Column: Reviewing Yelp and other online review sites

Q: Why do the reviews for my business on Yelp seem to be more negative than all the other review sites? Am I imagining things?

A: Online reviews can make a big difference in any business, so keeping tabs on what your customers are saying is critical.

Just think about how you make decisions almost every day when looking for a product or service for yourself.

Negative reviews

When any business gets a negative review, it’s important to respond in a timely manner so they can show the world that they care and want to make every customer happy.

According to the 2018 ReviewTrackers Online Reviews Survey, nearly 45% of consumers said that they’d be more likely to visit a local business if the owner responds to negative reviews.

It gives businesses an opportunity to show potential customers how they handle things when something goes wrong.

Huge shift in reviews

Review-specific sites, such as Yelp and TripAdvisor, have lost major ground to both Google and Facebook. In 2017, Google generated almost 60% of the reviews, while Facebook had 19%, followed by TripAdvisor at 8.4% and Yelp at 6.6%.

Both Google and Facebook make it much easier to submit reviews, as most of us have accounts with one or both of these platforms that we’re generally logged into all day.

Because of this, it’s much easier for most customers to leave reviews within the tools that they use every day, instead of having to specifically go to a website to leave a review.

Yelp is the least positive

Your observation that your business’ reviews on Yelp were more negative isn’t something you’re imagining.

Of the four major review sites, the survey showed Facebook to be the most positive with an average of 4.42 stars, Google at 4.3 stars, TripAdvisor at 4.25 stars and Yelp at 3.65 stars.

There are a number of potential reasons for this major difference based on the way Yelp’s platform works.

Unlike other review sights, Yelp automatically filters certain reviews and places them in a “not recommended” section that visitors won’t see unless they find and click on the link.

Yelp’s reasons can be a bit vague but they include those that are “less established users,” meaning they haven’t posted many reviews, reviews that are considered an unhelpful rant or rave or what they deem to be a fake review.

Yelp willingly admits that because of this, there are “many real reviews from real customers who we just don’t know much about and therefore can’t recommend.”

Billion-dollar bully

Yelp’s approach is why so many business owners are incensed when they see reviews from people they know are customers getting filtered out.

Yelp’s reputation with both business owners and users has suffered and has even led to a recent documentary called “Billion Dollar Bully.”

Reviews in maps

Review trackers found that most people (63.6%) relied on Google reviews before visiting a business.

Those that use Google Maps will see Google reviews when they click on a location, but those that use Apple Maps will see TripAdvisor and Yelp reviews, so keep that in mind when relying on the reviews that pop up on your smartphone’s maps.

Ken Colburn is founder and CEO of Data Doctors Computer Services. Ask any tech question on Facebook or Twitter.

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