How To Get Rid of Bad Yelp Reviews.

by Toby

August 1, 2019

Yelp Reviews

Have you checked your Yelp reviews lately? Have you received a less than favorable review from a customer? Have you fired any employees (hurry and check your reviews)? Wish you could get rid of that negative Yelp review? If yes, then read on.

A not-so-happy Yelp reviewer.

Make no mistake, in the web 2.0 era and the social media boom, customers will freely speak their minds and publish their opinions about your business whether they are fair or not. And unfortunately, it seems the angry customer wants to tell many more people than a satisfied customer.

I recently reviewed a Google Ads campaign from a dental client, and in a short time frame, he had received 8 clicks and 42 impressions on queries with the word “review” or “reviews” in it related to his brand or service type.

This was a small campaign, but nonetheless, when one client could be worth thousands of dollars, he could have lost 8 or more large clients because he wasn’t managing his Yelp reviews. And believe me when I say your future customers are checking your reviews before they buy from you.

82% of U.S. adults say they at least sometimes read online customer ratings or reviews before purchasing items for the first time, and 40% said they always or almost always read online reviews, based on a study from Pew Research Center

And the Pew study is dated 2016. Those numbers are far greater today.

The semi-bad news is that regardless of whether or not you’re a Yelp advertising customer or not, the only way you can get rid of bad Yelp reviews is if the review itself is inappropriate and violates the Yelp TOS (terms of service), in which case you can report the review to yelp and it will be reviewed for possible removal.

Here’s the actual process…

How To Get A Yelp Review Removed

  • Step one: Report the review to Yelp for removal
  • Step two: Choose a reason that the review should be removed
  • Step three: provide Yelp with specific details and reasoning
  • Step four: submit your case to Yelp

Once the review has been submitted, you have to wait for several days for Yelp to respond. Yelp’s response will be either that it agreed with you or not. If it did not agree with you, you can appeal one more time. 

Flag Yelp Review For Removal
Flag Yelp Review For Removal
Reason Yelp Review Should Be Removed
The Reason The Yelp Review Should Be Removed

What violates Yelp’s TOS or is considered inappropriate you ask?

Someone using four-letter words, or personally attacking you or the business and slandering you fall under inappropriate, but there are shades of gray in that interpretation. If you’ve ever had to fire an employee you’ve probably had someone anonymously leave a scathing review of you and/or your business. Nonetheless, you can’t get rid of a negative review just because it doesn’t represent your business in the best light–sorry!

I wrote a related post about how to respond to negative reviews AND how to submit a review for removal from Yelp, Google Plus, and Facebook.

And another related post about a survey we did about which online review sites consumers find the most important – spoiler alert, it’s not Yelp!

Other Actions You Should Take

There is hope though if you have some nasty Yelp reviews hanging out there.

The single best tactic you can employ is to provide outstanding customer service to all your customers, so you are consistently getting positive 4-5-star reviews. I know that probably seems obvious, but the reality is if you are consistently getting 3 stars or lower there’s something wrong operationally with your business.

Regardless, being proactive in increasing your positive reviews is the single best tactic you can implement to bury bad reviews.

How to be proactive with reviews:

  • First, claim your business on Yelp so you can respond to reviews asap. Customers don’t expect you to have all 5-star ratings, but they do expect a reputable company to respond promptly to negative reviews in a professional manner. According to Yelp’s Data Science team, customers are 33% more likely to upgrade their review if you respond with a personalized message within 24 hours.
  • Print business cards out that have your Yelp address on them and hand them out to select customers. This is a take-home reminder to the customer that Yelp reviews are important to your business.  And instead of “incentives for reviews” which is against Yelp’s TOS, consider “incentives for ”
  • Although you cannot offer incentives to customers for reviews, you can offer incentives for referrals. By doing so, you can track who your loyal customers are (the ones who are spreading the word), and then ask those customers to leave you a positive review on Yelp. Bonus: new customers means more chances to provide excellent service and earn more positive reviews!
  • Email your best customers and ask them for a review
  • Develop POP material that creates awareness inside your store or restaurant that encourages reviews and check-ins. If someone checks in on the Yelp app, Yelp will remind that person to review them too.
  • And finally, customer video testimonials: keep a video camera around and ask your best customers to give you a short testimonial that you can then upload to your company’s YouTube channel, your website and have it optimized for search engines of course.

There are some caveats to the strategy of actively seeking reviews from customers. First, stay abreast of Yelp’s TOS as they do update this regularly and the rules can change about what Yelp considers acceptable or not.

Yelp discourages business owners from actively soliciting reviews and states that most likely the reviews will be filtered out anyway. It’s not uncommon that reviews that are in the “unrecommended” section may show eventually, and then they may disappear yet again; it all depends on the algorithm they have put into place.

Yelp does have a heavy-handed algorithm, and I’ve seen them filter out many new reviews for some businesses. There are many signals Yelp is looking at, but one that will trigger its algorithm to filter more reviews is a burst of new reviews – if that burst of new reviews is unnatural then it’s more likely Yelp will bury some of these new reviews.

But not doing anything to improve your review rating and hoping you get some positive reviews is like waiting for rain in a drought. The best situation is having clients that already have a Yelp account and have done reviews in the past, but since these customers are few and far between, ask all your good customers.

What are your experiences with Yelp reviews?

Have you actively pursued reviews from your customers?

About the author 


Toby is the co-founder of 39 Celsius. He has over 20 years of digital marketing experience and has started several companies throughout his career. He's an expert in SEO, Social Media Ads, Google Ads, Marketing Automation, and more. He has a BA in Chemistry/Biochemistry from UC San Diego and an MBA from SDSU.

  • Soliciting Yelp reviews actually can serve to hurt a business more than help it. Reviews written by brand new users are usually filtered (hidden) and cause a business page to look suspicious Yelp community…just a heads up ; ) The best option is to include reminders that your business is on Yelp with check-in offers, or featuring a (legit) printed out review in a frame near your till or in the washroom. Great subtle reminders : )

  • Cyndi, thanks for the comment! Great points and additional tips. 🙂 I still believe businesses need to be proactive about soliciting legit online reviews and/or creating awareness, but perhaps with emphasis on being more subtle about it, per your point. Of all the businesses I’ve seen being more proactive about reviews, while some were filtered, others were not, and nobody had any negative repercussions. Most businesses that I have witnessed also did not have a rush of reviews come in at once.

  • Its all about SEO.. Have all your customer go to other website to rate you!! The more people talk about your company on other website the more relivant they are to you website!! This will kick YELPS SEO to the Bottom and you will not be advertising for Yelp
    If you could please rate us on these sites we would really appreciate it!

    Google: Search on google and go to google reviews to review us

    If you could please rate us on these sites we would really appreciate it!

    Google: Search on google and go to google revies to review us : review on city search



  • grossefatigue says:

    The best is just to ignore Yelp and have your customers use Citisearch, yahoo and Yellow Pages instead, drowning Yelp. Actually fewer people than you think look at Yelp. Business owners get reports on traffic. There is no traffic. Only angry customers post in some businesses. It is not worth our time. Our biggest customers never post anything. It is the shit customer that dont even buy anything that post. I am extremely suspicious of Yelp. In my case I refused to advertise with them and all my good reviews are ignored, with only bad reviews counting for the rating. It stinks. Their “filter” is a joke.

    • John Reviewit says:

      Exactly how do we convince a potential new customer we’ve never met to use alternative searches ?

      • You can’t convince new customers to use alternative search platforms – Yelp is the #1 review site, but many potential customers start their searches with keywords in Google so running Google Adwords campaigns can capture that traffic before they get to Yelp.

  • Ive had more good reviews then bad and they are only approving the bad ones and all the bad ones are false. ive written to yelp several times but don’t get anywhere.

  • SouthernCal says:

    Yelp has become somewhat of a joke now among small business owners in my area. Their hard selling techniques to sell ads and their threat of making business ranking last on searches has turned off many of us.
    Small business owners really rely on words of mouth and these reviews can make or break a business. All reviews on Yelp are treated with equal weight whether a reviewer knows what he is talking about or not. Readers of the reviews are only offer a choice of rating the review as “useful”, “funny” or “cool”. What about an option to flag some of these review as “bad” or “not useful”. The longer you are in business the more your business will fare. Your happy and repeated customers will not write and rewrite positive reviews for you while one timer customers with an entitlement attitude and an ax to grind can rant on and on about how bad your business is.
    Yelp has a bad business model and all of these should come back and bite them.

    • Instyle Boutique says:

      I agree, i owned a small consignment boutique, and i have a bad review from a unhappy confused consignee who his contract expired 10 months ago and he expected and demanded us to pay him. Our contract states that if contract expires & you are not responsible for pick up, all money & proceeds goes to charity. He wrote on yelp that i was a theft. A contract is a contract. Yelp has not been beneficial for my business at all, any random person can write a bad review and i notice some of my new costumers have less than two friends or reviews their good reviews go to the end of the hidden page. How is this helping? I’m considering closing my account. Yelp is a joke.

  • Stephanie says:

    Yelp is ridiculous. You can work for a whole year to get 2-3 good reviews and Yelp will filter them for no reason unless you pay them. It’s ridiculous and their manipulation tactics are extortion. Plain and simple.

    • You are so right They are just trying to get business owners to buy their advertising packages by controlling reviews on your yelp page. I wonder when someone will step in here and shut them down. I am trying to close my account but it seems like they will not let me. I am just open to unjust attack because I will not pay the high priced advertising offered by yelp. Only when enough people get together to shut this down they will continue to harm many great businesses. It reminds me of the mafia and how they used to go into businesses to take money and if you did not pay they would destroy your shop. Not cool! This is a very serious problem that needs to be stopped. has anyone consulted an attorney about this ? I just want to know how to close my account.

      • You are so right!
        The best advice now is to say your business is closed-sold -new owners.
        My best choice is to offer customers a discount for a bad review. I mean, make a joke out of it!!! Negitave publicity will keep yor name out there-and it will be FUNNY!
        I will now do this for me, it (yelp) will not control me NO MORE!

  • I just had a review where the guy called me a “jerkoff” as a result of a free tax consultation. Yelp responded that the review should not be removed. Your thoughts?

      • Thanks so much. This review was placed in the “not currently recommended” area by Yelp. I spoke to this man for 15 minutes, was respectful and honest and there was no hint of animosity. I have no idea why this occurred but the post was very mean spirited and negative. In light of the fact that it is restricted, should I continue to fight this or just forget about it?

        • So it was buried by Yelp’s review algorithm, however that can be temporary and it could show in the recommended review section visible to all at some random point in the future. If that Yelp profile changes positively, Yelp may move that review to visible for all to see. You might as well contest it, but it’s somewhat random if they take it down – I’ve seen reviews with foul language stay up after requesting a review. Good luck!

          • Thanks Toby for your insights. If it stays up, should I publicly respond to this review or do I risk his wrath and the exposure of him going to other places on the internet. Or do I leave “sleeping dogs lie” in this situation and just let the public (if they ever even see this restricted review) see it without my comment?

          • I’m an advocate of responding to reviews. For this one though it’s hard to say – if he’s just a troll and calling you names it might be best to leave it since nobody is likely to not go to you because someone referred to you as a “jerkoff”, but if he’s making statements pertaining to services, etc, those should be responded to professionally and then get the conversation offline as soon as possible.

          • That just it Toby. We are talking about a preliminary phone consult and he said I gave him bad advice when in fact I did not. That is what he is bad mouthing me about. He never came into my office, he was never a client and I was just giving him free advice. You know the old adage: “No good deed goes unpunished.” I was cordial, friendly and kind, so I was shocked by his response. I think he got mad because I said to him pay it forward after I gave him free legal advice over the phone. I guess my time has no value.

          • I would definitely reply then in a professional, non-emotional way – people that read it will see through it and that you did your part. Some people these days are very quick to reply negatively whether it’s fair or not.

          • Ok, I will give this some serious consideration. By the way is there something I can do for you Toby in cyberspace. I do “pay it forward” so let me know if I can write a review or follow you on Facebook, Twitter, etc. I would welcome the chance to help you!

  • The best advice in this article is to be awesome at your business and at customer service. I was terrified of yelp when I found my business listed on it and wanted to shut down my account. I was told that there was no such thing, so I just waited in suspense.

    I’m an electrician and it’s taken me about 6 or 7 years I guess, but I now have (22) 5-Star reviews on Yelp and a bunch more that don’t show. All my reviews are 5 stars except for one which is 4 Stars.
    At least two reviews are from people that never even hired me -but were grateful that I was willing to spend time with them on the phone to help them with their problems. Heh: 20 minutes on the phone in “exchange” for a 5-star review is about the best investment I could have made. 🙂

    I can’t speak to everyone’s business, or their business model, but as an owner: YOU are your best tool for attracting and keeping new customers. I often tell my customers things like “I love my work and I don’t just do it to make a living, but I do it because I feel great at the end of a good job. It makes me happy to do excellent work and even happier when you are blown away.”

    I can tell you that people are so grateful that I am willing to talk to them. I answer my phone, or call them back without exception because once you talk to a person and they get to know you, they will almost always hire you just because they like you.
    Having said all that, a few times I have met someone who is not responding to me. That’s okay, you can’t fall in love with every person that you meet either. 🙂 if they are not responding enthusiastically to what I am saying and they are not giving me their energy back, I give a higher estimate. If they turn me down, it’s no real loss on my part …and if I get the job and charge them less than my (high) estimate, that usually puts a big smile on their face. 😉

    I don’t know if there is a way for you to successfully do this or not, but my very strong advice to any of you who don’t have all 4 or 5-star reviews is to contact each person who’s given you a bad review and offer to redo whatever it is that you did, and do it for free. Even if you are “right”, and they are “wrong”, your goal should be to change their review and get 5 stars. At the end of your interaction with anyone who lets you try again, ask them, literally, if there is anything else that you can do to not just satisfy them, but to make them feel great. Satisfaction is 3 stars; awesome is 5 stars.
    Most people will be flattered that you want to know what it is that will get them to five stars, because it shows that you value their opinion and that you think that they are smart enough to help you to become a successful business person. And I would literally say to them I want to know what would make my service 5 stars; I want to enroll you in making sure that you get everything from me that you deserve . And it’s just because I want you to feel great, but I want to have every person that I work with in the future feel great too.

    I’ve never had to do this, but that would be my strategy. And yes, of course there will always be somebody who is a true jerk and won’t let you help them no matter how much benefit to them it would be. Let that person go and get to work on the next person

    And in the future, your goal should be to get 5 stars from everybody, every time.

  • Bruce Neely says:

    I personally know a Dentist who had a terrible yelp review with verifiable lies. She has no record of the patient and her re odds comply with all illinois laws! Yelp won’t remove the fictitious review and there is a record that proves it is lies. No service was provided that the review describes! We are currently looking at legal remedies to false reviews!

    • Yes, we see fake and misleading negative reviews with many of our clients, but unfortunately, and to the frustration of all business owners including myself, Yelp will rarely if ever take these down (similar situation with Google and Facebook reviews too). Best course of action is to reply professionally and state your case and then just move on to getting reviews from happy customers.

  • I had yelp revmove a slanderous review by someone i assure you was never a patient of mine. ( reivew was a year ago and i just notice do it) They must then tell the reviewer that they removed it because he today posted an even worse review – none of which is true! Yelp refuses to remove this one which makes no sense!Has anyone hired a lawyer to get it removed?

      • Yelp refused to remove it so I changed the name of my practice to ????? and said it was located In PA and it was a library! So now no one can see it. I don’t think people look for a dentist on yelp anyhow. I have plenty of other great reviews on other sites

        • Cole Varner says:

          People absolutely look for a dentist on Yelp. If I am going to spend time and money on a service I want it to be the best in the area, especially for something where pricing remains relatively constant between providers. The days of patients blindly going to the nearest doctor/dentist/therapist are over.

          • So in your opinion you will find ‘the best’ of the best on Yelp? I would think maybe google or health grades would be better for a medical profession. I didn’t mean to say anyone would go blindly just didn’t think Yelp was that influential for dentists-I guess I”m wrong

      • Lori Pope says:

        How? What I’m going through is that Yelp leaves all the 1 star reviews from people who only have one review – mine, and hides a ton of 5 star reviews from people who have many reviews. I never ask for reviews. The process is discriminatory and not equal in its judgment. Yelp also allows reviews from people or x-employees who have never been customers. When I appealed they said they don’t see any TOS violations

        • Yes – I hear your frustration. Almost all the business owners I speak with are incredibly frustrated with Yelp. Not sure if I have ever spoken to a happy Yelp customer yet. The only way to get a review removed is to appeal the review to them, or reach out to the person directly, unfortunately.

  • I have a similar problem. My service business was slandered by someone that is not a customer. I even had a Yelp account, had one of that reviewers handful of reviews removed by another
    offended party that happened to be a municipality, and Yelp still would not remove my review. That’s a compelling case. I’m currently working with my state Consumer Protection agency. They might tell you they don’t handle business to business, but you can create caveats. Keep in mind that Yelp with it’s significant market presence and the defacto review site for BING and YAHOO, wields too much influence. In essence, it’s sort of a gateway. So the solution is to restrain Yelp’s free-wheeling algorithm. I hope that helps and feel free to reply.

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