Recent and Upcoming Changes to Yelp

Yelp is changing their website, they no longer have a review filter!!!

Okay, before I get hate mail about false headlines, they are no longer calling it a review filter. It is now the “Recommendation Software“. And honestly, this new “Recommendation Software” is as much of a let down as my header. But before this becomes yet another rant about Yelp’s “filter”.. err… “Recommendation Software”. Let me first cover some of the real changes and some of the upcoming changes.

Or Click Here to skip to the Rant.

Recent Yelp Changes

At the start of the review section Yelp has added the text  “Recommended Reviews for…

If you scroll to the bottom of a Yelp Business Profile page one you will find this new statement:


So that grayed out section that reads “196 other reviews that are not currently recommended” is now the new link to the reviews Yelp is hiding. Very subtle change, but “reviews that are not recommended” sure has an undertone  to it.  The good news is, NO MORE CAPTCHA! That’s right, they do now allow you to click right on through with no further barrier. And when you get there:


Searchers of hidden truths will now see all the negative reviews that are “not recommended” as the lowest star reviews top the not recommended list. I’d love your thoughts on why Yelp sorts these reviews from low to high. I am undecided on whether they want to further punish businesses or if they are trying to make complaining owners see that they are first filtering the negative reviews. You will also note that the filtered review stars are all grayed out. They don’t get the normal happy bright Red, orange, or yellow stars. No colors, obviously these reviews are different. Clearly they are not important and deserve no attention.

But despite all the time and energy they have spent on “re-branding” the Yelp review filter, the filter is unchanged.

Yelp also at some point prior to these recent changes removed the ability to click on the users found in the “Not Recommended” section. Thus preventing any searchers of hidden truths to scrutinize the reviewer. Much harder to complain that Jill’s reviews are being filtered in one location but not in another.

Add Review from Mobile!

Yelp-Write-ReviewIt would appear that Yelp has turned a new leaf here. They are now allowing users to write reviews through their app and from mobile devices. This was unheard of in the past as Yelp was leery of  business owners providing incentives for Yelp reviews. So the Yelp App in the past simply allowed you to write and store the review for later. Then once back on a desktop computer you could submit your review. Although, if a user really wanted to leave a review they only needed to use their internet browser on their device to do so in the past.

Preview of Yelp Carousel

Yelp is also testing and will soon be rolling out a new layout. If you are one of the lucky 1%, then you will see this layout when you visit yelp. Or you can just append “?nb=1” and see it live now

Compare to their current and soon to be outdated version:

Old Yelp Layout

Pros to new layout:

  • Fonts are bigger, rating is larger, business name more prominent.
  • Bigger brand logo
  • Competitors don’t show above the fold.
  • Red Review Button = Encouragement for users to write a review
  • Yelper images are bigger.

Cons to new layout:

  • Distortion of video images due to change of aspect ratio. Yuck.
  • Removing “Announcements” for business.
  • The information provided by business owners now hidden to the right
  • NO FLAGGING REVIEWS. Look below:

Want to flag a review? Not going to happen. Yelp removed the option to flag reviews! Also noted is the reviews themselves are a little different. They’ve moved the interactions with a reviewer to the left, to fall under the user’s name and only upon mousing over that area.  Minus the cons listed above, overall it’s a good design. (UPDATE: As of 20/01/2014 YELP has added back in the “report review” button on their new design.)


Rant about Review Filter

So let’s go back to this new video they’ve released and talk about a few misleading statements. Rolling the highlight reel..

Yelp Recommendation Software

Hmmm… Every review? Every review is put through the exact same recommendation software?

Yelp’s new youtube video has been viewed now over 14,000 times, and it was just launched on Nov. 13th. That is a lot of visitors still curious as to why Yelp is hiding reviews. The crux of this video is that the majority of the video is spent on explaining why certain users are trusted, and others not. If this filter were a user based system then why does a user’s review count for one business and not another? If the user is the one being censored then why do some businesses experience a review filter ration well above the 34% mentioned in the video? If it has to do with Yelp trusting a user then why does a review of “Nick B.” remain recommended  even when Yelp Elites in Austin deem the user to be a fake.

If Yelp believes they are being honest about a review filter based on trusting users with a mere admission of “We try.” then they are further from the truth than I anticipate. Yelp’s “Recommendation Software” is more heavily biased on a business by business bases. Need proof of this? Try testing their system. Take the exact same 5 star review from a zero friend no face one review user that is not filtered on one company, and apply it to a second company that is being heavily filtered. The 5 star reviews are immediately snatched away. Yet duplicate a 1 star review from a no face no friend user that is filtered on another company and apply it to a heavily filtered company… amazing how that review slips un-restrained by the “wh0-can-we-trust software”. To clear this up even more, if you take a raving 5 star review that was filtered, change the review stars to a 1-star, same raving content, the 1-star review does not get filtered. If these tests hold true then it would seem that yelp is simply filtering these reviews by the rating, not by the content, not by the user.

Well at least they admit that it is a “TRY”. But the effort or lack thereof in that “TRY” is astonishing.

It is even more irritable, when breaks in the system are reported and nothing is done about it. My Yelp sales rep Zack’s excuse, “Well we get millions of reviews. We can’t catch them all and we admit that.” True, we certainly have evidence that you can’t catch them all, but when it’s reported to you and someone must look at it… You should be able to catch those. Yet the response I got was a typical stamped corporate response. And upon turning in a spreadsheet that clearly and unmistakably unmasks some SEO companies that are cheating the system and using fake reviewer profiles, my sales rep says, “Well we don’t want to delete users. Yelp doesn’t want to discourage users. …We do filter most of their reviews anyways.” What? Why would yelp allow fake user profiles to remain? Does it have something to do with the YELP stock ticker? Does someone believe that Inflating user numbers is good for the value of your business? They are not users. They are abusers of Yelp. They are FAKE accounts. It is about time you kill those pests.

Pest Control Guy - Thomas Ballantyne

-Thomas Ballantyne
Director of Marketing for Bulwark Exterminating
Follow me on Twitter —> @Thos003

Make it a great day!

Thomas Ballantyne


When Did the Google Review Stars Return to Local Search?

James Hansen sent me an email the other day asking “When did the stars return to local search?” Attached was a screen shot from a search done that very day:

While helping Mark Derrico, a local Chandler Insurance company with their online marketing, James had stumbled upon the lost gold stars treasure of local search! If you are like many people you may be recovering from being star struck by Google Places. Yes those five little gold stars we so easy to find before Google bought Zagat. Made searching for services and restaurants a lot easier. But alas, the golden review stars are dying out. So where did James find these beauties?

The good old Apple iPad. Simply scroll down and click on “Classic”. Yep, back to the refreshing classic taste of Google. Mmmmmm. Love that classic stuff. Oh and if you are in New York at #SMX and can’t Handle a Big Gulp of that Classic Google taste try the mobile sized.

Places for Pest Control near Tempe, AZ

That view is achieved on the iPhone the same way, click on the “Classic” version. Sadly, I can not figure out how to make the stars reappear on my desktop computer. As a searcher, does anyone else miss the Google review stars? As a business do you miss them?

The Business Side of the Gold Review Stars

For those businesses that believe the gold stars had a value for their online marketing, Google agrees. In fact, they will gladly take your money and add the stars back onto your listing. Well, your PPC listing. Getting you local search stars for your google reviews back is as easy as clicking “go” on the fully automate Google Adwords Express campaign. Hopefully you will find the value equal to what Google says it’s worth. And some dentist office in Denver believes it is worth paying to have the stars.

And with a quick scan of that result where do your eyes fall? It’s almost enough to bug you isn’t it? Well don’t call me, I only deal in offline pest control.

Pest Control Guy - Thomas Ballantyne

-Thomas Ballantyne
Director of Marketing for Bulwark Exterminating
Follow me on Twitter —> @Thos003

Make it a great day!

Thomas Ballantyne


Can You Be Bought?

Can You Be Bought?
Can You Be Bought?

I am talking about reviews, and review sites.  This is just something I was wondering if other people struggled with too, especially after an experience I had over the weekend that involved some really hard thinking about the subject. I am a huge fan of reviews and people giving their honest opinions, but I am also a huge fan of businesses doing everything they can to eliminate negative results and trying to remedy a problem.

I just don’t feel right about naming the business here (I am sure if you dug deep enough you could figure it out), but lets just put it this way – I did a pretty bad review (but 100% honest) because of an experience I had that was not good at all. It was a food place, and the actual owner of the place contacted me about the review and asked me if I would be willing to give his place a second chance? I want to make this clear – he never once asked me to take the review down, just to give his place a second chance.  Here is the kicker though, he offered me a gift card that would cover the cost of my meal to try them again.

I went ahead and accepted the gift card, and felt if he was willing to monitor his brand name and online reputation, that I would be willing to give him and his business a second chance. This is where it got me thinking though. There is a side of me that preaches reputation monitoring and wants me to sing praises to this guy, but what if the experience is no good again? Am I obligated to offer a good review? Am I obligated to take down the negative review that I already wrote about them? If so – does that mean I was bought?

I went to this place over the weekend and gave it a second chance and the experience was much better then the first time, but I still felt the food was not worth the money they charge for it. Besides that, you have to serve yourself and I have kids – taking them through a cafeteria style place is not easy.  My point is that for the same amount of money I could go to another place that serves better food, and THEY will serve me!

I went ahead and updated my review and was honest in my review and it can be taken either way.  Part of me felt I needed to take the other review down because of this businesses owners great reputation monitoring (which I did) but the other part of me wanted to continue to be honest so I wrote another honest review, and it wasn’t all that great.  I did offer suggestions to what I feel would remedy the problem and we will see what happens?

My question to you is have you ever found yourself in similar situations and what did you do?  Do you feel I did the right thing?  I appreciate in advance any feedback I get!

The 6 Steps Of Good Online Customer Service

Dave posting yesterday about how bad customer service can effect your online reputation got me thinking today. It made me want to share some tips how we (Dream Systems Media) practice good customer service with our own businesses, and get amazing testimonials sent to us.

IMO – The first rule of customer service is to be a good listener. If you are not able to sit and listen to your customer without getting defensive thinking you know everything then you will never do well at the customer service game. Anytime issues arrive we make sure and do everything we can to build a relationship of trust, even if they are start raving mad at something that has happened.

The last thing you want to do (even if you can’t help them) is to insult the customer so badly by not listening to them, that all they can think about doing is going and letting everyone they know how awful they think you are. Where do they go and do this you ask? They go and let people know on blogs, review sites and forums, and believe me – all those will start ranking for your business name, and you will find yourself with a bad online reputation management problem! If you are sincere, and take the time to listen, and let them know that it is in your best interest to find a solution to the problem – that is all they are really looking for. Once you find that common ground, and have the trust built with them, it makes dealing with the situation much easier. They might not like the solution you provide, but they are not going to let everyone know how horrible you were (because you were not).

If you have to remind people about a return policy they obviously did not read, its much better to be on their good side, then rub it in their face. I have had people who have been so mad, I used this method to calm them down, they ended up keeping the product, and then sent me an email a month later telling me how sorry they were for calling in mad, and how much they love the product now. It all comes to pass by building that relationship with every customer you get. This is not going to happen every time, but it is going to help your return rate be much lower, and your customer service rating go through the roof!

Where is my money?

Think about when you order something online, and you don’t get an email after you hit the “purchase” button confirming it. You then look on the website and either don’t find a phone number, or call one thats listed – only to get no one. You are sitting there thinking your money is lost, and you may have just become another statistic of someone being scammed online. You send in emails, and when no one gets back to you and you panic. Your next step is to contact your credit card company and do a charge back. This is the process that happens when bad customer service is offered.

The 6 Steps of Online Customer Service

If you don’t want this kind of a customer service nightmare to happen to your business, then you need to take a look at these 6 simple customer service steps:

  1. Auto-Responders – using auto-responders to notify customers as soon as they purchase will help them not worry about the order they just placed. Also make sure you have other emails set up and ready to send out as soon as anything changes on their order (status, shipping, back orders etc) . In other words – you need to be holding their hands through the entire process of buying from you.
  2. Tracking Numbers – Provide tracking numbers to the customer as soon as you have them yourself so they know exactly when to expect their packages and not keep emailing you – bugging you. Let them keep pinging the UPS or FedEx website checking the status if they are THAT impatient. Better then bugging you, and losing confidence when you don’t respond right?
  3. Toll Free Number – Have a 24 Hour Toll Free Number listed on your site on all pages. Make people confident that they can get a hold of you no matter what time it is. If they are considering making the purchase at 3 am in their underwear, they might see the phone number that says you can call 24/7 – it will make it a much easier choice for them to purchase. They know that they can at any time if a problem arises.
  4. 3 Forms of Contact – you should have several forms of contact on your site to promote those warm fuzzy feelings of potential customers. I would suggest – phone numbers, email addresses and physical addresses at the very least. Now-a-days you have social networks where people can stay connected like Twitter, Facebook and what not. You could always use those mediums as forms of contact.
  5. Follow Up – After everything has been shipped, and the customer receives order, you want to follow up with an email, or phone call making sure that everything was satisfactory throughout the whole process. Just doing this is impressive enough, and people are going to be more then willing to give you a testimonial based on this alone. I can’t tell you how many times we get emails from customers sharing testimonials because we followed up with them and made sure everything was ok.
  6. Listen – Again, I feel this is the most important step in the whole process – If there are issues then you need to hear the customer out, and see their side of it, and what they want. If you build a relationship of trust with them, it will be much easier to tell them bad news (if you have to). Good customer service, and someone willing to listen will make all the difference in the world and save many sales for you.

If you follow these 6 steps I promise you that you will have less problems, and have many more testimonials sent into you. Anytime you can get customers saying good things about you, the better it is for you. If people ever ask you where they can submit a testimonial, you can let them know to either email you, or submit it to review sites like the following: Thanks to my friend Newspapergrl for sharing these online review sites with us all – These are the places that Google Local pulls their reviews from.

You should also encourage your clients (if they are pleased enough with you, they will be willing) to leave reviews on sites like Google Local, Yahoo Local and all of the other major search engines local results that allow reviews. It really is an easy thing to do – show them your listing, and then click on the link where the reviews are at, and it will ask you to write a review. It really is that simple, and it will do more for you then you probably realize at this point.

In Conclusion

So besides sharing the testimonials on your site, you should encourage users to leave reviews about your business on review sites. This is a great method of link building too. Review sites rank well with the search engines, and provide trusted links that will help your site rank much easier. All this from good customer service? Seems worth it to me! Thoughts?