You want reviews. You know want to show off your happy customers and spread the word about what a great business you have.
You also want these reviews to be seen. So you list your business on review sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, Angie’s List, UrbanSpoon, or collect reviews on your Facebook page and Google maps listing.
But many businesses have realized that using services like Yelp is a bit of a trap:
- You may get reviews, but you give away control of your reputation.
- Using sites like this means that you are vulnerable to fake reviews, unfair claims, and filtration systems that don’t post your positive reviews.
- But you no longer have to be caught in the Yelp trap, giving away power over your reviews and control of your reputation with the risk of having your ratings plummet due to fake or inaccurate reviews.
We’re here to teach you how to free yourself from Yelp and win the fight against fake reviews.
The different forms of online reviews
First, let’s break down the different ways your reviews can be listed online.
- The first way is listings on dedicated review site, like Yelp, TripAdvisor, or Angie’s List. This allows your reviews to be seen by a wide audience and compared to many other similar businesses, but the downside is that you don’t get direct traffic, ownership, or SEO benefits from your reviews.
- Another way is through sites that list your business – like your Facebook page, Amazon product listings, or Google places – that also feature reviews about your business. The benefit of this is that customers viewing your listings can easily see your ratings; however the downside is that the default methods through these sites for storing and showing reviews don’t give you control. It’s preferable to share your reviews on these sites – but retain ownership of the reviews.
- The third – and safest – way is to host your own reviews on your own site. Doing this allows you to retain full control of your reviews so you can get all the benefits and choose to use them in marketing or display them on your Facebook pages, etc. as you want to.
First, we’re going to tackle the problems with listing your reviews off your site.
Three dangers of giving away your reviews
Sites like Yelp have had their fair share of controversy with businesses.
Out of all the dedicated review sites, Yelp has been in the headlines the most. (Googling “Yelp sucks,” brings up nearly 1.5 million results, including sites dedicated to berating Yelp).
But Yelp’s tumultuous relationship with businesses goes much farther than these examples. If anything, examples like these are more reflective of Yelp’s troubles in general. In a recent article about Yelp, Nick Solares, the senior editor at EaterNY said:
I think this information shows the problem with Yelp in a broader sense. It’s very reductive, and there’s an imposition of personal bias in Yelp reviews that you just wouldn’t get in a professional review.
Which leads to the first danger…
1) You have no control
One of the biggest issues people have on sites like Yelp, where storeowners are unable to monitor their own reviews, is that because there is no policing system, people can leave ridiculous reviews with absurd reasoning for the rating they give.
An example is a review below, which earned first place on Jezebel’s list of dumbest restaurant reviews:
While it’s great that people can write their opinion in a review and decide how they feel based on a wide variety of factors, businesses deserve the right to monitor their reviews to ensure even the negative reviews are accurate reflections of their brand.
Of course, Yelp does have a filtration system, but it doesn’t consider biases or undeserved reviews, and it’s also stirred up a lot of controversy with Yelp users.
Yelp filters reviews with the goal of protecting businesses from the fake reviews that are rampant on Yelp and Amazon.
It’s a great idea in theory, but in practice, it’s far from perfect.
So imperfect that Yelp has even been accused of extorting businesses.
Businesses claim Yelp removes positive reviews and posts negative reviews in order to change their rating and try to strong arm businesses into advertising with Yelp.
Angie’s List had a similar problem, getting criticism for their practices of allowing B-rated businesses to be shown at the top of search results – for a fee.
First off, these sites are businesses, and businesses need to make money.
Yelp filters reviews, seemingly at whim. And many businesses have complained – and even sued – because of these unfair practices. When you do a great job pleasing customers, there’s a chance their positive reviews won’t even be displayed on Yelp.
2) You have no protection against fake reviews
Fake reviews really, really suck. And entirely fake reviews can hurt your very real sales.
Your business’ success depends on your star rating, which can fall victim to your competition’s fake reviews against you or a few bad eggs who are out to get you.
When you don’t have full control over your reviews, you have no way to protect the authenticity of product reviews.
Let’s take a look at an example of the real damage fake reviews can do to a business.
Long’s Jewelers, a family owned and operated business that’s been around for nearly 150 years, worked hard to build up their great reputation – online and off.
After four years on Facebook, they had earned a nearly perfect five-star rating. Then, suddenly, one of their competitors flooded their page with fake, one-star reviews.
It’s clear from looking at the posts (and the profiles of people who left the reviews), that these are likely bots.
While the profiles leaving the reviews were fake, the impact was very real. The store’s digital marketer posted about their experience on the marketer’s forum Inbound.org, explaining their helplessness to combat the reviews:
What happened to Long’s Jewelers is just one example of the type of attacks that come against independently owned businesses every day.
As if it’s not bad enough that this is happening, if it happens to you, you have no power to fight back.
3) You have no power to fight back.
Sites like Yelp have good intentions: they strive to be an unbiased place consumers can leave reviews.
But how they go about it isn’t always so fair. For example, recently, Yelp placed warnings on restaurants’ pages if their health inspection score was in the bottom five percent locally. The goal of this was to encourage restaurants to have more sanitary practices.
Someone always has to land in the bottom five percent, even if the average local score is 99 and theirs is 98 – they risk being labeled as unsanitary. Even though all of these businesses have passed health inspections, they’re getting punished for deductions they received for things like not having shatterproof light bulbs.
Most frustrating for these restaurants is they have no way to fight back. They can hope the issue gets raised by the general public, covered in news article, and gains the attention of the company so that a change is made – but as individual business owners, they have very little power to control what shows up on their page.
In the case of what happened to Long’s Jewelers, the most frustrating part wasn’t that they got hit by fake reviews, it was that they had no real way to fight back.
They continued to try to get the fake reviews off their page, but received little to no help from Facebook.
Star ratings – as you likely know – have a huge impact on sales. Just one star difference on Yelp can impact revenues from five to nine percent.
And independent, local businesses are the most at risk because they don’t have a strong reputation like bigger chain stores, and a single review can greatly impact their overall score if they don’t have tons of reviews.
How to fight Yelp
You don’t need to have a “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” mindset – it is possible to fight back and reclaim control of your reviews.
First of all, you need to own your reviews. You work hard to earn great ratings and feedback from your customers, and it should belong to you. If you don’t own your review content, you’re driving traffic to another site!
Owning your reviews is important for more than just your reputation: it allows you to use this review content to boost SEO, repurpose the content in marketing materials, increase direct traffic to your site, and gives you the freedom to take your reviews with you, no matter which review service you decide to use.
You need to have complete control of monitoring your reviews. This allows you to protect yourself from fake, inaccurate, or inappropriate reviews that can tarnish your reputation.
You can still get the benefits of having your reviews on other sites when you own the content:
- Instead of using Facebook reviews, you can share reviews from your site to your Facebook page. Yotpo allows stores to share their reviews to their Facebook page, create a dedicated tab for their reviews on their Facebook page, and offer coupons to customers who share reviews they wrote on their Facebook.
- Instead of using reviews on Google Maps listing, you can enable Google Seller Ratings so your hard-earned stars still are shown in search results. With Yotpo, stores can show off their stars using Google Seller Ratings.
- Instead of driving traffic to another site (and possibly to a higher-rated competitor), you can bring traffic directly to you by showing up on the first page of search results. When someone else owns your reviews, you don’t get any SEO benefits from it. That means your hard work is boosting their organic search traffic.
You have the power to make a choice. You can free yourself from Yelp and still get the same benefits (and many more!) from your reviews.