By John Eberhard

I started a series of articles recently on content and sharing, and I will get back to that with my next article.

But I discovered some important facts about Yelp recently that I think are really important to share.

  1. When you search on Yelp for a category of thing, like a pizza restaurant or dentist or contractor, in a specific city, you will see a number of listings come up for various companies. But how is it decided what order that these companies will be listed? Well first of all you can create a paid Yelp account where for a certain number of searches that people will do per month, your listing will appear at the top. But aside from having a paid account, how does Yelp decide who is first, second, third, etc.?

    Apparently from what I can tell, it is mostly the raw number of reviews that each company has on Yelp, that determines your ranking on Yelp, with the quality of the rankings having some effect too (i.e. how many 5-star reviews, 4-star reviews, etc.)

  2. Sometimes Yelp archives reviews. There will be a link at the bottom of the reviews that says “reviews that are not recommended.” And you could have a bunch of reviews in there, ones that most people would never see unless they specifically looked for them, which most people won’t. And also, some people can have their review archived immediately after writing it.

    So what causes Yelp to archive some reviews and not others?

    Well I looked over all the archived reviews from several client accounts. And it will show the review, the person’s user name on Yelp, the number of reviews they have written, and the number of “friends” they have on Yelp. So I discovered that in almost every case of dozens and dozens of archived reviews, that the writer had zero friends on Yelp. I saw a couple where the person had one or two friends, but that was the only review they had written.

    Now I am not claiming to totally understand Yelp’s criteria here, but I am saying that in almost every case of archived reviews I looked at, the review writer had no friends on Yelp. And what is the significance of having friends on Yelp? I don’t really know. I guess you can see their reviews somewhere or exchange info on Yelp or something. But that’s not too important for what we are talking about.

  3. Yelp claims that they will archive reviews from people who are “not regular Yelp users.” So this appears to actually be “people who have no friends on Yelp.”
  4. I have now verified that if a person writes a review, and it gets archived because that person has no friends on Yelp, and they later add friends on Yelp, the review will actually come out of the archives and appear as one of the regular reviews.
  5. So for the business owner who wants to get lots of positive reviews on Yelp, in order to move up in the rankings for their category, this information is important. First we know that typically the businesses that have more reviews on Yelp appear closer to the top of the listings for any given category. Secondly, we know that we could go to a lot of trouble and get people to write reviews, only to have them immediately archived. So what are the action steps we can take away from this:

a. First of all, you have to proactively ask happy customers or clients to write reviews about their experience with your company, on Yelp. And by the way, you can’t offer them anything of value, like money or a gift card or credit with your company, in exchange for writing a review, as that is against Yelp’s policies.

b. If your competitors are running a campaign to get lots of reviews on Yelp and you are not, you could get left in the dust.

c. When you ask people to write a review, explain to them that they have to have some “friends” on Yelp, otherwise their review will be archived.

d. If your company has a lot of reviews on Yelp that are archived, you can contact the people who wrote 5-star reviews for you, and propose being their friend on Yelp, or have several people from your company propose being their friend on Yelp. You might have to contact them outside of Yelp, explain the situation, and tell them to log into Yelp and approve all their friend requests. They may have a ton and they have just ignored them. I don’t know how many friends they need for their review to come out of the dungeon, but it can come out by their adding friends.

Good luck with your Yelp marketing.

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