I recently heard a story of a business that got caught with fake reviews on Yelp. They were also an advertiser spending thousands of dollars a month on ads. When they got caught, Yelp canceled their ad account and told them they would be demoting the listing’s ranking for 6 months. After that time, they would re-evaluate, but there was no guarantee that things would go back to how they were before. Yelp’s stance on fake reviews couldn’t be more completely opposite of Google’s. Here are a few ways they differ when it comes to approaching businesses caught with fake reviews:
1. Yelp issues a ranking penalty, Google does not.
2. Yelp stops the business from advertising, Google does not.
3. Yelp monitors the listing to see if the business continues their deceptive practices, Google does not.
4. Yelp will remove a listing from their system for having fake reviews. I have never seen Google do this. I reached out to Yelp to find out if what happened to this particular business is typical.
A Yelp spokesperson responded with this: “It’s critical that we maintain the quality of content on our platform and protect consumers from those relatively few businesses that seek to artificially inflate their online reputations. We reserve the right to demote in search results, or remove from our platform altogether, any business that seeks to artificially manipulate our system or mislead consumers. We continue to recommend that businesses avoid contracting with third-party companies offering to remove negative reviews or otherwise boost business page ratings as doing so may lead to severe penalties on Yelp. We have reason to believe that this business has used extreme measures to attempt to artificially inflate its reputation on Yelp and mislead consumers.”
5. Yelp’s automatic filter catches a lot of fake reviews, Google’s does not.
According to the Yelp spokesperson, Yelp’s filter removes about 25 percent of their reviews. These include reviews that are fake, biased, solicited, or other unhelpful rants and raves. I have yet to see Google’s review filter catch paid-for reviews.
Lots of businesses using review posting services (marketing companies that post reviews for them) will have these reviews automatically filtered on Yelp already, but the person reporting them had to get Google to remove them manually. I had a business once come to me who had their previous SEO company posting reviews for them. They were trying to make things right and asked me to get Google to remove all their fake reviews. Google’s first response to my request was that the reviews didn’t appear to be fake. I was dumbfounded. The business owner was admitting to this but Google didn’t believe him. Why on earth would any business owner make this up when all the reviews were positive? In the end, we sent Google the emails between this business owner and the SEO company to get them removed.
In my opinion, the variances between these two companies tell me that fake reviews are a big deal to Yelp but not to Google. What should you do if you catch a business with fake reviews?
Google: Report it on the Google My Business forum. In my experience, you need a lot of evidence to get Google to remove fake reviews.
Yelp: The Yelp spokesperson told me that if a consumer or business believes that a review violates Yelp’s Terms of Service, including those that do not represent an actual first-hand experience, they can easily report the review by clicking on the small flag-shaped button in the bottom right-hand corner of the review. The review will then be reviewed by Yelp’s user support team.
On the other hand, if a user experiences a business offering payment or other incentives in exchange for positive reviews, they can alert Yelp’s User Support team through this form. Businesses that are reported may receive a Consumer Alert, which warns consumers that a business has been going to great lengths to mislead them behind the scenes.
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