Dr. Johnson’s epic battle with the Yelp review filter*
Dr. Johnson is a dentist in Philadelphia who has been practicing for more than 30 years. He has treated thousands of patients over his career. One day in 2013, he Googled himself, and to his dismay, only one person had left him a review on Yelp. The review was written two years ago. It was negative, and he suspected it was written by a former employee.
Dr. Johnson asked Yelp to remove the review. However, nothing he tried—not even purchasing advertising from Yelp—would convince them to remove the review.
His next idea was to request that patients evaluate him on Yelp. By getting more reviews, Dr. Johnson hoped to receive a more favorable Yelp rating. That’s when the doctor learned about the Yelp Review Filter.
Over the next three months, Yelp hid every review that patients left for Dr. Johnson. The only review that remained was the original bad review. And below the bad review was a line of gray text showing how many other reviews had been hidden.
A count of how many reviews the Yelp review filter hid on Dr. Johnson’s account
Undeterred, the doctor continued sending patients to Yelp. The number of filtered reviews continued to grow. Only the original bad review was still visible.
The doctor wished he could sue Yelp. He performed online searches and found that Yelp had already been sued many times. In these lawsuits, Yelp had prevailed because of free speech and the Communications Decency Act of 1996, which protects sites like Yelp from being held liable for things consumers write.
Frustrated, the doctor gave up and learned to live with his one star review.
6 YELP SURVIVAL SKILLS
Online review websites, like Yelp, are becoming increasingly important to the business of dentistry. As a dentist in 2014, you need to have some basic survival skills to ensure that you don’t waste precious time like Dr. Johnson did.
The Yelp review filter behaves like a SPAM filter. Yelp has had to do this for legitimate reasons to block fake reviews. Just as authentic emails can get caught in spam, patient reviews can get caught in the Yelp review filter. If you send a lot of patients to Yelp to write reviews, the Yelp Review Filter will go into a tizzy and may filter most of your reviews—regardless of whether you pay for advertising.
SURVIVAL SKILL #1
Do not send massive amounts of patients to Yelp to write reviews. If Yelp sees that you received one review in 2012, three reviews in 2013 and suddenly 34 reviews in 2013, they are going to know that you are spiking your reviews.
SURVIVAL SKILL #2
If you do send people to Yelp, do it subtly. Ideally, you would only send regular Yelp users to your profile. People who have never used Yelp before should be directed to other websites, like Vitals, to write reviews for you.
SURVIVAL SKILL #3
Don’t buy advertising on Yelp if your sole intent is to remove reviews. There are merits to advertising on Yelp, but the review filter exists to build trust with Yelp’s audience. They will not change their review filter in exchange for payment.
SURVIVAL SKILL #4
Claim your Yelp profile and update your website to link to your testimonials page. Pictured below:
One Review Concierge client’s Yelp profile – see how it links to /reviews.html.
People who are reading your Yelp profile want to learn about your reviews. The most visited link on your Yelp profile is your website. So send prospective patients to your website to read all your positive reviews in one place.
SURVIVAL SKILL #5
The best way to approach negative reviews is to respond with kindness.
SURVIVAL SKILL #6
Get professional help. There are a multitude of online reputation management companies out there. Make sure whichever company you choose is making realistic promises. I would question any company that claims they can get reviews removed from Yelp more than 5% of the time.
To gain more survival skills, we recommend that dentists read the Online Review Survival Course for Doctors. The survival course is free and publicly accessible. It covers a brief history of online reviews as well as the treatment options for dental practices who have received negative reviews.
*The story is based on actual events. Names have been changed to protect the innocent.