Buying Yelp reviews can seem like a quick fix to your problems, but it will come back to bite you. We take a look at why, and give you some better options.
Money can buy a lot of things, but it can't buy you a good reputation... at least, not on Yelp's watch.
That may seem like a shame at first glance. After all, wouldn't things be simpler if you could just pay for some positive reviews to appear on your company's Yelp page or even give your regular customers discounts or free stuff in exchange for writing reviews? Those posts would get new people to come in, and they would be so impressed by your service that they would go home and write their own real reviews, right?
Not so fast, cowboy - it doesn't work that way.
Because while it's possible that paying for a few Yelp reviews could go undiscovered, and the resulting reviews could help you improve business, it's much more likely that this strategy will cause huge and lasting damage to your reputation.
Lucky for you there's a better way, which we'll get to in just a minute. But first a little more info...
How Yelp Works
With no disrespect to Facebook or Angie's List, Yelp just may be the most trusted of all review sites.
Yelp's trustworthiness is part of what makes it so popular. The site hosts more than 135 million reviews and counting, and it's used around the world for all kinds of businesses.
The site caters to consumers, and its staff recognizes that people won't value reviews if they don't know that they can trust them. That's why Yelp has such strict policies around fake reviews, which includes those written by business employees themselves and reviews that have been bought rather than earned.
The Secret Formula
The site uses a sophisticated algorithm to analyze the reviews posted and then filters out reviews it suspects of being fake, incentivized or in any way untruthful. The site errs on the side of caution, which is why a lot of actual, real reviews end up filtered out along with the fake ones.
It uses a lot of different data points to identify which reviews are fake. But Yelp doesn't share much about how the system works, which means you can't easily fool it. Even paying people with active Yelp profiles to write reviews may trigger a review of your page's activity... and that can get you in deep trouble.
A Few Yelp Scenarios
So let's say you decide to roll the dice and buy some Yelp reviews. The best-case scenario is that they're posted to your Yelp page and people see them. That's unlikely, though.
It's more likely they'll get filtered out within a few days of being posted, so customers won't even see them. In that case you're out the money you spent buying those reviews and have nothing to show for it.
And trust us, you're lucky if that's all that happens...
Because the alternative is worse. Yelp has a Consumer Alerts program that's designed to let people know about a business's shady dealings. If the system flags your page for false reviews, the site will post a large banner on your page informing all visitors that they don't particularly trust you.
The banner will stay in place for at least 90 days, meaning that potentially thousands of customers will see it and forever remember that you were at least suspected of trying to buy reviews.
And if that's not bad enough, exchanging money or other incentives for reviews can actually land you in hot water with the Federal Trade Commission. It's just not worth the risk.
Why Yelp Works
If you were thinking about paying for Yelp reviews, all of that probably sounds like bad news. It's really not, though. It's just a reminder of the power of Yelp and why using it wisely can improve your online reputation.
People who use Yelp with any frequency know about the site's devotion to only letting real reviews from real consumers post on its pages. So they're primed to believe and trust any reviews that they see posted on your page.
All you have to do then is make sure that the reviews you're getting there are (mostly) good ones.
Getting Good Reviews, the Right Way
If you have satisfied customers, you can take the ethical high road and still get more Yelp reviews.
But don't put on blinders and focus solely on Yelp reviews. Yes, it's an important review site, but so are Facebook, Google, TripAdvisor, and a number of industry-specific review sites. All of these sites together make up your entire online review profile, and they all get read by your potential customers, so it's extremely important to focus on getting reviews on a variety of sites.
Use an automated system like ReputationStacker to do the hard work of getting reviews for you. It sends your customers a single-question survey and finds out who had a positive experience. Then it directs your happy customers to the review sites of your choosing so they can write you a review while the experience is still fresh in their minds.
It turns out that not only will this get you many more positive reviews than paying for them, but it will also cost you a lot less.
The Final Word
Use your budget to improve your business, not to buy Yelp reviews.
Paying for reviews (either with cash or by offering incentives to real customers) tends to backfire, thanks to Yelp's sophisticated monitoring programs. The site identifies and filters out fake reviews, and sometimes even publicly shames companies that have tried to buy reviews.
Your reputation can't survive that kind of hit, so don't pay for reviews.
An automated system like ReputationStacker is the better choice. It surveys your customers and directs the satisfied ones to the review sites of your choice, where they can write the real and positive reviews that you've earned the right way.