Reviews are once again making news in the world of digital marketing. Today Sandro goes over a couple of news items including a Yelp algorithm update & fake reviews.

Episode 0328



Help with Yelp 2019


Liz: [00:00:03] Hey there. Welcome back to Liz and Sandro’s Marketing Podcast. If you’re new to the show welcome Sandro and I chat about all things digital marketing including SEO, Web sites, email marketing. And today we’re going to be chatting about reviews.

Sandro: [00:00:17] Thanks Liz. Today. Yes. I wanted to talk about reviews and I almost wanted to call this The State of Reviews in 2019 but really it’s more letting you know what’s going on with reviews at this point in time. And we may still call it that but a few things piqued my interest in the subject over the past few weeks.


Visiting Home During Holidays Brought On More Reviews


Sandro: [00:00:32] First the holidays. So many people came home, or went home, or got to go home for the holidays and stopped by old haunts or businesses or favorite bars when they were in college and places they loved when they lived at home. And inevitably many of them left reviews.


Yelp’s Oct 2018 Ghost Update


Sandro: [00:00:47] Second there’s a lot of chatter going around the marketing world that Yelp very quietly released an update to its algorithm in late October. People are calling it the Ghost Update. Ghost Update because it kind of just, you didn’t really notice anything and because the update basically moved a lot of reviews into the Not Recommended portion of their review page. So you can see the not recommended reviews if you scroll all the way down on any Yelp business page. These are sometimes fun to read because they can be obviously really fake. But at the same time I know of some that are very legitimate reviews who have been flagged and put in the not recommended areas. So while their algorithm is good it’s not 100 percent perfect.

Sandro: [00:01:29] Regardless I’d recommend taking a look at your Not Recommended reviews and see if there’s an uptick in them. We’ll link to an article and study about this but basically there was no real bias to what reviews are flagged. Every business industry seemed to be affected. Approximately 25 percent of all businesses were affected. There were 1-star reviews that were deprecated down to not recommended and 5-star and everything in-between. Most businesses didn’t lose anything in their overall rating. But a few did it gain up to one star and a few did lose up to a full star. So again another reason for you to check on your Yelp reviews.


Why Do Not Recommended Yelp Reviews Matter?


Sandro: [00:02:05] Why this matters to you? Basically, there’s nothing you can do about it. But you should check in on these not recommended reviews. If you happen to know a person who wrote one of the reviews, you may want to ask them to check-in to your business on Yelp. That could help legitimize a review.

Liz: [00:02:19] And if they’re write another, do they need to write another one? Or will it legitimize the previous review?

Sandro: [00:02:25] I’ve seen both. You should have at least three reviews. Another thing to do is have at least a few friends on Yelp.

Liz: [00:02:32] Sure.

Sandro: [00:02:32] And have a picture of yourself.

Liz: [00:02:35] I forgot you could do that on Yelp.


You Cannot Ask For Reviews On Yelp, However. . . 


Sandro: [00:02:36] Yes. All those things help Yelp know that maybe you are legitimate. It doesn’t always help because I’ve seen someone who has all of her reviews approved and one that just happens to be not recommended. It’s very weird. While by the rules of Yelp you’re not allowed to technically, explicitly ask for reviews on Yelp, one way you can help this is to ask people or tell people, “hey you will find us on Yelp!” Or “hey did you know we have a yelp page?”.

Liz: [00:03:01] Right.

Sandro: [00:03:01] Using that wording is allowed.

Liz: [00:03:03] Which is so dumb how how can you be a review site? Which I get that’s not what they call themselves but that’s what they are. So just ask for reviews! Like there should be any harm in that.

Sandro: [00:03:15] Yeah of all the review sites Yelp seems to be the only one that you’re not allowed to ask for reviews. Or ask them ask your client your guests to check in on Yelp. And then maybe that’ll remind them “Hey I should review this.” And actually Yelp sends out an email. Hey you checked and you should review this place.


Reddit Post: Fake Reviews


Sandro: [00:03:29] Finally there’s a reddit post that made a splash and we’ll link to it here. It’s a guy who was working at his cousin’s restaurant while he was going to college for a year and a half and basically his cousin’s restaurant was not doing well and I believe their lease was up in 18 months. They knew they were going to be closing in a year, year and a half so the MBA student, he was an MBA student, asked his cousin the owner if he could go to town with the reviews. Because basically they had three and a half stars, 3, 3 1/2 stars everywhere. So this student did during that 18 months and he created accounts, fake accounts on Google, on Yelp on other sites.

Sandro: [00:04:21] He let them simmer, let them grow. He made reviews for other businesses. And used VPNs so he could pretend like he was in Australia visiting or in other cities in other countries. He used Tor. He used the dark web to solicit reviews. And they had nothing to lose they were going to go out of business anyways. And one more thing they did. They rebranded themselves as under new management. Even though they weren’t. Eventually over time their rating went from three and a half to four and a half stars. And suddenly business boomed 50, 70, to 100 percent. Doubling. Suddenly bloggers and newspapers and local.

Liz: [00:04:43] Media outlets were showing up. Oh my gosh.


Shady Side of Reviews


Sandro: [00:04:46] Reviewing and they were saying how great the new management was. How great the new food was, how great the new menu was. And when in actuality and you’ll read it quote “when in reality we were just cycling the same stuff. The same junk we served six months prior.” So there’s more, we’ll link to it but my takeaway is reviews matter. And they can be gamed. I think Liz & I are going to be doing a few episodes on the shadier side of digital marketing. Shady side of SEO.

Liz: [00:05:17] Yes for sure. Because we’ve talking about it for months.

Sandro: [00:05:21] You know you could game Amazon, our last episode you can game Amazon reviews and pay people to write reviews. So I’m not saying you should do these things but I wanted to make you aware that this is happening. And while we don’t recommend clients do this if a client asks us to do it we’re not going to say no at this point in time.


Everyone Gaming the System?


Sandro: [00:05:51] We have a client we’ll talk about later. She asked us to do something for Google and kind of fake something we did and her business has picked up ever since then. Yeah. So I’m almost saying I understand why people are doing this. They’re not being penalized but there are rules & those breaking the rules aren’t being penalized and their businesses seems to be booming. I know law firms. They were the first business that I saw doing this quite a bit. At least where when I started. So I’m not advocating do this we’re not recommending doing this.

Liz: [00:06:14] We’re just reporting on what’s happening out there in the digital space.

Sandro: [00:06:18] And if you do it I’m not going to blame you.

Liz: [00:06:21] Now we’re giving you a high five & pats on the back.

Sandro: [00:06:23] Just saying, you know what man, you do you because Google and Yelp are not catching any of this stuff.


Fake News


Liz: [00:06:27] And by the way great journalism in action since no one bothered to fact check that the restaurant wasn’t actually under new management. It’s it’s you know probably in the food section of a paper. So you know, not the hard news that we need, the hard journalistic fact checking on. But still, so funny. So did they. By the way did the did the restaurant close? Did it go out of business?

Sandro: [00:06:51] You know I don’t know. I haven’t read. There’s a lot of responses to the original reddit. And again we’ll link to it. But I haven’t read them all. But it is kind of funny because he says “you know what was it that I was a new manager and I was a good manager?” And he says “I was actually a really bad manager.” So no I would have prevented people from coming in.

Liz: [00:07:09] Interesting. Yep more proof that reviews make a big difference with your online presence so get out there get those reviews.

Sandro: [00:07:17] And do what you can to make sure you get the best reviews possible.

Liz: [00:07:20] Definitely. All right. Well thanks for these update Sandro and thank you for joining us. That wraps up today’s episode. Don’t forget you can find us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram. If you have an extra couple of minutes we would love some feedback please give us a review on iTunes Stitcher and Google podcast. We’d love some feedback from you. Thanks so much and we’ll see you next time.