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VIDEO: Yelp’s Bark is Bigger than its Bite

Happy summer, everyone. It’s Matt Jones, your Review and Reputation Management Specialist, here to talk to you about everyone’s favorite directory that we like to hate, and that is Yelp. Several months ago, as most of you are aware, Yelp came out with a change to their policy. And the change said, “If you’re a business owner, you can’t solicit reviews on Yelp. It changes the culture of our review ecosystem. It makes it more inorganic and because of that, we want things just to happen naturally without you interfering in that process at all.”



So, we at WebPunch, we said, “Okay. We don’t solicit reviews on Yelp for our clients and we want to make that abundantly clear.” But I thought it was interesting because, a few weeks ago, I received an email from a company called Signpost, who’s also a reputation management company, and they were soliciting a review for a client that they have, asking me to specifically post a review on Yelp.

Now, obviously, as I just said, this violates Yelp’s terms and conditions in their agreement that every business basically should abide by if they want to have a listing on Yelp. So, I thought it would be interesting, not because I’m a snitch, but because I wanted to see what kind of process it would be or what process it takes in order for a company to flag another company who they think is violating those terms and conditions.

So, I went on Yelp’s website, I looked through all of their customer support pages to try and find an easy way for a business to report activity that violates Yelp’s terms and conditions. And I really didn’t find anything. So, there are ways you can flag reviews, but again, this wasn’t a review. This was an email solicitation by Signpost. So, finally, I just went to the business’s listing, and said, “Look, this review violates Yelp’s terms and conditions.”

Now, how was I able to prove that? Yelp doesn’t allow you to attach anything that would prove that. So, what I did is I copied the email that I received and I pasted it into the body. The graphics didn’t show up so text is the only thing that copied over, so I sent it off to Yelp to see what they would say.

It was interesting. I heard back about a week later, and Yelp said, “We don’t find anything wrong with this review or the reviews that you said were a problem.”  I thought that was very interesting. Is Yelp really toothless on this? Is this really a problem? When they made that change, they said, “We’re going to lower your ranking if we catch you soliciting reviews. We’re going to put a consumer alert badge on your page that warns everyone else that you’re gaming the system.” It sounded pretty scary and we would never put our clients in danger of violating those terms and conditions. But I thought it was interesting that people are still soliciting reviews on Yelp, whether or not Signpost is clueless or maybe they just know that Yelp isn’t really going to do anything even if they catch them red-handed.

So, again, I just wanted to see what that experience was like; to see what it would take for a company to flag something that violated their terms and conditions. It looks like Yelp understood what I was saying, and they just turned a blind eye or they just didn’t think it was convincing. There’s really not  a clear way to flag a company that’s doing this, so if you are soliciting reviews, maybe you’ll be okay. We’re not saying that you should solicit reviews and we aren’t going to do that for our clients, but it seems that Yelp was pretty toothless and their bark was bigger than their bite in this situation.

What should you do? Keep doing what you’re doing. Get reviews across several directories. Make sure when people are searching for your company that they see a lot of positive reviews, not just on Yelp, Google, Facebook, and YellowPages, but any other sites that might be pulling up on that first page of search results.

I am Matt Jones, your expert in all things reputation, and we’ll see you next time. Don’t forget to subscribe to our channel to get the latest news in reputation management and all things customer feedback and customer experience. We’re staying on top of those things to make sure that you’re in-the-know.


Matt Jones

Matt Jones is a co-founder of WebPunch. When he’s not WebPunching, he is exploring the world, taking photos, creating edible art or making gains in the gym. The main love and joy of his life though, is his little boy Mac, who is his best friend.