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Why Your Yelp Reviews Disappear

For business owners new to Yelp, its ways can be sometimes mysterious and often infuriating.

There are 3 reasons a review could go missing:

  1. The original author deleted it on their own.
  2. Yelp's User Operations team removed it due to content infractions in Yelp's Content Guidelines or the author violated the Terms of Service.
  3. Yelp filters it out as "Not Recommended". The review can still be found, but it does not show up under your business' reviews and your rating doesn't reflect these filtered reviews.

The items in number 2 above are not typical. The review is only permanently removed if it was flagged by the community. Keep in mind some in the community could be your competition.

Let's look into number 3, Yelp's review filter. They run algorithms that analyze each review your business receives, profiles the author of the review, and determines from the content of the review and the history of the author whether to display it or not.

Where These Reviews End Up

If Yelp determines the review may be fraudulent (but can't be sure) or doesn't "best reflect the opinions of the Yelp community", it will hide the review behind a link at the bottom of the page:

Filtered Yelp reviews - now called not recommended

Clicking that link will only give you a handful of the reviews. To view all of them, you are taken to a place off the beaten path, that is only partially connected to the business.

For one of my favorite coffee shops, there were 239 reviews and 36 "not recommended". That means 13% were filtered. That's a big chunk!

Of these 36:

  • 15 were 5 stars (42%)
  • 10 were 4 stars (27%)
  • 3 were 3 stars (8%)
  • 3 were 2 stars (8%)
  • 5 were 1 star (14%)

Sadly, most were 4 or 5 stars (69%)

Yelp admits it filters out "unhelpful rants and raves". Since most of these were raves, one of my favorite coffee shops got burned.

Yelp ignores newer Yelp users with not much history, since it figures may of those reviews will be fakes or paid reviews.

What can you do?

Unfortunately, not much.

Yelp's response to why so many positive reviews get filtered:

  1. Some of these reviews may have been written by people we don't know much about, so they aren't ranking high with our automated recommendation software. This is entirely normal, and it affects all businesses on the site and all types of reviews, whether positive or negative.
  2. Some of these reviews may fit a pattern that is different from what we typically see. Our automated software is trained to detect these anomalies, and even though there may be a good explanation, the software sometimes errs on the side of caution.
  3. Our users write more positive reviews in the first place, so you would expect to see a higher proportion of them being both recommended... and not!

We'll be following up more on this soon, but Yelp has been under fire for years, and there are numerous stories of business owners seeing more of their reviews filtered once they declined spending money to advertise on Yelp. We'll be reporting more on that in near-future posts.

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