The Yelp Review Filter – How It Works and How To Get Your Legitimate Reviews Through

Yelp And Its Review FilterYelp’s review filter drives both Yelp’s value and its greatest frustration among small business owners.  Invariably people complain when good reviews are filtered out, although not when bad ones are filtered, of course. But what makes Yelp helpful is that it does a better job than most review sites getting you useful reviews – and the key is the Yelp Review’s Filter ability to stop spam and other attempts to manipulate the Yelp rating system.

So what protects a small business from filter spam from competitors or one time haters, also prevents local businesses from turning good experiences into good reviews – they often are filtered out.  Here are 8 tips for getting positive Yelp reviews.

At LocalVox, we feel your pain.  Over half of our good reviews have been filtered out.   That’s frustrating because we know they are real reviews from real people.   So how do you get legitimate reviews passed the Yelp review filter so customers can see real feedback?  LocalVox can help.

Understanding the Yelp Review Filter

One must understand the challenge to overcome it. So the first step is understanding the Yelp review filter and its purpose – to filter out fake reviews.  Here is Yelp’s own video on how it works.

Makes sense conceptually, but frustrating when your positive Yelp reviews get filtered out.

What Makes for a Filtered Yelp Review or “Yelp Review Spam”?

Yelp tries to filter reviews that it thinks are likely to be fake – namely reviews generated by someone who hasn’t really gone to the business or are somehow influenced or slanted. Yelp takes a look at a variety of criteria, and will generally filter out reviews that:

  • Are from someone who has only written 1 review
  • Are from someone who has no profile info (profile photo, additional info, link to Facebook, etc.)
  • Are strongly slanted both positively and negatively
  • Short and lacking details
  • From a location other than where the business is located


Yelp Review Filtered Out

Note how these filtered reviews exactly fit the criteria (with the exception of the one middle review from someone who had 12 reviews but 0 friends.)

Yelp also filters out other reviews that are less obvious which may be a function of the reviewer.

The Yelp Review Filter Frustration: Legitimate Reviews Are Filtered Too

negative-online-reviewsMost business owners are frustrated with the Yelp review filter because it also filters out the positive reviews. We at LocalVox tell our clients to request reviews from customers, their email list, people who tweet at them, etc.

The problem is that if they don’t have a long history with Yelp, they are likely going to take the minimal path, create a minimal profile and post only one slanted review – which fills all the criteria of filtered review spam above.

On one hand, you want to generate positive reviews to help your social reputation management. On the other, you are probably frustrated when so many of them get filtered out. I can relate – I’ve been there myself.

What You Can Do to Help Reviews Go Through the Yelp Filter

There are some easy things you can do to help reviews go through the dreaded Yelp filter.  Interact with the Yelp reviewer or Yelp review in any way possible:

  • Add the reviewer as a friend
  • Send the reviewer a message
  • Respond to the review (which you should do for all Yelp reviews anyway)
  • Vote the review as “Useful” or “Funny” or both

These are things completely under your control and you should do for every positive review. You should also have someone else in your organization do them. The more the merrier. There are also things you can ask your customers to do to create the type of profile that would not get filtered.

How to Help Customers Become More Legitimate for the Yelp Review Filter

localvox_hero_image_692x432_3If Yelp is trying to filter reviews from not real people as spam, help your customers through the filter by instructing them to complete their profile and start leaving reviews regularly. Ask them to invest in creating a real Yelp footprint – and get the benefit of the leading local review site.

I have left over 100 reviews, have over 50 friends and I have a realistic review distribution between 1 and 5 stars.

Yelp Review DistributionAs a result, not only do my reviews never get filtered, but even better, my Yelp reviews always appear on the front page.  This is because I am real. I have left real, useful reviews to businesses I frequent and look like a real person to Yelp.

Here are things you can do to help you and your customers through the Yelp Review Filter:

  • Write a bunch of Yelp reviews. Take 10 local businesses and leave Yelp reviews for them.  Your favorite local businesses will thank you and you’ve done good in the world by helping them. But remember, Yelp wants real people giving real reviews.  Not every experience is positive and your Yelp reviews should run the spectrum from 1-5 stars.
  • Connect your account to Facebook. It’s more trouble, and more likely that you are real.
  • Make friends. Use Facebook or Email to quickly send invites to lots of friends on Yelp.  You might be surprised how many friend you back.  Then interact with their reviews by marking them Useful, Funny, etc.  Yelp accounts with friends are more likely to be real.
  • Download the Yelp app and Check In.  If you are hooked up to a mobile phone, it’s more likely that you are real.
  • Leave tips. Show that you are about more than just review scores.
  • Take time. You don’t go from 0-100 reviews in a weekend.  Give it some time to build your reputation before you give that coveted Yelp review that makes a difference.  Plus it doesn’t look real to go from 0-50 in a night.

So that’s a lot and we ordered them by level of effort. Ten minutes twice a week should give you a good profile in 2-3 weeks and then you are off to the races and should be in good standing with the Yelp Review Filter. If you keep it up for a prolonged period, you might even be invited to join their coveted Yelp Elite Squad.

Yelp Elite Squad and Review Filters


Should I Solicit Yelp Reviews to and How Does That Affect the Yelp Review Filter?

Yelp-Reviews-Improve-themThe line here is blurry. Yelp does not want you to solicit good reviews, but it’s fine to generally ask for reviews (note not asking for the “good” part of review.”)  Confusing right?  Obviously, you are unlikely to ask a pissed off customer to review you on Yelp, so we think it’s natural and within the guidelines to ask people who are smiling or who are excited about the service your provide to leave you a review on Yelp.

We think you should leverage every social media and customer channel to reach out for both Yelp and Google+ Local reviews. If someone is following you on email, Twitter or Facebook, they probably like what you are doing.

But never, ever pay for positive Yelp reviews because if they catch you, you will feel their wrath.  No one wants be labeled a Yelp Review Cheater and this is what they will see:


There are those who might read this post and think that you can use the guidance above to create a team of positive Yelp reviewers that get through the Yelp filter and can be used for good (and evil). But this requires a lot more effort than it is worth just to get a couple positive reviews, and I wouldn’t risk Yelp’s wrath.  They have advanced algorithms to see who is trying to cheat the Yelp Review Filter. Nothing beats creating a sustainable program to have your customers turn positive experiences into positive Yelp reviews – even if many of them get caught in the Yelp Review Filter.

For example, you might say “Hey, if you like our LocalVox blog, please leave us a review on Yelp talking about the blog” – especially if you are an active Yelper.  😉  Hint. Hint.

Our Most Valuable Advice About the Yelp Review Filter…

Don’t get too focused on the Yelp review filter, because there are many legitimate ways to improve your social reputation and engage with your customers.  Most of all, recognize that positive Yelp reviews come from great experiences. The more you have, the better off you will be, Yelp Review Filter notwithstanding. If you create a positive experience for a person, you might be surprised how many will try to help you as a small business owner.

And every review that is left for you is an opportunity to engage a customer or prospect, driving business and ultimately better reviews.  33% of negative reviews turn positive and we encourage you to respond to each and every review.  For the best tips on your social reputation, download our free ebook on How to Grow Your Business on Yelp.

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