The Yelp Filter – How to free your legitimate reviews (2020)

In Local Marketing and SEO by Mark O'Neill

If you’ve found yourself stuck in a situation where your client is receiving legitimate reviews, but they’re getting stuck in the Yelp filter, you’re not alone.

Most of the agencies we work with have a ‘necessary evil‘ style relationship with Yelp. While Yelp has lost ground in significance for SEO purposes, they still attract lots of genuine consumer reviews. Most strategies involving Yelp are about damage prevention – trying to negate the effects of any negative reviews with an abundance of positive ones.

This can be seen by some of the extreme lengths people have gone to to get negative reviews off their business page. This has led to Yelp leaving warning pop-ups on pages of businesses who are litigation-friendly.

yelp filter

But did you know not all reviews actually make it to the front page?

Many people don’t realize that Yelp operates a filter where it tries to nuke all the spam reviews and anything deemed “not relevant”. The ratings from these reviews are not factored in when Yelp calculates the business’ overall score on the site.

But before you start applauding Yelp’s foresight and business acumen, the downside is that legitimate reviews also get snared in the same trap. The result is that not only are these legitimate reviews not seen by people visiting your client’s Yelp page, but it’s dragging down the overall Yelp score by not factoring in positive reviews.

There is no official method for getting reviews out of the Yelp filter.

If there was, and it became public knowledge, spammers would have a field day! There is an unofficial method that seems to work in around 60% of cases,  and it’s what we’ll explore here.

1) Find The Filtered Reviews

Head to your client’s business page and scroll to the bottom until you find a grey link that says “X Other Reviews That Are Not Currently Recommended“.

If you click on the grey link, the reviews in the Yelp filter will appear.

Now there can be several reasons why these reviews have fallen victim to the Yelp filter.

  • There is no user photo or details on the Yelp reviewer’s account.
  • The Yelp reviewer has only done one or two reviews.
  • The review has perhaps been considered by Yelp to be too short, or full of irrelevant details.
  • The Yelp reviewer has no “friends” on Yelp.
  • The review is coming from a an IP address associated with spam.

The Yelp filter is far from perfect. Occasionally, you’ll see false positives (reviews it has mistakenly decided are spam or not relevant). So if you want a review out of there and into your actual page (and have its score taken into account), there is something you can do for genuine accounts.

2) Find The Yelp Reviewer’s Yelp Review Page

For some reason, a person’s review doesn’t directly link to their Yelp page. So to find their actual page, you need to search for it.

We’ll take the filtered review below, that looks like a genuine account (user photo, friends, reviews, 1 uploaded photo).

To find the reviewer, head to Yelp’s “Find Friends” page.

Search with the person’s name – in this case, Ida V. If it’s a fairly common name, you may need to narrow it down to their city.

3) Friend The Reviewer & Contact Them

On the right of the listing, you will see some options. First, add them as a friend and then wait a few days. If they accept your friend request, sometimes that’s all that’s needed to pull the review out.

If it doesn’t, the other option is to contact the person (via the “Send message” link), and ask them if they would be willing to do the following :

  • Connect their Yelp account with their Facebook account. In the eyes of Yelp, this validates the reviewer.
  • Download and sign into the Yelp smartphone app (iOS & Android).
  • Use their Yelp account to check in at some local places.
  • Leave more positive and negative reviews. The more active the Yelp account, the better.

4) Offer An Incentive To The Reviewer

If adding the reviewer as a friend fails, and you need to ask them to do something, the likelihood is they won’t respond to your request 😭

But it’s a numbers game. Even if 1 reviewer in 10 did what you asked, that is still one extra review on your client’s page. Secondly, you can increase the odds a bit by offering them an incentive.

This could be a discount on their next purchase or a bogof offer.

Here’s an approach we’ve seen work well:

I realize you’re probably busy, so you may not have time to jump through these hoops for me! For your efforts, I’d like to offer you a 20% discount on your next visit here – no strings attached.

Or words to that effect.

As you probably know with Yelp, you can’t make a discount dependent on a positive review, but here the reviewer has already left their review; you’re merely incentivising them to make their account (and their review) more legitimate.

These days, you need to do everything you can to increase your positive reviews. This is just one of them. It’s not a foolproof method, but committing to this on a regular basis as part of your account management strategy can yield good results.