10 Simple Steps for Removing Bad Yelp Reviews [complete guide]


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In this guide, we’re going to discuss some hacks for removing bad Yelp reviews. These techniques can also be used to remove fake Yelp reviews too!

When you and your business first experience a negative review on Yelp, it can feel like a punishment!

We’re not only going to cover how to deal with these feelings, but also how to fight back and get the actual Yelp review removed or have it lose visibility so your customers cannot find it!

I have another guide for how to remove negative feedback on eBay. Some of the techniques in that guide are very similar to repairing your reputation on review sites like Yelp. Take a look at it if you really want to dig deep into a ruthless bad review removal process.

In that eBay guide, I talk about the most important skill during the entire process. It’s called Persistence, and the same skill applies to Yelp. I’ll explain more below.

Are you ready to get into more details on how to remove or suppress a bad Yelp review?

Let’s Begin!

There are so many variables to running a successful business, and most of the time the biggest variable is people. Whether it’s your employees, customers, or even your competition, each person has their own ethics, personality, and opinions. Plus, each person might have an agenda where they don’t really care about your reputation, especially if they have something bad to say.

The most common types of businesses I see on Yelp tend to be Restaurants, Retail Stores, Beauty Salons, Personal Services, and Professional Services. Most of these businesses have a lot of local customers, which makes the potential for repeat customers very competitive!

Many local small businesses also rely heavily on word of mouth marketing. I recently read an article called: Online Reviews vs. Word of Mouth: Which One Is More Important? It states that over the last few years, more and more customers will check your online reviews after getting a referral to your business from a personal friend or colleague. So the bottom line is this, online reviews matter more than ever!

As you continue reading this guide, I want you to focus on your business and try and recall any situations that caused you to get your most recent bad review.

Keep this in mind too: People who don’t like your business can also make reviews on other sites such as Social Media Platforms, Yellow Pages, Yahoo, Google Places, FaceBook Merchants, Craigslist, or even blogs that allow people to post comments or reviews.

The possibilities for trashing your online reputation are endless, which is why you need to educate yourself on these various resources. I’ll have other guides that target those specific platforms in the near future.

If you have not experienced a bad review yet, you’re in luck. I still recommend you continue reading below and educate yourself, so you know all your options ahead of time. At some point, a bad Yelp review can happen to every business professional.

Yelp’s Automatic Algorithm Is Mysterious

Yelp’s automatic algorithm is better at detecting good reviews as being fake than the bad ones. Wow, talk about being biased. Yelp is not very good when it comes to identifying fake reviews that are bad, that’s the bottom line. They have no incentive to do this for you manually or with automation. Algorithms are always improving, and with advancements in AI, maybe down the road, it will actually work a lot better.

Yelp encourages many business owners to sign-up for a business account and then claim their listing. You should absolutely do this, and I will tell you how to do it a bit later in this guide.

Yelp has been accused of favoring business accounts that are paid vs. free ones by stacking good reviews over bad ones. Or in some cases actually hiding or removing the bad ones altogether! I seriously doubt this is true, but it’s good to be aware that this issue was a big deal in the media a while back. If you want to learn more about those accusations, check out this article: Yelp accused of bullying businesses into paid account

The Account Executive and Paid Yelp Accounts

An account executive from Yelp could have called you recently to sell you on the idea of upgrading your account. Consider this as an option if you think the paid advertising will bring in additional business for you.

Yelp is an authority people use to find new local businesses. So absolutely take advantage of that. Just keep in perspective that you should be doing it for new business leads.

You should not upgrade your Yelp account with the expectation of removing bad Yelp reviews!

If you’re totally against Yelp and you think it does more harm than good for bringing new customers to your door, then skip paying for any extra services.

For most restaurants, however, Yelp is a necessity for getting people in the door. So, as much as you might hate paying for Yelp, it might benefit you.

4 Common Scenarios for Getting BAD Yelp Reviews

Here are the four most common scenarios for a bad review on Yelp. In the next sections, we’ll go over how to react and the steps for getting bad reviews removed.

Scenario 1: Your Competitor Wrote a Bad Yelp Review, Which was FAKE

Your competition can write bad reviews about your business which are fake. They’ll use this as a tactic for trying to get customers to come over to their place instead. I think this is one of the most dishonest unethical business tactics out there.

But luckily there are some tactics you can use for removing it, without writing fake reviews about them. As tempting as that might be, I would not advise doing that as you’re lowering yourself to their level.

Instead, use one of the solutions we present to you later in this guide!

Scenario 2: You Got Reviewed By an Impossible To Please Customer!

You had an impossible customer who you did everything for, and they left you a bad Yelp review.

What makes this person an expert anyway? Sometimes people just have unrealistic expectations.

How does Yelp measure one’s credibility to verify opinions or statements left in a review? Sometimes opinions are not facts, and you could be dealing with a really picky person.

Yelp reviews have lots of credibility in the eyes of the consumer. I’m not sure about you, but lately, it seems like some people have been going on an ego trip since review sites like Yelp became available 10 or more years ago.

For example, Yelp came out in July 2004, and all of a sudden everyone became a food critic.

What if you own a steakhouse and this newly found food critic thinks their individual taste buds are the most important in the world? If they don’t like the way you cook a steak, you get a bad review, even though 1,000 other customers loved it!

A long time ago, I remember reading a bad review for my favorite pizza place located close to my home in the Bay Area. The reviewer gave one star because the pizza was served too hot! How absurd is that? I think you get my point about how easily a bad review could be a very narrow mindset of one person who thinks everyone else should be exactly like them.

In the real world being like everyone else is just not possible or realistic.

Scenario 3: It’s a Personal Attack!

It happens all the time, an ex-employee, significant other, or friend is upset with you. You’ll get a bad Yelp review because one of them wants to cause trouble for you. It’s their own special way of getting back at you.

What’s not cool about this is that it’s screwing with your money and your business’s livelihood.

It’s the lowest of low attacks against you, and it’s an illegal form of slander against you. It might be hard to prove, but nevertheless, Yelp has no real incentive to detect this or remove it unless you push them to remove it.

The good news is that Yelp is getting better and putting in new systems to make sure that bad reviews which are really personal attacks don’t happen.

Scenario 4: It’s a Legit Review, and Your Business Actually Did Screw Up!

Your business could have made an honest mistake with a customer who made a negative Yelp review about your business that was well deserved. 

Depending on the circumstances, that does not mean the review should stay up forever though.

Especially if it was an off day and does not represent the overall image your business has with most of your customers. What if you recently bought a new business and then got a bad review because they don’t like the price increases you made? While that would be a legit review, I am not sure it has much merit to stay up forever. Another good reason to have it removed.

How to Respond to a Bad Review, Even if it’s Fake

When any of the above scenarios happen to you, it can feel like a punishment of the worst kind! Seriously. You’ve invested your livelihood and life savings into your business. Then a stranger can come along at any moment and write a one or two-star bad review about you and your business.

The customers who will read the bad review don’t care about all the countless hours you put into perfecting your business idea. If they have a perceived experience that is undesirable, they are going to leave a bad review. Then new potential customers could find that negative review and be turned away from giving you a chance to earn their business.

You have no control! Your friends might tell you not to take it personally, but I would. Just don’t go overboard and obsess about it too much, instead focus on the solution.

Your time is best spent on offering a solution to fix whatever issue the customer experienced, that inspired them to write a bad review on Yelp.

If appropriate, you can always respond to the review and present a solution to fix the problem. Just remember, always respond sounding positive and professional, otherwise, don’t reply.

Even if it seems like it was a personal attack or fake review, take charge and respond with an option for the customer to follow up with you and make things right.

Most likely scammers or fake reviews won’t answer back to you. But to other readers, it will look like you’re on top of your game and you are taking care of any issues that your customers may experience.

Also, it’s a good idea to not mention in your response that you might think it’s a fake review. Keep that secret and instead, just focus on the removal process.

Here Are The 10 Steps to Remove Bad Reviews from Yelp!

You have legal rights and options to battle negative reviews on Yelp. We’re going to review them below. A quick warning though, these options will all require some type of time investment of several hours or more.

If you’re busy doing sales and marketing, and operations for your business, your time is going to be better used doing that. Hire a pro to do these removals for you. Do the first few steps to get the ball rolling, but leave the rest to the pros.

But, if your budget is limited or you’re just getting off the ground, it may be worth your time to get it done yourself. Either way, getting bad reviews removed is a big win for you and your business.

Before you begin on step one, I highly recommend you bring up Yelp’s help page for reporting reviews as a reference. It will give you some background on the mindset of Yelp and how their customer service is trained to deal with bad review complaints.

Step 1: Claim Your Yelp Account!

It’s imperative to get control of your business profile and account on Yelp, so claim your account. Check out the link for claiming it at: https://biz.yelp.com.

After clicking on the link, just search for your business name and city. Your business should come right up and then follow the on-screen directions for registering. The option to “claim this business” should also appear during the process.

You’ll then proceed to enter your email address and create a business account. Try not to enter a credit card though, and don’t sign up for any extra services, this should all be free. This is the first big step to getting control of the reviews that are made on your Yelp business profile.

Step 2: Feel Positive About All Reviews, Especially the Bad Ones

Now that you are registered as a business owner on Yelp, you can respond to all the reviews you get. Be actively involved in managing your reviews, and respond to all the bad and good reviews.

Use Yelp as an active communication platform that is positive with your customers. By being actively involved, you’ve shown all new and existing customers you take your business seriously. Believe it or not, Yelp is the number one lead generation source for some businesses, so it can pay off big-time to be involved!

Step 3: Fire Up Your Credibility on Social Media!

You heard me right; you need to engage your customers on social media. The more people who are talking good things about you, the better credibility your business image will have, and gives any bad review much less credibility.

So talk to your social media manager or assign an employee to make this a priority. If you’re a single person who is running a business, then you could save some money and do it yourself.

Set up and take control of a Facebook Page, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest, etc.

Each type of social network will work best for certain types of businesses. You need to understand which ones your customers spend the most time on and interact with them. To learn more about social media marketing, I would visit Social Media Examiner or Social Media Today.

Step 4: Referral Marketing

Referrals for new business that come from existing customers and your business associates are like the king kong of driving new business, period! Try joining a local BNI (Business Networking International) group if you are a new business.

It’s also good to join if you’re an established business and you want to get training and resources for building up better business relationships from referral marketing.

Referral Marketing and BNI will work for all kinds of different businesses, especially for household services, professional services, and restaurants.

You can also offer incentive programs to your existing customers to spread the word about your service or business. I used to have a discount program for my new clients by giving them an extra business card to pass on to someone else. On the back of the business card, the person who gave it to them would write their name down. I’d then know where the referral came from and then offer the new customer 15% off.

New customers referred to you by your existing ones who are extremely happy about your business are extremely loyal. Leverage loyal customers by encouraging them to fill your Yelp page with an honest review of their experience. You cannot, however, offer them money or a discount for doing it!

All new good reviews will de-rank any bad reviews in the process. Some of your loyal customers might even click a bad review they read as being unhelpful. That should help de-rank that bad review too.

Step 5: Look at Becoming Diamond Certified or Join a Business Association

Consider doing a review service such as Diamond Certified. The reviews on Diamond Certified are a bit more credible because they screen out customers to make sure the review has credibility. Not just anybody can go on there and write a review. They have to be pre-screened randomly after proving they did business with you.

Joining business associations in the local areas you do business in can help too. The Chamber, Rotary, Charities, BBB, you name it! You’ll get certificates and badges to put in your window and on your business cards, websites, etc.

These things will help take the focus off any bad review someone might read on Yelp.

Step 6: Familiarize Yourself with the Content Guidelines of Yelp

Knowledge is power! So make sure you review the content guidelines on Yelp to see if your bad review is in any kind of violation. One example of a violation is if a review is a personal attack on one of your employees. Other violations include reviews with any language that is defamatory and derogatory or attacks a person based on disabilities, race, ethnicity, religion, or other such factors.

Review the following Yelp support article for the guidelines. https://www.yelp-support.com/article/When-should-I-report-a-review?l=en_US

After reading through the guidelines, you’ll see that it clearly says if a review contains the personal names of your employees or customers it must be removed. If it contains other information such as phone numbers and addresses, that review should be deleted too.

A conflict of interest is a former employee, friend, or someone who has an incentive to write a bad review, especially if they were paid to write it. If you can prove the review is from a person with a conflict of interest with your business in any way, you can have an almost guarantee of getting it removed.

If a bad review is promoting another business to the reader, it is also a clear violation.

A bad review cannot relate to current events that revolve around your industry or business, especially if someone saw something on the news about your business and made a decision that your business is bad without trying your product or services beforehand.

Every legitimate review must also come from the person who writes it based on their own experience. If you can prove the review is plagiarized or not written authentically, that is also a big red flag for removal.

More obvious bad reviews with reflags to look for are hate speech and private info about other people or your employees. Lewd commentary and threatening language are also no good. The review needs to have some seriousness and honesty to it.

If there is no clear violation of the review and it’s just someone’s opinion, that is not a good enough reason for Yelp to quickly remove it. For the next few steps, we’ll start the process of actually doing the removal, read on!

Step 7: You Can Always Ask the Customer for a Second Chance

You could request a follow-up with the customer by replying to the bad review. Explain you want a second chance to make things right. Never be angry, hostile, or blaming them for being a bad customer. Stay professional at all times.

Explain that you just want to understand more about their experience and make things right for them as long as it’s on reasonable terms.

A customer who eats an entire steak in your restaurant and says they did not like it, then wants a full refund is not reasonable. Or a customer who gives you a bad review because your prices are too high, but does business with you anyway is not reasonable.

Unreasonable customers are not always going to be worth giving a second chance to, so if you can’t get anywhere with them, just skip this step as an option for them.

But, if someone gives a bad review because of slow service, or because a mistake was made on their order, then this is a customer you can work with.

By strengthening your relationship and building some rapport, you could turn most reasonable customers into a fan again and then they’d change their review to something a bit more positive.

Step 8: Contact Yelp Customer Service on the Phone or E-mail

Next, you can try calling or e-mailing Yelp customer service to request the removal of the review. The issue with this option is that everyone does this and Yelp is pretty much prepared to not help you. They are extremely resistant to giving you any real help. Can you imagine how many people yell at them on the phone every day? Or the nasty emails they must read? Whoa.

If you contact Yelp, be prepared to provide the following information: The date of the bad review, why it should be removed, and any other facts that create a good argument that you can use to convince Yelp it should be reviewed.

All in all, you have to ruin the credibility of the reviewer to be successful!

If there’s a clear content guideline violation with the review, it would be a massive conflict of interest for Yelp not to remove it for you. But REMEMBER, Yelp is only going to do what is right for Yelp, not you! But if there is such a violation, it will be removed.

Step 9: Report the Review Under Your Business or Personal Yelp Account

By this step, things are getting a bit tough. You burned through the first-level phone call or e-mail message to Yelp customer service. You’ve tried to work it out with the customer. No one seems to be helping you.

It’s time to be a bit more proactive. Go ahead and report that bad review by flagging it, make sure you’re logged in with either your personal or business Yelp account.

How to report a bad Yelp review by flagging it.

1. Locate the review that is in question.

2. Find the flag icon and click Report Review. On the Yelp mobile app, the flag icon is located on the top right-hand side of the menu app screen.

3. You’ll be presented with some options like:

  • The review contains false information
  • Posted by someone affiliated with the business, an employee, or a competitor
  • The posting contains hate speech or is threatening to someone’s well-being
  • Doesn’t describe a personal experience for the consumer accurately
  • A clear violation of Yelp’s Privacy Policy standards
  • Contains spam or promotional material
  • A mistake and the review is for the wrong business

After you report it, you’ll most likely hear a response back from Yelp after they notify the poster and do a bit of research on their end. If they don’t remove it, then the fight will go on, and you’ll need to try harder. We’ll discuss the art of persistence below.

Step 10: Persistence of Repeating the Back and Forth

With enough persistence, Yelp will eventually get tired of you. Yelp is open to a second evaluation of your request, read about that here: https://www.yelp-support.com/article/Can-I-request-a-second-evaluation-of-something-I-reported-that-did-not-get-removed?l=en_US

Some other examples where persistence works great are the following:

  1. For removing negative feedback on eBay; has worked many times before for all kinds of eBay resellers.
  1. The same goes for anyone seeking a refund on bank account charges, or any other conflict that is open to dispute, especially when consumers and corporations are involved.

The reason that being persistent at disputing a bad review can work is that it’s a classic way to attack Yelp by making them spend precious time and money addressing each inquiry you make.

Most businesses have to respond to you as the consumer, especially if you are a paying customer.

Lawyers play a similar game with one another with paperwork. The difference between lawyers and consumers though is that lawyers are taken 1,000 times more seriously.

So with enough persistence, you can fight, and at some point, Yelp will probably just remove it because they just don’t want to deal with you anymore. Especially if you get your lawyer involved.

Keep in mind however that this process is not guaranteed, whether you do it yourself or use a lawyer!

Bonus Step: Some Important Reminders During The Removal Process

This will most likely be a long and drawn out process with phone calls and emails. However, that is OK if the end result means it’s better for your business.

If you don’t get anywhere with the second request, try a third, and fourth, etc. With enough repeats of reporting something or sending Yelp a message, you might just get the right customer service agent who will side with you. Or they will escalate you to a higher authority who can actually make a more fair call on whether to remove the review or not.

During this process, you have to use toughness mixed in with kindness and most of all, remain professional. Whoever communicates with Yelp represents your business, so make sure they’ll be professional.

Also, avoid making any kind of legal threats to someone at Yelp who’s trying to help you. If you get to that point, let a lawyer provide the first communication to Yelp, regarding taking legal action.

Depending on how far you push things. You might have some success with the impossible!

Warning About Suing the Person Who Wrote the Review!

At some point during the process of doing online reputation repair on your own, it’s very possible you’re going to see little results for your time and effort. 

Suing the person who wrote the bad review may seem like the next logical step.

I would not advise this action until you thoroughly research the process of suing someone. To get started, you need to contact an attorney!

You can also check out Nolo Press for more legal help.

WARNING ABOUT SUING YOUR CUSTOMER!

Suing the person who wrote the bad review could also bring some unwanted publicity for your business. Depending on the circumstances, you’ll want to weigh the pros vs. cons of maybe just leaving the bad review as-is.

Hiring an Online Reputation Professional to Help You!

For professional help with removing a bad review, you need to choose a reputable company that does Online Reputation Management and Repair. 

Make sure the company has a Subject Matter Expert in Online Reputation (Libel/Defamation) law as well!

Note: At the end of the day, trying to do reputation management for yourself will only get you so far and you need to get back to running the day-to-day operations of your business.

Protecting your brand is the number one priority you should be after so you want to pick a reputation management company that can deliver exceptional results.

Your brand is everything and worth every dollar spent!

Most of these professional online reputation repair companies will use the same methods discussed in this guide. The only advantage is that they have lawyers and the time to put in a very serious effort on your behalf.

Any communication that is sent to a company like Yelp is going to get a lot more attention from a Reputation Management Company or Attorney, than a Small Business Owner.

Final Thoughts

I hope you got everything you need from this guide for dealing with such a horrible problem!

Small Business is the lifeline of this economy, and it upsets me when bad reviews happen on Yelp. Especially when it’s a fake review or someone abusing the system. It can make an honest mistake or business look horrible.

If you read this entire guide, it puts you in a perfect position to get your bad Yelp reviews flagged and removed. If you need to hire a professional to help you out, you now have the knowledge required for hiring the right company.

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