Statistics reveal that Yelp is becoming a more pervasive and powerful site all the time, shaping consumer opinion and influencing online search behavior with increased efficacy. In the final quarter of 2011, the review site received 66 million unique page hits. With more than 25 million posted reviews, Yelp is heralded by many as the review site most influential to consumer behavior.
According to members of the online reputation management industry, this is, at best, a mixed blessing. Mark Reffert, a Senior Strategist with Reputation Changer, says Yelp often does more harm than good to business professionals. “Yelp might seem like a good resource to consumers, but it is very often a detriment to lawyers, doctors, business owners, and other public figures,” notes Reffert. “It may seem like it’s helping your business, but as soon as one bad review shows up, that business can start to deteriorate.”
Reffert says it does not even matter whether the review is true or not. “Sometimes those negative reviews come from disgruntled customers, and sometimes they are planted by professional rivals,” he says. “Either way, the effects can prove devastating.”
The problem with Yelp, as Reffert explains it, is that it is systematically designed to favor negative reviews. “As reviews for your business start to accumulate on Yelp, it’s more likely than not that there will start to be some negative ones,” he says. “Yelp’s algorithms actually filter out a lot of positive reviews. In effect, Yelp can become little more than a sounding board for malcontented consumers. And that can very quickly have disastrous effects for your business.”
Reffert continues by elaborating on just how damaging a Yelp review can be. “A dentist approached our reputation management firm because, when you Googled his name, the first thing that came up was a one-star Yelp review. Because it was the only review on the site, it essentially pegged this guy as a one-star dentist,” says Reffert. “Meanwhile, Google displayed ads for some of that dentist’s competitors, all of whom got a full five-star score. You can imagine how quickly our client was losing business to his rivals.”
What’s more, Reffert says, a single negative review on Yelp often opens the floodgates for more negative publicity. “Consumers typically prefer to do what has already been done. This is what reputation management firms call negative consumer behavior,” he notes. “Basically, a consumer who sees negative reviews is much more likely to post a negative review of his or her own. One unwanted Yelp review could start a truly vicious cycle.”
Reputation management companies can help, however. “Reputation Changer can curb the negative effects of these harmful reviews. We can essentially make bad reviews non-issues,”
Reputation management companies cannot make bad reviews disappear, Reffert cautions, but they can make these reviews virtually non-existent, suppressing them by inundating search engines with positive, client-approved content.
Founded in 2009 by a team of online marketing and sales professionals, Reputation Changer is one of the premier providers of online reputation management. The company works 24/7 to provide comprehensive reputation management strategies to its clients, which have included politicians, public figures, Fortune 500 companies, and more. Reputation Changer owns several media outlets, and is known for its innovation in positive SEO techniques, social media implementation, and more. The company is also unique for the custom, individualized process it takes for every client and every campaign. For more information, visit www.ReputationChanger.com.