suing someone’s grandmother can hurt your business far more than the original poor review.

Often enough, a lawsuit isn’t going to be the answer. It just isn’t worth the risk. (Though of course, you may still want to consult with a lawyer for legal advice specific to your situation.)

What You Should Do

Report Reviews That Violate Yelp Guidelines

The simplest way to get rid of poor reviews is to get them removed. Of course, you can’t do this with most reviews, but in some cases, it is a possibility.

Acquaint yourself with the Yelp content guidelines. If a poor review violates them, report it, and identify specifically how it is a violation.

Investigate the Incident and Make Improvements

The reality is that poor reviews tend to come from somewhere. People don’t wake up in the morning with the burning desire to unjustly persecute your business. People are often unreasonable, but even when they are, they still may have identified a weakness in your business.

The reality is that problems in your business exist whether you get poor reviews or not. If you get a poor review, though, you now know that you have a problem. This gives you the opportunity to identify the problem, make improvements, and allow your business to grow. Without this opportunity, your business will continue to drive away customers without you even knowing why.

Investigate the incident. Even if there are inaccuracies in the review, there may still be some truth to it. Make improvements where possible.

Respond to All Reviews That Are Not Collapsed

Yes, even the poor ones. Especially the poor ones. You do not need to admit fault. You do need to show sympathy and display an ability to investigate and improve reports of problems in your business.

People love to see this. People understand that everyone gets poor reviews at times. If you show that you can keep a cool head and address the issue like an adult, that will get you points with people reading the review, even if you never change the mind of the original reviewer.

Once you have made improvements, invite the reviewer to come back. You should not offer a bribe of any kind, but you should show that the problem identified before is no longer there. In some cases, the reviewer will update the review in your favor.

In some cases, you may even want to go on social media and respond to poor reviews there. This may seem counter-intuitive, but it actually does help, as it shows that you are level-headed and that you are willing to improve.

Share Five-Star Reviews

Whenever someone gives you a five-star review, share this review with others through email and social media. In addition to spreading the love and magnifying the influence of this five-star review, you will also indirectly encourage other people to go and give you reviews.

It’s human psychology: if someone sees a Yelp review for your business, they will be more likely to write their own Yelp review for your business. And since these reviews are coming from people who follow you on social media or subscribe to your email notifications, there is going to be a positive bias in your favor…as, generally speaking, people are not going to subscribe to your email notifications or follow you on social media unless they already like you.

When you get lots of five-star reviews, this will help to bury any poor reviews you may have and limit the influence they have on your overall score.

Recover Collapsed Five-Star Reviews

If you go to your Yelp business profile and scroll down, you will see a link to reviews that are not currently “recommended”. These collapsed reviews are hidden from view and do not count toward your overall score.

When reviews go to this area, it is usually because Yelp feels that they are either of poor quality or potentially made under fake names or as a result of bribery. The good news is that you can contact these people and invite them to do things to get their reviews recommended. When you write to these people, inform them that Yelp is collapsing their reviews, and invite them to do one or more of the following:

  • Write more content in the review.
  • Improve the content in the review. (Checking grammar, adding specificity, etc.)
  • Write more reviews.
  • Make more friends on the Yelp platform.
  • Connect their Yelp profile to their Facebook profile.
  • Use the Yelp app on their mobile device and check in at various places.

These are all signals that tell Yelp that this person’s reviews are of quality.

You may wonder why someone would care to do these things to get their review recommended. Well, why would someone write a Yelp review to begin with? If someone has written a Yelp review, that is because he or she wants others to read it. So yes, in many cases, people will take the necessary steps to make that happen.