Reputation Management for Multifamily: Flagging Negative Yelp Reviews and Winning
It’s no secret that people can be ruthless on internet review sites as they hide behind their keyboards while mercilessly tearing businesses to shreds. These days, everyone and their mom feels obliged to write an online review of each place they’ve ever lived, eaten, shopped, watched a movie, grabbed a cup of coffee, gotten a haircut or received any type of customer service whatsoever. Even if the frustration is justified, the way some of them go about expressing it can be downright nasty.
A few months back, we provided you with some helpful tips on how to turn a negative online review into a positive but now it’s time to take things to the next level by focusing on how to successfully convince the controllers of the Yelp universe to remove the utmost offensive, inappropriate and/or offensive reviews from their site altogether. Anytime you manage to triumphantly plead your case to Yelp to abolish a negative review, your online reputation improves just a little bit more.
Flagging a review on Yelp is actually a pretty simple process. You must first select one of eight general reasons why you’re reporting the review before you may explain in more detail exactly why you think the content you are reporting may be violating Yelp’s Content Guidelines.
To help you better understand these eight categories and which tend to have the highest success rate, I’ll break them down for you:
#1 – It contains false information
The first reason you might be flagging a review also happens to be the most difficult one to prove. When it comes down to it, it’s your word versus the reviewer’s word and Yelp has no way of verifying the validity of either party’s statement; therefore, I would advise against selecting this option even if you are 100% certain that every word of a particular review is 100% false. It just won’t hold up in court.
#2 + 3 – It was posted by someone affiliated with the business / It was posted by a competitor or ex-employee
The next two reasons go hand-in-hand. You’re either flagging a review because the person who wrote it is affiliated with the business (whether it be an employee, family member or significant other) or because the reviewer is a competitor and/or disgruntled ex-employee. In one case, the intent of the review may be to illegitimately boost a business’ overall rating while the goal of the other is to most likely sabotage it. If you know (or even suspect) a review was written by someone who used to work for your company and you are able to provide a full name, dates of employment and any other pertinent information you may have, you have a decent shot of getting that review removed.
#4 – It contains threats, lewdness or hate speech
This one is my favorite. It’s the easiest to prove and, if your skin is thick enough, it can be the source of the most humor you’ll find in the sea of negativity that is Yelp. Whenever you come across a review that is crude, offensive, inappropriate, demeaning, racist and/or threatening in any capacity, always flag it. Even if you think it’s a little bit of a stretch, still flag it. You may not win every time but, you have at least a 50/50 chance of swaying Yelp in your favor and, in the world of flagging, those are incredible odds!
#5 – It doesn’t describe a personal consumer experience
If you receive a review in which it’s clear the author never actually had any direct interaction with your business, flag away. The reviewer is not describing a personal consumer experience thus rendering the statement useless in Yelp’s eyes. I’ve only utilized this option a few times but, so far, it has a perfect record. I’m not saying it will work every time without fail but, if the reviewer flatout says he/she has not physically visited your property, spoken with anyone on your team yet, or has heard a lot of bad things about your business, that person’s opinion is no longer relevant and Yelp will eliminate it.
#6 – It violates Yelp’s privacy standards found within the Content Guidelines
This one can be a little tricky. People often mistakenly believe they’ll be able to successfully flag a review if employees are mentioned specifically by name. What they don’t realize is reviewers can use employees’ first names to their heart’s content. The moment that their full names come into play, it’s time to start flagging. Yelp will almost always remove a review that includes an employee’s full name. Other items that violate Yelp’s privacy standards are close-up photos or videos of employees, people’s home addresses, social security numbers, credit card numbers, and any other personal information the average person wouldn’t want plastered all over the internet.
#7 – It contains promotional material
If someone is spamming your business’ page with advertisements for an unaffiliated company, Yelp will take those “reviews” down in a heartbeat. Yelp doesn’t want people who aren’t paying for advertisements to receive any free exposure, which works in your favor if the attempted promotion is within the body of an unpleasant review. It’s a win-win!
#8 – It’s for the wrong business
The eighth and final reason you might be flagging a review is, in my experience, the most consistently effective option. If a review is obviously written about a different business yet it’s still been posted to your property’s page, it will almost always be deleted by Yelp. The most common occurrence is when an angry reviewer decides to copy and paste the exact same review on multiple Yelp pages in the hopes of getting attention. Although that method may sometimes be effective in drawing focus to the reported issues, Yelp does not like duplicate reviews cluttering up their website, so be sure to flag reviews of this nature every single time.
In the same vein, this is the best option to select anytime you need to flag an unfavorable, user-uploaded photograph. In your reasoning, make sure you’re communicating that “It’s not a picture of the business.” If a Yelp user has posted close-up photos focused on things like bugs, mold, garbage, peeling paint or broken lights and there is no clear frame of reference demonstrating that the shot was actually snapped at your property, it never hurts to flag it. There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to Yelp’s logic when agreeing to remove some photos and not others but, when in doubt, flag those questionable pics! The worst that could happen is they aren’t taken down but at least you know that you tried.
The OTHER Review Sites
Of course, there are the negative reviews that come in for Google Plus, Apartment Ratings, and Facebook, but their flagging process isn’t as helpful as you might think, and I haven’t had as much luck getting reviews taken down on those sites. If you think you can get reviews removed on Apartment Ratings for profanity or using names, think again. All they do is censor the words and names in question, but leave the rest of the review intact. The best course of action there is to just respond.
Remember: don’t be afraid to flag. Just be careful and consistent in your reasoning and don’t let Yelp’s occasional disagreement with you discourage you from continuing to fight the good fight. Who knows? You just may end up getting one of these emails in your inbox:
Have you had success flagging reviews or need some advice on how to navigate Yelp’s system? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter @GoToMyApartment.