The Many Problems with Yelp

 In Reviews

Is Yelp on its way out? This popular review platform has started to cause substantial problems for business. Long-time users, already struggling to manage and maintain a strong review page, are experiencing problems with Yelp and are now asking the question, “Is the trouble worth it?

What are the problems with Yelp and is there a better option?

As restaurants have become more reliant on online review platforms to build and maintain reputation, Yelp’s weaknesses have become clearer. Fake reviews, filtered reviews, and other issues have made it harder, especially for new—or newish—restaurants, to gain and hold onto the reviews they need to make a favorable impression. And unless your restaurant is already a long-established pillar of the community (i.e., no one needs to go online to know how good your hot pastrami sandwich with pickled cabbage is) a favorable online impression isn’t optional.

Here’s the gist: restaurants need online reviews. Yelp has been the biggest review platform. And now Yelp is causing trouble. What’s going on, and is there another option?

Let’s look at some of the problems with Yelp, and what the future of online reviews might look like.

Fake reviews

Fake reviews have become a pest to businesses across review platforms. Yelp is no exception. Any platform open to a review from anyone is open to real customers as well as fakes. Original Review sidesteps this problem by funneling in-house reviews immediately onto a designated site, with no posting from anyone who has not eaten at your restaurant and paid a tab. But since Yelp and other review platforms are still up and running, it’s important to be attentive.

When someone leaves a fake review, it is either a wild exaggeration of a good experience or an invention of a bad experience. Either way, it hurts your review average and, if you’re not careful, can injure your credibility—especially if you’re trying to get on your feet.

When you want them removed, it’s up to Yelp to decide whether to remove them. You don’t have control over whether fake reviews get posted, and you don’t have much control to see that they get removed. And Yelp has not built the best reputation for customer service. (See more below.)

Hidden reviews

Here’s a big problem that seems particular to Yelp. If a review isn’t “recommended,” it won’t show up on your page, even if it’s 5-star, enthusiastic, and glowing. It all depends on who leaves the review, and whether Yelp’s algorithm deems them a legitimate reviewer. If a person who’s relatively inactive online, or doesn’t seem to have an online “presence” Yelp finds significant, their reviews are hidden. They’ll take the foodie’s review, and hide ten from folks with less online presence.

When each review is crucial to your overall rating average, you can’t afford to lose them. This is a big flaw in Yelp’s plan.

Not only does this not give you an accurate representation of your reviews, it doesn’t give your reviewers credit. This can be a lose-lose-lose situation: damaging to your appearance on Yelp, misleading for prospects, and irritating to those who take the trouble to leave reviews.

A lot of people don’t post because it can be a hassle to sign up for the platform and then remember to post reviews. Some communities hardly use Yelp at all and need to be introduced to the habit. As you’re asking folks to recommend you, the last thing you need is for their input to be discounted, discouraging them from posting.


We’ll have a whole blog post on this in a couple of weeks, but here’s the short version:

Filtered reviews are the reviews that get hidden, and hidden reviews are not factored into the overall star rating.

But what, exactly, are the filter criteria? In a nutshell, if a review is:

  • concise
  • very good
  • very bad

or if it’s written by someone:

  • new to online reviews
  • from out of town
  • with a scanty profile

Then the review is a candidate to be hidden. Older folks, new reviewers, travelers, people with short but sweet feedback, and key locals who fit any of this criteria are liable to have their reviews hidden. There is no human being checking behind the scenes to make sure the algorithm has gotten it right. And so the filter catches many legitimate reviews.

This is Yelp’s way of trying to filter out reviews that are fake or insubstantial. (See their explanatory video for more.) But it’s not that hard, under the current algorithm, to get the “not recommended” chop.

Customer service

When it comes to helping disgruntled customers, we all have a few stock phrases set aside for handling situations that arise frequently. Online, there’s nothing wrong with an FAQ page, or helpful how-to videos. The trouble comes when you can’t jump off script to attend to an individual need. Yelp has been having trouble with providing attentive customer service that goes beyond stock answers and the FAQ merry-go-round. If you find yourself troubleshooting or needing advice, it can be a challenge getting a listening ear and quick and helpful insights these days from Yelp.

Future of reviews

The Internet is vast, and information can be hard to manage. Yelp may up its game in the future. But moving forward, the real future of reviews may lie in Original Review’s unique model, created by restaurateurs for restauranteurs. Capture real-time reviews direct from the table, all day, every day, and pick up hundreds and thousands of 100% legitimate reviews a year. #Nofilter. Positive reviews don’t get hidden, and negative experiences can get turned around before customers even leave the restaurant. It puts the power back in your hands.

Let Original Review be the future of your restaurant, now, and harness loads of customer insight for your business. Explore how it works on our website first. And when you’re ready, we’ll sign you up for a free demo.

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