How to Protect Your Online Reputation From Fake Yelp Reviews

yelpMany consumers look to Yelp for feedback and reviews of different businesses, restaurants, hotels – you name it. Many organizations have issues with Yelp ranging from negative reviews to fake reviews and more.

Let’s pause here on the issue of fake reviews.

A new report by Harvard Business School shows that 20% of Yelp reviews are fake – and that these fake reviews go both ways:

  • Organizations writing, or hiring others to write, fake positive reviews to boost their own online reputation
  • Organizations writing, or hiring others to write, fake negative reviews against their competitors

On top of this, Yelp also declares that 25% of the reviews submitted to the site don’t ever get published, since they don’t pass Yelp’s internal filters set to detect and delete fake reviews.

Yelp and your online reputation

So with these two truths in mind, what does Yelp mean for your organization’s reputation, if much of what’s published to the site is fake? It’s hard to say, as it depends on your organization and its audiences. That said, here are some questions to ponder and consider:

  • How many of your customers come to you because they read a positive review on Yelp?
  • How many customers do you lose due to a negative Yelp review?
  • What is the ratio of customers, fans, followers and others who follow your organization on Yelp vs. those who follow your organization on other social media sites, your website and/or blog?

How to protect your online reputation from fake reviews on Yelp

  1. Don’t publish fake reviews on Yelp – whether in favour of your organization or against another, this is a big no-no!
  2. If you hire an SEO expert whose strategy is to get fake Yelp reviews created to boost your SEO and ORM – walk away!
  3. Monitor the reviews that get published to Yelp about your organization
  4. If you detect a fake review created about your organization, ask Yelp to remove it. However, the unfortunate truth is that it can prove to be extremely hard to have fake negative reviews taken down from the review site. This is why it’s important to…
  5. Define negative vs. unacceptable reviews and develop a response plan for each – and train your team!
  6. Make sure that the rest of your online reputation is strong and positive (so that you don’t have to rely solely on Yelp or other review sites that are beyond your control)
  7. When possible, link to your social media accounts from your corporate Yelp page, giving viewers another place to interact and research your organization

As a consumer, how can you detect fake reviews on Yelp?

As a consumer, it’s important to keep your eyes open to these fake reviews so as not to be fooled or mislead. Two indicators that a review is fake are:

  • The review is either extremely positive or extremely negative
  • The person who left the review did not publish their full name

Review sites play a part in your online reputation these days. It’s up to your organization to be aware of the realities that come with this, and to do what you can to make sure that your online reputation stays as positive and truthful as possible.

Melissa Agnes is an international crisis management keynote speaker and consultant. President of the crisis management firm Agnes + Day, Melissa has developed a worldwide reputation for crisis management, planning and training by helping global brands and government agencies prevent and manage a wide range of issues and crises. She is also the editor of The Crisis Intelligence Blog and host of The Crisis Intelligence Podcast.

2 Comments. Leave new

Melissa, great post, but how can you tell that a Yelp review is fake? Yes, some are pretty blatant, but a cleverly written one can sound like any other review.


Unfortunately, we can't always tell – which is the importance of making sure that your online reputation is positive and strong across all areas of the web, not just review sites like Yelp.


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