Food Facts and Opinions,  Personal Chef

The Yelp Problem

Does Yelp filter reviews of businesses that don’t pay for their ads? It’s seeming that way. Small businesses are showing their concern.

*Update: Upon further insight from other business owners on Yelp, it seems it may not be just because we don’t pay for ads. One person, who pays upwards of $1,000/month for ads has been seeing their reviews filtered as well. About 50 out of 70! The timing now seems to correlate with when Yelp released their new algorithm. Hopefully they notice the outcry and loosen up that algorithm.

Have you ever seen those “People love us on Yelp!” stickers posted up on the windows of businesses? Restaurants and retail stores proudly display them to showcase their glowing reviews.

And then there are these:

Read the reviews!

I feel for the restaurants that suffer from loads of bad reviews that are bogus. I understand that many are valid, but if you actually read the reviews, you can spot the ones that are simply ridiculous.

The ones where the customer is clearly just having a bad day (or simply a bad person).

The faux food critic.

The unforgiving customer that can’t accept that mistakes happen and even if the mistake is fixed, is still unsatisfied.

Or how about the person that counts the minutes before they are greeted, in between when they sit down and get offered water, and after they ask for the check?

The problem is most people don’t read the reviews. They skip past that restaurant with two stars and opt for the ones with three plus. Hangryness is creeping in when searching for a place to eat. They are in a hurry.

Yelp has been good for me

Me? I have five stars. I don’t have employees and I don’t have to take on clients that I feel aren’t the right fit. From the moment a client inquires about my services to the final course, I am there making sure they are satisfied. Restaurants do not have this luxury.

I’ve always said that Yelp has been very beneficial to me. I get many inquiries through their app and a good amount of traffic to my website. Because of this I’ve never had any frustrations with Yelp. Until now.

Something is up

Relentless sales people have been calling and emailing to try to get me to buy ads. I politely decline and even tell them to reach back out at later dates. But then, a couple months ago, it stopped. They gave up.

This was right around the time that my reviews started dropping like flies. I originally had about 45 reviews. I only noticed as they started to disappear when I would be on my website and see that little Yelp ticker in the right side bar. You see it.

They’re filtering my reviews because I’m not paying for ads! But no, this couldn’t be. They wouldn’t do that. Give them the benefit of the doubt.

Then I saw and heard several other small businesses that were having the same problem. Their disgruntled Instagram posts have since been deleted. One specifically is a VW tour service in Temecula, CA. They said that they told Yelp to put them on the “no call list” and the next day, boom! bye bye good reviews.

I don’t know if this is some kind of coincidence or not. Yelp does explain how they filter reviews and I get it. Before the onslaught of filtering, I had some filtered. It seemed it was mostly the ones that signed up and then left a review right away. I was their first review. I can see how this would raise a red flag. They call it their “recommendation software.” Could it be that there is code in there that signals whether a business pays for ads?

You have been filtered!

I now have only 21 reviews. 28 have been filtered. If you don’t know what the filtered reviews look like, they are right here. That little grey link is where you will find the above video and all the reviews they decide are invalid.

Do you click on the ads?

Here’s the deal. I would pay for ads if I thought they would work for me and I had the budget. The problem is, when I use Yelp, I never click on the ads. I scroll right past them and go to the numbered reviews. Why would I pay for this?

Paying for Leads?

A strange thing happened when I got a very confused potential client’s reply. They had originally sent me a message through Yelp to inquire about my services. When I replied, they wanted to make sure which business I was. They said they had only sent me a message but received replies from several other catering companies.

Does this mean that Yelp is sending leads to people that pay for ads? Or maybe they give businesses a way to pay for these leads. Personally, I let potential clients reach out to me. I don’t go fishing for them because don’t believe that people appreciate such sales calls. That and I’m just not a very good salesperson.

What to do

Is there anything we can do? Probably not. Yelp is a business and I’m pretty sure business owners and users opt in to a long contract that states something about this somewhere in there. When it comes to the leads issue, my first thought was there has to be an FCC issue there, but because the leads are coming through Yelp’s app and not personal email, they can get away with it.

Honestly, if there were a way to pay Yelp to not filter legit reviews, I might do it. But because it seems the only way to make this happen is to pay for ads, I’m not sure what to do. I might be reaching back out to them soon to see what my options are. It kind of feels like trying to make a deal with the devil, but there is a bit of appreciation in there since this is where a lot of my clients come from.

Lastly, if you are a former or current client and haven’t left a review yet, go on ahead! Let’s see if you get filtered. Or perhaps you already have been. Check it out!

What are your thoughts on Yelp and Yelp reviews? Do you own a small business? Are your Yelp reviews filtered? Let me know. Let’s discuss.

Jillian believes her passion for cooking stems from the fact that she was born and raised in Southern California. The best climate conditions for growing the finest produce all year around and the diverse mix of cuisines have always been an inspiration to her. Her love and ability to make people happy by way of delicious food began at an early age and still grows today. She is the proud Chef and Owner of Jillian Fae Chef Services, a personal chef business specializing in private dinner parties, customized menus, and weekly meal preparation.

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