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


Get Siri’ous About Yelp

I will be diving deeper into Siri Optimization during my SMX East 2012 Local U presentation in a little less than two weeks from now on October 1st, but here is something to think about.  With the new iOS 6, Siri and Yelp are about as integrated as you can get.  Yelp was all giddy about it today too.  From all my searches, right now mostly only searches for restaurants can you see how apparent this is (new looking border for the Yelp powered results AND Yelp logo at the bottom), and how things have changed.  You might hate Yelp, but this makes you pay attention to them for sure.  I will post my slide deck after the conference, but pay attention to this.  I think its a “siri”ous move by Apple.

Yelp and Siri iOS 6
Yes You Need To Care About Yelp Now

Google Places Gets A New SERP And Yelp Continues To Win

Yes we all know by now that Google Places has a new look for their SERPs (one which I really dig by the way) but I want to talk about who I still think comes out the winner in all this – Yelp.  If you remember, Yelp fought hard to get themselves removed from the “reviews” area of the Places page (or as I like to call it “reviews jail”), insisting that Google was stealing their content.  What it really boiled down to, is that people didn’t have to actually CLICK and go to Yelp to see any of the reviews, because they were right there in the Google Places listing for people to read.  Yelp ended up getting what they wanted, and getting the reviews removed from this “reviews jail”.

Bring on yesterdays changes  – Here is a before and after look of the same local search SERP (note where you do not find Yelp in the reviews area, but one of the top results on the regular SERP listings.)  Also note where you still find Yelp – dominating the top of the organic SERPs (right where I’d want to be if I were them).  You know Yelp is benefiting greatly, and getting loads of traffic from these organic listings.

Google Local SERP before
Google Local SERP before
Google Places SERP After
Google Places SERP After


As Yelp continues to be free from the “reviews jail” that Google had placed them in, and enjoys these top organic rankings (for virtually any and all queries I did anyway) they are going stay the DOMINATING force in reviews.  I know a lot of people locally who have told me they search for a business just to find & read the Yelp reviews.  IMO – Yelp is winning the reviews battle (for now) with Google.  Yelp has always had good rankings in Google, but as I said earlier – there has yet to be a search I did where I did not find the Yelp listing in one of the top 3 organic spots.  Again I say, win for Yelp.

I reached out to my Yelp contacts (who I adore) for comment on the new SERP change, and they politely said “sorry, have to pass”.

Thanks to Greg over at SEL for making me think of this (from his post this morning on Google raising the local search stake).

Google Places vs Yelp Who Will Win?

Let me give you a little perspective.   Lets go back to the real reason Yelp has been mad at Google for all these years.  It comes down to something very simple:  Google has been ripping off Yelp reviews.  When people are browsing Google and do a local search, then go into a Places page, (I have been told by Yelp) Yelp sees virtually NO traffic once that visitor is in that Places page (so there is absolutely NO BENEFIT).  The browser was seeing everything they needed with Google displaying those Yelp reviews right out in the open.  You see?  All that hard work of Yelp being ripped off with no benefit of traffic or people going to their site … reading the review is “from Yelp” while on Google is not the same as the user actually going to Yelp and reading the review.  If you think of all I am saying as a business owner, it makes sense.  This all changes today.

Google spent years piggy backing off the loyal reviewers of Yelp, and now with everything going down with the law suits etc. they might be getting scared, and could be the reason they are finally making the move.   My guess is Yelp is pretty happy about this.  All those people that are saying Yelp is dead?  Here is why you are so wrong and where Yelp benefits: Without Yelp reviews showing up in Places pages anymore, who has the superior product?  Yelp.  If you are looking for lots of reviews, you are no longer going to see them when using the Google Places app … so you are going to turn to Yelp.  Yelp wins this battle and thus has the superior product.  For now anyway.

Look at this screen shot I tool of my favorite place to eat where I live.  26 – 62 … that would be a blowout in an NFL game :-) Clearly Yelp is winning the battle of reviews:

Yelp Vs Google Places
Yelp Reviews Vs Google Places Reviews

The real battle?  I feel the real battle is going to be in the mobile space.  I am not the only one. See Mike Ramsey’s comment here on this awesome thread on Google Plus started by Mike Blumenthal.  If Google can do a better job with their mobile app, (as Yelp has done) they might have a change.  My guess is they won’t and they will piss their customers off like they usually do.  That seems to be their style.  It is going to be interesting to see what happens over the next several years in this space, I am actually looking forward to it.

The thing you you might forget is people HAD the opportunity to leave reviews on Google all these years, but didn’t for the most part … they used Yelp.  To me, that speaks volumes.  For now, I will be keeping my Yelp app on the iPhone and am sticking with it.

Update:  Wanted to share some good posts about all these changes that I have recently read:


How To Spam Yelp

*this is a sarcastic post rant.

I have been watching a local businesses do things all wrong on Yelp over the past year and can’t take it anymore.  I really wanna help these guys out, and maybe educate them on how to do a better job when spamming Yelp.  So here goes….

The Culprit: On the image below, you will see a screenshot I took from the Yelp app on my iPhone.  The arrows are pointing to the number of reviews these “reviewers” have (all just 1).  I have circled the part that says “Matt is the best computer guy…”  No, it’s not me, just have the same name as this dude.   Here is the deal, I have been watching this guy spam Yelp for about a year now.  Every couple of weeks or so, he goes in and writes the most amazing 5 star reviews (always 5 stars, never 4 lol) and almost always uses the owners name (Matt) and every couple of weeks, Yelp finds out, removes them and he continues to be persistant and going through the whole cycle.   Over and over and over and over again, but I digress …..

How to spam Yelp
Yelp Spamming!

This has annoyed me so badly (because I have to see this every time I log in to Yelp and look at my local feed) that I want to help him learn a better way of spamming Yelp.  I have listed out 5 steps below that can help my spamming friend do a better job!

Step 1.  Add a profile image: I know DUH, but wow … If you are going to have only one 5 star review (and many of them), make sure and add a profile image to all these fake accounts you make.  It’s one of the most simplest steps to help you seem “more real”.  You can go to Google image search and find a ton of different beautiful looking heads that you can even use as your very own!  Yea … one step closer to Yelp spamming world domination.

Step 2.  Read Reviews From The Yelp Elite:  First of all, go read real reviews … check out the elite reviews, most of them are not using names (as you have done) you might also learn how to write a review that reads normal (oh and what Yelp looks for in reviews) – and if you have a fake review that reads normal, it just might not get flagged … over, and over and over (not even by me … but the community)..  Nobody talks the way you do, no trust me….they really don’t!  (and they all read the same way, you know, like maybe the same person wrote them all??)  Seriously – look at that first review … and read it.  If you truly did have a “nasty virus” you are not going to talk like that.  sigh….

Step 3.  Fake reviews for other businesses:  One of the best ways to make your account look normal is to review your own business with accounts set up that have multiple reviews, over time, of lots of other businesses.  Not all 5 stars either….come on man, I am trying to help you look “normal”.    It might not be a good idea to review YOUR business first either … leave less of a trail and make it a little more difficult for Yelp to find out you are faking these reviews too.  Here is an idea – maybe leave some REAL reviews while building these accounts up, of real businesses that you have actually gone to & enjoyed or hated … no wait, we are spamming here, we don’t want to be legit.  Just write real looking fake reviews (read the above two steps) moving on.

Step 4.  Space out your reviews: It does not look normal if you are getting 5-10, 5 star reviews EVERY WEEK (especially when your competitors have zero or 1-2 reviews) – slow down there cowboy and space it out a little.  Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will your spamming empire be built in a day.  One of the biggest flags set off is when this type of stuff happens, so make sure and do a little bit better of a job spacing it out.  Maybe start off with one a week even, with these new legit fake accounts.  My guess is some of these reviews will actually stick.

Step 5.  Be an active spammer:  You can’t just get on Yelp, and leave the 5 star reviews for your business and never log into it again with these fake accounts.  That’s just silly if you are really wanting to be a Yelp spammer.  You need to seem like you are real, like your reviews are real, and that you are an active member of the Yelp community.  Comment on other peoples reviews, send them compliments … ya know, use the system.  You might even get some friends out of it, and look more normal too by doing so.  It may take a little more effort, but since you obviously know the benefits of Yelp & your Yelp listings on the SERPs … taking the extra step will be worth it.  In the end you will be doing less work spamming.

Ok, I could probably go on and on, but I think this will give my friend some good ideas to get started (and I am tired of typing).  In all seriousness now …. learn the community you are so desperately trying to become a part of, and how it works.  Reverse engineer what I am saying here ,and you just might catch on .. once you do, you are gonna be amazed at what Yelp will really do for your business when you are going about it in a legit manner.

Update*  Here is an awesome infographic we put together for Andrew Shotland  that I am sure you guys will enjoy.

How to Spam Yelp
You’re Doing It Wrong!

Just noticed something cool on Yelp

I mostly use the mobile version of Yelp (except when publishing my reviews – gripe gripe) but noticed something I thought was cool, that will probably get Yelp more reviews (at least out of me).  Again, I am not sure how long this has been like this, (but I just noticed it), but it shows you places you have added pictures, or checked in too – and reminds you to “write a review” check out the screenshot below:

Yelp Features - Web Version
Yelp Features - Web Version

I Am The Duke …. According To Yelp Anyway

It is pretty awesome (to me) to see the turn that Yelp has taken lately to include features that social users love, in order to battle head on with location based gaming services/social networks like Foursquare and GoWalla.   We have all been hearing about the new titles & badges that Yelp has been talking about rolling out, but it was interesting for me to see it for myself on my phone.  Call me geeky, but it was kind of cool to see, and I think Yelp did an excellent job of keeping up (and listening to their users)  – in order to continue to dominate as the local front runner for “app phone” users.  I just look forward to finally start getting some badges and learning about how all that works.  Enjoy these screen shots I took, if you have not seen this program rolled out yet.

Yelps New Title & Badges Program

Yelp badges program

Yelps new badges program

Don’t Be The Community Moron

I was checking out some Yelp listings this morning, and come across something that made me wanna rant for just a bit. If you are going to participate in communities like Yelp, and leave your two cents (or reviews in the case of Yelp), then why not FULLY PARTICIPATE?  People are not going to give what you say a second thought if you are doing anything like Paul B. here:

How NOT to be a Yelper!
How NOT to be a Yelper!

In my opinion reviews like these are about as worthless and annoying as anonymous blog comments (and should be Yelp filtered reviews IMO) from people to scared to really let others know who they are, and what they stand for.  You don’t even have the balls to add a picture?  The other negative side of it, is these kind of reviews or comments leave no value or make people want to believe them.  You have two people that have reviewed with a 4 and 5 star, that use real pictures of themselves and have multiple friends and hundreds of reviews – which makes them 100% more credible.  Also, the review is to suspect, like it could be a competitor because it says “fresh & good flavor” but then goes on to slam the crust and only give 2 stars?  Anyone who truly gets Yelp, understands that this is a bogus review and would not give it any thought when using Yelp to find a place to eat.

The moral of the story here is to make sure and take the time to be real & actually participate in the communities that you are a part of, because if this user is an actual legit user – nobody’s buying what hes trying to sell us, and eventually Yelp will end up removing the listing.

3 Important Tips:

  1. First and most important – Add a REAL image of yourself.
  2. Leave reviews or comments that don’t seem like a 2 yr. old wrote them.
  3. Take the time to add friends, it makes you look more legit too.

Are You Causing Your Own Reputation Problems?

It’s no secret, I love Yelp, and have been an active Yelper since April of 2008.  I was reading a discussion on my local Yelp thread today about about a business going in and creating 9 different profiles, and submitting the same company (a computer repair service company – my guess was his) a 5 star review on each one.  I get it, you want to try and game the system, figure out how to push the boundaries … but cmon’ that’s just damn stupid!

Not only did the accounts all get removed and banned from Yelp, but the business then proceeded to get real reviews, (for doing so) from real – active Yelpers – and trust me … they are not good.   In less then a day, this idiot business owner has created himself a reputation management nightmare that will be very hard to overcome.  Yelp ranks well, as he obviously knew, but what he failed to understand is why it ranks so well (much trust), and how the community works.  These negative nasty reviews on his business listing (the real one finally – haha) will probably rank above his website, or close to it, and guess what?  It’s always going to be there!

Check out the sad screen-shot of this dudes Yelp Listing as of today: It is not my intent to call any one out in this post, I am simply using this as a teaching opportunity.  (I just didn’t feel right putting their contact info all our in the open, or the Yelpers slamming them, so that is why I blacked it out.  I am sure if you really want to find out, you can!)  So far, they have 3 reviews, and are all one star and negative because of how they tried to spam Yelp, and guess what?  This page is going to rank well on Google FOR THEIR BUSINESS NAME, and forever haunt them!

Reputation Management Nightmare
Yelp Reviews Slamming This Business

The moral of the story ladies and gentlemen? When it comes to reviews, reputation management and Yelp? – Don’t be an idiot like this spammer!  The community does a really good job of weeding this stuff out (and policing – as you can see), and an even better job when you make it as obvious as this user did.  The Yelp community does not make it a point to go and leave negative reviews for a person who just doesn’t know better, but when someone is as blatant as this spammer was – they will react, and you will end up with a reputation nightmare on Yelp, AND Google!

If you have a business and you want it on Yelp, go fill out the Yelp for business and let the reviews come naturally.  They will, and if you focus on running a good ethical business and taking care of people, then you need not worry about what people will say.  They will take care of you in communities like this, trust me!