Practical Ecommerce

7 Ways to Get Yelp Reviews (without Violating Its Policy)

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published by Web Marketing Today. Practical Ecommerce acquired Web Marketing Today in 2012. In 2016, we merged the two sites, leaving Practical Ecommerce as the successor.

Yelp is possibly the most restrictive of all the business directories and review sites when it comes to asking for customer reviews. Basically, “asking” is forbidden, according to its policy guidelines.

In this article, I summarize Yelp’s review policy and provide a list of ways to get customer reviews that won’t place you in violation.

Yelp’s Review Policy

The fact that Yelp discourages businesses from asking their customers for reviews may seem counter-intuitive since the site’s popularity is built on users reading and writing reviews about their favorite local businesses.

Yelp defends its policy by saying that review solicitation could lead to mistrust, due to the likelihood that businesses would only encourage positive reviews from their customers.

“Let’s face it, most business owners are only going to ask for reviews from their happy customers, not the unhappy ones,” Yelp said. “Over time, these self-selected reviews create bias in the business listing — a bias that savvy consumers can smell from a mile away.”

If consumers don’t trust that Yelp will deliver authentic reviews, they may deem the site unreliable and not return — something that would adversely affect the company’s bottom line. It’s a bit of “give to get.” In looking out for its users’ best interests, Yelp is protecting its own.

Another aspect of Yelp’s review policy has to do with the way its software algorithm determines which reviews appear on the site and in what order. The software looks at different signals, including various measures of quality, reliability, and user activity, and is attuned to flag fake or solicited reviews.

“Solicited reviews are less likely to be recommended by our automated software,” Yelp said. “[W]e have the unfortunate task of trying to help our users distinguish between real and fake reviews … the harsh reality is that solicited reviews often fall somewhere in between.”

On average, the software recommends about three-quarters of the reviews that users submit, even with those safeguards in place.

Ways to Encourage Yelp Reviews

Getting Yelp reviews is well-worth the effort, if you believe the results of a 2011 study by Michael Luca, a professor at Harvard Business School, which found that a one-star increase in a Yelp rating led to a corresponding 5-9 percent jump in revenue.

There are several ways to get reviews — some of which Yelp itself recommends — despite its policy forbidding review solicitation. Here are seven to consider.

  1. Give customers a ‘heads-up.’ Instead of saying “Write a review about our business on Yelp,” instead say, “Check us out on Yelp.” The first is a solicitation while the latter is a “heads up” — an FYI that raises awareness. The difference may be slight, but it’s worth noting.
  1. Place a Yelp badge on your website. Yelp offers several badges that you can put on your site, which link to your business profile. Just copy and paste the HTML code associated with each badge into the site. Review averages and counts update automatically as new reviews come in.

    Add Yelp review badges to your website.

    Add Yelp review badges to your website.

  1. Put a ‘Find us on Yelp’ sign in your place of business. You can make your own using Yelps brand assets or request one by via this form.

    Make your own sign using Yelp brand assets.

    Make your own sign using Yelp brand assets.

  1. Add a link to your business listing in your email signature. Companies often overlook the marketing value of an email signature, but it’s a subtle way to encourage Yelp reviews. Include the words mentioned in the first point: “Check us out on Yelp.”
  1. Share your ‘People Love Us on Yelp’ recipient status. “People Love Us on Yelp” is a program that provides a sticker and a letter of commendation from Yelp’s founders to companies that qualify based on their history and rating. Stickers are mailed twice per year to all qualifying businesses.
    Businesses must qualify to receive the coveted 'People Love Us on Yelp' sticker.

    Businesses must qualify to receive the coveted ‘People Love Us on Yelp’ sticker.

    In addition to displaying the “sticker on your window, Yelp recommends that you hang the letter of commendation in a picture frame at a conspicuous location inside your business, such as on the wall behind the cash register or front counter.

  1. Share reviews on Facebook and Twitter. You can share Yelp reviews on social networks like Facebook and Twitter by logging into your business owner account and clicking the “Reviews” tab. It may be advantageous to include one or two negative reviews, so long as you add a comment citing your efforts to satisfy the customer. Fans and followers may become skeptical if they just see positive reviews.
  1. Use reviews in marketing materials. While Yelp discourages asking for reviews, it doesn’t mind you sharing those you’ve received in marketing materials. There are some guidelines, however:
    • Don’t take it out of context (e.g., don’t excerpt a positive quote from a negative review);
    • Stay faithful to the reviewer (e.g., no word substitutions or deletions);
    • Only use Yelp’s recommended reviews (i.e., do not use reviews that aren’t currently recommended);
    • Get permission from the reviewer and provide attribution;
    • Attribute Yelp as the source using the logo guidelines above.

Yelp reviews may not make or break your business, but the fact that people rely on others like themselves for recommendations when making purchase decisions is sufficient reason to take advantage of the marketing benefits they have to offer. Just don’t violate the policy guidelines.

Paul Chaney

Paul Chaney

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Comments ( 9 )

  1. Ron September 15, 2015 Reply

    Yelp was for sued for unfair practice. It forces customers to pay or restricts the reviews if it is not up to them. There is nothing honest in those reviews. I know that from the first hands: my friend’s business. So, you better don’t advertised it if.

  2. delta May 19, 2016 Reply

    Yelp is all about money. I am a business owner and I had really good customers relationship. Yelp reached out to me if we will pay Yelp to advertise my business and I said no. Guess what they did. Cut all my reviews except one.

  3. Michael Powell October 28, 2016 Reply

    The problem with Yelp is that most of their “reviewers” only seem to post when they have a bad, (or perceived), bad experience. My food truck and restaurant have 80-5 star reviews and 1 3 star on Facebook, and tons of 4-5 stars on Google +, but the only bad reviews are on Yelp. (South Park ripped Yelp reviewers a new one for this in an episode called “Are you Yelping Yet?” ) It is like you cannot win with Yelp no matter what. m

  4. Seema Sankadecha November 21, 2016 Reply

    Thanks for this information. Here I found some different ways so mix up these ways and get more positive reviews from users https://goo.gl/4Z8ZPp

  5. Neha Joshi January 17, 2017 Reply

    You can also build your reputation in market by making use of business portals like IndiaBizClub

  6. Aileen Watkins February 9, 2017 Reply

    Is there a way to receive an email at our company when a review is posted about us, good or bad?

    • Leesha February 9, 2017 Reply

      I’m not aware of a way to have them emaile but I have the Yelp Biz app on my busiNess cell phone so I get an alert that I can then send to the appropriate rep to handle.

  7. Alex February 22, 2017 Reply

    You should look at Virthium.. It’s a website where companies offer rebates for customer reviews BEFORE they make the sale… Unlike Yelp it’s a 100% honest and transparent and you get a review from almost every customer

  8. Walter Turner March 25, 2017 Reply

    I am very frustrated with yelp. I never ask my clients to review us, as per yelps guidelines. We are a Salon (Che Bangs the Salon), in San Marcos California. We rate very well on google and have a good online presence. We are also active on facebook and do facebook ads. The Salon has been in business for just over ten years and has been awarded, Best Salon on Kudzu 4-5 times, We have been a San Diego “Top Ten” Salon 6 times now in the past 10 years on A-List. We have been awarded “Best Salon in San Marcos, Ca. 3 years in a row, and several other similar awards.
    Our Salon concentrates on a great Client Experience and Exceptional Quality and Customer Service. We really work hard to do things right!
    Yelp has kept our Salon down by hiding our reviews. I’m not talking about a few, I’m talking about 75-80% of our reviews are moved to the non-recommended file. At the same time Yelp is only not recommending about 20-25% of our other competitors. I’m showing up in their search around # 25- 30, I even show up after the local beauty school. Currently we have 27 recommended and 66 Non- recomended.
    In ten years of business we have 3- 1 star, 2- 2star, 9- 3star, 9- 4star, and 77 5-star reviews. we should be ranking much better than we are and I don’t know what we can do differently! Bing and many other search engines use the search scores and ranking directly off of yelp, this in turn places us lower in many of the searches. I have contacted yelp about this many times and they say their algorithm is automatic and fair even when I have shown them their own policy that doesn’t appear to be applied to our yelp page. If 70% of our reviews were recognized, we would out rank most of our competitors. I would think we should at least be placing first page? Because of our third or fourth page placement, we are not getting many yelpers walking thru our door, therefore we are not adding many reviews. I don’t know what else to do? Any suggestions? Honestly, any help or ideas, would greatly be appreciated.
    Thanks, Frustrated Salon Owner

    Walter Turner
    Che Bangs the Salon
    San Marcos, Ca. 92069