This week Yelp became more strict in enforcing their review solicitation policy ( Yelp's content guidelines can be found here ).
More specifically, there are increased reports nationwide of local businesses being contacted by Yelp with the request to stop " soliciting customers for reviews ".
Here is what you should know, and steps you may want to take to comply with Yelp's policies:
Many review sites have a policy against offering incentives to customers in exchange for reviews. Here's how Google states it in their Review Policies :
"Don’t offer or accept money, products, or services to write reviews for a business or to write negative reviews about a competitor. If you're a business owner, don't set up review stations or kiosks at your place of business just to ask for reviews written at your place of business."
Facebook doesn't even have a stated policy around asking for reviews, they simply require that reviews meet their Facebook Community Standards - which prohibit things like disrespectful speech, violent threats, and blatant spam.
Yelp takes things about 100 steps further with their very broad, "Don't Ask" policy .
Yelp claims that soliciting reviews results in biased, untrustworthy content.
They often cite this academic study , claiming that the takeaway from this research is that solicited reviews are "systematically different" than reviews that are left without being requested.
But here's the thing...
The study Yelp cites as backing up their policy? It actually encourages businesses to ask for reviews!
The study points out that there is an inherent "negative bias" to online reviews. As a business owner, you already know this - unhappy customers are much more likely to be vocal about their experience than happy ones.
Asking for reviews simply helps to correct for this negative bias.
From the study Yelp cites:
“[T]he introduction of email prompts does not disturb in any way the existing reviewing population while it incentivizes an entirely new segment of the population to submit a review.
We think that this finding should provide motivation to retailers to send email prompts to their verified buyers.
The reviews overall will become more representative (since a larger segment of the population will be reviewing), more credible (since the new segment of the population that starts reviewing are all verified buyers) and the ratings overall will increase (since the email ratings are on average higher than web ratings).”
Yelp has said that engaging in review solicitation may result in a "demotion in Yelp search results" (a search ranking penalty). They explain a search ranking penalty as meaning a business may "show up lower in search results on Yelp".
So how does this really affect your business? That will likely depend on the type of business you have, and how much business you currently get from Yelp search.
If you're in an industry where searching on Yelp is more common (ex. restaurants), and you have data to suggest that you're routinely driving traffic to your website from Yelp, or receiving calls from your Yelp listing - you may decide that soliciting Yelp reviews is not worth a search ranking penalty.
But if you're in a business where activity on your Yelp page is less frequent, and it's more important to increase your volume/rating of reviews so that they appear more favorably other places (like in Google search results) - you may decide that the benefit of more 5-star reviews outweighs the risk of a search ranking penalty.
*It's important to note that this "search ranking penalty" ONLY affects searches that take place inside the Yelp platform. It has no bearing on Google search results or any other online listing outside of Yelp.
At Get More Reviews, we have always recommended that businesses comply with Yelp's policies. Our recommendation is that you use a review generation platform to focus on Google reviews, Facebook reviews, and industry-specific sites - and allow your Yelp reviews to grow on their own.
Have more questions about Yelp and the best way to get more Yelp reviews...?
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or chat online with a member of our team!