No matter what kind of business you’re in, online reviews on sites like Yelp and Google are one of the first places people go to learn more about a company or individual. Reading online reviews is the modern way people form opinions of you or your business, and studies have shown that online reviews do in fact impact your bottom line. According to Review Trackers, 4 out of 5 consumers reverse their purchase decisions based on negative online reviews.

Additionally, online reviews frequently get pulled into top search results, making them one of the first things users will see whether they’re looking for them or not. This isn’t entirely surprising, but it becomes an issue that cannot be ignored when there is an increasing amount of review sites to be aware of, many of which slant towards negative reviews, and some of which function with their own algorithms that decide which reviews get shown.

Common review sites to be aware of include:

  • Yelp
  • Google
  • Facebook
  • Complaints List
  • Complaints Board
  • Pissed Consumer
  • TrustLink

There are many more, including review sites that are industry-specific. Negative reviews are often at the root of online reputation issues. Monitoring and managing online reviews must be a part of any effective online reputation management strategy.

Yelp’s Display Algorithm and Review Filter

Yelp is one of the most popular and authoritative review sites, and that authority often allows it to rank well for brand names and names of professional or public figures. As such, monitoring and knowing how to manage Yelp reviews specifically is an important part of online reputation management.

Yelp has what’s become a controversial display algorithm and review filter, which puts reviews into “non-recommended status” based on certain factors. If a review is put in non-recommended status, even if it’s positive, it will not count towards the displayed overall review average.

Yelp hasn’t been very transparent about the ways their filter works, merely stating:

“We use automated software developed by our engineers to recommend reviews from the Yelp community. The software looks at dozens of different signals, including various measures of quality, reliability, and activity on Yelp. Most of all, however, it’s looking for people who are intrinsically motivated to share the wide range of rich and detailed experiences they have every day with local businesses. On average, our software recommends about three quarters of the reviews that are submitted to the site.”

However, some of their filter triggers are known, including if the reviewer:

  • Doesn’t have a complete profile
  • Only posts positive reviews
  • Submits a review from a different IP than that of the establishment
  • Doesn’t have Yelp friends

A Yelp review may be filtered, for example, if the reviewer has only left positive reviews. This prevents all of the good reviews from being displayed, meaning that negative reviews are often the only ones shown.

How Negative Reviews Impact Your Search Results

Because review sites like those mentioned above are user-generated, Google sees the sites as publishers of fresh and unique content, two qualities they highly value and reward in the form of good rankings. This means that when a negative review is published on a site like Yelp, the page is kept fresh in Google’s index. Negative reviews also send relevancy signals to Google because they are usually optimized for a company’s or individual’s name, permitting the reviews to show up in top results for those search queries.

Sometimes companies believe that publishing new, positive content will be enough to counteract negative reviews that show up in search. It’s important to keep in mind, however, that positive content has the power to refresh a topic and drive authority to related content, including negative reviews, bringing older negative reviews up in the search results.

How To Manage Your Reviews

Proper management of reviews is essential for maintaining control of your online reputation. There are many elements involved in review management, some of which include the following:

Monitor

It’s crucial to listen to what people are saying about you online by monitoring digital mentions around the clock. You can do this by using tools such as Google Alerts and making sure your profiles are properly set up with notifications, if applicable. We also recommend enlisting the help of an expert team who can dedicate the necessary time and resources to what can quickly become an overwhelming task.

Spark Conversation

Knowing how to engage with audiences online is one of the best and most proactive ways to generate positive reviews and mentions about you or your brand across the web. Merely existing online isn’t enough to motivate the public to talk positively about you, so make sure you’re consistently publishing content and actively engaging in conversations online.

Know How To Respond

It’s often the case that individuals and brands alike are stumped on whether or not they should respond to negative reviews, and if so, how? Generally speaking, the only appropriate and viable option is decreasing visibility to the negative review or reviews with various reputation management strategies. Handling negative reviews is a very delicate process and should be addressed on a case-by-case basis, so we advise enlisting the guidance of a professional reputation management team.