Yelp has changed its stance on soliciting reviews. They used to give out these stickers that said “Review us on Yelp,” but no more.
So what happens if you are caught soliciting reviews? Yelp may post a notice on your profile stating not to trust your reviews and they may demote you in search rankings.
We first became aware of this through an email sent to us last month. You can see this email below:
You are putting your clients’ online reputation at risk by soliciting Yelp reviews on their behalf.
Beginning this month we are contacting local businesses that solicit reviews on Yelp to highlight that asking for reviews violates our policies. We explain that engaging in this practice may result in demotion in Yelp search results.
Soliciting reviews for your clients is an illicit tactic that biases their online reputations and search rankings, thus harming consumers, other businesses, and the overall review ecosystem. For more information on Yelp’s stance against review solicitation, see our blog post.
The Yelp Support Team
Yelp says in the blog post about this issue that they will flag companies they think engage in this practice. This wording is very vague. So, essentially if Yelp “thinks” you’re up to no good they can demote you.
The issue here is that Yelp thinks they are God. First, they have no way for a business to opt-out of their directory who does not want to get listed and once that business gets a few negative reviews and tries to get more positive by asking their customers for reviews, they would be violating their terms and may get demoted and penalized. Does this seem fair???
At the meantime your competition may be doing just that and be getting away with it.
If this is about fairness, then why is Yelp berating businesses so badly that they go on anti-Yelp campaigns to purposely solicit bad reviews and break the system?
Threatening rank demotion is another tactic that rings hollow coming from Yelp. What evidence will Yelp use to proof a business has engaged in solicitation? Will they divulge this evidence to the business, or will they claim that doing so would provide insight into their algorithms?
So, essentially if Yelp “thinks” you’re up to no good they can demote you. They may try to sell you advertising in this processing, and failing to buy puts you at an even larger disadvantage. So, arbitrarily Yelp may just decide it doesn’t like your business and make you even harder to find. Once users do find you, they’ll receive a notice saying you asked for reviews and violated their terms of service.
Don’t worry, though, there will probably be some sort of arbitration program or method to buy additional advertising space that will sweep this entire problem under the nearest digital filter. Never to be seen or heard from again.
So what do you if you have negative reviews? Do you solicit more reviews from your clients? You’re damned if you do, and you’re certainly damned if you don’t.