Dealing With the Noisy Distraction of Yelp

screenshot of yelp

The recent AQUA post about Yelp really struck a nerve with me because my company, Rising Sun Pools & Spas, has had extensive negative experiences with the website. In the interest of helping other business owners realize they are not alone in their struggles with Yelp, and warning others what they might expect, allow me to recount what has happened and how I have handled it.

From Ad to Bad

Approximately two years ago, Rising Sun Pools & Spas began advertising on Yelp as a way to promote our business locally. Assessing the results after six months, I was not impressed. Our clickthrough levels were even lower than our page views – something like one lead resulting from just 35 views. 

With that tiny rate of conversion, I planned to cancel my deal with Yelp. But before I did, I took a close look at our Yelp page and made a startling discovery: our many five-star reviews were buried on the page and the few one-star reviews we had were at the top. It was as if Yelp was purposefully hampering our efforts to reach new customers! 

Naturally, I wondered how this could happen and investigated Yelp further. 

Analysis Paralysis

Talking with a customer service representative about my account, I learned that Yelp uses an automatic program that reportedly analyzes the nuances of each critique and cycles them out to provide a representative overview of responses. This supposedly insightful summary actually filters out many favorable reviews and thus skews and wildly exaggerates dissenting opinions. 

For example, my main location currently has five of what Yelp calls “recommended reviews.” Of these, four are one- or two-star comments, and just one is a five-star review. At the bottom is a button that reads "not currently recommended" — click it and you'll find additional reviews submitted by Yelpers. In our case, there are 12 five-star raves that are hidden from view! 

I told the Yelp official that I thought their practice was ridiculous, and I wondered why anyone would advertise on a site where incorrect information about their business dominated their listing. After all, the one-star pans of our company were completely the exception to the overwhelming positive reviews that existed, yet somehow the former became featured and the latter were ignored. 

The official claimed that people could click on the “not currently recommended” link at the bottom to correct that perception. I told him, “Who would do that under that name? And why would they do that? Why do they even need to take that step?” 

Following that conversation, I immediately canceled my account and refused to pay because of this policy. That was the easy part. Trying to rectify your Yelp entry to reflect honestly how consumers view your business is next to impossible.  

Yelp’s Response? No Response

After ending my advertising, Yelp banned me personally from logging into their system. This did more than just prevent me from making reviews on other businesses. 

You see, as we have multiple locations, Yelp has decided to set up listings for each of them, and one of them has two entries. I complained about the duplication during my talk with the Yelp representative, yet the situation still persists. And they refuse to listen to me.

I tried to take legal action, but Yelp is located outside my state. Calls and emails have gone unanswered. 

Essentially, whenever you complain about Yelp, you get shut out by them totally and are powerless to do anything. 

What This All Means

As presently constituted, Yelp undermines your customers’ ability to understand legitimate reviews of your business. No other customer review site I have encountered, such as CitySearch or Google, employs such a biased setup. Leaders of Yelp are taking our choice away, saying that we are not smart enough to review a business based on all comments submitted. I resent that. 

In more than 40 years of operation, we have compiled 17,000 customers in our database and installed more than 10,000 pools successfully, but Yelp is going to tell me that four complaints should be weighted unfairly and define our service on the Internet? That’s ridiculous. (I should add that I know most of those rants have no legitimacy whatsoever, coming from a few bad apples with impossible expectations.) 

You cannot combat Yelp, even by asking your customers to contribute positive reviews. I’ve tried that, and all it does is get them posted for a day and then disappear, or designate them as “not currently recommended.” 

What I advise is this: Keep providing your great service while educating customers about the realities of Yelp. They will learn the truth and give excellent word of mouth to others that will help your business. Additionally, discussion of the company’s review practices and how its one-star comments receive preference will encourage your followers to spread the word to their friends and family that Yelp is not a credible resource, thus gradually undermining its authority with others. 

It’s time for those of us who have been damaged by Yelp to make it receive the same sort of treatment we have endured. That’s the only way it appears it will change its policies and accurately depict the good things we are doing in our businesses.  

Page 1 of 155
Next Page
Buyer's Guide
Find manufacturers and suppliers in the most extensive searchable database in the industry.
Learn More
Buyer's Guide
Content Library
Dig through our best stories from the magazine, all sorted by category for easy surfing.
Read More
Content Library