Update 12/18/2018: I believe I have discovered why some reviews are being filtered in a new way. Please refer to this updated article: The Yelp Review Purge of 2018.
A client of mine who checks his Yelp rankings monthly at the end of the month contacted me today to inform me that a significant number of his reviews were suddenly buried in the month of November. While I’m not certain of the date this occurred, I do know these dates and numbers to be accurate:
November 1, 2018 (69.44% of reviews displayed):
- 75 (recommended) reviews
- 33 (not currently recommended) reviews
- 108 total reviews
November 30, 2018 (41.66% of reviews displayed):
- 45 (recommended) reviews
- 63 (not currently recommended) reviews
- 108 total reviews
All of the reviews are legitimate reviews.
They’re not alone.
I went online and as of December 1, 2018 I found several other people who were suddenly missing their Yelp reviews as well.
Tampa Rug Cleaners says they have seen a huge reduction in displayed reviews:
Fix It Nick went from 66 reviews (54/12, that’s 54 recommended / 12 not recommended) to 34/32. That means Fix It Nick went from 81.81% of his reviews displaying at the beginning of November to 51.51%.
I understand this is not a lot of data. However, something has definitely changed. In the first example, the Yelp listing is closely monitored, and while the recommended review number may fluctuate by 1 or 2 points each month, never has the review count sunk so suddenly. That’s a huge change.
Why aren’t my hard earned reviews showing up?
I owned a brick and mortar business for 13 years and totally understand how difficult it is just to get a single review. To me, to have any of them disappear is gut wrenching, and to have HALF of them disappear is infuriating.
To the best of my knowledge, Yelp is not screwing you over intentionally. Yes, there are dozens, if not hundreds of websites which state otherwise. In 2015, I looked into this myself and wrote this article: Why your Business’s Yelp Reviews Aren’t Being Displayed. In the article I explain that Yelp has an algorithm which picks and chooses which reviews to recommend or filter (not recommend). The “recommended” reviews are basically when 99.9% of people are going to see as the entire review count. In fact, Yelp displays this business number as the review count in Google’s search results. I can see why most people would see that as incredibly misleading. Anyways, in the article above, I explain that the FTC looked into Yelp and determined that they are not suppressing reviews in exchange for payment.
That said, it would be nice to have some communication from Yelp. Is this a temporary problem? An algorithm change? Who knows.
Which reviews are being filtered or “not recommended” as of December 2018?
The last in depth study of Yelp’s algorithm was conducted in 2013. It’s like studying computer science so I’ll explain it 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.
From the study – here are the chances they came up with of a review showing:
However, if you’re reading this you feel that there’s been a huge change to that algorithm in late 2018. Unfortunately, Yelp hasn’t told us anything about it, and their employees know nothing about it either.
Again, I don’t have a ton of data here to go by, but after looking at the filtered reviews of a dozen or so businesses, I think Yelp has tweaked their algorithm (at least for some business types) to bury some types of reviews. Here are some theories:
- Yelp may be cracking down even harder on reviews from users who have left 10 reviews or less
- Yelp could be filtering reviews from users who are inactive (not sure for how long. 16mos?)
- Yelp could be filtering reviews based on niche / business type.
- Yelp may have simply been overdue to filter reviews from Yelpers who have only left a few reviews.
- This could all just be a temporary error on Yelp’s side.
As you can see, I’m not 100% certain why some reviews aren’t displaying. Once a review is no longer recommended, I can’t click onto the user to see their recent activity, so I can’t check to see if they’ve become inactive. Here’s an example of a filtered review from a user who is obviously a Yelper (but again I’m not sure if they are inactive since I can’t click their profile):
Is it the niche?
I haven’t paid close attention to the performance of niches on Yelp but it does appear that some niches are held to different standards. From a quick look around, I am seeing that personal injury attorneys often retain 40%-80% of their reviews, while massage therapists seem to retain 75%-95% of theirs.
No communication from Yelp:
I reached out to Yelp but there was no comment on the state of their algorithm; they basically have people there that say “we have a special software to recommend certain reviews, blah, blah, blah…”. In other words, if there was a huge change, Yelp employees are either completely unaware of it or have been instructed to pretend their has been no change. It would be nice if they could confirm they’ve updated their algorithm OR let us know that they’re experiencing a problem and working on it.
Please comment below if your reviews got whacked:
If you lost a significant number of reviews in late 2018 we’d be happy to hear from you. Please feel free to email me or comment below. If you happen to know the number of reviews which you had before the algorithm change or the date you lost your reviews that would be extremely helpful as we continue to monitor this situation.