Yelp’s Top Rankings Are Out Of The Small Merchants’ League

Today I was talking to a mortgage counselor potentially interested in social media marketing services. I got in touch with that person after he left an ad asking for help on his Yelp’s rankings. His problem is that his customers’ reviews keep getting erased by Yelp, and despite some good reviews that stick around, his business shows at the bottom of the last search results page of his category. When you look at it, it is obvious that this person’s Yelp ranking is being hijacked.

Here is what I stated in my first reply email:

  1. Your competitors appearing on top of the search results have been yelped by active yelpers
  2. Some of your competitors, like Washington Mutual (#1 rank), have been yelped by ‘elite’ yelpers: now those guys bring you the rank juice you need.
  3. Just like on Google, paying for sponsored search results on Yelp will help you boost your ranking.
  4. Yelp is a dangerous place to be: It is not unusual for companies to hire ‘mercenaries’ who flag the competition’s reviews so that the reviews get erased.

Another point I did not mention to him is that his reviewers had low low rankings on Yelp, which makes the whole thing look like a Yelp scam (funny conclusion: don’t encourage your customers to Yelp you if they are not regular users of the service!)

All of the above was true, and it was only leading to one conclusion: For a small business, it’s not worth it to invest time and money in Yelp, when your competitors are powerful banking institutions. Just like it has become obvious that occupying the top of natural search results on Google is a matter of dollars, the same goes for Yelp. And just like Google doesn’t have any customer service, so does Yelp. Yelp will only call a small merchant to see if he is interested in purchasing an ad plan on Yelp.

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