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How to Avoid Yelp’s “Not Recommended” Abyss

Consumer reviews are hard to ignore these days, covering everything from local pizza joints to orthopedic surgeons. With just a few taps on our phones or computers, we can quickly read up on what others have to say about any given product or service provider.
In fact, a whopping 97% of consumers reported going online last year to do just that. Even more interesting are the 85% of consumers who reported that they trust an online review just as much as personal recommendations from people they know.
Despite the deeper implications, patient reviews in the world of healthcare are no different. Love them or hate them, online reviews are here to stay. The most popular review sites tend to be Yelp, Google, and Facebook, but recent surveys have found that, for patients looking for a healthcare provider, Yelp is the most used review site while Healthgrades is the most trusted.
With an average of 145 million visitors monthly, it’s no surprise that Yelp remains the most popular review site online. From a consumer perspective, it’s easy to see why: more visitors translates into more reviews, and more reviews offer the most information on any given business or service.
Business owners, however, might find some aspects of Yelp’s review management less appealing. Namely, their infamous “not recommended” reviews, which are buried at the far bottom of the page underneath a grayed out title  “reviews that are not recommended.” This is where reviews that have been filtered out by Yelp’s algorithm are shown.
Yelp is upfront about their filtering of reviews, and explain that while their software’s algorithm for deciphering potentially inauthentic reviews isn’t perfect, it’s designed to target reviews that aren’t helpful. In a sense, this can be great for small businesses. If a disgruntled competitor decides to leave a fake review on your business’s Yelp page, the system should be able to detect it and bury it beneath the “not recommended” filter. Unfortunately, though, the reverse is sometimes true: Yelp’s filtering algorithm is known for burying legitimate, positive reviews as well.
Let’s face it—you work hard for every positive review you receive. Despite the large number of people reading and relying on reviews to make decisions, only a small fraction of review site visitors take the time to leave reviews for businesses. To finally receive a glowing review and then watch it get hidden in the “not recommended” section of Yelp is just plain frustrating. Especially when Yelp is known for a lack of responsiveness to complaints about its review filtering.
Fortunately, there are some measures you can take as a business owner to help improve the odds of keeping your reviews where other people can easily see them. Yelp’s filtering algorithm has never been fully transparent, leaving review experts and business owners alike trying to decipher best practices for staying on its good side.
Ultimately, collective experience has shown that the stronger the reviewer’s presence is on Yelp, the better their reviews will be received by its algorithm. Below are a few elements of what a “strong presence” entails.
Have more than one review.
If you click to see the “reviews not currently recommended,” you’ll likely notice that many of the reviews in that section are from Yelp users with only one or two reviews on their profile. The algorithm is looking at many factors to determine the degree of review authenticity, and it appears that the total number of reviews left by the reviewer in question is a large factor. This is understandable, considering that a review from someone who just signed up to leave it is more likely to have been requested, incentivized, or even intended to detract from a competitor—motives that Yelp wants to identify and discourage.
If a patient mentions wanting to leave you a review on Yelp, it can be helpful to let them know that they should leave a few different reviews for other businesses as well if they want their reviews to remain seen. It’s also important to avoid offering any incentive or reward for leaving a review (even if there’s no requirement that it’s a positive one), as this can have long-lasting consequences on your Yelp listing if discovered (i.e. a reviewer casually mentions it in their review, etc). Unlike other review sites, like Google and Facebook, Yelp explicitly requires that businesses avoid asking for reviews at all. They want reviews to arise organically, the way they would in a conversation with friends.
Bring on the photos.
Yelp profiles with a profile picture and other uploaded images also tend to fair better with their reviews. Experts agree that having a complete profile on Yelp, with all areas filled out and the addition of images from various experiences with local businesses, can strongly boost your appeal to the system’s algorithm. Similar to leaving more than just one review, having a complete profile bolsters your legitimacy as an authentic reviewer on Yelp.
Again, just mentioning that having a profile that’s been filled out entirely, including a profile picture and a few other photos, will help a patient’s reviews from being hidden can be enough to encourage them to do so. While it might seem cumbersome for them, or too much to ask, it’s actually easy for Yelp users to meet this suggestion within just a few minutes.
Make friends.
It’s easy to forget that Yelp is a social networking site. Very active Yelpers have thousands of friends on Yelp, lending significant credibility to their account. Luckily, reviewers don’t actually need thousands of friends for their reviews to remain unfiltered, but having a few can go a long way.
The best way to encourage your own potential reviewers to gain friends on Yelp is to suggest they sign up through Facebook if they don’t yet have a Yelp profile. This is a simple option when they’re on the Yelp sign-up page, and will automatically propagate a profile picture for them and suggest friends to add from their Facebook friends list. It makes creating a more legitimate account fast and easy.
 
You might be wondering how you’re supposed to make these suggestions while also avoiding asking for reviews on Yelp in the first place. The best way to encourage patients to review you on Yelp is to place their logo where your patients will see it: on your website and at your front desk. It’s one of the reasons we built a custom review application to make it as easy as possible for your patients to review your services directly from your website.
You can also encourage your patients to “review your business online,” without specifically mentioning Yelp. If they ask where to do so, you can simply mention all of the review sites that are helpful for your business—namely, the most popular ones: Google, Yelp, Facebook, and Healthgrades.
The truth is, when you’re busy delivering exceptional services to your patients, getting reviews from them will come naturally. Patients who have been surprised by your level of care and attention are inclined to express their gratitude, and these days, leaving a glowing review online is akin to a thank you card from years past.
If online reviews aren’t a part of your digital marketing strategy yet, they should be. By using proactive technology and strategy, you can harness the power and popularity of online reviews for your own business.

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