The Yelp Purge of 2018 – Yelp’s New Algorithm Filters More Reviews

In November 2018, Yelp changed their algorithm, also known as their “recommendation software”. Millions of Yelp reviews were lost in what one Yelp representative called the “Yelp Purge of 2018”.

Yelp filtering reviews is nothing new, but the way Yelp filters which reviews are prominently displayed as “recommended reviews” completely changed in November 2018. The changes appear to affect nearly everyone in every niche.

This may sound alarming, but what I have found is that Yelp may now be filtering reviews when there are too many positive reviews (more on this below).

The discovery:

This is a comprehensive follow up to my previous article Yelp’s November 2018 Algorithm Change and Sudden Loss of Reviews. I wrote that article after it was brought to my attention that businesses were losing reviews. Lots of reviews. In some cases, 50%, 75% of their reviews, or more.

Here are the numbers for one business I monitor which has 108 total reviews. This particular business is well respected and has nearly all 5 star reviews.

  • 11/01/2018: 75 recommended reviews, 33 not currently recommended reviews. (69.44% displayed)
  • 11/30/2018: 45 recommended reviews, 63 not currently recommended reviews. (41.66% displayed)
  • 12/11/2018: 38 recommended reviews, 70 not currently recommended reviews. (35% displayed)
  • 12/15/2018: 36 recommended reviews, 72 not currently recommended reviews. (33.33% displayed)
  • 12/17/2018: 34 recommended reviews, 74 not currently recommended reviews. (31.48% displayed)

Of course, there has been a huge backlash on social media. Here are some surprised, frustrated and unhappy business owners…

Maxine Evans, Celebrity Newborn Baby Photographer:

Tampa Rug Cleaners:

Fix It Nick, a Rancho Cucamonga Handyman service now only has 26 of his 68 reviews showing:

Yelp’s response to business owners:

I personally owned a company with a storefront for nearly 13 years. I know how hard it is to earn reviews. As an entrepreneur, all I can really ask for is a level playing field and communication.

In my opinion, if you’re going to filter reviews, you really should tell people how, who, when, why and convey that message crystal clear. Otherwise people are simply going to hear “No reviews for you!”

From what I have observed, if you tweet Yelp and ask them where your reviews are, they simply reply with this canned reply:

I haven’t met anyone satisfied with this response yet…

“Recommended Reviews” vs “Not Currently Recommended Reviews”:

Let’s get the correct terminology down real quick…
Many people call their “recommended reviews” their “reviews”, “total reviews” or “displayed reviews”, and “Not Currently Recommended Reviews” their “filtered reviews” or “buried reviews”. To be clear:

  • “Recommended Reviews” – These are the reviews which contribute to your review count. This mine as well be your total review count, as that’s precisely what Yelp titles the page, so that’s what displays in search engines such as Google. In fact, at the top of a business’s Yelp page, the review number which is prominently displayed is the number of “recommended reviews”. As an example , here’s a screenshot of Peri Brothers Pizza. As you can see, Yelp displays “161 reviews” (they actually have 194, but 33 are filtered).
  • “Not Currently Recommended Reviews” – These are the reviews which Yelp does not display. Actually, they do display them if you scroll way down to the bottom of the page and look at the barely visible grey on white link which allows Yelpers to see additional reviews. Historically, these reviews are low quality or from people who joined Yelp to leave a single review, etc.

How Yelp’s algorithm USED to work

Previously, Yelp filtered reviews from Yelpers who had only left a few reviews. Fluctuations in review counts were normal. For example, a client with 108 reviews used to have 75 “recommend reviews”. Historically, if you visited the Yelp page, you may see 75, or 74, or 77. But at the time of this article, he’s now down to 34. That leaves 74 of his (legitimate) reviews buried.

The last study of Yelp’s algorithm was conducted in 2013 by the Harvard Business School. If you’d like, you can read it here. In a nutshell:

  • User reviews can come and go from day to day. 
  • A user’s first review is very unlikely to display. A user’s second review has about a 20% chance of displaying. As they leave more reviews, the more likely their reviews are to display. Here’s a screenshot from the study which shows the chances of a review being filtered based upon the user review count of the user who left the review.

The NEW Yelp Algorithm (recommendation software):

When the algorithm rolled out and businesses began losing reviews I wasn’t certain what was taking place. It appeared to me that Yelp tightened up their filter system even more than before – so users who had only left one or two reviews were having their reviews filtered. However, there were plenty of “not currently recommended” reviews that were from users who had left 10, 20, 40 or 50 reviews. Additionally, some of these users had large groups of friends, profile pictures and very obviously legitimate accounts.

According to a call my client had with Yelp, they were finally able to get a Yelp employee to tell us what happened. Please note that nobody truly knows how the algorithm works and the rep could have been just making stuff up, but after looking around I have no reason to not believe what she stated are indeed new ranking factors involved in the Yelp Purge of 2018.

  • Yelp activity. Basically she said that if Yelp does not see the person using Yelp on their phone or computer much then they are considering those Yelpers ‘dead accounts’ and removed their reviews.
  • Too many positive reviews. If a business receives too many positive reviews, the algorithm can downgrade or remove reviews when so many come off positive. It took some digging, but I was able to find a tweet where Yelp alludes to this:

Wait, What is Yelp’s “Recommendation Software”?

Their “recommendation software” is Yelp’s terminology for “algorithm”. Basically, the Yelp algorithm changed.

In Yelp’s own words:

We use automated software developed by our engineers to recommend reviews from the Yelp community. The software looks at dozens of different signals, including various measures of quality, reliability, and activity on Yelp. Most of all, however, it’s looking for people who are intrinsically motivated to share the wide range of rich and detailed experiences they have every day with local businesses.

On that page, Yelp does specifically state that “We hope to continually improve the recommendation software…” Of course they do. That’s to be expected.

However… Historically, the “Recommended Reviews” number fluctuates a little every month. I personally monitor a page with 108 reviews. Sometimes it has 75 “recommended reviews”, sometimes it has 74, or 76.. So, Yelp tweaks their algorithm frequently, and that’s (usually) good for everyone. Normally, companies like this try to keep their user’s best interest in mind.

What Yelp’s software determines is a “recommended review” does indeed change frequently, it’s just never taken such a wild swing before.

Questions and Answers:

I have been slammed with Q&As about this new algorithm since mentioning it here on my blog, so below I will provide FAQs to the most commonly asked questions. Of course, feel free to ask questions or comment in the blog section as well.

How can I tell Yelp I dislike the algorithm?
I have heard from dozens of business owners who have told me they are making their voices known by pulling their advertising dollars (I am not advising you do or not do that), others are venting in blog comments, others are calling in and others are complaining online. I’m not sure if this goes to a black hole or not, but you can indeed offer feedback here.

Am I being extorted?
I don’t work there so I do not know for sure, however, I can tell you that there are plenty of paying customers who have had their reviews filtered. Yelp’s motive definitely does not appear to be to show negative reviews unless you pay them.

Now here’s where most people say that Yelp was cleared of this in a court of law. That’s not entirely true. Yes, a group of business owners sued Yelp for extortion. And yes, they lost.  However, this attorney makes clear that Yelp can legally manage its database of user reviews however it wants to. But, that said, Yelp does promise us that advertising with them does not give you a higher rating, remove negative reviews or promote positive reviews. I believe them, and I haven’t seen anything to lead me to believe otherwise. While I do not have a mountain of data in front of me – I do see people’s Yelp reviews several times per day every day, and I have never witnessed any extortion of any type.

Is this due to Yelp’s stock price?
Yelp is indeed a publicly traded company. And it appears the algorithm rolled out close to the same time the stock tanked. But, that’s all I know. I’m not sure if the algorithm change rolled out before or after or in response to the stock price. I do know Yelp is making several changes.

How do users feel about this?
I do not know how every user feels or even what the consensus is. I do however know that some users have noticed that their reviews are being filtered and they aren’t happy about it. It’s very difficult to get some people to leave reviews in the first place, so obviously those people aren’t going to be too excited if/when they discover their reviews are filtered. Case in point:

Did you lose your reviews?

If you had a mostly 5 star review rating, we’d love to know your historic and current review counts. Please feel free to post them below.

Do you think Yelp should filter your 5 star reviews?

Please feel free to comment below with any other information you may have about the Yelp Purge of 2018.

Len

President at Telapost
I create content and do SEO for law firms, small businesses and companies worldwide. I have been generating traffic online since 1992. I have owned multiple successful companies. I'm an organic eater, nature lover and German Shepherd owner. Feel free to contact me here.
130 Comments
  1. I guess my concern is about why they would want specifically purge reviews from accounts that have mostly 5 star reviews. Similar to other reviews that have less stars, someone had an experience and they are filtering that experience. I had 68 recommended reviews (with a few filtered of course), but am no down to 30. All of them were indeed 5 stars, but it’s not like I’m soliciting reviews or paying people to review my business or anything, it’s just that people are inclined to give us good reviews because their experience have bene good enough to write about. This “purge” is sucking the life out of small business’s.

    Out of curiosity…did they acknowledge that there was indeed an update to the algorithm and that this isn’t an error or glitch?

    • Sorry for the typos, was anxiously writing from a phone…please forgive me!🙏🏼😉

      • They have only repeatedly stated that they way they filter reviews is subject to change. Indeed, there’s a chance this could all change tomorrow.

        Other than tweets stating the above, Yelp has not acknowledged that there has been a (massive) change…

  2. Look, Len, I have been with Yelp for over 8 years. I worked my butt off to get to where I was. I had over 120 reviews. 98 were showing. I was also the winner of People Love Us On Yelp Award, three years in a row.
    What does it mean when they slash my reviews now down to 50 and dropping? That I wasted my time serving those customers? Or those customers wasted their time writing reviews? Is Yelp saying that I am lying? Or is Yelp saying that my customers were all a bunch liars? Or all of the above?

    That said, is Yelp saying that it gave an award to a LYING business three years in a row, whose reviews were worthless? or were my efforts worthless?

    Over the past 8 years, I have read blog after blog, instruction after instruction, on how Yelp filter does and doesn’t work. I have even gone as far as finding three instructional books about Yelp’s filter on Amazon, and I bought and read all three. That was “MY TIME” I spent searching for and studying all that was written. Obviously, it was a waste of “MY TIME”. A solid presence on Yelp that has transformed into a futile shadow….

    Why would I want to spend another minute of “MY TIME”, reading one more word about Yelp’s ridiculous games called: “Filter system”. I am not playing a game that is going to change its rules on me at the drop of a hat and without warning, right when I am winning.

    I used to avidly and passionately search for Yelp reading material… Now when I see it, I can’t wait to run away.. I actually feel physical pain when I hear the name Yelp.

    This is like marrying a man, give birth to his child, raise the child, watch him kill the child, and listen to his reasons why, while he is still asking to be loved.

    Creating that account and nurturing it for eight years, losing sleep over it, and cultivate my reviews through blood, sweat, and tears, was no different for me than to raise a child. I have now watched it be beat up and go down the drain.

    Yelp is funny with all its justifications; sorry, they don’t call it justifications. They call it Filter Algorithms; whatever.

    I am grateful to you for allowing us to speak here on your platform. Everyone is frustrated and many people have similar things to say. Many of us needed a space like this to voice our opinion. Thank you much for facilitating it.

    • I am with you 100% Mandy Ford. I cannot improve upon your eloquently written words above.

      The point to me is that this feels like a game – a game where the rules (and goals) of the game are fluid and subject to change based on a false assumption that businesses like yours and mind have had for many years: that YELP’S goal was posting legitimate goals, and that the filtering was weighted towards encouraging business to strive for great service.

      I have lost over 50% of my unfiltered reviews – and like others they are dropping daily. For me it has seems like the algorithm tweaking started over a year ago. It was then that I started to notice that instead of 5 star reviews posting, all were getting shoved into the filtered lane – once I hit 30 reviews it seems like that was a wall. I stopped advertising with YELP over a year ago coincidentally (about $250 a month). Even though it was frustrating to be “stuck” at 30 reviews (all 5 stars) I have been finding YELP’S leads have been dropping for a long time now – and the quality of them has also been declining.

      For CUSTOMERS (and I have been a pretty avid YELP reviewer myself with nearly 100 posted reviews) I can no longer see the value of wasting my time helping feed the YELP monster. Art a networking business meeting today filled with professionals – nearly everyone in the room said they no longer use YELP, nor do they like them, Many said they had been taken advantage of by strong armed tactics and said they don’t use YELP any longer. Out of a group of 25 – none used YELP anymore.

      Lets face it – YELP’S priorities have changed. It isn’t just the algorithm. The writing is on the wall: YELP’S glory days are in the mirror.

      I will no longer be using the APP – I will not be advertising with them- I will not feed them free reviews. Enough is enough with this arrogant platform.

    • Mandy, what you said was absolutely perfect. My sentiments exactly.

      I went from at the peak in late October to 52 showing reviews and 40 hidden – all 5 star reviews from the last 5 or 6 years down to 8 showing reviews and 84 hidden. I’m at 90% of my reviews are now hidden. Totally unfair. I’d rather have them shut my page off completely. Now when someone sees it with only 8 reviews it looks like i’m lazy or not competent in my field when if they were showing my 90 plus reviews I had more reviews than anyone in my occupation in my city. None of my competitors have been erased like I have. I’ve been watching their accounts. They have been losing theirs too but not to the extent mine have gone. And it was very date coincident to the yelp salesperson calling me constantly and me not buying ads. Its like the push the button after I don’t pay the gets the magic filter going really hard on my account.

      I read a ton of reviews of yelp on yelp and they are hilarious. May favorite was a lady who said…..

      ” I don’t dislike many things in life. I rarely hate anything. I hate seeing people suffer, I hate cancer and I hate Yelp ”

      Best quote ever.

    • Len, thank you for writing this article and providing a space to share our experiences with Yelp.

      Mandy, thank you for your comments – very well said.

      I opened my business last April, 2018. Before the purge, my business page had 19, 5-Star reviews showing, and now it only shows 3, 5-star reviews. 16 are not recommended.

      I’ve called and emailed, just like everyone else, and the response from Yelp has been condescending to nonexistent at this point.

      Knowing what they’ve done to me and countless others, Yelp is no longer my go-to app for recommendations. I’m sure many others are thinking the same way.

      Here’s to hope that their eyes will be opened and they will reprogram their so-called “recommendation software” so that they may once again be a trusted source for reviews, and we can take pride in the love our customers have expressed for our products and services.

    • Hi Mandy

      Just read your reply re Yelp and I’m on the verge of tears ! You expressed it eloquently!!!

      What do you think of a class action lawsuit against Yelp !!! Excuse my language but they’re SUCH ********** !!!!

  3. OK, here is something I wanted say here about Yelp.

    I was looking at the reviews of a business called Jerome;s Furniture in Anaheim, California. I came across a ONE STAR REVIEW that was left on 8/25/17, by a Christine S. has left a one-star review for this business that reads as follows:

    JEROMOE’S IS GREAT.. BUT DO NOT BUY THE WARRANTY.
    SAVE YOUR MONEY AN PAY FOR ANY REPAIRS ON YOUR OWN. GUARDIAN WILL LOOK FOR WAYS TO NOT HONOR THE WARRANTY…

    When I read the above review, I noticed this is not even about Jerome’s Furniture!! It’s about Guardian Insurance !!!!

    My question is: If Yelp is so concerned about authenticity (NOT) why don’t they filter this kind of useless review??? It just goes to show that whatever they are saying is BS.

    I started to read this Christine S’s other reviews…. I noted that on January 1st 2013, she has left another ONE STAR REVIEW for another business, and here is what she wrote:

    THIS BUSINESS MOVED TO 14385 INDUSTRY CIRCLE LA MIRADA CA 90638

    What kind of a ONE STAR REVIEW is that???? That review is not filtered either. In fact, it is standing strong on that business’ page here: https://www.yelp.com/biz/united-polymers-inc-bag-division-city-industry. I don’t care if the business is closed. That has never been a part of Yelp’s algorithm.

    I do not believe the story about “authenticity” for half a minute.

    • If you look up Peri Brothers Pizza in Raleigh (https://www.yelp.com/biz/peri-brothers-pizza-raleigh-4) you will see 1 star reviews from Elmer J Fudd, and his avatar is a cartoon pic. So… No, no algorithm is perfect.

      I most certainly would not run my review company this way… And, when Yelp says the algorithm is for “quality” – the words are just salt in the wounds for many people (that’s definitely not the response I would give to people)…

      Unfortunately, I do not have a solution or any type of actionable advice… This move is unprecedented…

      Thank you for your input!

    • Yelp does not adjudicate the veracity of any negative reviews nor do they require any actual disclosure of identity on the part of a “customer”. Both of our one star reviews are from people whose pets never have been serviced by our grooming shop. Both wanted in earlier than their scheduled appointment or before we had an open appointment. Neither of them set foot in our shop and we never handled their animals in any way but they can leave a 1 star review. We also have a 3 star review by “Schmooby” whose avatar is the Cash Me Outside girl but to reply I have to post my photo and true name. The fact of the matter is that they need you to have negative reviews as a higher percentage of total reviews or they have no leverage to strong arm you into paying to advertise or pay for page “upgrades” with the implied result being better treatment by their algorithm . We are luckier than most in that all of our not recommended reviews are 5 stars and not lower ones that could suddenly be deposited front and center after the latest refused sales pitch. Yelps problem is that it wants to make revenue off of the businesses that have no choice if they participate and does so in a manner that parallels extortion/protection rackets and enables consumers to do the same with reviews. Who wants to sign up to pay for that?

  4. Thank you for these articles… I’m down to 15 reviews now. That means 38 percent of my reviews are currently showing. I’m doing everything I can to not let this ruin my holiday season. I had ten reviews removed and was down to 26 over Thanksgiving and it just continues. I keep getting to a place where I think I’ve accepted it and that it can’t get worse and every time I log on, 5 more reviews are gone (seriously- when I posted last week I had 19 reviews and suddenly down to 15). Anyway, I’m having trouble believing that having a paying account doesn’t have someone to do with this.

    Check out Manhattan Prep: https://www.yelp.com/biz/manhattan-prep-chicago?page_src=best_of_yelp

    I own a tutoring company in Chicago, and they are clearly a competitor. They have a whopping 79 percent of their reviews recommended!!!!! So many of them are old reviewers with few reviews- it totally makes no sense. I’ve only ever had 5 star reviews- I think that is because we are so small and local though, so there is so much relationship building whereas Manhattan prep is obviously a franchise- so maybe that is the problem (I can see they have a few 4 star reviews and one three star review), but this algorithm doesn’t seem to be an equal opportunity offender….

    • It is really frustrating when a competitor has a disproportionate percentage of their reviews being displayed. Maybe they will tweak the algorithm again soon…

  5. Yelp has become nothing more than a nuisance now with their relentless sales calls to anyone with a business page, to them now filtering valid reviews when a business has “too many five star reviews”. WTF?

    I have clients that work very hard to keep their reputation protected and Yelp wants to punish them for it?

    It has gotten to the point that I now recommend to my clients that if they don’t already have a claimed Yelp page, to NOT CLAIM it so that they can avoid the spam calls and because Yelp won’t show their valid reviews anyway.

  6. Good write up again. I believe no one really knows that is going on, except for yelp itself. Until they speak on it, everything is just speculation. I do believe if it were a mistake/glitch or something temporary, they would have spoken on it by now.

    It’s pretty bad timing for them to be pulling this. Stock drops, billion dollar bully film is nearing release. This isn’t really helping their case.

    I don’t think it is old dormant accounts as you mentioned above. We have reviews from 2011-2012 that are still there. Their last activity on those accounts were in 2013. That would be considered stale/ dormant to me, but who really knows.

    About companies with too many 5 star reviews. This filter isn’t hitting every business. Some are affected, some are not. There are still plenty of businesses with a plethora of 5 star reviews that haven’t been hit by this. I guess we may never know what’s going on.

    • Thanks! Yep, only a handful of Yelp will ever know precisely what is happening.. Above is my best guess.

      I hear you on the accounts with few reviews. However – those people could still be actively using the Yelp app or website while logged in, making them “active”. (And no, I have absolutely no idea if that is a factor, but it could be)..

      Yes, there are lots of businesses who appear to have not been (or have yet to be) affected. That’s not good, in my opinion.. If there are 2 pizza shops beside eachother with about the same number of reviews and suddenly one loses 75% of their reviews it is going to have a significant impact on their sales.

  7. The purge has continued for my business. 136 reviews down to 96. Today I lost a review that I JUST got yesterday, from a client with a decent Yelp profile. Friends, reviews with the last several months, and a profile photo. Pretty sure they are targeting businesses with high ratings overall as you mentioned.

    And as I believe I mentioned on your other article, I am a Yelp advertiser. Over $700 per month. It’s my slow season now, and I still depend on Yelp for leads, but I will be pulling the plug soon. This is just insulting. And I don’t feel that my competitors have been affected to the same degree.

    I guess my question is, when does it stop? It’s frankly despicable that they won’t be transparent about what they are doing. New reviews, old reviews, active accounts, inactive accounts — it’s made no difference for me. The filtering seems to be totally arbitrary, but has ONLY targeted our 4 and 5-star reviews. However, we only have 3 reviews under 4 stars.

  8. Here is an update:

    Last night I “Flagged” that review. The one dated 8/25/17, left on Jerome’s Furniture’s business page in Anaheim California. In my prior post on this blog, I referred to that review. For the record here again, the review was about Guardian Insurance’s quality of service when processing claims from customers of Jerome’s Furniture. It was not about Jerome’s Furniture. Here is the content of the review in question:

    JEROMOE’S IS GREAT.. BUT DO NOT BUY THE WARRANTY.
    SAVE YOUR MONEY AN PAY FOR ANY REPAIRS ON YOUR OWN. GUARDIAN WILL LOOK FOR WAYS TO NOT HONOR THE WARRANTY…

    I Flagged the review and I received an automated reply with the Case Number: [7794187], explaining that Yelp will get back to me.

    Today, I received a reply from Yelp about Case Number: [7794187]. They explained that the don’t think this is in violation of Yelp’s Guidelines. Meanwhile, the guidelines clearly explain that if a review if not about the business in question, then it is not legit.

    Their refusal to remove that review shows me one more time, YET AGAIN, that Yelp’s claims about authenticity are worthless.

    I Flagged the other review as well (https://www.yelp.com/biz/united-polymers-inc-bag-division-city-industry). Case Number for it was: [7794198]. I haven’t heard back from Yelp on that one.

  9. Great Post!! Now I finally know the truth instead of all nonsense Yelp employees try to make us believe.

    We have over 320 (5) star reviews and nothing like this has ever happened in the past. 2 months ago we had 196 straight 5 star reviews, now we’re down to 99 and more will be removed tomorrow and every day thereafter until we are left with nothing if it continues! I asked Yelp if I was under a penalty for some reason and they replied, we’re doing everything 100% according to their guidelines and that we set the standard for others to follow.

    I have always loved Yelp but after this I have absolutely no respect for them!!!

  10. My business had 144 recommended reviews last month and today we are down to 63. I was closely checking our yelp rating as well as our competitors regularly. At 144 reviews, we were floating right in the middle of our nearby competition. Most are in the 50-75 reviews range and a few are in the 200-300 reviews range. There we were highly visible high above the majority of our competitors in the 50-75 range, and starting to finally creep up on those top tier shops in the 200-300 range.

    We do a whole celebratory type victory handshake thing everytime we get a new good review and I was excited in anticipation of crossing the 150 mark by the end of the year. So when we got a new great review that was supposed to be number 145 and saw that it was somehow number 103 (or something) we thought surely there must be a mistake. Then over the weeks, that number has slashed itself down to 63 recommended reviews (105 are currently not recommended).

    We have noticed that this has not happened to our competitors. Most are still hanging in there with the same 50-75 recommended reviews they have always had. And a few still hold their prize top positions in the 200-300 range. And that center position that we held all to ourselves is now completely obliterated and now we are left treading water watching our competitors whose review count have not increased at all, surpass us one by one in the race as we move backward every day.

    We feel singled out. We were advertising with Yelp (well, kind of, we were paying a mere $75 per month for the past 2 years to remove competitors ads from our page and to sort our photos in the order of our choosing). Naturally, since Yelp’s purge of our reviews, we cancelled that $75 plan.

    At first I expected the rush of Yelp advertising solicitation calls to begin immediately, and I was surprised when that didnt happen. Now I think Yelp may just be avoiding the many businesses it has hurt in this purge. And my anger has fully set in. And I have spent waaaaaay too much time trying to get to the bottom of this situation only to find that in a sea of businesses experiencing my same dilemma, Yelp has still done absolutely nothing to address this problem. They must know that the businesses are negatively affected, and they must realize that the businesses are THEIR CLIENTS, so why are they treating their clients so poorly? Its been several weeks now and they have received several complaints, but why have they still not said a word? Are they actually trying to sabotage themselves instead of us? Well, its working. But it sucks to take us down with their sinking ship.

    • You’re comments much like everyone else’s are identical to my own.

    • I feel your pain Paul. I’m in that exact boat. If all my competitors were treated the same it would be one thing but it feels like i’m being singled out in my city for my profession.

  11. We are down from 80 5 Star reviews to 33, and dropping every day. I have a 5 star review from a customer. This customer had a bad experience with a competitor and left our competitors a 1 star review. The one star review stayed up for our competitor yet the 5 star is gone off hours? What sense does this make? Meanwhile this competitor has lost maybe 3-4 reviews while we lost over 50%. There is a reason they are being selective. The silence from yelp speaks multitudes.

    • Thanks James. Sorry to delete the other comment, I am not linking to that article from this website. They have been contacting me as well. That is just a poorly written, garbage article telling people to stop soliciting reviews. They are just regurgitating what they saw in a Yelp video, and they clearly have absolutely no clue how Yelp actually filters reviews. Unfortunately, expect many more articles of similar quality to be produced in the near future.

  12. I had been the top-rated Yelp business in a small wellness category for the last 2 years with 71 5-star reviews (they showed 60 and made 11 “not recommended”). Fortunately, all my reviews had been positive, 5-star.
    Beginning in November they started dropping and have now made 64 reviews “not recommended,” which means 90% of my reviews have been dropped.
    I currently have 7 reviews left.
    It took years to build this and I’m wondering from a marketing standpoint why they would purge businesses who bring traffic to the Yelp site?
    My calls from new clients have dropped easily by 75% since this happened. There are real financial consequences and I just feel for all the small businesses caught off guard.

    • I am still not 100% certain if the algorithm specifically “penalizes” Yelp pages with mostly 5 star reviews but it sure looks that way. Yikes, so sorry to hear this. Maybe they will update the algorithm in the near future…

    • I am in a similar position. Having been the #1 ranked Life and Career Coach in NYC with 95 • 5 Star reviews we now only have 14 reviews showing. Outreach from new clients has suddenly grinded to a halt.

  13. I have been with yelp for 5 years, up until the end of October my business was the highest reviewed business of its kind in the area and it worked for us, we worked our asses off to get each and every one of those reviews, by 10/30 we had 191 review and about 40 of them not recommended, now about 6 weeks later we are down to 66 showing and 125 not recommended!!! To make matters worst we pay yelp close to $3,000/month for advertising.
    Now its really hurting us and we dont know what to do, we relied on this company for long time. Beside the reviews generating business they were good thing to look back and be proud of that all the hard work we did has made us the #1 business in the area.
    Now i dread checking the yelp business app every morning, the attitude you get when you call and ask about reviews disappearing just makes me sick, what happened to the attitude you had when you were trying to get me to spend more on advertising.

  14. I am in a similar position to Paul and James. Here is what I think:

    I suspect, based on my observations, that the review purging is heavily biased against the highest search ranked businesses.

    Of course the goal for Yelp can only be to try and increase advertising revenue. Based on this fair assumption, my best theory is that Yelp is gambling on a strategy of lowering the profiles of the top ranked businesses with the hope that this would force them to begin advertising, if they are not already, or to increase their advertising budget. There is some sense to this thinking . As a longstanding top ranked business, we never felt the need to advertise much on Yelp. What is the point of getting your listing to appear as an ad just few inches higher when you already hold the top # 1, 2 or 3 organic position? Additionally, these top ranked businesses are likely the ones with the most means to spend heavily on ads. Of course, this goes completely against the whole purported concept of ranking business according to customers ratings and feedback.

    Could Yelp have gone so far as to turn that upside down in order to try and save a sinking ship? Time will tell, I would think.

    The occurrences and the widespread and strong reaction certainly warrants some mass media attention as a public interest story (ie “Can consumers really trust Yelp rankings?)

    • Sorry, did not intend to post anonymously. Please edit, if you can.

      • I forgot to add-

        I would encourage everyone who is a highly ranked biz that is affected by this and sees their Yelp standing drop to contact anyone they can in the media, big or small, to bring this to their attention as a potential growing public interest story, as I commented in my post above.

        I am continuing to brainstorm other ideas and strategies to counter this and will post those here.

        • Hey Rob

          Agree with you about contacting media etc ! What are your thoughts about a class action lawsuit again Shady Ass Yelp ??? Several people have brought it up ??

          Thanks ,
          Monika

      • Rob,

        Its affecting small and large businesses combined. In my industry, the big companies have obviously lost more reviews, however those with less have lost as well. For example, we have lost 114 reviews (had 233 before mass filter started), and other top companies have lost near the same amount. The smaller companies (which had 37-60 reviews) still lost and continue to lose. This includes companies that are on the 2nd-3rd pages of Yelp.

        Perplexing to say the least. We unfortunately wont know anything until Yelp puts something out ( I don’t believe they will).

        • Mark,

          Thanks for providing your observations, which differ from mine. Mine is a niche industry, with the very top rankers being affected 3 to 5 times more than those below. Based on what you are seeing, my theory has less merit.

          • A few pages I monitor which have several 1, 3 and 4 star reviews (along with several 5 star reviews) have indeed been less impacted in the purge. It is really looking like Yelp is specifically targeting pages with lots of positive reviews in their effort to display “the most helpful and reliable” reviews…

  15. @ Anonymous… I totally agree! I’ve been thinking the same thing and wondering why the media hasn’t caught on — Yelp is as far as I can tell the ONLY review-based website out there that manipulates reviews the way it does. Imagine if Amazon just decided what reviews to feature and which products to push? Especially after this last mass filtering in what seems like an attempt to increase their advertising by weeding out the long-standing, top rated businesses. Ironic that Yelp was one of the first big websites to collect reviews, and was so trusted for so long – at this point it has to be only a matter of time – it just seems so wildly unethical. Eventually savvy businesses will not trust them enough to throw too much advertising dollars at them, and consumers will also catch on.

  16. We had 99% 5 star reviews. I guess Yelp felt our commitment to great customer service is a bad thing and removed 55 of our 5 star reviews. We are now showing 125 from 180 we had in September. We will not be advertising with yelp any more and we will not be promoting our customers to leave reviews on Yelp. We will ask for reviews on Google until there is a fare and balanced platform that doesnt change its policies to influence stocks.

  17. We had almost 50 5 star reviews and all but 17 have been hidden and still dropping one by one, every one legit and hard earned. I’ve called yelp a few times and gotten a range of replies from denying anything out of the norm had happened to accusing me of having fake reviews to a guy flat out saying those that pay rank better organically because more people seeing the ad equals more activity and therefore a higher ranking and who do I think I am that no one else should get to be on the front page. I don’t think they know what they’re talking about frankly and are just making things up. Bolstering that opinion is the fact that the better reps I spoke with just said they really don’t know but that the intent is the cream will rise to the top. They may believe that but there is no way that an algorithm is ever going to accurately sort all the real from fake/solicited reviews. Competitors that I know for a fact have paid for reviews have not been impacted in the same way. I’ve noticed calls dropping off but am not going to pay for their ads. I’ve tried them before and got zero return on the investment because people are wise to paid ads and ignore them. Like so many others have mentioned, we will be investing in other platforms that have better demographic targeting tools at a lower cost and are already starting to be utilized more by consumers. Yelp’s days are numbered and they are just hammering the last nails in their own coffin.

  18. I would like to add that since our competitors now have more reviews than us, our reviews have finally stopped being filtered. We have 63 recommended and 107 not recommended. This number has not changed in two whole days now! (But maybe the “algorithm” is just off for the holidays?

    Really hoping the media brings this situation to light. There was a small news story here

    https://chicago.cbslocal.com/2018/12/20/yelp-reviews-hide-filter-chicago/

    But unfortunately, this news story barely scratched the surface.

    • And one more thing to add, the news story link above mentioned that a restaurant called Square Biscuits in Chicago “…says many of her restaurant reviews were never seen, ending up on the not recommended page before resolving the issue with Yelp.”

      If you go to Square Biscuits Yelp page, they have 60 recommended reviews and only 5 not recommended.

      https://yelp.to/qTKq/Ip7L077fQS

      So….just how did Square Biscuits “resolve the issue with Yelp”?

      • The biscuit company didn’t have a “review problem” with Yelp. They were just quoted for the article. They also have a number of 3 and 4 star reviews, and many businesses with mixed reviews have come out unscathed. As you said, the reporter just scratched the surface.

        Now in the article, the auto shop had “about 70 reviews”. They’re now down to 67 recommended, with 116 “not recommended”. As seen again and again and again, profiles with “too many positive reviews” are getting whacked.
        https://www.yelp.com/not_recommended_reviews/autohaus-chicago?not_recommended_start=10

  19. Just curious if there is any evidence that profiles being impacted were using 3rd party services to help gather reviews? This practice has become more common and there are many “Reputation Management” software that help businesses follow up with customers and get more reviews? I have been trying to figure out if that is a potential cause. I have 3 or 4 client profiles that were negatively impacted and maybe 20 that were not. Some clients with multiple locations saw one location heavily filtered while the other was not impacted.

    • Hi Bryan,
      Good question. This is definitely not the cause. This is huge, affecting the vast majority of Yelp profiles I’ve looked at worldwide. There are indeed some which yet to be impacted but I think their time is near. Then again, the only profiles I’ve seen not affected have multiple 1-4 star reviews. It seems many who suffered the biggest losses had very positive profiles consisting of nearly all 5 star reviews.

  20. My name is Ken Briesemeister and I own Roof.net. My company is small, I have no salesmen and I meet with all the customers personally. All our 323 reviews are all 5 five stars except for 2 that are 4 stars. All our reviews are very long and not short or with no content. This is no fluke because on the entire Internet all our 1000’s of reviews are also 5 star rated.

    You can’t imagine how hard I have to work to maintain a 5 star level for so many years that could easily be tarnished with one missed appointment!

    I definitely believe 100% that yelp is filtering my reviews a lot more then my competition because all my reviews are all 5 star rated. There’s many other roofing companies in my area that are 5 star rated but they also have many negative reviews too, so because of this they’re not nearly being affected like I am.

    Two months ago I had 90 reviews more than my closest competition. Now because of yelps faulty algorithm my competition has passed me bye!

    If yelp wants to continuously keep removing all my 5 star reviews then so be it because I will not change the way I run my business so you can go F yourself!!

    “See below what’s happening to my company.”

    10/23/18 -196 Reviews,
    11/14/18 – 149 Reviews, 164 Filtered
    11/25/18 – 132 Reviews, 186 Filtered
    11/28/18 – 126 Reviews, 192 Filtered
    12/14/18 – 106 Reviews, 212 Filtered
    12/21/18 – 97 Reviews, 226 Filtered

  21. My name is Ken Briesemeister and I own Roof.net. My company is small, I have no salesmen and I meet with all the customers personally. All our 323 reviews are all 5 five stars except for 2 that are 4 stars. All our reviews are very long and not short or with no content. This is no fluke because on the entire Internet all our 1000’s of reviews are also 5 star rated.
    You can’t imagine how hard I have to work to maintain a 5 star level for so many years that could easily be tarnished with one missed appointment!
    I definitely believe 100% that yelp is filtering my reviews a lot more then my competition because all my reviews are all 5 star rated. There’s many other roofing companies in my area that are 5 star rated but they also have many negative reviews too, so because of this they’re not nearly being affected like I am.
    Two months ago I had 90 reviews more than my closest competition. Now because of yelps faulty algorithm my competition has passed me bye!
    If yelp wants to continuously keep removing all my 5 star reviews then so be it because I’ll be long gone before that happens!!

    “See below what’s happening to my company.”

    10/23/18 -196 Reviews,
    11/14/18 – 149 Reviews, 164 Filtered
    11/25/18 – 132 Reviews, 186 Filtered
    11/28/18 – 126 Reviews, 192 Filtered
    12/14/18 – 106 Reviews, 212 Filtered
    12/21/18 – 97 Reviews, 226 Filtered

    • Hi Ken,

      Thank you very much for posting your exact numbers. This is very helpful. Unfortunately, that is precisely what I’m seeing across the board; companies with a profile that is “too positive” are getting whacked. This is crazy.

      I completely understand the years of hard work to keep everyone happy..

      As someone who monitors reviews for a couple dozen niches, I personally do not feel that there is enough manipulation taking place to merit a huge algorithm change across the board. That’s just my 2 cents. When someone games the system, it’s pretty easy to spot – there’s always a pattern. For example, I found someone last year who obtained 100 reviews all in a 48hr period. But to have reviews buried from years and years of hard work is just unbelievable to me. I hope that if this is what is indeed happening, Yelp sees the results and changes their mind. That could happen…

      • Hi Len,
        Having over 100 (5) star reviews removed is not going to hurt my business because I have 1000’s of reviews all over the Internet. What hurts me far more than anything is what it’s done to my pride and what it’s doing to other companies like mine who have worked tirelessly to achieve the status of 5 Star Rated!
        I urge everyone who was victimized by yelp to leave and stop paying for their advertising because we cannot leave live in fear of our reviews being removed again in the future in such bulk!!

        Ken Briesemeister
        Roof.net

  22. There has not been a holiday cessation of the purge for us. We lost 2 more reviews today, while no listings ranked below us lost any. There are several competitors ranked below us with all or mostly all 5 star reviews who have not been affected by thisat all, or only very minimally. This causes me to still believe that the bias is against ranking or some other factor rather than just having too many 5 star reviews.

    Although the article mentioned just scratched the surface, as noted, it is a good first step. Often one little article like this plants a seed and the story gets picked up more broadly over time in a snowball effect. Whoever is being impacted by this has an interest in speeding this process up by shopping the story around to anyone connected to the media that they know.

    I have posted a photo of text on my Yelp listing thanking our clients for taking the time to provide their feedback and apologizing that Yelp has not given most of them a voice, with direction on how to scroll down and click the link in order to read these censored, extinguished voices.

    It is no surprise that Yelp makes it impossible or extremely difficult for a Yelp reviewer to even realize that their review is even censored. A reviewers review ALWAYS appears to them as being on the very top of a business listing, EVEN if it is hidden. There is no way for a reviewer to see and know that their review is hidden unless they logout first and then look at the business. I know that this would turn off or even infuriate a lot of reviewers, which is probably why it is done this way (especially those who have taken the time to write a lengthy and thoughtful review).

    • Please feel free to email me or post a link to your Yelp profile.. I’d love to see the note..

    • I was thinking of doing the same thing where I put a photo with text directing people to look below. Or where I can comment on someones review as the owner and just say you want to see more like this look below at the unrecommended section and you’ll see the other 90% of the actual reviews from happy clients.

  23. Len,
    FYI. Here’s how I could always tell before the Nov 2018 Yelp algorithm if a review would stay or be filter. This always worked 100% without fail!

    Whenever a new review came in I would always click on their Yelp profile photo or name and it would take me directly to their Yelp page where I could see all the reviews they posted in the past, then I would click on one company they reviewed and if their review showed without being filtered then I knew right away it would show for Roof.net.

    “Now something has changed dramatically that never happened before until the Nov 2018 update that can only be seen with a computer and not a smart phone.”

    Click on some of my filtered reviews and check the person‘s other reviews they posted then you will see they’re reviews are active for others but filtered for Roof.net.

    Since this is happening to me then I’m positive it’s happening to everyone else who’s being affected by the algorithm!

    Once I noticed this I contacted Yelp and asked if I was under a penalty of some kind? Their reply was no and that I do everything right and they have no control of their new algorithm!

    I wish I was more helpful! I just wanted to let you know that whenever we get a new review and it becomes filtered it doesn’t mean anymore that persons reviews will be filtered for others.

  24. A client and Yelp advertiser has lost 70 “Recommended Reviews” since “The Purge”. 59 reviews presently, or 56%.

    As has been noted here, no rhyme or reason at least from previous understanding of filtering triggers. Reviews from Yelp users with dozens of reviews, many recent, with many Yelp “Friends”. Just totally random, it seems.

    A competitor in a neighboring town has had reviews filtered but not on the same scale.

    What amazes me is that Yelp most certainly knows that their November update has a serious flaw that is undermining their goodwill among their advertising and user base yet does nothing about it. Other than claim ignorance over the workings of their magical software.

    • Thanks Jim. It is interesting to know that reviews from active Yelpers are getting buried…

      • I have several Active Yelper 5 Star reviews that have been filtered. However, the few 1-Star non-active Yelp reviews remain.

        Total B.S.

  25. I own a small towing service in the southwest burbs of Chicago with a 5 star Yelp rating… Within the last month Yelp has filtered out and dwindled down reviews leaving me with only 1 review out of the I believe 22-23 I had. A week ago I had screenshot a majority of my reviews and put them in my photos of the business and also had copy and pasted as many reviews as I could into my business info section, for about a week leading up to that there were still 3 currently recommended reviews.

    Within two days after updating my page I had a long and somewhat heated debate with a yelp rep who just “coincidentally” called me three times before I decided to answer… part of the response I was told about my page at the time was “well, what’s the difference? You’re still a 5 star rated business?”.. when in fact there was a difference, I went from being the first tow service to pop up when searching near me to the 4th and sometimes 5th. This wasn’t my first quarrel with them as only a couple months ago I had one of their other reps completely remove my page within a few days of me declining a new ad campaign with them again.. within the last week I’ve had 2 new reviews that are now both MIA from the main reviews.

  26. I too have lost a large amount of my positive reviews in the last couple of months. There’s a theory that since Yelps stock has been declining fairly rapidly, that they have filtered more reviews to try and get the companies that are willing to advertise to increase their budgets. They are struggling with bringing on new business because their reputation has gotten so bad, so they’re trying to figure out how to get more money from those that are already willing to spend with them.

    Every business knows that they’re full of s**t when they say you can’t pay to get reviews unfiltered. If you’re currently paying $500 a month,increasing it to $2000 a month so that you can get some of your positive reviews back is pretty much a guarantee that any business that has advertised with them knows to be true.

    My business has three one star reviews, two of which are clearly from competitors who actually admit they never used our service, and all three have only left one review ever. Guess what, all three are on my recommended review list. Two of those three just showed up in the last two months. The other one has been there for years and has never left another review for any other company. Yelp is a shady, horrible, manipulative company, and I seriously doubt they’re going to survive unless they make some drastic changes that helps to reverse their current reputation. The first thing they would need to do is get rid of their CEO. Everything written about that man paints him to be a pretty horrible person, which is also why Yelp has such a huge employee turnover problem. Just a shady business all the way around.

    • Hi Tracy,

      I have yet to see any evidence at all, ever, of any business paying Yelp to get reviews unfiltered. In fact, I work with several businesses who pay Yelp every month and all of them were hit by the review purge. Until someone can prove otherwise – that is a conspiracy theory.

      That said, could this be to make more money? Yes. Don’t all companies want to make more money? Or, maybe it was to improve “user experience”. Unfortunately, we’re all left to guess here…

  27. Here are some questions I’ve been emailed lately:

    Did Yelp single me out?
    No. This is an algorithmic change, as stated above. However, the algorithm is not affecting all pages right now. Maybe the algorithm will impact more pages in 2019, but I’m not sure.

    Will Yelp bring my reviews back if I pay them?
    No. That would be extortion. As stated above, that isn’t what’s happening and I know many advertisers who have lost reviews in the purge.

    Is Yelp hiding old reviews?
    I think there is more to it than that. If they hid old reviews from people if they felt they were no longer relevant – I can see that being a good thing.

    Is Yelp burying 5 star reviews?
    It appears that reviews most likely to get buried are indeed 5 star reviews. I do not have data to back this up and I could be wrong. Also, the algorithm has historically (and still does) bury (many) reviews from people who have only left 1 or 2 reviews; in many cases these are 1 star reviews. So, Yelp does bury lots of 1 star reviews – it isn’t always just 5 star reviews.

  28. I own a Property Management Company in San Leandro. We had 42 reviews and dropped down to 26 in a month. Every single one was a five star review. I feel a little better knowing that it wasn’t just my account, but it was still extremely frustrating to see the reviews from people that I had worked so hard to make happy filtered so that my company looks a lot weaker.

  29. I have had 40 5-Star Yelp Reviews in 2018 and only one 1-Star Yelp review. I went from a 4-Star to a 3.5-Star overnight!!!!

    The 1-Star reviewer has only written a review to me…no one else!…yet it is “sticking” as a Recommended Review!!!

    I went from over 120 reviews to only 73 Reviews.

    This is crazy!!!

    Please help my small business Beyond Property Management in San Diego. Unfortunately, Yelp is my lifeblood.

    Ahhh!

    Danyel Brooks

  30. Any idea how many of these reviews were filtered because a company was either using a review system that linked to Yelp or they were linking to the Yelp review page from their website? On November 4th, 2017 Yelp sent letters to millions of businesses telling them to do longer do this. I wonder how many businesses ignored that warning and continued sending customer to their Yelp review page.

    • Interesting. None of my personal clients use a review system of any type…

    • Do they have a link to their Yelp review page asking their customers to review them, or are they sending links to them in a text or an email? Yelp can easily follow these links. Most of the bigger review services stopped linking to Yelp back in November of last year to protect their customers from the Yelp day or reckoning … which sounds like it just happened. The bigger problem is that if your customers have been linking to Yelp with text that asks them to write a review, Yelp is going to have a hard time trusting them in the future.

      • Here is their stock response to me:

        “Hi,

        Thanks for writing.

        We use automated software designed to recommend the reviews that will be most helpful to the Yelp community. The software applies the same standards to every business and every review, and we can’t manually override the results for any single business or review. If we could, people might think that we favor some businesses over others (we don’t).

        Nevertheless, it’s always helpful to get feedback – we are continually working to improve the algorithm so that it can recommend the best reviews for our community.

        -The Yelp Support Team “

  31. I am a lawyer who works VERY HARD for a good review. So far Yelp has buried 51 of my legitimate 5 star client reviews. It is disproportionately showing the nutjobs who are non-clients that leave 1 star reviews because they are mad I didn’t take their case or they are just crazy. 21 total reviews show on my profile.

  32. (UPDATED)
    Having been the #1 ranked Life and Career Coach in NYC with 95 • 5 Star reviews we now only have 14 reviews showing. Outreach from new clients has suddenly grinded to a halt.

    What I just noticed is that all but one of the remaining reviews are two years old or older. All but one of my 2017/18 reviews have been removed.

  33. (UPDATED – sorry, figuring this out and updating)

    Here is my hypothesis. There was no reason to buy ads on yelp until they changed the algorithm. Previously businesses were in one of two scenarios.

    1 – Top Ranked. The reviews work. No reason to buy ads to be listed up top.

    2 – Not Top Ranked. Buying ads can get you listed up top, but then you appear with higher ranked businesses and don’t look impressive. I mistakenly paid for advertising before being top ranked. It never worked. Once topped ranked I never paid for ads and got a lot of business from Yelp.

    What did Yelp just do? (in my searching) – They took all of the top ranked businesses and lowered their ranking to be comparable to everyone else’s. Lower ranked businesses were not impacted much or at all. Now it makes sense for EVERYONE to buy ads.

    Having been the #1 ranked Life and Career Coach in NYC with 95 • 5 Star reviews we now only have 14 reviews showing. Outreach from new clients has suddenly grinded to a halt.

    What I just noticed is that all but one of the remaining reviews are two years old or older. All but one of my 2017/18 reviews have been removed.

  34. I was the #2 ranked personal trainer in a competitive area with 41 reviews ( 33 showing, 7 filtered), all 5 stars. Since the purge, I now only have 6 reviews showing and 35 are not recommended. Any review from the past 9 months has been removed except for 4. The interesting thing about those 4 that stayed is that 3 of them are reviews that posted a picture with their comment.

  35. I’ve gone from 48 5 start reviews with a dozen filtered to a dozen 5 star reviews and 63 filtered (all the new ones coming are being filtered). I was by far the highest rated realtor in the Baltimore metro area and now I am below other competitors that have 14 showing and 17 filtered. I had been a heavy spender with Yelp for the last 2 years but just cancelled my advertising with them. I believe they are doing this in an effort to make advertising more attractive to competing businesses that have fewer reviews – now they are going to have to replace me. Seems counter-intuitive but I guess we’ll see how it works out for them in their next earnings call.

    • Totally agree. Their core product (reviews) works so well that it makes advertising inefficient/ineffective. They decided to distort the review system to make advertising more attractive for people who aren’t top reviewed.

  36. The next earnings call will certainly be interesting. In the previous call, one of the reasons cited for poor revenues was that businesses were not answering the phone (which obviously means they were not taking calls from Yelp). There was no mention at all of an intended review filtering strategy.

  37. If Yelp execs were smart, they would roll out more value added features to sell to businesses instead of biasing reviews and rankings in a desperate attempt to sell more ads. I dont mind paying for features like photo sorting, hiding competitors ads, etc. They can do a lot more along these lines to give businesses different way to stand out rather than just with ads (which many consumers skip over anyway).

  38. The really strange thing here is that yelp executives seem intent to literally erase the history – a history for many businesses (like mine) that goes back five+ years for. It’s as though now that history never even existed. Poof. Gone. This doesn’t seem to be a very wise or smart way to build trust. – with advertisers or with your target audience.

    I know I’m not the first to mention here that it appears that yelp is reaching for a reset button, and opportunity for new or businesses who perhaps are paying for advertising to play on a more level playing field. But the problem is that it is the *history* itself that is indicative of what consumers can probably expect in the future.A business that has earned and mostly are all five star reviews over more than a decade deserves to keep those reviews, and consumers should be able to access them easily.

    If you erase or play with that history – as it definitely appears that yelp is doing, then yelp can no longer be trusted. I’ve decided that I’m not gonna be paying attention to the platform anymore. All of my concentration will now be on Google or other platforms.

    Yelp is lost.

  39. Did any of you that lost reviews have a link to your Yelp review page on your website or did you send your customers a link to your Yelp review page via email or text message? Yelp sent millions of emails in late 2017 warning businesses not to do this. You may or may not have received this email from Yelp. If you lost reviews from that time frame and you were sending review requests to your customers with links to Yelp in them, this is probably one of the reasons for your reviews disappearing. If you’re currently linking to Yelp and requesting a review, I would stop doing it or all of your future reviews will disappear too.

  40. Thanks for this. I’m so tired of canned non- responses from Yelp. Like there aren’t actual people making the decisions about how the algorithm works. My business, Green Scene Home Inpeections has 179 reviews, 134 of which are not currently recommended. 3 years ago, we were one of the businesses that sent out a link asking for reviews, so I get some of those reviews being filtered, but it’s been 3 years since we asked for a review. 75% of our reviews don’t show up. We work hard for our good reputation. I can show you the inspection record for every single one of those reviews. It’s a crappy way to treat reviewers and a shoddy treatment of businesses. Wish I could stop dealing with them altogether.

  41. “yelp executives seem intent to literally erase the history – a history for many businesses (like mine) that goes back five+ years for. ”

    Indeed it seems like bone-headed decisions by people in ivory towers lacking real business sense. I could understand and would even encourage giving older reviews a lower weighting than more current ones (Amazon has recently dine this), but hiding them and giving them zero weighting is not the right move.

  42. . I have been a member of Yelp for about 8 years and accumulated about 10 recommended and a few not recommend reviews each year. In the summer of 2018 I had approximately 80 Five Star recommended reviews and about 30 not recommended. Now 6 months later I am down to only 9 Recommended reviews and 114 not recommended. Oh, by the way, half the not recommended have 3 or more reviews so this is not just newbies. That is 93% not recommended. I find that incomprehensible as many of these not recommended reviews were recommended for years. I have never paid or rewarded anyone for reviews

  43. Hi Len, did you see the Search Engine Land article where they call it he “Ghost” update?

    • Yeah. Someone emailed me that last night. So in the digital marketing world we have people who are really intent on “naming” things… I’ve broken the news here well over 100 updates.. Then someone finds my article then goes and rewrites it somewhere else. Like this – the “Yelp Review Purge of 2018”. It’s a fine name, one that Yelp used. You could go rewrite the article 7 weeks after I wrote mine and call it “Ghost” or the “Apocalypse” update or whatever you want if that’s what makes you happy..

  44. I find that the best way to get a public companies attention is via social media. I currently have their ear on twitter here if you want to chime in and let them know that people are upset – https://twitter.com/yelpsupport/status/1080581650986254340

  45. We run a charity thrift store in Upland, CA. Since our new location opened in May of 2018 we worked very hard to get good reviews. As of December 31, we had 41 reviews 39 were five stars and now 38 of the 41 are not recommended. Really! That’s over 90% of the review removed!!!
    Since November and this “purge”, traffic to the store and sales are both down substantially.
    I get the concept of monitoring the reviews that may be inflated but for small bsinesses like ours where we focus so much on providing good products at low price with great customer service, the knowledge base at Yelp needs to have a taste of their own algorithm.

    And even with that, Yelp still calls us saying we should spend money marketing with them.maybe if they lower their price by 90%.

    • Sorry to hear that Tony.. Apparently, nobody is safe from the Purge, not even small non-profits..

      Your page is (unfortunately) a good example of what I keep seeing. You have several great, 5 star reviews from active Yelpers in your community, and they’ve been throttled way down..

    • Tony, If I were you, I would look to turn this negative into a posituve by contacting my local media and try to interest them in doing a piece on your plight. It would make for a nice public interest story, especially given the nature of your business and the fact that you are in a bleeding heart, liberal progressive state. Emphasize who this is really hurting.

    • Were you asking your customers to write a Yelp review for you? How many of the reviews that were removed were written by people who were not active Yelpers? Did you send them a link to your Yelp page either by text or email? Do you have a link to your Yelp review page with text asking people to write a review for you on Yelp? All of these things are triggers that will cause Yelp to remove your reviews.

      • Yelp’s algorithm update filters reviews from pages with all/mostly 5 star reviews. This affects hundreds of thousands of pages. The new algorithm rolled out late Oct/early Nov. The Yelp Purge of 2018 has nothing to do with links to Yelp pages or people asking for reviews.

  46. We stopped losing reviews since 12/29 or so, and have since seen a few come back.

  47. Hello,

    I had to come back here and share this video with everyone:
    https://losangeles.cbslocal.com/video/4005783-2-on-your-side-missing-yelp-reviews/

    If you want your voice to be heard, go to Twitter and hashtag #2onyourside or you can send an email to 2onyourside@cbs.com. View the instructions at minute 4:19.

    This is how you can publicize what Yelp has done and is doing to our businesses.

    • Maxine, who was featured in my article above, was interviewed by CBS Local in that video. 😉

  48. Hi Len,

    First off- good on you for being the first to report on this. I noticed several other artifices cams out a week or so back pretty much copying your article. Those people seem to be too focused solely on google updates etc, as this had been happening about a month and a half prior unbenoujced to them.

    In the recent LA news story. The broadcaster mentions that yelp pointed them to an article about the algo update, but they do not mention what article this was. Any thoughts? Good work!

    • Thanks Mark!

      Yeah.. I am fine with people borrowing from the article as long as they cite their sources – but that rarely happens these days. And, today’s journalists rarely give credit. I did get some good links out of this one at least, which is good for this website.

      The LA reporter (Kristine Lazar) interviewed Maxine, who was specifically mentioned in this article above, so she was definitely referring to this article. I’m pretty sure someone in LA reached out to Kristine… 😉

      was interviewed by CBS Local in that video. 😉

  49. So many of us in the same boat…

  50. Class action lawsuit anyone?? I have a client who had 20 reviews. 4.7 stars. Now just 3 in a matter of 2 months. 17 not recommended, all clients. Check out this recent post: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/zero-stars-yelp-david-gunderman/

  51. So sad…. Just opened 5/1/2018. We have 44 reviews, mostly 5 star…. now only 4 showing 😢. Over 90% censored by YELP. We are a non profit thrift store, A Lot of Good thrift in Upland, CA ,working very hard to make a great impression in the community with our thrift store open to the public and helping families in crisis. Sales have taken a nose dive since November 2018 change in Yelp process. I have not seen competitors even close to this amount of filtered reviews.

  52. I feel like I’m posting this to a support group of fellow business owners who have been betrayed by Yelp.

    I opened my business a year and half ago and I’ve work very very hard to provide the best customer service possible. I even got the People love us on yelp award, which at the time I was very proud of. Then late 2018 came by and I started noticing my reviews being filtered. I went from having 75 reviews (all 5 star) in October to 6 remaining total reviews in December. Also, funny how they have stopped calling me to advertise through them, I’m sure they take one look at my business profile and know that I will never ever advertise through them again. What they do is borderline illegal!

    My company is called Evolv Device Repair located in Tacoma, Washington.

    • Hi Luis, this has indeed turned into a support group! Heh. I checked out your Yelp page, and, wow, they really slaughtered that one. 8 showing, 88 buried. That is really sad to see…

      • I’m glad I also worked hard to grow my Google page. Without that I would be in serious trouble, I am seeing a slowdown on business which I am sure is directly related to my Yelp page.

        This is very frustrating, I have recently gotten more reviews and Yelp keeps hiding them. Maybe I should start offering horrible customer service that way my customers can start leaving bad reviews and maybe at that point the “algorithm” will bring my old reviews back!

        • For most businesses I work with, we usually focus about 95% of our efforts on Google.

  53. Reviews are coming back! Let’s not get too excited!

    I was told that yelp is now re-tweaking their algorithm because of all the lawsuits and terrible publicity! The reviews are coming back the same way they disappeared. Reviews are only come back between the hours of 4:00 a.m.-5:00 a.m. I’m not getting too excited and I recommend you not also until all our reviews that were filtered come back, If the reviews continued to come back it will take about 2 months before all my filtered reviews start showing.

    The good news is since my reviews are coming back then there’s a very good chance your’s will too!!

    Here’s what’s happening to my company Roof.net.
    1/15/19 – 97 Reviews showing!
    1/16/19 – 98 Reviews showing!
    1/17/19 – 103 Reviews showing!
    1/18/19 107 Reviews showing!

    I’ll update next week and hopefully I have more good news! Looks like there might finally be light at the end of the tunnel?

    • That would be great and algorithms will definitely be tweaked in the future again. However… I am not seeing that on any of the pages I monitor. In general, if a page has 50 reviews displaying, they may show 54 one day, 52 the next, 53 the day after, etc. That’s been going on forever. But, yours are indeed climbing, so we shall see! Please by all means keep us posted – it would be excellent news if they eased up on the reviews!

  54. So I replaced my website url with a landing page that has a little counter that says how many “actual” 5 star reviews I have.

  55. Len,
    I spoke too soon! Yelp is playing head games again! I have a friend that doesn’t pay for advertising on Yelp that had all of her 15 reviews filtered. On 1/10/19 all her reviews came back with only 1 filtered. I checked her reviews today and they’re still showing live. I can’t understand why her reviews came back and why mine came and disappeared. Here’s a summary of what’s going on with my reviews since 1/15/19.

    1/15/19 – 97

    1/16/19 – 98

    1/17/19 – 103

    1/18/19 – 107

    1/19/19 – 109 (5:00 am)

    1/19/19 – 107 (7:30am)

    1/20/19 – 105 (5.00am)

    1/20/19 – 104 (9:30am)

    1/20/19 – 103 (6:30pm)

    1/21/19 – 102 (5:30am)

    1/21/19 – 101 (9:00am)

    1/21/9 – 100 (3:30pm)

    • They can come and go and fluctuate. This occurred prior to “The Purge” as well…

  56. Hi Len,

    Thanks for this wonderful article. Looks like there is some hope.
    Please find my unique use case (for my new business). Most of my 5 star reviews have been buried. Below are the details and the feedback I had sent to yelp.

    I would like to report there is some BIG ERROR in the recommendation software of Yelp.

    This is my business listing

    https://www.yelp.com/biz/the-roll-pod-bellevue-3?osq=the+roll+pod

    My restaurant started on 27th Dec 2018 ( 3 weeks back). Since then I have received a lot of reviews, most of it five stars which speaks for the great food and service we provide. We saw that slowly everyday our reviews very disappearing, to the extent that as of now ( 21st Jan 2019 ), I have got 24 reviews but 18 of these 5 star reviews have been pushed to the not recommended section. All of these are genuine customer reviews and there is no reason that these should be pushed to the not recommended section. Please have a look. I would like to point out few things :

    1. Reviews from yelpers with multiple reviews have been hidden :
    12 out of the 15 reviewers have 4 plus reviews, have good amount of friends and have given a pretty unbiased and factual review.

    2. Some of the yelpers have other reviews for other business still not hidden.
    If there is a problem with a yelper why are there other reviews for other businesses being shown, whereas the one for me is hidden.

    3. Our other counterpart business https://www.yelp.com/biz/the-roll-pod-seattle?osq=the+roll+pod ( which is a food truck but the same brand) is one of the top most reviewed and ranked business. If you search for food trucks in Seattle, we feature as the no. 2 business.

    4. The problem is if this was a standard practice across all business, at least it would have seemed fair. There are other competitor businesses that are also new in my area, but they have not been affected like this. See few below.

    https://www.yelp.com/biz/bhojan-xpress-bellevue

    We believe in yelp and its review system, but this definitely is an error in the algorithm or the machine learning that the recommended software system uses.

    Please take a look. And a closer look. I am myself somebody who has worked on the software and business side of search engines in companies like Amazon and eBay, and clearly understand that there can be issues in any software ( Anomalies).

    A look in to the business page and the reviews will help anybody understand that this is clearly an issue.

    More than happy to provide feedback and more info .

    My phone number is [phone number hidden].

  57. Len,
    I agree reviews do come and go even before the update, but not this severe! I truly believe Yelp did this to me because all my reviews are 5 star rated. They deliberately removed 100’s of my reviews to give everyone else a fair chance and to eliminate my company as the dominating force! The same scenario is happening to many other companies Nationwide just like mine!

    Yelp is misleading the public with their filtered reviews from people who have established profiles. Dec 2018 I was able to click on filtered reviews from my customers to check the reviews they posted about other companies, to my amazement I saw their reviews were showing live on other companies but not mine! I take tremendous pride in my reviews and I am very aware I have been scammed and this is not normal!!!!

    • Hi Ken,

      I looked at your page. And this is so frustrating. How can Yelp do this. Especially for somebody who has real estate / construction business. Nobody is going to given a fake review for their roof install/repair.

      In my opinion, either Yelp is using horrible logic or there is something else cooking. But this is totally against open market forces. They are trying to have a communist / socialist apporach which will not lead them anywhere.

      Shame on Jeremy Stoppleman.

    • Yes, as far as I can tell, most people hit have a solid 5 star review profile. That’s who turned me on to this – I have some clients with solid 5 star review profiles.

      And yes it totally sucks.. I don’t even know what to tell people – get worse reviews? There isn’t much actionable advice..

  58. Hi Len,

    Did you get a chance to look at my page and use case. Its getting ridiculous day by day. Now Yelp has removed all 20 5 star reviews . All we have is 2 4-star, 1 3-star, 1 2-star. total 4 reviews totalling 3.5 .

    Any help would be appreciated.

  59. Parimal,
    It’s totally disgusting what yelp has done with your 5 star reviews!! Yelps new algorithm that started November 1, 2018 is totally misleading the public because they are not sharing the “real truth” about your company and many others just like yours nationwide!!

  60. Just FYI. Its the same business whose other locations ( the two trucks) have got “People love us on Yelp” award for both 2017 and 2018.

    Its just insanely illogical. One one side you are awarding / appreciuating my business , on the other side another location is being penalized/ suppressed

  61. Thanks for the explanations. I’m a customer who left a detailed 5-star review for a small business (Dog Days Doggie Day Care). After a couple of months it was buried along with several other reviews, all 5-stars, posted from 9/2018 through 1/26/2019. None are “recommended” now. I did a search (Bing) for that business, and it came up with 5-star “3 Facebook reviews.” Listed under that are 4 competitors, all with 6 to 35 Yelp reviews; the # of reviews excludes those that are “not recommended” and includes a few 1-stars along with lots of 5-stars. So, Yelp’s algorithm change affects searches by potential customers who believe that Yelp reviews matter — and don’t know about the change.

  62. My law firm website alexanderbblum.com had multiple positive reviews. After the purge. I noticed all my reviews were “not recccomended”. So it shows zero reviews. I find this unacceptable. I had paid for Yelp advertising before and it did not help and was very expensive.

  63. We are finding that almost all new reviews that get left, are then filtered out. Doesn’t matter if the person has many friends, aged yelp account, number of reviews left, active on yelp. Poof- right into the filter they go after a day or two.

    Baffled that yelp has yet to speak a word on this. What a blow to hard work. Reviews aren’t easy to come by.

    I believe yelp will post decent last quarter earnings, but after that it’s all downhill. There’s already talk of their investors calling for a sale due to continuous missed financial marks- https://www.cnbc.com/amp/2019/02/06/yelp-hires-evercore-after-activist-hedge-fund-calls-for-sale.html

    I would hope those of you being affected are still not paying for yelp ads. Why would you pay a company who takes away your hard earned reviews?

  64. There is a digital call that comes to my phone every so often and when I pick up, this recorded message says something to the tune of: “it’s been brought to our attention that your Yelp business listing has been affected by bad reviews, press 1 if you want to talk to blah blah blah….”

    I hung up. The call is from: 213-262-3073. It is the third time they called me. I have not spoken to them. It seems like another one of Yelp’s shady games. I am so disappointed by Yelp!

  65. Having been with yelp for over 9 years, advertising for most of that, a few observation for our law practice

    This purge started for us somewhere in late September 2018, not November. Either others do not check their reviews as incessantly as we do (and perhaps they are better for it), or our geographic area was hit before theirs. We had about 55 reviews when this started and 1-2 reviews would peel off each day or every other day…

    As the numbers dwindled and we went into the mid 40’s we understood that something was going on, and that a new algorithm was potentially in play. By the end of November we were at about 26 reviews and dwindling further, uncertain when it would stop. In the beginning of this new year the bleeding stopped at about 18 reviews for us. As disheartening and frustrating as it was, we thought that may be the end of it. However, what we continue to notice is that the bleeding seems to resume when a new review appears. Not only do these new reviews get filtered within a day or two, but it seems to trigger a loss of older reviews with it…all of which are legitimate and have nothing to do with one another. At this point(now below 18 reviews), we are in the paradoxical position of hoping for no additional reviews as that seems to trigger even more losses.

    To say that losing such precious hard work accumulated over years is discouraging, is an understatement. I can say that we have advertised with Yelp for years and it has affected us just the same. So it isn’t the lack of advertising I can assure. However, if Yelp’s algorithm is filtering legit reviews in the hopes that small business will then be required to advertise more for greater exposure, that I do not know…

    What makes this that much more frustrating is (as already mentioned) there is no one to talk to or to escalate almost any situation. Yelp’s rep’s just regurgitate the same nonsense about the automated software and no effort is made by the company to explain or advise about what may be going on or to give any kind of notice.

    Moreover, there are a number of other problems we have found recently with Yelp for those that use their advertising platform:

    1. Recently, we have been seeing certain competitors have much different page layouts than ours. Though we subscribe to all the page upgrades/options available to make maximize our page, certain competitors have these much more favorable layouts and options that we just can’t get. Although this is a bit difficult to explain unless you see it, those more favorable layouts makes a drastic difference if you can have it versus what we have. After calling Yelp and having the rep acknowledge what we were talking about she had to put us on hold for almost 10 minutes to find out what the difference was based on. The Answer? Yelp was rolling out new layouts and their engineers chose random business for those layouts. No time frame on when everyone would get them, or how to get into to the test group for it. We did notice that the competitors who do have this test layout seem to be much heavier Yelp advertisers.

    2. We frequently get repeated clicks on our ads for keywords that are just not relevant to our practice area. Since you cant control the keywords that prompt your ads (except for recently having the ability to block certain keywords), these clicks continue to drain budget. Yelp rep’s give the same regurgitated answer about their automated software generating responsible for this as they do for the filtered review purge.

    3. When customers want to message us for a price quote or consultation, they are unaware that Yelp’s software automatically sets their options to send that same page to 4 other competitors. Most Yelp users don’t see this or unaware and don’t uncheck the box’s to send the inquiry to all 4 firms. They wind up sending their message in bulk to 4 firms instead of just the one they thought they were contacting. Thus, when we respond to their inquiry they don’t know who we are, why we are responding back and get pissed that we are contacting them.

    For each of these issues, there is no one to talk to at Yelp. Except for being friendly, their customer reps are clueless themselves about some of these, and cant provide any useful options to escalate or address them in any meaningful way. Its getting to be quite a black-hole all around.

    • Thank you for sharing your experience with us. That is quite a story. I was not aware that people were accidentally sending messages to 5 attorneys at once – that is great to know. I will take a look at that in the near future – it may even make the blog here.

      • Len: Service Magic (Now Home Advisor) used a similar schema to wit: a business pays to be listed and also per “lead”; if memory serves leads went to multiple interested parties.

        The core issue was (Service Magic was sued) and is (Yelp was sued and will be again IMHO) willfully misrepresenting policy

  66. This article has been referenced by Bloomberg. You may read their article here.

  67. I rent vacation cabins at Mt Rainier in Washington. I have 10 visible reviews and 63 that are filtered. This has been very frustrating. Many of the filtered reviews are from folks who have only one or two reviews but at least 10 of them seem to be active Yelpers – they have multiple reviews/friends/profile pics, etc. Even to have a handful more visible reviews would make such a difference.

  68. Yelp also did it to me big time , in Oct/Nov of 2018, Had 48 reviews over 7 years, with another 30 in the hidden area , then by Christmas I was down to 18. BOOM……..other agents in my office also lost 50% plus but others stayed the same. I actually think its Yelp’s way of culling existing long term clients by reducing reviews and allowing newer clients to show higher in the rankings and maybe pay more to advertise . I do not believe its purely automated system as we are told.I also like all the others called my rep who was pleasant but spewed repetitive dogma about the AI in the sky who makes the decisions.

  69. We own a tattoo shop in Los Angeles and we had 142 recommended reviews last October. We started losing a few reviews per day in November and by December we were down to 64. We also thought the bleeding had stopped, and as our new reviews for January started to trickle in, some seemed to stick and even some old filtered reviews reappeared and we were up to 72. We stopped checking regularly, given up really, as our 5 star rating has not been affected. But now we are back down to 65 and back to below some competitors who last year we had more than double.

    As someone earlier said, it seems that new reviews are triggering not only filtering the new reviews but additional old reviews as well. We pulled our advertising back in December and have now been actively asking clients NOT to leave us a Yelp review.

    We are thrilled to see some articles starting to surface about this topic and hope that public awareness will have some positive result. As being the only tattoo shop in the exptremely oversaturated marketplace of Los Angeles to have been targeted by Yelp’s purge has greatly impacted not only our business, but our morale and motivation.

  70. I just checked my Yelp page for the first time in several months and saw that out of 50 reviews, 36 are now filtered. I don’t have an exact figure but it was closer to 15 being filtered prior to this new algorithm. Beyond impotent rage at Yelp, I’m not sure what to do about it. I’ll definitely be pushing clients towards Google reviews and (industry-specific) The Knot and WeddingWire from here on out.

  71. My small biz has been receiving 5 Star Yelp Reviews since 2014. I recently went from 20 reviews down to 4, placing me one review above the competition that I had previously been dominating! Customer service is far from helpful or sympathetic so save yourselves the time.

    Right now i’m in the process of updating my Yelp biz profile to mention to potential clients how to find the “hidden reviews” and while this may or may not work I’m also attempting to upload screen shots of the 16 five star reviews in my photo section. In addition to that I’ll be focusing all my customer review energy toward my #1 source for new clients, GOOGLE. Yelp is no longer worthy of my effort.

    Good luck out there!

  72. Hi! Quick question that’s totally off topic. Do you know how to
    make your site mobile friendly? My web site looks weird when viewing from my apple iphone.
    I’m trying to find a theme or plugin that might be
    able to resolve this issue. If you have any suggestions, please share.
    Many thanks!

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