Getting Yelp Reviews When All Else Fails

It’s hard getting any review but it’s particularly hard getting Yelp reviews. They filter many, many more than make it through. I have seen filtering rates as hight as 85% of first time reviewers. Unless the reviewer has either lots of Yelp friends or lots of Yelp reviews, their reviews will be nuked.

Yelp, of course doesn’t want you asking for reviews. That is, to some extent, craziness on the part of Yelp and you are going to ask anyway. (As a note it’s not against their TOS, it’s just a “recommendation” that you not ask for reviews.)

So what do you do if you absolutely, unequivocally have to get a few reviews at Yelp? Laser sharp targeting of who you ask.

There is no sense asking 100 people if there isn’t a snow ball’s chance in hell of any of their reviews showing. Time waster for you and your client. And wasting client time is something you should not be doing.

Only ask your customers that you know have at least 10 or more reviews already on Yelp and/or lots of friends.

Yelp makes finding which of your “friends” have enough reviews or social strength easier than you think. If you have been using your personal Facebook account for interacting with your buisness clients or you have most of you clients in a major online mail service (Gmail, Yahoo, Outlook) here are the steps:

1- Login into you Yelp personal accounts.
2- Click on the Find Friends link on Yelp
3- Start with your Facebook friends and identify any that meet the minimum requirements for total reviews or friends. Reach out to them and ask for a Yelp review. I am sure that David Mihm and Bill Slawski would do me the kindness.

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4. Once you have exhausted your Facebook friends, upload your Gmail (or other) mail contacts and do the same:
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5. Assemble the list of those likely to get reviews approved and reach out to them via email or Facebook. And I can’t see any reason to friend them.

6. You probably SHOULDN’T do the following but the irony of using Yelp’s very own friending mechanism to ask for a review was too rich  not to mention. If you can’t reach them via email or Facebook then the following is a good backup:

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Here is the email that your friend will seeScreen Shot 2015-02-10 at 10.28.18 AMI would love to hear from you if you have been successful getting Yelp reviews this way.

This tip was shared at the recent LocalUp.


Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
Getting Yelp Reviews When All Else Fails by

24 thoughts on “Getting Yelp Reviews When All Else Fails”

  1. Hey, top tip, will give this a try.

    That said, Yelp is an even tougher gig in the UK. It ranks well for many searches (especially local) but no one seems to use it in any volume. It does have some traction in the restaurant industry and even more so in London but I live in Birmingham (the second city in the UK) and most people that would review a local business simply don’t know what yelp is. Factor in review filtering and why would anyone use it.

    Real shame as the review filtering does make some sense in the context of bad or malicious reviews. We have a client who had to sack an employee and they have conducted a review campaign against them. The first ones were borderline racist and we got them took down but now they simply sign up for a Google account (with the name Mike Hunt no less) and then leave a slanderous review.

    So, no user history, no other reviews, no Google plus profile, a clearly fake name – essentially a profile made up to leave a cowardly bad review and Google won’t budge on it. Fortunately, this client has a bedrock of good Google review s but is still annoying.

    Somewhere between the openness of Google reviews and the closed nature of Yelp lies a sensible middle ground – I wonder when one of them (or someone else) will get there!

    Great tip though, will give it a bash and feedback!


  2. Hi Marcus

    Yelp is an costal, urban, under 35 phenom in the US as well. If you to Minnesota even is more popular than Yelp. But if you go to LA its a powerful tool in restaurants but also in areas like house repair and plumbing. But not in things like Cosmetic Surgery.

    So it is only an effective marketing tool in limited industries and limited marketing. That being said because of their strong SEO and influence on Apple iOS local results it makes sense to have 5 or more reviews there.

  3. Mike:

    I was happy to participate in your experiment. Its a worthwhile suggestion. I’ll reread and see if it works for some SMB’s wherein obtaining yelp reviews has clearly been worthwhile. In those SMB’s we have polled customers. One of the reasons they articulate for choosing those services is Reviews. Of the sources of Reviews Yelp is the single one they articulate by Name.

    Oh, they definitely read Google + reviews. But its poorly branded. They can’t name it; virtually never. I’m not sure which are relied on more often. Its probably close. Google+ reviews are clearly front and center visible in search; yelp reviews are known better by name and branding; at least in our experiences.

    As to the Yelp “phenomena” and its areas of importance; I should probably post some findings.

    I’ve now done two extensive surveys of restaurant reviews specifically in what would be considered non Yelp cities. The latest one included 44 restaurants in decidely non Yelp cities; smaller/ non coastal; Tulsa, Spokane, Birmingham being some of them. I only counted “shown reviews”. I didn’t include Yelp filtered reviews.

    Yelp had roughly twice as many restaurant reviews as Google+ and in clearly non Yelp cities. The previous study from last Summer also focused on “non Yelp cities” . Again there were more yelp reviews than google+ reviews. Surprisingly there were more Facebook Reviews than either.

    I only looked at restaurants. By the way, though not part of the studies I’ve looked at filtered versus non filtered Yelp reviews for restaurants versus non restaurant smbs and industries. It probably requires a much closer look.

    My impressions are that restaurants get far fewer filtered reviews as a percentage of totals than do other industries.

    😀 I’ll leave the commentary (and the confirmation–or not) for others. 😀

    1. @Dave
      In the restaurant arena Yelp is king of the hill and as you have indicated that includes most mid major cities wherever they are in the US. You should expand your study to non restaurant categories and rural areas as well.

  4. Mike: After all these years I looked at a big business that covers a very rural region. Total visits are minimal. Less people. Lots of animals. Last I checked animals don’t use search. 😉

    What alternative industries would you suggest comparing as to total reviews? Alternatively are you aware of a breakdown on reviews by industry or vertical?? I’ve never looked that up.

    But…I like the suggestion. We have some non-restaurant smb’s. We “manage” reviews. In some with a healthy number of reviews, the filtered yelp reviews outnumber the showing ones. Big waste most of the time…..although we learned that some ( a minority) of our customers that read reviews have read the yelp filtered one’s. But definitely a steep minority.

    I suspect its a healthy suggestion. I’ll try it. Thanks

  5. After observing the influence of the Yelp listing on my Apple Maps listing, I realise that there is work to be done here promoting it to my UK clients.

    As Marcus says, it’s a bit of a slow road over here because most people have not even heard of it. The rest think I said Yell…

    I shall see if I can start the ball rolling by seeing if I can find some Facebook friends who meet the criteria. Thanks Mike!

  6. Mike: Here is an anecdotal experience with yelp, possible advertising, engaging the yelp salespeople, and filtered reviews.

    One of our non restaurant smb’s was getting a good bit of yelp traffic, and was in the regular “calling cycle” from yelp salespeople. At one point in time, for a particular strategic reason we considered yelp advertising. We wanted some terms that were “slightly different” than the norm and wanted a time period that was less than 1 year. They agreed on both points and we were evaluating a 6 month yelp advertising wherein the campaign would reflect a particular geo orientation different than the norm.

    We didn’t pull the trigger. We didn’t do Yelp advertising. Afterwards we received something like 15 or 16 FILTERED YELP REVIEWS. Or ALL OF THEM!!!

    Coincidence or not??? Algorythm or not?? I think not. I think they purposefully “Punked us”. One of the reviews was from an elite yelper. Another had ALL her other reviews showing for various other businesses….but not ours. 😉

    Later the reviews from those two showed and they’re still showing. Yelp: They ain’t Mother Teresa!!!

    I’d suggest if an SMB is considering advertising with Yelp…to never openly mention that, unless they are dang sure they are going to spend the money. I’d suggest they are sneaky vindictive SOB’s.

  7. Very helpful information. It seems that since the last update Yelp is killing it in the service area. Is it possible to get the untrusted reviews back to the other side?

  8. Clever tip, Mike … and may be first time I’ve seen you blog about something that might not be approved of by the platform in question. Curious about your position on this: are Yelp’s recommendations about not requesting reviews just too unrealistic? I’d love to see someone from Yelp comment on this piece.

  9. Most of the Better Business Bureau’s around the nation have started taking online reviews now.. I would rather have my reviews go to the BBB vs. Yelp..

  10. A great deal of the information above is spot on. Yelp only likes to allow reviews to stick around if they’re written by Yelpers, not the folks that create an account to write that one helpful review that was asked of them. About seven or more reviews with a few Yelp friends and your reviews will stick! I have had many phone conversations with Yelp associates and they mostly all say that only the engineers know the algorithm as to the filtering of reviews. I have been told that they do associate with other accounts to across the web as part of their filtering process. I.E. if you’re friends with someone on Linkedin, Facebook or whatever, the review probably won’t stick!

  11. @Tony
    It’s never an either or proposition with reviews. A business needs to think about getting reviews at a range of sites where their customers are.

    The problem with the BBB is that they don’t show up in search in as many markets as Yelp.

    Thus if the BBB shows up on searches for your vertical in your market in a way that customers would see the review, great. Otherwise its a waste of time.

  12. @Miriam
    Great question.

    Obviously I would never recommend any long term strategy of web marketing that is contrary to the policies of sites you are using for marketing. That is because it puts your marketing investment at risk and makes for an unstable plan that can’t be counted on over time.

    That being said there are situations where a business’s interest and an online company like Yelp’s sometimes diverge.

    When that happens a business , unless they are breaking a law or harming a client, needs to ask which interest is paramount.

    In this case, with Yelp having such a bad policy AND possibly impacting a business so directly, the choice of protecting the local business’s interest is the clear imperative.

    It is hard to view this from an ethical or moral framework as there are little ethics or morals within capitalism and it is difficult to discuss ethics in a relationship between an individual and a corporation. Certainly Yelp has forgone any of the high ground if there were.

    Regardless, I think in this case, when there is a a lot at stake for the business, I think it appropriate to contravene Yelp’s obviously self interested rule and let the business’s self interest define behavior.

  13. Some great takeaways here Mike – thanks 🙂

    @Mike —> “(As a note it’s not against their TOS, it’s just a “recommendation” that you not ask for reviews.)” “…because of their strong SEO and influence on Apple iOS local results it makes sense to have 5 or more reviews there.” “I’d suggest they are sneaky vindictive SOB’s.””if you’re friends with someone on Linkedin, Facebook or whatever, the review probably won’t stick!” <— that's interesting info re: their algo – thanks Jerry 🙂

  14. Mike,
    I love your stuff. You are a real genius in this arena. Can’t wait to join ya.
    Anyway, gunna try this.

    Let me just add, I can’t wait for Yelp to self destruct. For the record, my client is a limo company. They were hired to take some Yelpers to the Phoenix Open. Needless to say the kids got drunk and could not find there way back to the bus. Those negative reviews have been stuck on for over a year now. We believe it is not an algorithm. Instead we believe it is deliberate. Just not sure what to do about it except complain. Which I have and am doing here. Got a nice Artechnica link out of the complaining I’m doing about Yelp’s “algo”.

    Thanx for letting me vent.

  15. Mike:

    I followed your suggestion. It works. I really don’t like connecting an email source with Yelp, or any other web entity, but I did it and I tried it with some different email providers ie google, yahoo, and with fb.

    I’ve used some of those web communications sources with customers for various smb’s. Some people were turning up who could be “viable yelpers” whose reviews would show. In other words they’ve already yelped a reasonable amount of times already.

    I posted above with regard to a phenomena one of our smb’s had experienced. One thing was that the people of whom we asked reviews was an example of the “snowballs chance in hell” method you described above for getting a review in Yelp to show. We had NO idea if they were active Yelpers or not.

    We do know of the smb’s we manage and of the filtered reviews those smb’s have received….virtually all or possibly Absolutely All were not active yelpers. In some cases, the only Yelp review they had written was one for one of our smbs.

    You are correct in your description. That process has a “snowballs chance in Hell” for showing meaningful results in Yelp.

    Alternatively, I reviewed “potential Yelp friends” by allowing Yelp to access personal email accts and FB. I have contacted various customers on various occasions.

    YES!!!! Some of them are indeed active Yelpers. (most aren’t)

    So we’ll use this in some way, and/or establish a gmail acct with a yelp acct to make this happen.

    I’m sure it will be far more productive than past efforts vis a vis yelp reviews.

    I’ll add one thing, discussed above. Yelp is a powerful review source. As you responded to one commentator–Yelp shows up in the Serps. Its accessible to readers. Secondly it has TREMENDOUS name recognition among searchers. It gets traffic from potential buyers….

    Great advice. Thanks.

  16. Hey Mike,
    Really enjoyed reading your answer. I share your views regarding capitalism and the strain of trying to apply a moral/ethical framework in regards to it (thought it CAN be done), so it was good to read your thoughtful response on this.

    In thinking this over, I see a post like the one you’ve authored as being a wake-up call for Yelp. I know your track record of longstanding of supporting guideline-compliant practices (well, except for hijacking the listings of certain entities who shall remain nameless!), and if you’ve reached a point where you are saying, “Hey Yelp, this is kind of ridiculous,” Yelp should be listening.

    They have come to play so powerful a role in the local business world, and unrealistic requirements (no asking for reviews) do not really support the businesses who are putting the butter on their bread.

    Thanks for taking the time to respond with such care. I see where you’re coming from.

  17. Fascinating:
    “Yelp is an costal, urban, under 35 phenom in the US as well. ”
    Here in Austin, Texas, Yelp borders on obsession across many verticals and demographics.
    Some business owners don’t even realize there are other review sites… crazy.
    Thank you for your writing, Mr. Blumenthal, a great school for me.

  18. Mike,

    I have had ALOT of luck in getting filtered reviews unfiltered in my account. Go through your filtered reviews and find anyone with over 5 friends and 5 reviews. Then go into their profile and like all of their reviews even for other companies. Do this from several computers. Yelp will see that people respect their reviews and thus move them from filtered to unfiltered. We have moved up 4 out of out 12 total. We have 59 filtered.

  19. I guess, I am at the right place at the right time! I was frantically searching for ways to get some good reviews on yelp and every article/blog categorically stated that it was not possible unless some of your genuine and happy clients are willing to oblige you. I felt so helpless, but this is some light at the end of the tunnel. Many thanks Mike!

  20. @Joe: I suppose you saw the news about yelp suing a rep management company. I’d be very discreet in discussing that practice.

    Also it doesn’t get you anywhere if the yelping reviewers have only yelped once or twice.

  21. Great insight as always, Mike! I can’t wait to try this out with some of our clients. As others have alluded to, given the strict TOS we’ve been somewhat apprehensive about actively soliciting reviews on Yelp.

    It’s interesting to hear the adoption rates of Yelp across the world.

    Overall, I would say Yelp has a positive reputation in Canada, and is certainly popular within the restaurant and hospitality industries.

    Construction/trades on the other hand have been slow to adopt the platform, IMO. Websites such as HomeStars, for example, have much more visibility in the Canadian SERPs and are building a significant inventory of consumer reviews.

    It’ll be interesting to see who wins the war.

  22. Okay, trying this.
    If someone clicks on “useful” on a review or one of the other things on the bottom, Does it have any bearing on if that review is filtered or not?

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