January 1, 2020
Local retail and service-based businesses have always relied on word of mouth to gain new clients. In this online world, the premise for more word-of-mouth business is simple. You need online reviews!
But if you’re reading this article, you’ve probably experienced the difficulties of getting your best clients to follow through and write you a review. Getting those reviews to remain unfiltered by Yelp often proves difficult on its own, and serves as one of the most common complains we hear from our SEO Marketing clients.
So we’re going to tell you exactly how to beat yelp’s review filter!
But instead of just sharing our typical advice in this post, we wanted to do something more. So we gathered one hundred and eleven (Seriously, 111) online marketing industry experts and asked them to give their best advice.
We received some amazing answers from our experts. Still, we are aware that this is a huge post and you will need some time to read it completely. That’s why we made a summary with our top 10 tips on how to get great reviews that won’t get filtered by Yelp or Google:
Follow the guidelines of each platform. Yelp doesn’t allow to ask people for reviews. You can ask for reviews on Google, but in both cases don’t “bribe” people with discounts (this is a black hat trick that may get all reviews flagged).
Over-deliver, offer great customer support and make your clients happy. They will feel the need to make a nice gesture for you. It’s enough to tell them how important and useful is for your business to get reviews on sites like Yelp and Google.
Offer your customers the possibility to choose any platform they use: Facebook, Yelp or Google. Don’t ask them to sign up to a new site just to leave a review for you. Reviews from new users will almost always be filtered out.
Display Yelp and Google icons in prominent locations to notify and/or remind customers of your listings.
Recommend people to use a mobile device when they leave a review.
Advise your clients to include photos and share details about your products or services using a normal language. Too many praises or details that are too specific will seem suspicious and get you flagged.
Connect Facebook to your Yelp profile, and tell clients to do the same. A user’s reviews will have a much higher chance of being approved if that person has filled all the info required: profile photo, age, email address, phone number, friends added etc. Mention that to your clients.
Don’t ask all your clients to add a review from a laptop or computer in your office. Reviews that come from the same IP address for the same firm, will be considered fake, even if they are from different accounts (See #5!).
Sign up for Google’s Verified reviews (if you have an online store)!
Understand that there is no easy way to game the system and violating any guidelines can have very negative long-term consequences for your business.
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Businesses may have more complicated advertising strategies than 20 years ago, but the principles are the same. Recommendations from happy customers will increase your sales and your brand exposure. That is why Google and Yelp reviews should play a significant role in a small business marketing strategy.
Things aren’t as simple as they seem, though. It’s difficult to get your clients to review your business and even if they do it, often times, their reviews will be filtered out. You need to understand how these sites work to overcome the dreaded “review filter.”
To help you attract more meaningful reviews, we reached out to one hundred and eleven (Seriously, 111) internet marketing experts and successful business owners for an answer to this question:
WHAT IS YOUR #1 TIP TO GET A REVIEW TO PASS YELP & GOOGLE’S REVIEW FILTERS?
Google and Yelp are only looking for objective third party reviews, and believe it or not, they will be able to tell if you have ‘fake’ or ‘paid’ reviews listed.
This includes paying them, offering them a discount off a future order, or entering reviewers into a prize draw. Likewise, you also shouldn’t review your own business.
There are a number of ways that Google and Yelp look out for paid reviews, with one of the key being someone creating an account, leaving one business review, and then never logging in again. If you have a lot of reviews like these, you’ll struggle to get many accepted.
Yelp and Google reviews are very important for a local business such as a dentist, restaurant or even a funeral home.
Ask them if they would be willing to share the experience of working with you on sites like Google, Yelp or Facebook. It won’t do you any good if they sign up to Yelp just to leave you a positive review. Reviews from first-time users are filtered most of the time.
If they reply saying that they have used Yelp before then advise them to complete their profile and include links to their social profiles and a photo. Also, mention it’s better to post the review from their mobile phone and include an image of the product they bought from you. Before and after images are extremely valuable for hair stylists, fitness coaches, or plastic surgeons. Ask your clients if they could include such images in their review. Also, always ask them for permission before using their photos on your site or anywhere else.
Don’t be disappointed if your customer chooses to write a few words about you on your Facebook page. Although Facebook reviews don’t help you rank better, they will help attract new clients. More often, lately, I see people asking for recommendations on Facebook before buying or choosing a service.
Managing Yelp vs Google reviews requires two different strategies.
Yelp’s proprietary algorithm has been challenged in the courts by disgruntled companies frustrated by the Yelp’s filters. Yelp won. So business owners need not like the game but they can certainly take action to make the most of the platform.
Yelp’s secret algorithm also seems to err on the side of the consumer.
So if a first-time Yelper posts a bad review it might be published. If someone uses Yelp for the first time and reviews a business with a five star review, there’s no guarantee it will be published right away. However, Yelp clearly states in their policies that these sequestered reviews can be activated in the future as that Yelper continues using the platform to post other credible reviews.
So what’s a business owner to do? First, a business owner needs to claim their Yelp page so that they can respond to reviews, post proper pictures and logo from their business along with other important facts like hours of operation. Yelp publishes a blog dedicated to business owners. Read it! Learn from it.
One option to get reviews is to research Yelp for local Yelpers who have an established history of posting reviews and have earned some credibility (e.g., compliments, bookmarks and review votes are some of the measurements Yelp tracks for each reviewer). Invite Yelpers to your establishment to try your service and write an honest review. Do not incentivize them in any way (no freebies!) as this will compromise the integrity of the system. And for what it’s worth, Yelp is smarter than you so don’t bother trying to game their system.
Google reviews are a little easier to manage but there are some important behaviors that business owners must follow. First, do not have a computer set-up in your place of business where customers are invited to write reviews. Google tracks the IP address of every device that delivers a review.
If they see multiple reviews submitted from the same IP address, expect those reviews to be suppressed. Second, Google does not allow reviews that contain self-promotional information. If your customer brags about their own business (or even mentions its name) in the review about your business, the risk of the review being blocked by Google is greatly increased.
There is one clear strategy for reviews that is suitable for every business and every platform – honesty. You want honest reviews from real customers. If this is the case then there is no reason why reviews would be filtered. That said, in ideal world businesses want to generate reviews from happy customers. To do this a simple strategy is to use reviews as a follow up to your customer service process.
As an example:
When you receive negative feedback use that to improve your product or services (invaluable input).
This is high level but this real input from customers is not only invaluable for improving your business processes but you can then ask customers who have talked about you in positive terms for a review. If you want to get more advanced you can seed reviews to Google, Yelp or any other relevant platforms to ensure you have a far-reaching set of positive reviews. There can be a few more moving parts here but we cover this in far more detail over and talk about a review strategy to improve SEO and lead generation on the Bowler Hat blog.
Trying to get automated reviews, or to bypass any flagging systems is just completely worthless, as not only are you wasting time, but put simply, your customers should be leaving these reviews, and if they are honest and accurate there is no reason why they would get flagged or filtered.
Tell your customers how to leave you a review and ask them to reflect the experience, without being to exaggerative or emotional, but, just let them review your company, product or service as they would as if they were speaking to someone.
Reviews only get filtered out if they are fake, contain certain keywords or are obviously company led, so let your customers do the talking, just show them where to go to do it.
We all know that Yelp &Google are very strict on what reviews they consider legitimate. Take into account the following: these engines filter reviews which are likely to be fake. For example:
Or even better than that, let’s see how for example Yelp itself explain the review filter:
Here are 5 important things to understand about the review filter:
Taking all this into account, my best advice would be:
People love to tell people about their favorite stuff, and they will happily leave honest, glowing reviews that pass Yelp / Google filters. Your job as a business owner is to find the right moment to channel that eagerness into an online review instead of word of mouth or some other natural channel.
It sounds vague, but it really does depend on every business. It might be when leaving the final bill on the restaurant table. It might be on the third treatment visit. It might be when presenting a restored car. The key is to test & find your wow-ed customers when they are most excited and get them to leave that filter-proof review. Do it right and you’ll have an unassailable moat.
As moderated review websites, Yelp and Google behave as an editor of a news site would. People trust the news. This is why public relations campaigns are effective and expensive when something is mentioned in the news, it has credibility. Credibility is established on Yelp and Google because so many people, who are unpaid, are contributing.
Credible high rankings will help generate new business and revenue. In order to generate non-bias reviews, reach out to your database and offer incentives and a brief guideline to posting. Guideline posts should include the following, links to Yelp and Google submission pages, a few survey questions that can get them to write a sentence or two about you, and a personalized thank you and discount/incentive.
Your administrative staff, sales staff, and up to the CEO should request reviews as routinely as they ask for other referrals. Yelp and Google Plus business is similar to referrals and a very valuable free way to generate new business and should be utilized as much as possible
Rather than proactively asking every single person to leave us a review, I’d prefer asking them what they really think and give them access to links where they can actually make a review. If your reviews don’t come naturally or come too fast, the filters will spoil even the good ones. The only thing worse with using bots or fake accounts when making a review is having to blindly ask people to make one.
If you have a way to directly ask people who experienced your product/service, believe me, go for it. These are the people who really matter and can make solid honest reviews for your business.
Besides, there’s no need to ask people for positive feedback if you give them a good experience, right?
No.1 Tip To Pass Yelp & Google review Filters:
The idea behind my tip is exactly the same however execution will differ based on business model.
The concept behind passing reviews 100% Every Time is to have your clients do it themselves. No IP problems, fake account problems or too many reviews in one go.
Now the execution will differ based on the business model so here are the 2 scenarios to handle the different situations:
The business owner servicing clients face to face: This one is easy, ask for the review right there and then and then help the client step by step to fill out the review on their phone while you’re there.
Do not use your own phone otherwise, all reviews will come from the same IP address, use the actual customer’s phone, laptop or tablet and their internet connection – however, show them step by step how to fill out the review and submit it for your listing.
It’s simple and will pass EVERY filter Google & Yelp have in place to fight fake reviews.
The business owner servicing clients remotely: When servicing clients remotely obviously you can’t hand-hold them through the process face to face but you can get to it as close as possible.
We use software such as Camtasia walking the client through the actual review process, we then on top give them a link to our Places or Yelp page where they can leave the review.
So it’s like you’re there by their side helping them fill out the review.
– – –
The first option will always be better as you’re getting the review there and then, however, the second option where you have no other choice but to get creative is the closest we have gotten to get maximum reviews and stick rate on Google Local & Yelp.
Successful reviews are honest reviews. Both when it comes to getting the review approved and when it is read by a user, an honest tone is getting the best results. A review praising a company to the clouds is far less believable than a mostly positive “pros and cons”-list.
Real, organic reviews come in a steady stream. If you get your reviews in huge chunks, it seems suspicious. Large, short-term campaigns to get reviews, therefore, are not the best way to go – an ongoing effort to make customers review your company yields higher credibility and better results in visibility.
A short, easy to type link (and even QR-code) that leads to a page on your website, with links to your preferred review sites makes it easy for your customers to review (and for you to get the review on the right channel).
The review filters that both Google and Yelp have set up favor mobile devices posting them. One way to make this easy is to print a postcard with a review link and have them in office. Encourage customers to post a review on the site.
For service businesses, send an email when the job is complete or have a service person encourage on the spot again, to post a review while providing a link to do so. Also, remember that it’s ok to occasionally not get a 5-star review. 5-star reviews undergo more scrutiny than 4-star reviews. Allow some 4 and 4.5-star reviews to get posted on your profiles and chances are they will be accepted.
Also, reply to them and take advantage of the opportunity to carry your brand messaging further. With almost all of our clients, we set up a basic review acquisition system to encourage capturing more reviews from new and existing customers. Just asking goes a long way to getting positive responses.
If the review is from a legitimate customer it shouldn’t have any trouble getting posted.
One thing we do to build more reviews is through a funnel.
After the sale is made and the information is collected, we point traffic to a review page URL that asks them how their experience was and redirects to the Yelp or Google listing to leave a review. You can do this easily via SMS and/or e-mail and we’re even experimenting with what I call “review cards” which are printed cards with the review page URL.
Also having a simple guide or easy link on a business card, to help the customer leave a review avoids confusion and makes it easy for them. An example was a kitchen fitter, who delivered marble and granite worktops to customers.
I convinced him to make them delighted, by using offcuts, to provide a matching cutting board and coaster with the same material, along with flowers and chocolate. Of course with this was a thank you card asking for that review. Of course, customers left reviews. And this might sound a bit much, but an additional £50 on top of a £20k order is small in the scope of things and made the customer absolutely delighted. I think how I can employ a similar model for all my customers.
One of the best ways to get a review from real customers and audiences that will actually get approved is to simply ask. However, in most cases, you can’t actually ‘ask for a positive’ review, as this is against the rules of sites like Yelp and Google.What you can do, is follow up through emails, give a reminder after purchase and also provide a paper, postcard or flyer to ask for a review as well.
During this whole process, keep in mind that it’s much easier for someone with a bad experience to leave a negative review than a positive one. So try and make sure your site, brand or business is always the best as possible and makes it easy for your customers to get what they need.
One of the best ways to get your customers to leave a review after using your business is to simply ask them to do it. In fact, unless they had an amazing experience that really blew them away or a horrible one that they feel like they need to share with the world, you’re most likely not going to get many reviews. That’s why you need to ask.
Once someone uses your business, shoot them an email asking them to leave a review; ask for their honest opinion and most importantly, make things as easy as possible for them, so that they actually take the time to write the review.
Encourage them to speak freely and give away their honest opinion; this way, all reviews will ring true and, plus, it will show you are interested in hearing their real opinions, and not just trying to get reviews.
I also wouldn’t recommend leaving a review for your own business, especially if you’re going to log into your business page account. The service will know the review is not real and will most likely not show it.
Businesses that have Yelp and Google reviews are more likely to rank in the local search results and are also more likely to attract new customers due to the inherent trust factor. While nobody truly knows every metric that goes into the search engines’ algorithm, Google has recently announced that by 2020, the SERPs will be determined predominantly by user behavior. Thus, it logically follows suit that customer reviews will become exponentially relevant for organic ranking and growth.
Customer participation rates in the review process vary tremendously by niche. While most customers would be naturally inclined to rave about the fantastic dinner they just had at a local restaurant, they’re far less likely to think about reviewing the mechanic who changed their oil, or the landscape company that mowed their lawn. Most businesses are getting disproportionately few reviews, primarily because the customers just don’t think about leaving one, or they don’t know that the business has a Google or Yelp listing.
By making the review process as intuitive and simplified as possible, your business can expect to see a much greater participation rate from your customers.
By implementing these few simple tips, your business should start to see an increase in the quantity of reviews. However, the quality of reviews is equally important so as to avoid penalties.
Yelp and Google are user-centric platforms. Any information that their filters perceive to be fake or contrived will be penalized and/or removed in order to preserve the trust and integrity of the information served to its users. To this end, it is imperative to avoid any “Black-Hat” practices when pursuing customer reviews.
Users just need to establish a footprint with the review services—that is, they need to have posted more than one review, have ongoing engagement such as friends, ratings, and such. Some red flags to watch out for are users who post reviews from locations irrelevant to the business (ex. Someone from India posts a review for a strictly UK-based business), ghost accounts, and obviously slanted reviews.
As a business owner, some common things you can do to help filtered reviews pass through include:
Asking your reviewers to complete their profile using a legitimate account (better if they connect to their Gmail address or Facebook account)
Add your reviewers as friends. It would also help if you have other team members with their own accounts who can add them. You guys can also add each other and post your own reviews so your own accounts aren’t empty.
The filters are not permanent anyway, so once the reviewers have more of that required engagement level, their reviews will eventually show up.
It sounds like a lot of work, but long term, I believe it’s worth it to just not game the system. The system eventually finds out some way to catch you one time or other, and once that happens, you’re back to square one.
My #1 tip for getting reviews through filters is to ask your customers to review you on sites where they are already active.
If someone signs up on a site and creates a profile just to write a review for you, not only is it their only review, but a lot of people miss the part of creating a complete profile, so they do not appear to be a true member of that community providing feedback for the community.
I find that these reviews (from users with incomplete profiles) get filtered at a higher rate.
Yelp’s policy forbids owners from asking for Yelp reviews. So, go ahead and ask a happy customer for a review, but don’t specify Yelp in your request.
If the customer is already an active Yelp user, hopefully, they will already have left enough reviews on that platform to avoid being filtered out as a newcomer, and their review of your business will stick because of this.
Google is far less stringent in their policy, but one-off reviews from brand new Google users can look somewhat suspicious. Google isn’t great at policing their corpus of reviews, but your Google reviews may be subject to less scrutiny if they come from users who are already active, having reviewed at least a few other businesses before they review yours.
Yelp and Google are quite different animals when it comes to review filters and policies, but earning reviews from active users on either platform is a smart move. That’s why it’s often best to let the buyer (your customer) do the choosing.
The best time to plant a tree was 30 years ago, the second best time is today, and the best time to get ahead of bad reviews is right now. When it comes to online reviews – getting the good ones to squeak past algorithms and quality filters and getting the bad ones buried – I tell my clients that you’ve got to have a plan in place to consistently generate positive reviews week after week, month after month.
Make sure it’s setup to maintain a healthy influx of consistent, quality reviews across the “big four” service business review websites – Yelp, Google+, Angie’s List, and Facebook.
PS – think you’ve been hit with an illegitimate, negative review? If the reviewer’s profile is new and doesn’t feature many other reviews, get friends and family to flag the review as a conflict of interest. It may take some time, but it typically works in pushing fake reviews off review profiles.
If you are looking for more reviews for your business on Yelp and Google, it’s always a good idea to ask your friends, family, and clients to help you get started. Unfortunately, reviews often don’t pass strict filters that were imposed to keep those platforms safe from fake reviews. So if you are planning to ask your friends to write a positive review about your business, you need to follow these basic rules.
Short reviews are more likely get filtered. If your potential reviewers never used Yelp or Google business before, their first reviews may get filtered as well. It doesn’t mean that they have to start posting hundreds of reviews every day. They simply need to use the platforms prior writing a review. Google and Yelp track your IP address and they know whether you are a frequent user or not, whether you searched for the business in this area or not. And if you didn’t, your review will be definitely filtered.
So if you want your customer reviews to be visible, ask them to search for a similar business to yours in that area first, open several listings (incl. the one they want to review), and post reviews after a few days. This is one of the most important rules when it comes to passing Yelp and Google’s filters.
And if you want to ask your colleagues to write a review about your business (or perhaps write it yourself), then you should avoid using same IP address for logging in as business and as a user. If Yelp sees you were logged in as a business, and then you switched to your user account for posting reviews about yourself, there is an almost 100% guarantee that your review will be filtered.
If customer reviews/testimonials are considered to be one of the highest effective content marketing tactics then it stands to reason that you need to have a customer review strategy.
Here is the strategy we use to get reviews and it works like a charm.
1 – Provide exceptional service. Customer will tell 2.5 times more people about a negative experience than a positive so your positive experience delivery needs to be at 250% before clients will consider providing a testimony.
2 – Ask for the review at the right time. Like Goldilocks, not too hot, not too cold, just right. You need to strike when the iron is hot. You need to ask at the right time, which is when the client is the happiest. Generally, right after the transaction happens.
3 – Make it easy. Don’t make your clients have to work to give you a review. Not everyone is on Yelp, or Google, or Facebook and surprise – they don’t want to sign up just to give you a review.
Tip – test the links before you send the emails. Now go out and get those reviews.
I use a reverse testimonial I learned from Sean D’Souza (consumer psychology expert).
Here are the 6 questions you ask in order to get a reverse testimonial which passes Yelp and Google filters:
These 6 questions will not only help you get through Google and Yelp filters but also get through the filters of the readership. They’ll relate to your reviewer’s position because it’s a story that starts with the challenge.
If there is a key to getting ratings and reviews on apps, I am still trying to find it. Even with the most amazing app experience, there is really no way to guarantee a person will take the time to write a rating or review. It’s hard enough getting people to download your app and try it for the first time – let alone getting them to take the time to rate it.
Having said that, like with everything else, the first few are always the hardest, and therefore it’s important you come out of your shell.
Tell them to use a code name if they don’t want to give you feedback to your face. It’s important that it be authentic as well.
Apple and Google have become smarter and are getting smarter-by-the-minute about seeding out the “fake ratings”. A person who just rates one app or just continues to rate every app “5-stars” does not hold the same amount of weight in the stores as someone who has rated a few apps and given them varied reviews and ratings.
And for us at The Library of Miss Gadish, every review is important and taken into account. It’s always wonderful to hear the great compliments and stories, but when there are bugs and issues that need to be improved, we need to hear and know these things as well in order to fix them!
These days, it is becoming harder and harder to get a legitimate review through to YELP or GOOGLE.
That means, add that reviewer as a friend, send that reviewer a quick message. In other words, set the precedent that the review is actually legitimate before they attempt to post it. Once the review is posted, make sure you respond to the review in due time.
Another great icing on the cake is to vote the review as “useful” or “funny” or both! If you follow this advice, you WILL get more legitimate reviews on the platforms.
Connect your Facebook and Twitter to your Yelp account and add a profile picture – this makes you more ‘human’.
Then you need to get friends on Yelp and leaving some initial positive reviews for companies you actually had a good experience at. Next, go and search a popular restaurant in your area and then click the ‘sort by’ option at the top and pick ‘Elites’. Add these people as friends and you will come across as even more likely to be a legitimate user.
Make sure your reviews are in-depth and don’t have typos. You will now be well n your way to passing the filter!
Google can see a fake review from a mile away. Think about it for a second – if the Google search algorithm can detect what a quality blog post looks like, don’t you think it can do the same with a review. As we have done with content, we’ve lowered the volume and increased the quality, we need to think of reviews in the same way. I recommend going out of your way to over deliver for your customers so they feel like they owe you a LONG detailed and meaningful review.
You really need to impress your customers if you’re going to get the review that you want though. Like, a few weeks ago I left my first review on Trip Advisor for a local cake company, as they had made a delicious cake and actually gave it to me for free as a goodwill gesture. When they asked me whether I would leave a review, it wasn’t even a question.
I recently received a great review from a customer. I was training them in online marketing and they sent me a gift all the way from California to the UK and left a Google review that was over 200 words long. I had clearly exceeded their expectations, and this was the nicest thank you I’ve received.
There are two ways of looking at reviews. Firstly, getting as many reviews as you can to grow your online presence. Or secondly, a tool to encourage you to exceed your client’s expectations and help them solve what they want and more. I prefer looking at reviews as the latter, because not only should you feel proud for serving your customers, the review they leave is like the icing on the cake!
One of the biggest challenges with reviews is getting them approved. We have customers that leave us reviews on both Yelp and Google but they never see the light of day. This is not uncommon and there are a few things that you can do to help the approval process along.
With Yelp if somebody leaves you a review and they have never used the system before that is a fairly high chance the review will not get approved, whereas if they are frequent users of the platform their reviews will stick and show on your profile.
How can you help with the approval rate in this instance? Start by interacting with the user and the review:
Reply and comment on their review
Mark the review as useful
Send a message to the reviewer
These things alone help prove the legitimacy of the actual reviewer and thus help in the approval process.
I have seen plenty of great reviews never get approved for absolutely no reason whatsoever and yet I see some reviews approved which definitely should have been flagged as spam.
Some of the things you can do to help this review process are as follows:
– If you are just starting to collect reviews then don’t ask all your customers at once as this will definitely be flagged. Spread the request out over time.
Don’t send the ‘canned’ content to the reviewer to post on your behalf.
Don’t send them a direct link to your review section. Tell them where to find it themselves (this one poses a challenge in itself because some customers won’t bother to leave feedback unless you show them exactly how to do it – regardless of how good your work was)
I have one particular customer in the travel/tour guide industry and they hand out cards towards the end of the tours. Their hit rate on these is superb as most people fill them out on the bus back to the airport. They interact with each client post tour and follow the processes listed above when the reviews come in and their approval rate is high.
These three things, when executed properly, result in the community’s support when it comes to Yelp and Google Reviews.
The best way to ensure a 5 Star rating on these platforms is for reviews to occur organically. This means not asking your clients for reviews! Instead, encourage check-ins on social media such as Yelp and Facebook. Reviewers with genuine comments, a big following, and active engagement are more likely to help new and small business to achieve the coveted 5 Star Rating.
The key is to A) figure out who your satisfied customers are, B) give them a choice of sites to post reviews on, and C) do this consistently (not just once every six months).
By giving your satisfied customers a choice of which sites to review you on as opposed to just asking everyone to post a review on Yelp, your customers will choose the site they’re most comfortable with. So if they’re a Yelper then they’ll choose Yelp. If they already have a Gmail account (and currently around 1 billion people do) then they’ll choose Google. If they’re on Facebook all day then they’ll choose Facebook (and Facebook is one of the most important sites to get reviews on in addition to Yelp and Google).
If you push all of your customers to one review site, you’re going to be missing out on a ton of quality reviews that would otherwise be posted to other important review sites that will drive business your way. So don’t cut off your Google to spite your Yelp.
Another important factor is the consistency of getting reviews. It’s better to get a handful of new reviews every month than it is to get 100 reviews every January 17th. Review site algorithms take into consideration how your reviews flow in and how fresh they are… and so do the potential customers who read them. No one likes stale reviews.
And lastly, we recommend having reviews come from your customers home or work, anywhere but in your actual business. Emailing them a day after their visit is a great way to help get reviews from happy customers from their home or work, which also then helps you rank better in the areas they leave a review from.
You can’t control how a customer reviews your local business, except of course by trying to provide the best possible service. But you can influence the types of reviews you receive, and on which platforms, if you’re using a reputation management system.
The system sends out a feedback request to your customer and asks them to rate their experience with the local business on a scale of 1-10. If they rate their experience positively, they’re asked to write an online review (and we choose what sites we send them to). If they rate their experience negatively, they’re asked to explain what could have made their experience even better. This is sent privately to the business, allowing the customer to vent and feel heard, but not providing them an option to write an online review.
If you have a service team (such as landscapers, HVAC technicians, etc) that’s physically at a customer’s house or business, asking for reviews in person can bring more success than asking over an email. Review hand out cards or magnets can be a great way to politely ask for a review without feeling like you’re being a bother. And if you make it personal, such as asking the customer to personally review the employee, we see they are more likely to go and do it.
Part of our client work revolves around online review management. As you are probably already aware, Yelp has never provided any official information regarding their review filters, so I cannot say for certain if any one tip is truly full proof, but I have found certain tactics to be more useful than others.
If the small business owner has clients who want to leave that business a positive review, he should find out whether the individuals leaving the reviews use their account regularly.
Users who have only left 1 or 2 reviews, and who have made no connections with other users on the site are much more likely to have a submitted review be filtered than a user who has dozens of reviews, comments, and connections with other users.
I’ll focus on the Yelp review filter as it tends to be stricter than Google’s review filter. What can be frustrating is that Yelp filters out legitimate reviews as well. I suspect that enough other bloggers in this piece will give recommendations on how to make sure reviews are seen as legitimate.
Stats show that 33% of bad reviews turn into a good one, so it’s definitely worth your time to turn that unsatisfied customer into a happy customer.
How to do this? In my experience, it has a lot to do with swallowing your pride. For some, this might be really hard, but it’s just the best way to go when dealing with customers. I even see it as fun to have a customer who’s really unreasonable and mad and kill him or her with kindness. This throws most people off guard and sometimes they even feel ashamed that they were so mad.
So, swallow your pride and kill them with kindness!
The best way to get your customers talking is to have a product/service worthy of the time it takes for them to leave a review online. A specific method we encourage our clients to use to generate positive reviews is as simple as a follow-up email!
Users are then taken to locations on the site of their choosing to leave a review, making the process as easy as possible for them. To prevent any negative reviews going public, in the email, we ask unhappy customers to respond directly to the email so that the issue can be handled correctly.
The first step is understanding the difference in the reviewing process for both companies. Yelp manipulates the results and puts a heavier weight on active users. So let’s say you do what I suggest below and you get a great review from a customer that isn’t a yelp “user (meaning they actively review)” – that will look great in the beginning but after about 30 days it gets buried.
Google, on the other hand, has almost no filter. I have helped businesses where the first reviews that were done were employees and owners of the company. In practice, we don’t recommend you abuse this.
Ideally, if you’re going to do it right it needs to be someone with a different IP address that can be somewhat verified. This is mostly for YELP (and some more stringent review sites). There’s report of Chinese reviewers for google stuff so there really isn’t much of a filter there.
The best way to prevent a review site from filtering or rejecting a review is for the reviewer to have an existing profile with the review site itself.
There are several good methods for requesting reviews:
Another best practice which is imperative is to be authentic and strategic.
One of the main areas that I have been focusing on this last year or so is reviews for Google and other business directories.
To be honest, Yelp has a much stronger review filter compared to Google. But most of the common reasons for a review to get filtered on Yelp are completely out of your control. They tend to be related to the usage and previous activity of the reviewer. If they have not used their profile much or this is the first review that they are leaving, it stands a strong chance that it will be filtered.
A common feature of filtered reviews is them being too short or vague, so by asking the customer to talk a little about the service they received, it is more likely to get be accepted.
My #1 tip for getting a review to pass the Google and Yelp review filters is really my top 3 tips:
1. Preferably, the review should be written on a mobile device.
2. If you are soliciting reviews and know that the user has never left one before, you may want to pass. New users or a sudden spike in review activity with no friends is considered a red flag. Conversely, a user with a long history of reviews and activity is much less likely to have a review rejected.
3. Make sure to ask for an honest review.
So, first things first, you have to determine if a client is a good candidate for leaving you a review. For example, if they don’t already have a Yelp account, they’re right out. Or another issue is if they do have a Yelp profile, but they have no friends or reviews, and they haven’t added anything to their profile. Either way, there’s a 9 out of 10 chance that their review will be filtered, and thus not worth the effort.
I will say, there are elements of Yelp’s algorithm that defy expectations. Three of the reviews for my business–all five stars–that have been filtered out had a large number of friends and/or have written many reviews. But looking at the other four reviews, they had: 0 friends and 5 reviews, 0 friends and 2 reviews, 0 friends, and 2 reviews, 5 friends and 1 review.
So, Yelp does seem to lean towards filtering out reviews from more inexperienced members. I would still say that you should encourage everyone to leave you a review, but make sure to single the ones out that are movers and shakers in your local Yelp community for special attention.
Another tip that has worked for us as a web design agency is that we ask clients to leave a link to their website in their review. It’s free advertising for them, and it appears to add some validity to the review, from the perspective of Yelp’s algorithm.
Typically, a fake review wouldn’t spend the time curating photos for a review, so this also seems to add validity to reviews.
1) The review comes from a non-active user
There isn’t really an exact way to combat this; you can’t control how active your customers are on Yelp. What you can do, however, is identify active users on Yelp to visit your place of business. Perhaps you could entice them with a discount or a freebie in exchange for an honest review.
2) The review comes from a user who didn’t purchase directly from Yelp
What this means is that if Yelp is able to recognize that the owner of the profile did indeed visit your business, then they wouldn’t have a reason to remove that review. Relying on Yelp Deals works perfectly for this reason as Yelp is able to verify that a deal was indeed purchased by that particular user, making reviews from such accounts genuine.
3) The review comes from a profile that is incomplete
Fake reviews are incredibly easy to identify. They’re effortless, and they come from anonymous or faceless profiles. It’s important to target individuals who have complete Yelp accounts, which includes connected social media accounts, a legitimate profile picture, actual friends, an installed mobile app, and a lengthy review. These are all the fundamentals that will make your Yelp reviews stick.
Algorithms have gotten pretty complex and incredibly accurate these days, making artificial reviews a thing of the past. The rule of thumb to follow is that if you’re being real with Yelp, Yelp will be real with you. So as long as you’re playing it honest, you will definitely be rewarded.
Both Yelp and Google openly admit that, at times, totally legitimate reviews get filtered out by their software. So with that as a baseline, instead of asking how to pass the filter, the better question is how can I minimize the impact of the filter?
Here are 4 ways to immediately increase your online reviews
1. Make sure your listings are accurate – Critical first step in removing as much friction as possible between your customer attempting to give you a review.
2. Set-up official profiles with all major review sites – The difference between a default looking profile and a fully developed one can have a huge impact on customer perception
3. Make customers aware – Put up visible signage in the business as reminders. Make them light and fun and most customers will play ball.
4. Ask – Sometimes the easiest things are actually hardest. A surprising amount of businesses don’t do this basic step.
Business owners need to do two things. The first one is very easy – offer great customer service. When you give a customer or client great customer service, they will want to tell other. So, the second thing you need to do is ask them to tell others. In this case, you can ask them to hop on Yelp or Google and give a review.
Some businesses will hold raffles and the way to enter is to leave a review. Others will reward a review with a coupon.
It’s really that simple!
As a social media agency, we cater to a lot of local businesses including restaurants, photographers, etc. Since many of them have reviews on their website and from customers by email, they ask us to add the review directly to Google and Yelp as they don’t want to bother their customers to add the review again. However, if you add too many reviews from one IP address, Google and Yelp both ban you and a lot of your hard work will go down the drain.
To prevent this, we educate the client (the restaurant or the photographer) on the pitfalls of adding reviews (even though they are genuine), on their own. They then integrate their reviews into the “Thank you” email that they send their customers which encourage the customers to review them on Google and Yelp.
We have successfully integrated an email campaign for all our clients and now emails are automatically sent to the customers thanking them for choosing our clients and requesting a review on Google/Yelp.
We have perfected the pitch that we send to the customer of the restaurant/photographer and I am happy to say that 8 out of 10 review requests replied are replied to by them and we get an amazing number of reviews which improve the ranking of our clients on Google and Yelp. If you would like a free, customized “review pitch” which you can send to your client and will get you a lot of reviews, do contact us on the website above
Don’t buy or build fake reviews. It’s not worth the added effort, and Google and Yelp are particularly good at sniffing them out.
Instead, ask real customers for their honest feedback and ask targeted questions. “Would you mind sharing your thoughts on your experience with us so far on Yelp? Specifically, we could use customer feedback on our signup process.” Or… “We rely on customer feedback deliver amazing experiences, would you be open to letting us know what you thought about our customer service so far on Google +?”
This is a non-pushy way to “steer” customer testimonial requests without being disingenuous or telling clients what to say.
You can have a customer with a brand-new Yelp account with very little user activity (no friends, no previous reviews) write a review that will still be shown as a recommended review because they took the time to write a thoughtful review.
If you think a customer had a great experience, simply ask them to write a two to three paragraph review explaining what their problem was, why they came to you, and what they honestly thought of the experience and the service provided.
It’s a simple formula that requires only a few minutes from them and increases your chances of success regardless of whether or not they have an established Yelp account.
Here are some of my tips for successful review solicitation.
#1. Carefully read and abide by the guidelines for all review sites. Google and Yelp, for example, have very different guidelines on how small business owners should seek to get reviews. For Google, asking for a review is okay, but giving any incentive (i.e. a gift card) violates their policies. Yelp has different guidelines and discourages active solicitation of reviews, as they feel it creates bias.
#2. If what you’re doing feels wrong, it probably is. A great small business that focuses on customer satisfaction should have no problem getting positive reviews.
#3. Give your customers directions on how to leave reviews. There are tools you can use to generate shortened URLs that customers can easily access to write a review on their desktop or mobile devices. Bit.ly and Whitespark are great options for this. You can also use in-store handouts, link to your Google My Business page in your email signature and add a link to your company’s website. If you’re going to ask for a review, make it as easy as possible for customers to give them.
#4. Stress the importance of honest, helpful reviews. The point of a review is to help potential customers make decisions about what companies they want to do business with. A 5-star review that says “Great job!” does very little in the way of this. Great reviews give detail about the business and the customer’s experience. An honest, detailed business review is better than 5 very vague ones.
#5. Respond to reviews, positive and negative. If you receive a negative review, rather than getting angry, try to understand the context and respond appropriately. It could help you identify areas to improve your business. Responsiveness to user-generated content like reviews is also usually much appreciated by customers.
Getting reviews is one of the best ways to get customers to trust your business and get them to your door. Sometimes getting reviews is more important than any other marketing activity.
This is important for local business and is has become not only a decision-making point for customers but a ranking factor for Google. What’s really important is to try and get real reviews, some people fake it and I’ve known cases where all the reviews (including the real ones) were removed. This is never good news and I’m pretty sure Google won’t look at you the same.
Something that I recommend is using this tool which allows you to send a short link to your customers. It gives you 2 options:
Option1: Will show the review box where customers can add their review.
Option2: Will enable you to show a list of current reviews.
This makes it super easy for them and you can even track these link clicks.
I like to send a request for review only when I know the customer has had a good experience and is likely to leave a good review.
The most important factor in getting a Yelp review to stick is if the reviewer is an active Yelper, meaning they write reviews at least once in a while. If they create an account just to review your business and then don’t write anymore, there’s a good chance it’ll get filtered. If the reviewer has written at least 10 or so reviews, there’s a much better chance it’ll stick.
Furthermore, don’t include a link to your Yelp page in an email; it’s easy and convenient but Yelp can see that and will filter the review.
Basically, since Yelp reviews are so hard to get, you need to give people options.
Google is a great first choice or Yelp alternative to offer as a review site. Anyone with a Gmail or Android account can write a review. Google filters are MUCH less strict than Yelp, so no worries. Have them Google your business name and city, that should pull up your Google info on the right side (desktop) or at the top (mobile). Just look around for the link to “write a review”
For both Google and Yelp, don’t set up an iPad or computer in your lobby to make it easy, they will know all the reviews are coming from the same ip address and filter them.
I like to also offer Facebook as a third/last alternative for reviews. They are not quite as important just yet, but that can change anytime as FB is A huge player, don’t count them out. FB reviews are the easiest to get because everyone has an account.
By far the most important point, no matter which review site your talking about, is ASK for reviews. Not in a pushy way, but as part of customer service, if people seem happy with your service, just ask for a review.
My number one tip is to give your satisfied customers options.The reality is that not everyone is an active Yelper, has a Gmail, or is on another social profile that you’d like reviews on. If you only provide Yelp as an option and a client creates an account for the sole purpose of leaving you a review, it’s very likely the review will end up in the dreaded “not recommended” section.
You’ll also want to ensure that you’re adhering to each platform’s TOS (terms of service). For example, you definitely shouldn’t offer any type of compensation, and Yelp even takes it a step further by suggesting you shouldn’t even ask for a review!
To make it as simple and intuitive as possible, one approach is to create a reviews page or an email template that lists and links back to the social networks that are most important to your business.
Google’s filter is much less aggressive than Yelps. One trigger for Google that could prevent a review from being displayed, is if two reviews are submitted from the exact same IP address. As an example, if two members of a client’s team decide to leave you glowing feedback from their office network, one of those reviews may not be published.
Age of a user’s account – Google and Yelp both consider how long an account has existed. If it appears that the account was created just to leave a review, this will likely result in the review being “hidden” on Yelp, and even removed from Google.
Account activity – This one mostly pertains to Yelp’s review process. If a Yelp user has only left one review, the majority of the time, the review will be hidden and not factored into the average rating. That said, I wouldn’t be surprised if Google eventually took a more scrupulous approach to vetting reviews, such as factoring in email and search activity.
Profile picture, personal info., and friends – This one also mostly applies mostly to Yelp. If an account doesn;t have any friends, and lacks a profile picture and personal info., that review is more likely to be flagged and hidden.
User location in relation to business – If your profile says that you live in New York, and you’re reviewing a business in Los Angeles, it could be seen as suspicious.
Of course, there are exceptions, such as when users travel to different cities and states. This isn’t a major factor, but worth considering if you’re asking your friends and family for reviews, and they live in different locations. In other words, if the majority of reviews are from a different location, it might look suspicious, but a few here and there shouldn’t be an issue.
Bonus tip for Google Reviews: If you have access to your customer’s email addresses, you can filter out the Gmail addresses, and send them emails asking for reviews. Just keep in mind that there is a fine line between “asking for” “soliciting” reviews. The latter is frowned upon by Google, and could even lead to legal trouble.
Just keep in mind that there is a fine line between “asking for” “soliciting” reviews. The latter is frowned upon by Google, and could even lead to legal trouble.
Just keep in mind that there is a fine line between “asking for” “soliciting” reviews. The latter is frowned upon by Google, and could even lead to legal trouble.
The key difference is how you do your outreach. Emailing a few customers here and there (such as those with Gmail addresses) is ok. But constantly blasting your customers could indicate spam, and if Google recognizes a suspicious pattern, they could flag some or all of your reviews.
The main reason many reviews do not pass Yelp’s filtering system is because you are not an active user on their website. Users who actually keep their page updated and have a lot of reviews are much more likely to not get filtered. On the other hand, if you have no friends on Yelp and only a couple of reviews, your reviews will almost certainly be filtered.
This will show that you are loyal to their service and actively interested in using their website all the time, not just when you want to gain from it.
My #1 tip for getting good (and honest) reviews is:
Be excellent. This may sound simplistic but anything less and you don’t want the reviews to begin with. Google is a bit easier to deal with as you’re allowed to simply ask for a review whereas this is against Yelp’s policies.
This section would read something like:
“If you feel there are any ways that we could improve our service we wholeheartedly welcome your feedback. Please let us know (like to form setup for this purpose). As the Internet can be difficult for some to navigate if you’re happy with the service we offer we invite you to share your experience on Google to let others know.
You’re also invited to read our other reviews on:
You’ve requested the review on Google where it’s allowed and simply made the user aware of other locations they can see reviews of your company. I like to close with an offer not tied to the reviewing process to leave on a high note though it doesn’t apply to all businesses. Any offering will do in those cases (free ebook, etc).
Authenticity is a huge concern in today’s online community.
You can also urge them to add a profile picture because it demonstrates they are a real person.
There are many ways you can ask your customers, such as offering a discount for every review or publicizing your page on your website. The most effective by far, however, is simply asking in person or through a sincere message.
Because our main objective is to get small businesses ranking online, review education is a big part of our education. Obviously, the legitimacy of a review is the best way to make sure it won’t get filtered out.
But moving past the obvious, direct linking your Yelp page can increase the chances of a review getting filtered out. To Yelp, people leave reviews naturally by going to Yelp and searching for a business or discovering them through an outside search engine.
When someone is directly linked to a Yelp page, it is an indicator that the review is solicited because it is unnatural behavior.
Because of this, I always suggest to my clients that they simply ask their happy customers to find them on Yelp and leave them a review, rather than sending them a direct link.
Here are some pointers I have for generating reviews on Google, Yelp and elsewhere:
1. ASK for reviews
People don’t tend to think about reviewing a business provider unless they’re upset, or you’ve absolutely blown their mind with fantastic service or products. If you’re in communication with a happy client, give them a nudge! “I’m so glad you’re happy with the service you’ve received! If you’d be willing to, we’d really appreciate it if you spread the word!” And then provide them with the link to the Review service of your choice. Send them as directly as possible to the review screen, don’t give them the opportunity to mess things up or get frustrated.
2. Be Strategic
Don’t take a scattered approach to your review gathering process. Prioritize the review sites you want to target and build up a healthy number of reviews (at least 5-10 depending on how hard they are to come by) on your highest priority first, before moving on to the next. Use the following criteria to pick a traffic source that you know to be:
3. Bury the negatives
When a negative review comes in, learn from it, respond to it, make it right if you can, and hopefully, the author will retract it or at least, adjust it. If not, work hard to earn 2 or 3 new glowing endorsements that will bury the negative one in obscurity. Many review sites automatically highlight a positive and a negative review, so there’s no guarantee you can bury it completely, but you can definitely push it lower on the list of most recent reviews.
4. Use good tools
Use tools to help you in your quest for good reviews. Whether it’s as simple as an email template that you’ve saved to use when you know a client is happy, or a more complex tool that filters the negative from positive reviews and channels positive reviewers to your priority listings, always be looking to expand your toolkit! Get.ureview.me is a great example of the latter and is actually one of the several tools that serve a similar purpose, so there are definitely options out there!
When it comes to reviewing a business on Yelp & Google, sometimes the filters get in the way. There are many reasons as to why responses are filtered; however, the lack of interaction on reviews is one of the key reasons that they’re so regularly filtered out.
‘How can I interact with my reviewers?’ I hear you ask. Well here’s just a few ways that you can:
These three interaction methods are extremely simple and not time-consuming at all.
As well as aiding the process of passing filters, interacting with people who leave you a positive review is excellent from a customer service standpoint. It gives you an opportunity to add personality and personability to your business; something which is very rare in the modern world. Potential customers or clients will no doubt look favorably on you if they can see that you’re willing to take the time to engage people.
We work with our clients daily on getting reviews for their business. It can be a challenge. While Google and Yelp both filter their reviews differently, here’s my #1 tip for business owners:
It sounds easy, but many business owners don’t do this. Ask if your customer uses Yelp or Google to leave reviews.
If a user already has several reviews they have written on Yelp (bonus if they’re an “elite” user!) then Yelp will be less likely to filter their review. Same goes for Google reviews. Google will try to filter out fake reviews, but can only do so much. Having a Google account that has already left several reviews, means that Google review will have more trust built in with Google.
Getting reviews that pass the Yelp and Google filters isn’t difficult if you get valid reviews that have helpful content in them.
When the reviewer has an established Google or Yelp account the review simply needs to be helpful to other people looking at the profile. If the review is helpful and provides more than “did a good job” then there’s a good chance it will pass filters.
I manage the local SEO for a multi-location self-storage business so I constantly work with our managers to help them get honest reviews that pass Google and Yelp’s filters.
With Google reviews, the best way to get more reviews is to ask and then remind your customers to leave you reviews! It is completely within Google’s guidelines to ask customers to leave you reviews–so always be doing that.
Two sure ways to get your customer Google reviews flagged or removed, however, would be to set up a “review station” like a computer/tablet where customers can submit reviews to Google at your location or offering incentives for customer reviews. Doing either of these could easily get many or all of your Google reviews removed.
With Yelp reviews, it’s best to just tell your customers to “find you on Yelp”. Yelp is very aggressive at calling out companies who ask for reviews or incentive customers to leave reviews so it’s best to just let all your customers they can find you on Yelp but don’t ask them to leave a review. This will give your business the best opportunity to receive honest reviews on Yelp that pass through their filters.
In my experience, Yelp and Google favor reviews from trusted users.
A user that contributes content regularly online is more valuable on these platforms than a “fake profile” that was created just for the purpose of posting a review.
Reviews for small business owners are a necessary part of earning new business, and getting the right reviews that stick can be difficult.
For example, if you are a business that ships products, ask customers to provide feedback on the shipping speed or the ease of ordering. Doing this will help focus customers in on the parts of your business that make you unique and you want to highlight.
Additionally, reviews that are specific look more natural and will, therefore, stick better than reviews that are general in nature. And make sure to interact with reviews as they come in. Respond to them and vote them funny, useful, or whatever. Real businesses respond to reviews and reviewers love to know their voice was heard.
Google has a great feature that allows users to leave reviews of various establishments, including restaurants, bars, and shops. While this is very helpful and informative, many users are faced with the problem of having their reviews filtered by Google’s spam software. While this can be a headache, there are some steps that you can take to ensure that your reviews post on Google.
For one, you should avoid repetition of words and phrases, as this is known to trigger Google’s filtering software. It is also recommended that you do not insert URLs into reviews, as this is likely to flag your reviews as spam.
While on the subject of blasting, if a business owner gets a huge amount of reviews that post at once (say, dozens on the same day), there is a good chance that most or all of these reviews will be filtered, as it is a potential indicator that reviews were solicited. As the old saying goes, “slow and steady wins the race.”
We handle reputation management for our clients and the best tip we have for passing the reviews on Yelp and Google is ” The more the merrier”.
It is a lot easier to get reviews passed in Google then it is on Yelp. Sadly Yelp is very strict and rejects even some great reviews while leaving strange and offensive ones.
Another tip we have is to use a service like Customer Lobby or Testimonial Engine. For example with Customer Lobby, they have an app version where brick and mortar businesses can have an iPad and customers can leave reviews. This has helped one of our clients get ten times the amount of reviews. Which in turn helped their SEO rankings dramatically.
People are so busy and typically don’t have the time to go out of their way to find you online and leave a review, so these services guide them with direct links to Yelp, Google etc.
We also have an SEO strategy which is more advanced and has to do with creating microsites or getting on other review type sites to outrank Yelp etc.
This helps the reader empathize with the client’s situation. Then they can determine for themselves if our service is right for them.
We’ve found this to be effective at bypassing any kind of review filters. It’s specific enough guidance to be effective, yet still allows for the client to craft their own unique message
Yelp: Small business owners should ask their most active customers to post reviews. Yelp tends to not filter the reviews posted by people who have a full profile, post photos, recommendations, and reviews.
I’ve never come across issues with Google reviews for businesses and they always passed and displayed on the maps. Make sure your clients have a pic and real name on their profile to make the reviews look more credible. Always reply to their reviews with thank you and some meaningful comment. It will help your local SEO efforts and will increase your chances to appear on the first page results from the map.
If you are adding reviews on behalf of your customers make sure to use different IP, browser, and phone number to create their Google accounts and don’t post them at the same time. Spread out through the 1-3 months and you should be OK. Yelp, on the other hand, filtered so many legitimate and passed so many spam/fake reviews. If you ask your customer to register on Yelp just to leave your business a review, the chances are those will be hidden under the non-recommended link.
To bypass that, you need to age your Yelp profile, add a profile pic, review other places with useful and meaningful comment and do it on your phone using your cellular data (so reviews will be published from unique IP, not from your company’s wifi). If you see that your reviews are being published, go ahead and add one for your business.
One tip I encourage all of my clients to do to ensure their Google reviews passes through is to leave the review while in my office. The catch is they must do it using their data and not my WiFi or on my computer.
I believe that happy customer reviews among various platforms are one of the most important factors for local search and overall business branding in general. These reviews are like low hanging fruits, very easy to obtain if you have got some customers already. Having positive reviews on popular platforms like Google+, Yelp, Yellow Pages, etc. increases the credibility of your business. Your potential clients and search engines look at these reviews as social proof that you provide top notch service, you have got happy customers, they love what you do, and they are sharing their experience.
We recently got a client who needs help with their online branding. We successfully implemented a system to send an email to their past and new customers requesting to leave reviews on different platforms, engage with them on social media and encourage them to send new referrals, and we offered them some intensive in return. The incentive could be something simple, like a coffee card or gift card or some discount.
Here is the email template you can modify and use for your business. And YES, having large icons with hyperlinks in an email work like magic. The average customer is not that tech savvy, and they just have to click on the image and leave you a review, it makes their life easier.
“Thank you for working with XXXXXX for XXXXXX. Our business relies on word of mouth and client referrals, and online reviews are a big part of this. We would appreciate it if you could take a few moments to write on Google, Facebook or your favorite review site about your experience with us.
Likes and shares of our social media are also welcome! Leave us social media reviews and we will send you a small token of our gratitude. We also have an excellent client referral program that gives you XXXXXX for each successful referral that results in a mortgage.
”We then include icons that link to Facebook, Yelp, Yellow page, and our social profiles.
This means setting up a laptop or computer at your business specifically for your customers to give you reviews. If you do this, then Google or Yelp will see that your business has lots of reviews all coming from the same location (through your IP address).
Instead, make sure you get your customer’s email addresses and then send them an automated email after they finish their appointment or session at your business. That way they can write a review from their own phone or computer.
It’s very prudent to remember that Google recently updated their guidelines for local business reviews. It’s against their terms to source third part reviews, to pay to generate them, to vet for negative reviews, and to aggregate reviews from a greater franchise for smaller properties.
That said, I’ve found success with two types of captures:
An un-incentivized call-to-action at the property itself, specifically if there’s a part of the customer experience that includes idle time or a wait
Hotel chains do this best (they’ll email you asking for a review 1,2, or 3 times)
If your customers are on different IPs tied to legitimate Google or Yelp accounts, and they put even a little bit of effort into the review process, you’ll see results stick.
I have worked with a lot of local businesses and have seen quite a few issues with reviews.
The first thing to keep in mind is that Yelp prohibits review solicitation in any form. Google, on the other hand, doesn’t. While both are important for local businesses (and increasingly so), I would be very careful when it comes to asking for yelp reviews.
Google’s review filter is not as strict as Yelp’s and is straightforward in most cases.
Among many factors I think Google looks at, I would highlight the following four, that I think are most common reasons for reviews being filtered:
Yelp is a lot tougher.
Reviews have been a great source of genuine info, feedback & credibility of sellers & service providers engaged in almost all walks of life. Every learned & informed user today is aware of the need, use & benefits of checking reviews online before making a purchase decision.
While there are an overwhelming number of websites & business providing reviews of products & services, there’s no match to Yelp & Google Reviews when it comes to looking for a feedback of local sellers & service providers.
To keep the trust of the users intact, Yelp & Google have even put in place active filters to make sure the reviews that users post are genuine and fool proof. These tips mentioned below should come handy when getting Yelp or Google Reviews to be sure that the reviews get pass the filter put in place by Yelp & Google.
There’s no alternative to getting genuine reviews. Yelp verifies the authenticity of the reviewer. Users with a little info on their profiles, users who are in the friends & family list of the service provider, highly positive or extremely negative ratings are bound to go in for a beating. Vague and unrelated users will find it difficult to pass on the rating. Though the filters are not perfect but still they are efficient enough to make the distinction among genuine & forced or fake reviews.
Google: There’s a detailed guideline document laid down by Google to help user post genuine reviews to get through its filters. Reviews can only be written on Google’s Local Business Page & not on personal Google+ or non-local business page. Google Filters are too sharp when it comes to distinguishing between a genuine & spammy review. It can dig down to your geo-location, IP location as well as if you have really experienced the service of the business or not. Don’t try to copy paste a review.
As for Yelp, it seems reviews are more likely to be relegated to the “not recommended” section when it’s a first-time reviewer (since chances are higher of it being spammy). So when you ask your clients for reviews, encourage those already on Yelp to leave a review there, and leave your Google Review link as well, so users not yet on Yelp may self-select and leave a review on Google instead.
I like to think most potential customers are pretty smart at detecting fraudulent reviews and are highly motivated by organic reviews.
My tip is to simply focus on getting real reviews from real customers.
If they provide a review be sure to thank them, maybe even send them a thank you card or a gift.
Another idea is to hold a customer appreciation period every quarter or bi-yearly. Where you sent your customers a thank you gift. Along with that gift is a provide us your testimonial postcard. That takes them to a landing page on your site that explains how they can share their experience with your business.
What does this mean?
This involves getting reviews ethically and consistently that aren’t purchased in bulk from third parties.
So you’re a small business and you want to get more reviews? There is no better place to go than your existing customer base.
If you do have an existing customer base do NOT send a bulk email to a large email list requesting reviews it will raise flags but start out sending a small batch of emails possibly 10 a day to start.
The best way to get past the filters is to set up an ethical system that generates constant reviews from an honest source.
How do I implement this for my own clients?
I set up an automated email reply system that sends an email to a customer that has purchased an item or service 3 weeks after that purchase (to allow time for delivery – if delivery is longer delay the email further)
Without going into my exact script please do not offer any incentive for a review but ask for an honest review of their experience with your service or product.
Set this up and your review generation is on autopilot from an ethical source… your own customers!
I work with quite a few local and national brands that have a big focus on organic SEO.
The most effective way I have found to get great reviews is to reach out to them directly and ask if they’d go to google/yelp and post one.
You’d be surprised how often people are happy to help you as long as you’re actually providing a quality service.
I have actually left over 100 evaluations, have more than 50 good friends and I have a practical evaluation distribution between 1 and 5 stars. As a result, my evaluations never get filtered and even much better, my Yelp business reviews constantly appear on the front page. The ability to get my reviews to stick is due to the fact that I am genuine and Yelp’s filtering is able to determine this. If you are looking to get your yelp reviews to stick, then follow these simple yet effective steps:
Becoming a trusted Yelp reviewer is possible with a little work. I suggest taking 10 minutes two times a week to interact on Yelp and within 2-3 weeks your will have developed a trusted profile and will off to the races to remain in great standing with the Yelp Evaluation Filter. You may even be welcomed to join their sought after Yelp Elite Team if you keep it up for an extended duration.
Moderators can easily tell if a user has never reviewed anything before, and if there are a few new accounts reviewing your business, they will almost all be inspected and possibly even removed.
Yelp does not allow a business to “ask for reviews”… however….
In order to get around the yelp filters here are my suggestions.Only ask your customers that you know have at least 10 or more reviews already on Yelp and/or lots of friends.
Yelp wants active participants, so if you have no friends and only one or two reviews, then the reviews are going to get filtered.
Have a filled out profile info (profile photo, additional info, link to Facebook, etc.) Avoid short reviews, more details, and specifics the better. Photos are a big plus.
Also, reviews can bounce in and out of the filtered section, depending on the strength of the user’s profile. A tip to have a filtered review unfiltered is to increase the user’s Yelp standing.
First, add them as a friend or follow them. If that doesn’t work, try reaching out to them through Yelp’s messaging platform. Explain to them that while you greatly appreciate their feedback, their review has been filtered by Yelp. Request that they fully complete their profile and update the review with more detailed information including a photo if possible.
My best advice for small business owners who want to generate honest client reviews that pass Google and Yelp filters is: