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Recently I worked with a business that had a problem with its Yelp account that is very common to lots of businesses. The situation was that this business had very poor ratings and reviews, despite having many, many satisfied customers throughout the United States. This is common because people are much more apt to go through the trouble of leaving a review if they are unhappy. Happy customers are much less driven to express their opinions than unhappy ones. Here is a sample of the strategy we developed to handle this situation.

Dealing with Negative Reviews

There are two general solutions to the problem of the bad reviews:

  1. Have the bad reviews removed, which can only be done by the reviewers themselves or by Yelp; or
  2. Get new positive reviews to balance out the bad reviews. Getting a bunch of high star ratings will bring your average star rating way up.

Remove Bad Reviews

It is unlikely that Yelp will remove the reviews. In my case, we tried contacting Yelp multiple times to request removal to no avail. Unless you can prove the reviews are fake, Yelp will not remove them.

That leaves having the reviewers remove their own reviews. So this gets to the heart of the question: what caused the bad review? Was it something you did? Was it just caused by a misunderstanding? Get in touch with each negative reviewer and ask what the problem was. Be polite. Be professional. Try to really understand what the problem was and try to resolve it to the person’s satisfaction. Maybe even offer a bribe. Sometimes this just isn’t possible – there just may not be anything you can do. But by reaching out and at least making an attempt to resolve the situation, you have showed consideration and compassion, and that may be enough.

Generate New Reviews

If you can get your happy customers to post reviews, that will balance out the star rating and weaken the influence of the negative ratings. In addition, recency will work in your favor since the positive reviews will be much newer.

Unfortunately, even having a legitimate customer create a Yelp account to leave a review is not enough. The Yelp system is tuned to discount reviews for Yelp users who are new or who have not published many reviews. It seems that a Yelp profile must get built up before it is taken seriously in the Yelp system.

As a result, just asking your customers to leave Yelp reviews is not an adequate solution because those reviews very likely won’t even count UNLESS that person already has an established Yelp profile. Each Yelp profile that leaves a review for you will have a much better chance at having the review stick if it has two things:

  1. A history of reviews (I believe a minimum of 10); and
  2. Some friends in the Yelp system.

Meeting the requirement for the minimum number of reviews is the most important part, but having some friends also contributes to Yelp’s accepting of the profile. The ideal situation would be to have your customers who already have established Yelp profiles to leave reviews for your business. In this case, I would recommend doing something like the following:

  • Create an email list of your customers.
  • Send a mass email requesting that they leave a positive review for your business.
  • Include detailed instructions explaining how to go about leaving a review on Yelp for your business.

If there are customers who you know already have active Yelp accounts, then they should be contacted directly. If any of the recipients of the email abided by the request, then hopefully some of them would stick.

An alternative would be for you to actually create and build up profiles for some of your customers who would normally leave you positive reviews but who are unwilling or don’t have the time to go through the trouble of rating various other businesses before they review yours. This is certainly not a Yelp-approved approach. But if it’s what you’ve got to do, then it’s what you’ve got to do. If Yelp would allow someone to post a single review without having to have a history, then you wouldn’t have that problem.

Business Page Upgrades

An enhanced profile (at a cost of $75 per month) will allow you to do the following:

  • Re-order photos to show photos that you choose first. If you have negative reviews that include photos that reflect poorly on your business, then this is a very valuable feature because you can push the bad photos down to the bottom and show your own good photos first.
  • Remove competitor ads from the page.
  • Add a Call to Action button.

I’m not going to tell you that you have to have an enhanced profile. The more important Yelp is to your business, the more valuable the enhanced profile becomes.

Active Account Management

Any negative reviews should be responded to as quickly as possible. This will create a more favorable impression than not responding. The first step should be to contact the person directly to ask what can be done for him to remove the negative review. The next step is to publicly respond to the review itself.

Make sure that you have a complete profile. This includes:

  • Profile photo. Yelp requires a photo that contains a human face. It can’t just be a logo.
  • A company history.
  • Owner/manager bio.


In summary, the four major steps to improving your Yelp profile are:

  • Contact the negative reviewers and ask if there is something that can be done for them to remove their reviews.
  • Proactively create positive reviews.
  • Upgrade to a paid page and complete profile.
  • Being proactive in working the account and responding to anything negative.

If you could use some help managing Yelp and other Internet marketing platforms for your business, contact Work Media today. We would love to talk to you about how we can help you grow your business.