Media Buying and Inbound Marketing Blog

Does Yelp Harm Online Reputation for Small Businesses?

By Braeden Mincher on May 19, 2014 |


By Braeden Mincher, Social Media Manager

Many have heard about the popular review site Yelp that allows you to share your experience at a business as well as help you find a business in your area that meet the criteria you’re looking for. Whether it’s a restaurant, shopping center, hotel or home services you want to find, Yelp can help find the best and worst reviewed businesses. But are the reviews on Yelp accurate and unbiased?

There are many people who rely on online reviews to choose the business they’re searching for. Electronic-word-of-mouth is one of the most powerful types of advertising a business can have because people trust each others reviews. You wouldn’t go to restaurant that your friend told you had bad service and nasty food, would you? Or on the other hand, you may be more convinced to go to a restaurant that a friend was raving about.Yelp online reputation

The next time you look for a review on Yelp you may want to think again before you’re quick to make your decision about a business. Yelp has been caught on more than one occasion to filter out the good reviews people give a business keeping all of the negative reviews. So if 20 people give your business a good review and 5 people give a bad one, Yelp may show only 10 of those good reviews and all 5 of the bad ones. Seems a bit unfair; that drives us to question Yelp’s method of system control.

Yelp tries it’s best to protect it’s customers from false or manipulated reviews so they aren’t mislead when looking for service. There have been instances where business owners have tried writing a positive review for themselves, which Yelp takes down. On the other end of the spectrum, people can be malicious and write horrible reviews about a business that they have never been to; however, those comments are not filtered. Yelp tends to believe all bad reviews and selected good reviews.

For example, Kent Betts has owned restaurants for over 40 years and when he went to go open a pizzeria he ran into an unpleasant surprise on Yelp.

Before his pizzeria had even opened, it already had a negative, one-star review on the popular customer-review site. The reviewer gave a negative review because the pizzeria wasn’t open yet; not only that but they even went as far as to review the crust of the pizza that they never tasted calling it “think and soggy”. Yelp has since taken down the review but comments like this can really hurt a business- especially a small, new business.

Every business encounters difficult customers time to time. Business owners have had customers admit to them that they almost didn’t use their services because of a review they read on Yelp. This emphasizes the importance and power of electronic-word-of-mouth.

Other evidence includes a study conducted at UC Berkley that a half star increase on Yelp could forecast your restaurant would be full by about 25 percent or more. Another study done at Harvard’s Business School indicated that a one star increase on Yelp could increase a restaurant's revenues by 9 percent.

Now that the internet has made it easier for unhappy individuals to complain about a service by hiding behind a screen rather than complaining to a manager or writing a letter, it makes it more difficult for businesses to properly handle these kinds of situations. It is also frustrating that Yelp filters out and suspects foul play when people post good comments about a business when the comments are fair and unbiased.

In simple terms, don’t always believe what you read on Yelp. Who knows how many of those bad reviews are fabricated and good reviews are missing.

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