As you may know, Freelancers are often requested to provide fake reviews on Yelp by small businesses and entrepreneurs. In fact, I personally know that many SEO agencies are tasked with dropping these fake reviews on behalf of their client.
In the eyes of the business, this might be a fool proof and risk-free strategy but the truth is, fake reviews on Yelp are incredibly dangerous for a business.
My Experience with Fake Reviews on Yelp
I read about an Irish advertising business recently who was spending thousands of euro every month on adverts. They were paying for fake reviews on Yelp and when the local search service noticed, they cancelled the account. As if that’s not enough, Yelp demoted the business for six months and said that there was no guarantee that they would ever reach the same heights again.
You see, Yelp have a very strict policy and approach to fake reviews. In case you might be asking yourself, here are just a few of these rules:
- Don’t ask customers, mailing list subscribers, friends, family, or anyone else to review your business.
- Don’t ask your staff to compete to collect reviews.
- Don’t run surveys that ask for reviews from customers reporting positive experiences.
- Don’t ever offer freebies, discounts, or payment in exchange for reviews — it will turn off savvy consumers, and may also be illegal. Yelp has a Consumer Alerts program to let people know about businesses that engage in this sort of activity.
And that’s just part of the story….
How Businesses Are Penalized for Fake Reviews on Yelp
Okay, so I mentioned that Yelp issues a ranking penalty. However, Yelp also stops these businesses from advertising and even prevents them from removing the fake reviews.
Furthermore, if the business remains on the platform or is listed again in future, the search service goes on to monitor this business to ensure it does not happen again.
But how does anyone even know about these fake reviews on Yelp?
Well, Yelp have a manual filter system which can apparently remove up to 25% of reviews that are biased, fake, or even just unhelpful rants. On the other hand, Yelp will also investigate any reviews that are reported with vigor – something that very few platforms put any effort into doing.
I guess dabbling in fake reviews as a freelancer is one thing but when a business gets caught for leaving fake reviews on Yelp – that’s a whole different story!