Chefsheet.com would like to help you understand how Yelp works.
Chefsheet is a full function website and mobile app for restaurant, bar and foodservice inventory, ordering and menu costing. Import your vendors order guides or your existing inventory and start using Chefsheet in minutes.
How does Yelp work?
If you are in the restaurant or bar business, Yelp is probably a part of your life. Learning that a guest has had a bad experience can (and probably should) be upsetting to any business owner or manager. Yelp ratings can affect your business greatly. A Harvard Business School study found that, for each star, a restaurant should expect a 5% to 9% change in business. Therefore, a three star restaurant on Yelp would see business increase by as much as 9% by becoming a four star restaurant.
Even without a Harvard study, most of us restaurateurs understand that everyone we know (ie; family, neighbors, vendors, bankers) will at some point check our Yelp score. What they see on the business’ Yelp page will tell them something about our business and ultimately about us personally.
What can you do to manage and maintain your business’ Yelp profile?
Yelp is a crowd sourced online review site started in 2004 by two former PayPal employees. The name Yelp may have been conceived as a combination of the words yellow and pages.
The basic concept of Yelp is pretty simple. At its core, Yelp is a searchable directory where users can find all kinds of businesses, from car repair and pet sitting to bars and restaurants. Included with each business profile are the basics that one would have found in the yellow pages of the past: phone, location and business hours. With the power of the Internet, Yelp has expanded from that basic directory. A business listing on Yelp may include business-provided and crowd-sourced photos, reservation links, online ordering links, messages from the business, the latest health department report and of course user-created reviews.
Yelp was not the first online directory to include reviews. As the Internet grew in the early 2000’s, CitySearch and Yahoo Local where the preeminent sites for user generated reviews. After it’s launch in 2004, Yelp grew very quickly to overtake those competitors. A study from Northwestern University found that people were drawn to the community elements of Yelp. Unlike CitySearch and Yahoo, Yelp allowed users to create profiles, to chat with each other and, perhaps most importantly, Yelp added the ability for users to discuss and to ‘like’ each other’s reviews.
How does Yelp choose the order in which to display reviews?
When you view a business’ Yelp page, about twenty reviews are loaded and displayed; to view more reviews the user must click the next page buttons. It is safe to assume that many Yelp users do not actually read many of the reviews. Instead, most probably scan the average star rating and read only the first few reviews displayed. An algorithm determines the order in which these reviews are displayed. This algorithm likely considers when the review was created combined with unique details about the user and the review. Users can vote a review up by selecting it as either “useful,” “funny” or “cool.” The more votes the review gets, the higher it is displayed in the order. Yelp users earn different titles based on their participation with the site and the community. Some Yelp users have earned the status of Elite users. Elite users are first nominated and then selected to become elite by committees of other elite users in their area. The elite status is bestowed on users who, in the judgment of the Yelp community, produce great content; this means they create useful, funny and cool reviews. Elite users may also be ordained in part due to how they interact with other users, comment on others reviews and perhaps even participate in in-the-flesh get togethers with other Yelp users. The order in which reviews are displayed heavily favors users with elite status.
If you have a negative review sitting near the top of your Yelp page, it may seem logical to simply post a good review yourself or have a friend post a good review to balance the page. This does not work! Yelp rewards active, engaged users. You could create a profile and post a review, but unless you had the time to keep up with the profile and review a number of businesses, your review would drop from the top of the list (and would likely be deleted). A user profile with a single review does not get a lot of love on Yelp. Some may attempt to create a number of accounts and flood the zone with positive reviews. Yelp uses some combination of IP address tracking, your computers location on the web, as well as Mac address tracking, and your router or computers network ID, to track users. Users creating multiple accounts from a single computer will likely see the reviews vanish from Yelp quickly as Yelp sees that the same IP and/or mac has been used with another account. If you have a few devices (ie; phones, tablets, computers) which you can move to different IP addresses you may be able to create a few reviews for a business on your own. Just remember that the IP address and the Mac address may be tracked. Also, an account created for just one or two reviews does not warrant great placement in the list of reviews.
Yelp does provide a method for business owners to contact Yelp users and discuss a review. Yelp does not want you to be able market to your reviewers so messages are limited to about five per day and you can only contact any single user once. If they respond you can then respond again, and so on. If someone has posted a review which you would like removed, your single best course of action may be to contact the guest directly. Yelp is a community that rewards interaction. People use Yelp to be part of a community. When you represent a business, you are a star in that community, and users tend to respond well when you contact them. It may be best to empathize with the users review, apologize and perhaps invite them to return. Often the Yelp user will change the review or remove it simply for having been contacted and receiving an apology.
1) n. to publish in print (including pictures), writing or broadcast through radio, television or film, an untruth about another which will do harm to that person or his/her reputation, by tending to bring the target into ridicule, hatred, scorn or contempt of others.
It is possible that a user’s review could be considered libelous (which means it’s BS and affects your business in a negative way). For example if a user posted a review that said:
“I have eaten at the Vegan Flower about 120 times since they opened last month. This has always been one of my favorite restaurants until tonight. I ordered the flat iron steak with burr blanc sauce and duck fat fries. About ten minutes before I ate the steak I became ill. I realized I had food poisoning and went to the emergency room. I was tested and was found to have salmonella poisoning. Shame on you Vegan Flower, I will never return and I advise all Yelpers to instead try the steak house across the street.”
This review appears to have some problems. First, the Vegan Flower does not serve any of these items. Next, beef can have salmonella but most often salmonella is found in chicken and eggs. It is safe to assume that the poster was mistaken about where they had dined or perhaps had other motives. The Vegan Flower could sue for this post as it is clearly inaccurate. The Vegan Flower would first need to establish that at least one person chose to skip the restaurant due to the review and then must be able to find Restaurantfan2012121 to serve him/her papers. Yelp cannot be sued. The offense was not committed by Yelp, but instead the user. In some cases, and in some states, courts have ruled that Yelp must help the plaintiff find the user for a libel case. However, Yelp objects to doing this in every way that they can.
Will Yelp remove a review?
Does Yelp remove bad reviews for it’s advertisers?
Yelp’s income comes from business like yours paying for more visits to their Yelp page. Yelp has been accused of selling the removal of negative reviews in exchange for a business purchasing advertising. It may be that this was a misunderstanding or aggressive sales people selling something, which they could not. For some time, Yelp had a plan where advertising businesses could choose a favorite review which would always be seen at the top of the list of reviews. With the controversy around Yelp ad sales, however, they no longer appear to offer this service.
Is there a better way?
Yelp needs restaurants and bars like yours to buy advertising, use their new services like Seat Me for online reservations and Eat 24 for home delivery. Yelps’ income comes from people like you. Yelp is under threat from Google who is working to direct searches and map requests from Yelp to Google’s own review service. Restaurants and bars that Yelp depends on should speak up and ask Yelp to work harder to ensure accuracy in the reviews and work to make the Yelp users more accountable for their words.
Yelp could remind users of libel laws both when they sign up and when they post a review. Imagine a pop-up as a user is posting a review asking them to confirm that the events in the review are accurate and explain that one could be sued for inaccurate reviews.
Yelp could leverage the power of its community of users to police other users. Think Wikipedia. Business owners could flag users who may be abusive or overly negative. If a user is flagged enough, a committee of Elite Yelp users could review their work with remedies ranging from having reviews removed to being banned from the platform.
Yelp could remind users of the average star ratings they post and how this compares to the system average when they are posting a review. A pop-up could say “you are about to post a two star review. On average, you score businesses with two stars, while the Yelp average is three stars”.
Yelp could include critical reviews (think Rotten Tomatoes) to balance the users reviews.
The future for Yelp, as with any tech companies, is not certain. At present, Yelp is a very powerful tool that many people are using to decide where to dine, shop and spend money. We believe business owners like us should ask for more from Yelp in how they manage this tool.