The first thing not to do is to freak out and leave a badly worded and enraged reply to the comment. This will make it more likely that the review will not be removed.
DO NOT threaten Yelp! or Google that you will sue them or take them to court over a review. They are huge companies. They live in court. Unless you have very deep pockets, don’t even consider this.
Retaliation is NOT a good idea – you are more likely to get in even more trouble.
DO NOT get into a “flame war” with someone on a review site. It will just make you both look unprofessional and unreasonable and it could drive them to seek out more review sites to bad mouth your business further.
DO NOT track them down on other social media to bad mouth them or their business. This comes under retaliation, but I wanted to mention it twice. Just don’t do it!
Whether you started a food truck venture two months ago or have run a Mom and Pop diner for the past 40 years, Yelp reviews have an impact on all businesses.
Whether it’s a customer raving about how excellent the food is, or ranting about a 10 minute wait, online customer feedback can make or break your business.
As of 2014, every minute, Yelp users post 26,380 reviews. According to a 2013 Nielsen survey, a whopping 98% of Yelp users have made a purchase at a business they found on Yelp.
These stats showcase just how important Yelp reviews are in the research process for consumers. A negative review or an inactive business page can absolutely devastate the bottom line of a small business.
Because of this, we decided to create a guide specifically for small business owners trying to delete bad reviews from Yelp.
While every case is different, there are some methods that all business owners should try to win the fight against bad Yelp reviews. But first, you need to fully understand how the reviewing process works at Yelp.
The easiest way, by far, is to have the customer remove their negative review.
This is not always possible but this is your first go-to step to remove a negative review. All they need to do is log back onto the website they left the review on and hit the “remove” or “delete” button under their own review.
Note: On Yelp!, reviewers cannot delete reviews from the mobile Yelp App. It’s a good idea to let the reviewer know How To Delete A Yelp Review.
They have to log into Yelp with a computer to delete their review. They can edit their review on the app, such as changing from 2 stars, to 4 stars, or changing the text. To delete, they can go to ABOUT ME -> REVIEWS and then click on the little garbage can icon on the bottom right next to the review for your business.
Deleting reviews can work on Ripoff Report, Google+, Yelp!, Facebook, Yellow Pages, YMLP and other review and map sites.
Calm down. Only contact the offending reviewer with a level head.
Try to contact the customer offline – or at least off the review site itself. Best is to be able to talk to them in person or over the phone. See if they left a comment card or if you have any contact information for them.
Be overly polite and nice. People have a hard time arguing with polite people. (Kill ’em with kindness!)
Tell them you understand their frustration or why they are upset. Empathy wins.
Take steps to clear up the issue and make an honest effort to do so.
Make sure that there is verifiable or at least anecdotal evidence the consumer or ex-employee will be able to see and believe the issue is resolved.
Ask them to remove or at least modify their review.
Explain to them that other people work there and that bad reviews are hurting their friends that work there or people who count on those jobs to support their families.
It’s not about you! It’s about them. Make them think they are doing a good deed by removing their review.
Offer them something in return as a gesture of good faith, such as a free coffee or free meal at your restaurant or cafe, or to come in and see changes you have made that will alleviate their concerns.
According to Yelp’s guidelines, users are allowed to share all kinds of content from reviews to videos to tips and more through the platform. The hard and fast rules when it comes to user contributions revolve around the idea of “playing nice” while providing useful, relevant information with other users.
Yelp discourages lewdness, hate speech, threats and bigotry. They support unbiased reviews which means they don’t condone reviews from the business owner, friends or relatives.
Yelp generally “frowns upon” promotional content (unless you are a business owner adding it to your own page).
Yelp claims that users should make sure that their contributions with their reviews are “relevant” and that they respect the privacy of others when posting.
Yelp also discourages its user community from plagiarism (or stealing intellectual property) and leveraging bad reviews for payment from businesses
What do these rules mean for your business?
When it comes to the intentions behind these user guidelines, the purpose is to create a space where people share their honest opinions and experiences with different businesses. This transparency helps other members in the community make informed decisions.
But let’s be honest, this doesn’t always happen. Some people use Yelp as an opportunity to write truly damaging reviews because they can, or because they have a bone to pick with a business owner. This is where the natural urge to delete phony reviews comes from in the first place.
Others write scathing reviews because they decide to publish their thoughts while operating at peak frustration levels. A nasty review written in the heat of the moment can have severe consequences for the targeted business.
So once a bad Yelp review is released online, what do you do?
Maintain Your Page
As a business owner, something that you should already be doing is maintaining your company’s page on Yelp. That means making sure that all of the information provided is correct, uploading beautiful pictures of your space, and linking directly to your website and/or social media accounts. By controlling your business page, you can:
Reach customers directly
Measure visitor activity on your page
Create deals specifically for Yelp users
As a growing small business, your focus is likely trained to the daily operations and overall health of your company. However, branding your organization and maintaining a strong foundation online is a cornerstone to maintaining an active business.
At BrandYourself, we help individuals and small businesses alike with developing their presence online. While our reputation management software is intended for individuals, our managed services teams work directly with a number of small businesses.
Build Your Foundation
Every review site has something they call their T.O.S. or Terms Of Service. This is where they list all the things they allow and don’t allow in their reviews.
If a review is a personal attack on an employee, defamatory, derogatory or attacks a person based on disability, race, ethnicity, religion or other factors, you can have their reviews removed.
In the previous example where someone says, “our fat waitress” is generally enough to have a review removed for T.O.S. violations, even though they are not pointing out a specific individual. Also look at the following example.
“John was our server and he was terrible. He was slow when he was there and smelled like pot.”
John is not the owner of the business, so this review can potentially be removed as a TOS violation.
Always mention that you “believe” it is a Terms Of Service violation. In many review sites, they use an automated support process called a ticketing system, and that system is programmed to first review an incoming contact for certain words. If it detects words like TOS in your message, it is likely to send that review to someone who deals with T.O.S. violations directly. This improves your chances of having a review removed.
Hello. In this review I have flagged, they mention an employee named ‘John’ and that he smells like marijuana. This is not true and I believe that mentioning him by name is a violation of the Yelp terms of service.
And another example:
In this review, Mrs. Downer has mentioned that her ‘fat waitress’ was slow and didn’t give them water to drink. We have a couple employees who some may consider over-weight and I believe that this rude and unfounded personal attack on them is a violation of the Google terms of service for reviews.
Debbie D. was working for us for the past 3 months. She left this review the day that she was let go. This review is nothing more than ex-employee retaliation and I believe is against the Yelp! terms of service.
One note about T.O.S. removals is that you should also reply to the review publicly stating that you have requested it be removed as a violation of their TOS. For example, “This fake review has been flagged for a violation of the Yelp! terms of service.”
When it comes to responding or deleting a bad Yelp review, Yelp already has a built in tool for business owners. The free review response tool lets business owners respond privately or publicly to any reviews left on their page. So what does that mean for you? Both public and private responses have their pros and cons.
Let’s start with the pros of a public response:
By diplomatically addressing any complaints publicly, you show your users that you are apologetic for any sub-par experience, appreciate their feedback and can share steps you’re taking to correct this situation. This sort of public acknowledgement is important for your brand, however, there are a few cons to responding publicly to a bad review.
And the cons of responding publicly:
If you respond in a way that is less than professional and courteous, you lose respect from other users. If you respond publicly and this somehow incites the user who posted the poor review, that just means that you will be engaging with more negativity. Additionally, by responding directly to a negative review, you are actually helping that review rank higher in search results by keeping it active. That means that you are increasing the likelihood that someone will read this review.
Pros of responding privately:
If you choose to respond to someone privately, there’s also a lot to consider.
The advantage of responding directly to your attacker, is that you can appeal to them calmly and rationally and ask for more information concerning their experience and how to rectify it directly. AND you aren’t helping the bad review rank better by updating it with fresh content.
Cons of responding privately:
However, by responding privately, you run the risk of the user responding very publicly anyway, or users thinking that you are ignoring the complaints. Also, this means that if someone comes across this negative review, there will be no commentary from you addressing the concerns.
If you’re aren’t certain on how to respond, remember that you can also address any common complaints on your page so that you aren’t updating the bad Yelp reviews. The most important thing to remember no matter how you respond, is that timeliness, courtesy and a course of action are most important in your response.
3 Key Factors in Response
While the way that you communicate is important, when it comes to dealing with bad yelp reviews, the key to turning this negative into a positive is what you choose to communicate. It’s up to you to use your discretion in which types of reviews you choose to respond to, but try to keep the three factors of timeliness, courtesy and follow-up in mind. Doing this will help you achieve the same result as deleting a Yelp review if that doesn’t end up being an option.
Timeliness: By responding to users quickly, you show them and other potential customers how important their feedback is. If you don’t respond at all, it seems like you don’t care about their experiences, or aren’t engaging on this platform. This leaves you open to even more criticism.
Courtesy: In addition to timeliness, courtesy is key. Instead of responding with a slew of insults, try to find something positive within the criticism. If there’s nothing there, simply apologize for their experience and thank them for their feedback. And if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. It all depends on your personal style. No matter what someone else is saying to you, it’s probably not worth it to quibble with this person online. Instead stay courteous, calm and cool-headed.
Follow-up: In addition to timeliness and courtesy, a course of action or follow-up is also necessary when dealing with negative reviews on Yelp. It’s one thing to simply apologize, but by explaining actionable steps to your disappointed customer the actionable steps you plan to take, you show that you take their complaints seriously. By following up, you show your commitment to high-quality service, and that you truly care about the customer experience. Don’t just pay lip-service and make promises you can’t keep. Be specific about what you plan on doing, and set a timeframe for more follow-up.
Ask for help: When it comes to soliciting for reviews, Yelp discourages any outright asks or offers of compensation for positive reviews. However, make it known to your customers that you’re on Yelp! While Yelp discourages any sort of coercion, definitely encourage customers to visit your page. Word of mouth is important – particularly for smaller businesses, and Yelp is just the digital version of this. Include links to your Yelp page in your email signature or on your business cards.
According to Yelp, business owners shouldn’t ask customers directly to review their experience. These sorts of reviews are often viewed as disingenuous, and Yelp’s software may filter them right out of the recommended reviews section on your page.
This is one of the most frustrating things for business owners that want to learn how to delete bad Yelp reviews. They see bogus reviews make it through the filter, but legitimate positive reviews get cut. Unfortunately this tends to lead to them trying shady tactics that don’t last.
Earlier this year, Brian Patterson of Marketing Land reached out to a contact at Yelp, and uncovered more information when it comes to asking clients and customers to review your business. According to this exchange, while asking for reviews is discouraged – it doesn’t violate any terms of service.
Incentivizing the customers is prohibited, but technically, asking for reviews is allowed. However, as mentioned before, if these reviews seem disingenuous or are published by users who don’t post very often, there’s a good chance that the reviews will be filtered out of recommended reviews, and no one will really see them.
So remember, use this information at your discretion, but don’t spend your energy trying to capture reviews that won’t help you much in the end.
Acknowledge constructive criticism
When it comes to harsh reviews, it’s easy to retreat or completely destroy unfounded accusations. However, neither of these reactions will help your business. As mentioned before, focus on the constructive aspect of any criticisms on Yelp. While it’s true, there is a lot of hot air floating around on that site, there are definitely people venting about their experiences at different establishments.
So take a deep breath and dig in. There is a good chance that some of these criticisms can not only help you improve your business, but give you the opportunity to show what your brand is all about in the way that you choose to respond!
Love your haters
Let’s face it, Yelp isn’t always fair when it comes to the rules and options for business owners. There’s no way to remove a bad review (even if it is false) unless it is truly lewd, hateful, or threatening. And, as a business owner, you do not have the option to be anonymous.
Additionally, Yelp has been accused of tampering with reviews and rankings of businesses that choose not to purchase ads on the platform.
All of this tends to skew the bias towards the consumer and those businesses spending more money on the platform.
Don’t let this get you down. Instead, focus on showcasing your brand and the heart of your business.
Be grateful that this platform lets you deal directly with people who are satisfied or dissatisfied with your product. Here you have the opportunity to improve your business in a practical way, and develop a strong method for responding to criticism.
How can you contest the review/correct it?
When it comes to dealing with harsh reviews that are also false, Yelp does not allow you to delete the post as a business owner. Instead, your options are those listed above. If someone leaves a message that includes hate speech, lewdness or truly threatening remarks, Yelp will remove it. However, lies are harder to prove, and Yelp does not mediate or research these types of comments.
How to remove bad reviews from Yelp
While removing most bad reviews from Yelp is nearly impossible, there is another effective method to dealing with these kinds of damaging search results while improving the overall presence of your business online.
At Webcide.com , we encourage that individuals and businesses alike focus on best practices when it comes to Search Engine Optimization and branding so that the properties that they control have the best chance at rising in search results.
While creating positive content that you control will not remove bad Yelp reviews, this approach gives you the best chance to control the results that rank well while suppressing the negative reviews.
To accomplish this, you must focus on building up your company’s Facebook page, Twitter account, Google Plus page and more. You have to actively engage and post original content on these platforms and more while also maintaining a professional website for your business.
Why building your foundation matters
In an age of cyber-bullying, revenge porn, hate sites and inadequate online privacy laws, everyone and every business needs to understand and protect their image on the web with online reputation management.
While a Yelp review isn’t the only information that people will depend on when deciding whether or not to visit your business, it is highly visible and will likely inform them in some way. With that in mind, it’s up to you to build the image that accurately reflects your business online.
Deleting or removing a bad Yelp review is tricky, but controlling how you look online isn’t. All you have to do is follow the steps, or have someone else do it for you.
To learn more about building your brand’s presence online, schedule a call with one of our reputation advisors about our services where our team does the work for you.