I hate Yelp! 

Have you ever said that or at least thought that?  We hear from local businesses all the time who are so frustrated with Yelp reviews that sometimes 1 negative review can cost their business thousands of dollars. 

But the fact is, if you own an online business, online review sites such as Yelp, make it far too easy for your customers and even your competitors to leave nasty negative reviews and trash your business.  Is it fair?  Not at all.  Can you do something about it?  Absolutely.

Yelp is one of the most popular reviews sites and Yelp results also rank high quite high in search engine results.  Because of this, consumers are actively reviewing Yelp before making a decision on where to dine at or even order in from.   Chances are that if your business is listed on Yelp, and if someone searches for your business, your Yelp profile will also show up in the results.  

Search Engine Results

  1. Your business website (hopefully)
  2. On the right side, your Google My Business profile.
  3. Facebook Profile
  4. Yelp Profile

In fact, restaurants are the highest ranked review category on Yelp, with almost 19%. 

Claim your Yelp Business Profile

Claiming your business on Yelp is the first step in building your credibility and it also allows you to engage with the Yelp community. By not claiming your business profile on Yelp, it shows the general public that you don’t really care about your reviews, and more specifically, your Yelp reviews.

Claiming your Yelp business profile is quite easy, so if you have not yet “Claimed” your Yelp Business Profile, that is the first step.  

But, wouldn’t it be great if there was a simple button you could press to delete a bad yelp review?   If only that was easy!

Once you have “Claimed” your Yelp Business Profile, the first thing you want to do is study Yelp’s “When Should I Report a Review” page. If the review appears to violate one of yelps content guidelines, that’s when you can flag the review for removal. 

How to Remove a Bad or Negative Review that Doesn’t Violate Yelp Guidelines

The 3 main reasons why Yelp may remove a negative review:

  1. The reviewer has an apparent conflict of interest
  • They appear to be a competitor or former employee
  • They appear to be affiliated with the business
  • They’re receiving payment or other incentives for the review
  • They’re promoting the business or a competitor
  1. The review doesn’t focus on the reviewer’s own consumer experience
  • It’s about someone else’s consumer experience
  • It’s a response to a current event in the news
  • It’s primarily disputing another Yelper’s review
  • It’s about a different business
  • It appears to be plagiarized from another source
  1. The review includes inappropriate material
  • It contains hate speech, lewd commentary, or threatening language
  • It contains private information about employees or patrons

Helpful Tips: How to spot a fake Yelp review

  1. Look at the reviewer’s profile photo: Do a reverse image search on their profile photo to see if it’s a stock photo. Doesn’t mean it’s fake, but it sure does look shady.
  1. Look at the profiles that posted the reviews:
    • Are they posting reviews in multiple states?
    • Are all the businesses in the same niche?

Now if you think there’s even a chance that a review violated one of these Yelp guidelines, follow these steps to try to get it removed.

  1. Log into your Yelp business user account
  1. Once you are in your Yelp account, click the reviews link on the Left column scroll to the bad review and click on the grey flag icon below the review

3. Make your case in a clear and concise message to the Yelp moderators.

  • Focus the objective:  it’s easy to become emotional when you get a bad review.  But just remember that the Yelp moderators are human beings too.  Don’t complain, threaten or go on the attack when you report a bad review.
  • State the solution:  It may seem obvious to say that you want the review removed, however there’s a lot of research that shows that people are much more likely to take action when you tell them specifically what you want them to do.
  • Provide Evidence:  The next step is to provide any evidence you have to back up your claim that the review may have violated one of yelps content guidelines.
  • Give a Brief Reason Why:  Explain why you’re asking for the review to be removed.  Research and human behavior shows that people are more likely to grant a request if you give them a reason why you’re asking.  The reason can be a benefit to them or a benefit to you according to the research studies.  The quality of the reason doesn’t really matter that much.  What’s important is that you give some kind of reason for your request.

Here’s an example:

SolutionPlease consider removing this review by Sarah T

EvidenceIf you go to this website, www.competitor.com, you will notice that Sarah T is an employee of one of our competitors.  Additionally, our records show that James has never been a customer of our business.

Reason Why:  This review appears to violate two of your content guidelines: 1. Apparent conflict of interest.  2. Not the review’s own consumer experience.  I believe this review unfairly harms our reputation and the reputation of Yelp reviews in general. Thank you for your consideration of this matter. 

That’s all there is to it.  All you need to do is follow these steps for any bad reviews that violate any of Yelps’ content guidelines.

Now what if the negative Yelp review doesn’t violate yelps content guidelines?  Sometimes you receive a valid bad Yelp review due to a customer complaint.  Here’s what you need to do

How to Remove a Bad or Negative Review that Doesn’t Violate Yelp Guidelines?

It’s always important to respond to a bad review right away.  Yelp has found that a reviewer is 33% more likely to upgrade their review, if you respond back to them within 24 hours.  Even if a review appears to violate one of Yelp’s content guidelines and you are already working to get it remove by Yelp, don’t wait for hear back from the Yelp moderator.  If possible, treat the reviews as a legitimate reviewer, and contact the reviewer right away.  With any type of bad review, the longer you wait, the harder it will be to get the negative Yelp review removed, or at least upgraded to a higher rating.

Now if you have a bad Yelp review that’s been there for a while, don’t let that stop you from following the steps listed below

When you get bad Yelp review, your first instinct is to get angry and rebuttal the reviews emotionally.  DON’T!   A single negative Yelp review handled the wrong way can cost your business thousands of dollars.

Do NOT respond back with childish responses, or even lash out at the Yelp reviewer.  Remember, you are not only responding back to the reviewer, but also responding back to everyone else who is reading your reviews.

Here’s what you need to do to fix a negative Yelp review.

  1. Breath and take a step back.  It’s going to happen.
  1. Swallow your pride and try to reach out the customer by Phone if possible, if not, by email, and if both are unavailable, you can respond back to the reviewer by going to the review itself and clicking on “Send Direct Message”.
  1. Contact the Reviewer:
  • Introduce yourself and thank the reviewer
  • Apologize and mention any changes that you’ve made as a result of the feedback
  • Offer an ethical bribe to correct the issue or compensate the reviewer. and request another chance

What is an Ethical Bribe?

An Ethical Bribe is a generous offer to correct the mistake or compensate the reviewer to get them to give you another chance.  It’s ethical, because you are NOT asking them to change their review or asking for another else in return.  When they do come in, this is your opportunity to go over the top and deliver an outstanding customer experience.  The majority of people will happily revise and/or even remove the review on their own.    If not, you can always reach out to them at a later date to ask them to consider revising their review based on their latest experience.

Here’s an example:

Introduction:  Hi Jason, this is Michael, the owner of Chicken’s R Us.  I wanted to reach out to thank you for your feedback on Yelp about your recent ordering experience with us. 

Apology & Changes:  I’m so sorry that we did not include the additional sauces as part of your order as expected which resulted in a “unbearable and dry food experience”.  I personally had a meeting with all our staff and gave them a training on how best to handle take out orders and developed a check list to follow so this doesn’t happen again. 

Ethical Bribe:  How can I make it up to you?  Can I re-send you another order with an assortment of our best sauces on the house and a free dessert   I hope you’ll consider giving us a chance to make it right

We know it’s not easy to read the negative Yelp review and then reach out to the reviewer to make an offer to give you another chance. However, you’ll be amazed at how well this ethical bribe strategy works to get the reviewer to upgrade their review or even removed all together.

How to Bury a Bad or Negative Yelp Review

What do you do when you tried to get Yelp to remove a negative review and they refused?  You also tried to reach out to the reviewer privately and that also failed?

If you can’t get a bad yelp review removed by the steps mentioned above, your next course of action is to take steps to minimize the damage it can cause you business. 

Responding Back Publicly

When you respond back to a customer’s feedback in the right way, you are showing potential customers future customers that you listen and that you value your customer’s feedback.  It also shows that you are continuously striving to improve. 

A good well-balanced response will neutralize the harm that a negative Yelp review can have on your business. 

A couple of negative reviews won’t harm your business, as long as you respond back to them in the appropriate way and then bury them under an avalanche of 5-star reviews.

Let’s get started.  When you receive a negative yelp review, you will need to act and respond back to the review. 

  1. Standard Public Comment for a Bad Review
    • Thank the reviewer for their business and feedback
    • When appropriate, apologize and mention any changes you’ve made as a result of the feedback.
    • Offer an ethical bribe.

  2. Public Comment for a Fake/False Review
    • Present your case briefly and politely
    • Never attack the reviewer
    • When appropriate, apologize that they are unhappy without admitting responsibility.

Remember: Potential customers will be reading your comments, and you don’t want to leave the impression that you would criticize or attack a customer under any circumstances.

Here’s an example of how to address a negative Yelp review that the Yelp moderators refused to remove.

Hi Jason.  Thanks for your feedback.  I’m not sure what to do here except to apologize.  We don’t have a record of any Jason R from Orleans in our customer database and unfortunately, no one on our staff recalls the situation you have described.  Regardless, I’m really sorry that you had a bad experience.  Please call my office so we can see if there is a way that I can make this up to you?

However, some owners may prefer to respond back with witty comebacks like this owner here: 


There is a saying in the SEO (search engine optimization) world.  “The best place to a hide a dead body is page 2 of a Google search results” because no one goes past page 1. Well at least most people don’t. 

In the world of reviews, we want to apply a similar approach, and build up enough positive 5-star reviews that it will push down the bad and negative yelp reviews out of sight.

Once you’ve addressed and neutralized any negative reviews with a public response addressing the review, the best next step is to bury the bad reviews out of sight.

While removing the bad reviews will help you avoid losing business, the real magic happens when you bury the bad reviews under an avalanche of 5-star reviews.    

How can you get more 5-star reviews?

You have 2 ways:

  1. You can do what many businesses do: hope and pray for 5-star reviews
  2. Or you can take control and make it happen by implementing a review generation strategy through the use of a Review Management platform such as ReviewPanda

ReviewPanda is an easy-to-use software tool that lets you monitor your company’s online reputation, collect and use customer reviews in online marketing campaigns, and work with unhappy customers to address issues before they turn into negative reviews that can damage your brand. 

ReviewPanda is a complete automated reputation management platform that help you to grow your reviews on Yelp, Google, Facebook Tripadvisor and many more review sites.

Best of all ReviewPanda is already integrated with Yelp reviews and also 150+ other review sites.

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