Should You Ask Customers for Reviews on Yelp?
It starts innocently enough.
Another satisfied customer is leaving your location and is full of praise about the service they received. “You are the best in the world,” she says. “I’ve never been to an office where I was treated so well. Thank you so much for everything.”
You smile and say you wish you that everyone knew about your services. You fire up your customer review software and tell her that you would really appreciate it if she could share her experience on Yelp so that more people in the community will want to do business with you.
Even though this request seems reasonable, it’s against Yelp’s Terms of Service. Violating their terms by asking for reviews can hurt your rating. While your account won’t necessarily be banned, the reviews that Yelp thinks are solicited won’t show up in recommended results, and they could even be suppressed and placed in Yelp’s “not recommended.”
The testimonials that fall into this category don’t show up in your review section, and they don’t count toward your overall star rating. It can be frustrating when Yelp puts a perfectly legitimate, unsolicited review in this category. For some businesses, 50% or more of these reviews get filtered.
You might have several reviews that should be prominently displayed that are being hidden from view. This tends to happen once Yelp has identified you as someone that has solicited reviews in the past. From there, it can be hard to turn the cycle around and convince Yelp that your reviews are organic.
Yelp’s Official Policy
Of all the review platforms that exist today, Yelp is the one that has been the most “gamed.” Because of its prominence in the search engines and the millions of users it has, people tend to think of Yelp as the go-to destination to get honest opinions about local businesses.
However, when companies started compensating for reviews and exerting pressure tactics to convince people to write reviews, Yelp stepped in to save the platform. It was quickly becoming an untrustworthy source of information.
You might think that asking for a review doesn’t influence the customer’s opinion, but Yelp disagrees. Here’s their official stance:
“Asking for reviews at all, even if the business breaks norms and attempts to ask more than just their happy customers, can create a bias away from organically motivated reviews. And when some businesses ask for reviews and others don’t, it becomes difficult for users to compare reviews across businesses. Not only does solicitation lead to bias, but it’s also a bad experience for customers, too.”
Customers might feel pressured to say something positive to keep their relationship with you pleasant. Or, they might fear retaliation or judgment if they say something negative. Either way, if you aggressively pursue a review, it can lead to a biased testimonial.
What finally made Yelp step in and take a more active stance in protecting the integrity of their platform was an uptick in reviews written by customers who said they felt forced to give a positive review by business owners who even went as far as to demand that the customers write about their experience onsite and in their presence.
Again, this goes against everything that Yelp stands for, which is providing the “most helpful information possible about local businesses.”
Yelp may have overcorrected, but their intentions are pure. They want to prominently display unbiased reviews about a business. They use automated software to recommend reviews that they think are helpful. There are several trust indicators the system uses, but the most heavily weighted has to do with the reviewer’s activity on the Yelp platform.
So, if you ask 20 customers to leave a review of your business in a week and all of them do it, Yelp might become suspicious, especially if several of these customers were not active on Yelp prior to the review.
To stay within Yelp’s terms of service, avoid the following:
- Don’t ask people to review your business on Yelp. This includes friends, family members, email subscribers, customers, or random people.
- Don’t incentivize your staff to collect reviews.
- Don’t offer gifts, discounts, or payment in exchange for reviews.
Yelp’s Consumer Alerts Program
Yelp has even set up a Consumer Alerts program that shows up on a review page when the source of the reviews is suspicious. The warning is incredibly damaging to a business owner as it covers all of your reviews with a prominent message saying that the origin and content of your reviews are suspect and there will be a link to the evidence that Yelp has found against you. A user needs to close that window if they want to read your reviews.
The moral of the story: don’t mess with Yelp.
Here’s What You Can Do Instead
Now that you know you shouldn’t ask customers for reviews on Yelp, what can you do to boost the number of reviews you have without breaking any rules?
Here are three ideas to get you started:
Put a Yelp Badge on Your Website
Yelp has created an entire range of supporting marketing materials that you can use to your advantage. And, they’re all free. One of the fastest and easiest Yelp tools to implement is a badge on your website. There are several to choose from, including ones that say, “People Love us on Yelp” and “People Love Us! Read more reviews here.”
All of the messages are branded with Yelp’s colors and logos. And, the content can be linked directly to your Yelp profile.
Share Yelp Reviews on Social Media
When you share your Yelp reviews on social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, you’re subtly reminding your customers that they should leave a review as well.
There are other benefits to this approach as well. First, you are strengthening your branding and creating content that your customers can share on their profiles, which can encourage referrals.
Second, you could even post some of your neutral or negative reviews as well as your responses to them, assuming that your responses were professional and helpful. When your loyal customers see that someone was bashing your online reputation, they are likely to be inspired to take to Yelp to move the star rating back in your favor.
Use Yelp Signage at Your Business
Again, Yelp provides free resources for your business to help you build and promote your online reputation. There are two physical items you can receive. The first is a free sticker to display in your window that says, “Find us on Yelp.” This sticker is available to anyone in the US and Canada. However, it does take three to four weeks for delivery, so request yours now here.
Another display item you could receive is a “People Love Us on Yelp” window cling. However, you cannot request these. They are automatically sent twice per year to qualifying businesses.
Yelp also provides a zip file with digital assets for you to display on your website and social media. You might also want to print the Yelp logo on your business card or other print assets in your office. Yelp has partnered with Vista Print so that you can create these while still keeping consistent with their brand identity.
If you want to grow your Yelp reviews, you have to get creative and think outside the box. Gone are the glory days of just outright asking for them. While this might seem like a hardship, there is a significant silver lining.
Everyone is in the same situation and is subject to the same rules. While most business owners will give up on Yelp, you can continue to grow the number of Yelp reviews you have by continuing to provide exemplary service and display visual cues of your presence on Yelp.