Who Can You Really Trust? Fake Reviews and Reputation Management

I use Yelp for nearly everything. I use it when deciding where to get my coffee, trying to find the best restaurant close by, even when choosing a new dentist. It gives me directions, tips, hours, pictures… I even take pride in only eating in restaurants that have at least 4 Yelp stars when I’m visiting a new town.

Source: www.localresearch.com

Only recently have I been skeptical. Type in ‘Negative Yelp Reviews’ in your Google Search Engine and you’ll send hundreds of sites claiming to erase negative reviews and increase the positive ones. Was I being duped?

I did a little digging, and the answer is both yes and no. As marketers, we are in the reputation management industry and Yelp is a huge piece of the puzzle. WOM (Word of Mouth) is one – if not the – most powerful forms or marketing. How do we fight the fakes while also helping our brand?

Is there a way to determine credibility?

You see the stickers outside of restaurant doors “People Love Us on Yelp” and the Yelp social media button on websites. Whether or not you agree with Yelp’s algorithm is beside the point – you need to be present. Fill out your business’ profile fully. Encourage and respond to reviews. Add them as a personal friend.

Yelp usually filters out reviews from customers that don’t have a complete personal profile or have only left a single review. This process is hardly perfect and can actually encourage phony reviews, so let customers know their reviews aren’t being seen. As their engagement goes up, their comments should become public. There’s no definite way to determine a reviewer’s credibility, but you can be proactive on your end.

The Two Extremes

In an interview about his latest report “Fake It Till You Make It: Reputation, Competition, and Yelp Review Fraud”, Georgios Zervas said that Yelp users are “usually more likely to write a review for extremely positive or extremely negative experiences. It would be much better if people also wrote about their moderate experiences.”

Think about the recommendations you’ve given to your friends. You’re going to recommend that fabulous restaurant with great interior, a hot wait staff, and mouth-watering food. Not your weekly lunchtime deli – right? Most of the time, the answer is yes. People write about special (or terrible) experiences.

As marketers and consumers, it’s important to take Yelp reviews with a grain of salt. You can’t control all the jerks out there or that 1 in 100 person that thought your barista looked “pissed off.” Don’t let Yelp be the only place for users to post reviews. Let people know they can post on your Facebook, Google + or your own website.

Content Content Content

As reiterated above, don’t let Yelp be the only place you or your audience has a voice. “In a recovery situation and as a general practice, remember that just as content is king for SEO, authentic and relevant content is vital for reputation management as well.”

Now – how do you protect your online reputation on Yelp?

1)    Never, ever hire someone to write fake reviews or write your own. It will come back to bite you.

2)    Encourage users on your Yelp page to interact on your other networks by linking to them.

3)    Have a plan in place and determine what is negative versus what is unacceptable. Internet trolls exist, and it’s important to be on the same page across the board when responding to comments.

The secrets of a Great Yelp Reputation are easier thank you think. Happy customers, happy life.

Published November 26, 2013 by Luke Severn.
Categories: Reputation Management, Yelp