How to Remove Negative Yelp Reviews – The Ultimate Guide for Small Business
Every tech-savvy small business owner, it seems, wants to know one thing: how to remove Yelp reviews. Although Yelp and other review sites – such as Google Reviews and Facebook’s review component – can help small businesses, they also have the potential to harm those businesses with negative or false reviews.
Sadly, there are a lot of negative Yelp reviews out there. There are also plenty of bad reviews on Google, Facebook, YellowPages, and plenty of other popular review platforms.
Worse even than this, there are a lot of fake reviews out there. Although review site companies have algorithms designed to catch fake reviews, many of them slip through the cracks. To remove Yelp reviews is to undertake a great challenge – even if those reviews are obviously fake.
Luckily, the rest of the Reputation Enhancer team and I have spent years helping businesses combat these kinds of reviews. Now we’ve created this handy guide just for you.
Before I can teach you how to fix the problem, though, I’ll need to give you some background on it. In addition to removing Yelp reviews, let’s talk about how bad reviews occur and how negative and false reviews on Yelp and similar platforms hurt your business.
A Question on Many Business Owners’ Minds: “Why Do I Have Bad Reviews?”
Many owners of stores, restaurants, bars, and other small businesses simply don’t know why they have negative reviews on Yelp. After all, if you work hard every day and contribute to the local economy, you deserve praise, right?
Legitimate Reasons Bad Reviews Occur:
- Honest mistakes happen. In many cases, these can lead to bad reviews.
- A customer has constructive feedback she or he would like to offer you.
- An employee was rude to a customer.
- An item, dish, drink, or other product was made or advertised incorrectly.
In these cases, the reviews are often easy to remove by directly addressing whatever problem caused the review in the first place, and then letting the customer know in a respectful and thoughtful manner.
Don’t worry – we’ll talk about how to talk to customers about these situations later. There are also a number of great video resources out there to help you with this process, such as this one:
However, many negative reviews are not legitimate. This makes them much more difficult to address. Also, because there are many such reviews out there, they can greatly affect your overall rating or otherwise hurt your business.
Illegitimate Reasons Bad Reviews Occur:
- A disgruntled former employee has a grudge.
- A customer overreacts to a small problem.
- A customer takes out his or her personal problems on your business.
- A personal enemy of yours or an employee’s seeks to take your business down.
- A competitor posts a fake review to get an edge over you.
There are other reasons as well, but this simple list of five possibilities gives you the idea.
Yelp and other review platforms were designed to help customers make informed decisions about where to spend their money. In an ideal world, this would help the best businesses succeed and the worst to clean up their acts.
However, personal motivations and feelings often get in the way of reviewers’ objectivity. That means that reviewers can develop a bias against you for any number of reasons and take that out on your business.
It’s a shame that so many people are willing to abuse public platforms that many people trust every day. However, that’s the world we live in. Instead of crying about it, it’s best to be proactive.
You might be thinking that Yelp, Facebook, Google, and other companies such as YellowPages have the time and resources to find and remove these fake reviews. That is not the case. Keep reading for more on how fake and badly motivated reviews stick on these sites.
How Fake Reviews Slip Through the Cracks
Even though Yelp and many of its competitors in the online review industry have designed algorithms to detect fake reviews, many still slip through the cracks. Also, Yelp and other review sites have staff members dedicated to investigating fake reviews – but even that isn’t enough to stop all of them.
There are several reasons fake and poorly motivated negative reviews can get past the system and make an impact. Let’s look at a few of these in detail.
How Bad Yelp Reviews Hurt Your Business
You might think you can afford to just ignore Yelp. Unfortunately, that’s not the way the world works anymore.
According to Hook SEO, Yelp gets 89 million monthly mobile visitors and 79 million desktop visitors. Those are unique visitors, and though we can assume some of the mobile and desktop users are the same people, that still means between 100 million and 168 million people probably visit Yelp at least once a month.
Think about those odds for a second. How many of those users do you think might be interested in visiting your business?
The verdict is in: YOU CAN’T AFFORD TO IGNORE YELP REVIEWS! Although other review sites are a bit smaller, the same is true for them – millions of people use these sites daily.
How to Remove Yelp Reviews Harming Your Business
There are two ways to remove a negative, fake, or otherwise harmful review from Yelp. Both are difficult, but they’re definitely worth the time.
Remove Yelp Reviews: Method # 1 – Asking Yelp to Take the Review Down
This one can be a difficult task, but it’s definitely worth trying in certain circumstances. It works best if there are obviously fake or incorrect reviews about your business.
Asking Yelp to take down a negative review can also work if the review in question has a threatening tone or uses profanity, or if it names certain employees or calls them out by race, religion, body type, or other distinguishing or sensitive characteristic.
Don’t bother asking Yelp or a similar review company to remove reviews that don’t fit these criteria.
To be honest, their response even to fake or threatening reviews leaves much to be desired. They have no interest in removing reviews they see as legitimate. Although I understand this from their point of view, it makes things difficult for many of the businesses I work with.
Yelp’s Terms of Service (TOS)
Before approaching Yelp about a review you suspect is fake or constitutes harassment, you should look over their Terms of Service. It’s a dry read with plenty of legal jargon that seems designed to confuse business owners, but it can also help you learn your specific rights.
Because the Terms of Service are essentially a contract you imply your signature on every time you use Yelp’s services, reading and understanding them thoroughly is an important part of navigating the online review landscape.
It’s wise to take a similar course of action with any other review site you’re having problems with.
Also, please note that the Terms of Service linked to above are for the United States only. If you live in another country, go directly to Yelp’s site, scroll to the bottom, and look for their link to Terms of Service.
Although the Terms of Service are fairly similar from region to region, small distinctions in documents like this can be very important.
How to Address an Issue with Yelp
Once you’ve familiarized yourself with Yelp’s Terms of Service, it’s time to get your message to them. Please note that any specific instructions I give here won’t apply to other review sites, but the general principles are the same.
There are specific instructions on Yelp’s site (although they’re admittedly hard to find from within the site itself) that will tell you exactly how to report a review to Yelp.
Essentially, the process boils down to this:
- Find the review in question.
- Click on the flag button below the review, and then on “Report This Review.”
Yelp is very upfront about the fact that its review process takes several days, and that they do not often remove reviews. The company also graciously offers business owners and private individuals a second chance to report reviews.
If you report something you genuinely believe is either false or otherwise against Yelp’s guidelines, you may contact the company’s support team directly after hearing back on your initial complaint.
This is definitely not the sort of action you want to take all the time. If you do, it might lose its potency, or Yelp might specifically take support calls from you less seriously.
However, if you have a real case, contacting support directly may be one of the most direct, fast, and effective ways to solve the problem.
Remove Yelp Reviews: Method # 2 – Asking the Customer to Take the Review Down
Believe it or not, this is the more successful of the two methods.
Why? There are a couple reasons. For starters, Yelp is more customer focused than it is business focused. Perhaps more importantly, Yelp is a huge corporation that requires you to cut through miles of red tape before it does anything.
There are a lot of important guidelines to remember when it comes to responding to negative reviews, though. You’ll never remove a review through anger – you’ll only make yourself look worse.
Steps to Cleanly Convincing a Customer to Remove Yelp Reviews:
- Respond publicly to the review on Yelp.
- Be extremely respectful in your response. Thank the reviewer for his or her feedback.
- NEVER try to defend yourself or your business. Instead, apologize.
- Ask the reviewer to contact you if there’s anything you can do.
- If you made an honest mistake, you may consider offering a discount or other apology gift.
- If the customer contacts you, do your best to show him or her that any real or perceived problems are fixed.
- Once you’ve talked with the customer, ask if he or she will consider taking the negative review down.
Responding publicly and respectfully is important. Even if the unhappy customer never contacts you, other Yelp visitors will see that you care about your customers.
Being honest about any actual mistakes on your end is important, too. Don’t feel you have to directly admit to anything that isn’t true, but don’t directly contradict the customer either.
Before responding to a negative review directly, watch this video. Although it’s a bit dated – it was made in 2014 – it’s still highly relevant in 2017 and beyond. The tips here are great reminders of how to conduct yourself in this situation.
Can’t Remove a Review? Here’s What to Do
Unfortunately, there are plenty of cases where Yelp and/or the customer who wrote you a bad or fake review won’t back down.
Short of very unethical or illegal action, there’s not much you can do to remove the review in this case. However, there are plenty of steps you can take to drown it out.
Specific, Actionable Tips for Drowning Out Bad or Fake Yelp Reviews
The best thing you can do to offset the effects of negative reviews is to get a lot of positive reviews.
That almost goes without saying, but many business owners truly do not understand how big of a difference positive reviews can make on a platform like Yelp. Here are a few reasons positive reviews can help you almost as much as having negative reviews removed:
- Positive reviews can boost your overall star rating. Many customers only look at the overall star rating and one or two reviews.
- As a negative review gets older, or more people find it unhelpful (more on this in a minute), it will move farther down the line of reviews. Eventually, it will be so far back no one will bother to look at it!
- Getting more positive or even neutral reviews can speed up the process of pushing a negative review to the back of the line.
There are also a few other things you can do to lessen the effect of a negative review, such as responding to it respectfully (which I detailed for you already) or “finding it unhelpful.”
First, let’s look at how to get more positive reviews on Yelp and similar platforms.
Positive Review Regulations on Yelp
Getting positive reviews on help can really save the day for your business when everything else has failed. It’s also important for you to be careful to go about getting them the right way, though.
Yelp has just as big a problem with fake positive reviews as with fake negative reviews. Although this may be my bias from constantly working on the business side of things, it also seems that they’re better at sniffing out fake positive reviews than fake negative ones.
Removing Yelp reviews’ negative effects through the use of positive reviews is a great course of action, but you must go through the proper channels when doing so. If not, you could end up getting an unhelpful warning like this:
Unfortunately, a warning isn’t where Yelp stops. They can also delete positive reviews, including ones you’ve earned honestly.
There are even a few reports of Yelp dealing unethically with businesses and not posting all their positive reviews. I’m a bit skeptical of these, but they’re out there. That means it’s important to be careful with Yelp, one way or another.
Unfortunately, that means you can’t get your parents, spouse, and children to write you a ton of positive reviews. Instead, try to get customers to give you reviews on Yelp – and make sure you blow them away with great service and great products.
How to Get Positive Yelp Reviews without Breaking All the Rules
Featuring a Yelp sticker on a prominent door or window of your business location is one way to get reviews. Having servers, cashiers, or other employees remind customers to review on Yelp can be helpful too.
Do not, however, try to bribe customers into giving good reviews with discounted goods and services. This is firmly against Yelp’s policies, and could easily backfire.
That being said, a friend or family member who has visited your business can certainly write a positive review. However, keep in mind that the review must be very detailed and thoughtful. Also, don’t rely on friends and family to prop you up on Yelp.
How to Find Negative Reviews Unhelpful – And Why It Can Be Very Helpful to Your Business
There’s a clickable option beneath every single review on Yelp called “find this review unhelpful.” Simply clicking on this option can make a review disappear near the back of the pile.
However, it’s important to be organized and to have a lot of people mark the review as unhelpful. Doing it alone, especially as the business owner, isn’t likely to solve anything.
Also, it’s important to be honest and careful with this tactic as well. Don’t mark an honest, levelheaded negative review as unhelpful. Try contacting the customer instead.
That being said, marking an obviously false review unhelpful is very much within your rights. You can also encourage friends and family to do the same in order to increase your chances of success, although this is a gray area when it comes to Yelp’s policies.
If you do enlist others’ help, be careful to ensure that they are people who have actually visited your business. Don’t get your cousin in Oregon to mark a review of your bar in Kansas – that’s sure to send Yelp’s algorithm a red flag.
Also, don’t try to create multiple accounts from a single computer or mobile device to mark reviews unhelpful. Yelp will notice this as well, and your business could be severely penalized.
Think of marking reviews unhelpful enough times to push them to the back as a gradual process. It won’t help you overnight by any means, but it can get your business back on track. You simply have to put in the time, organization, and effort to do it right.
When It May Be Time to Hire a Professional
Even if you can’t remove or drown out a negative review or a Yelp-based smear campaign on your own, there is hope. Professional reputation management companies like ours exist to help people like you with problems like this.
Professionals in the field of reputation management have a few advantages that business owners do not. Mainly, this is because of their deep knowledge of how to influence online reputations.
At Reputation Enhancer, we offer review removal services along with other great reputation enhancing content. If your Yelp page isn’t salvageable, we can even get it moved down to the second or third page of Google where customers aren’t as likely to find it. This can give us or you more time to fix deep problems on Yelp.
If you’d like to get in contact with us, please give us a call or fill out the form below. We offer free consultations, and also have a money back guarantee if we can’t get you results in the first three months.
Furthermore, because of our low overhead, we can afford to charge a lot less than other reputation management companies at our level of quality. Even if you don’t want a consultation right away, contact us anytime with any questions you may have.