Yelp Online Reviews

Restaurant Wants Bad Yelp Reviews

Botto Bistro Serves Yelp Humble Pie

A local San Francisco restaurant, Botto Bistro, felt extorted by Yelp due to their review ranking decline after they stopped advertising on Yelp.  Botto Bistro’s leadership, Davide Cerretini, decided to swim against the tide and encourage negative feedback on his restaurant’s Yelp page.  Cerrentini set out to be the worst rated restaurant on Yelp and in turn drove a wildly successful marketing campaign.

The traffic generated by Cerretini’s Yelp page actually increased his rank within the Yelp results. This quirky ranking increase tied Yelp’s algorithm to page traffic increases more so than review results. Even though Botto Bistro received terrible reviews, the influx of new traffic to the restaurant’s Yelp page actually boosted their overall ranking on Yelp.  The creative, quirky reviews became entertaining and developed their own virality.

If you have not heard the story of Botto Bistro and their atypical Yelp initiative, it’s worth reading up on the story that’s been floating around for almost a month.  You can read about it here (AP), here (ABC), and here (Huffington Post).

Yelp Has Heard Claims of Extortion Businesses Before

Yelp disputed other unrelated extortion claims successfully in federal court last month. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals noted that there was insufficient evidence to support any of the claims made within the lawsuit. Of particular interest the court noted that:

“We begin with Chan, who alleges that Yelp extorted her by removing positive reviews from her Yelp page. Chan asserts that she was deprived of the benefit of the positive reviews Yelp users posted to Yelp’s website, and that, had she received the benefits of the positive reviews, they would have counteracted the negative reviews other users posted.

But Chan had no pre-existing right to have positive reviews appear on Yelp’s website. She alleges no contractual right pursuant to which Yelp must publish positive reviews, nor does any law require Yelp to publish them. By withholding the benefit of these positive reviews, Yelp is withholding a benefit that Yelp makes possible and maintains. It has no obligation to do so, however.”

In summary, the court is acknowledging that Yelp could remove or manipulate reviews legally if it so chooses. The court details elsewhere in the opinion that there is insufficient evidence pled as to review manipulation occurring within the framework of this particular case. However, it is unfortunate that the judicial system has sent a message to Yelp that the practice of toying with reviews to drive advertising revenue is possibly legal.

What is Yelp’s value to local marketing and small business?

Yelp’s reviews have been in question for over a year, so take a step back and evaluate Yelp by these standards:

  • Yelp is one of many websites that provide an outlet for customer reviews. While claiming the company listing is important, driving reviews to Yelp is not necessary when other options are available. With its ties to organic SEO ranking, make Google+ your primary review aggregator.
  • Yelp, Google+, Facebook, and other review sites are all part of the bigger branding picture. Understanding your brand, position in the marketplace, and driving business mission will help you serve your clientele better and organically spread the good word about your business. This helps identify strategies versus tactics.
  • Use positive and negative feedback to sharpen your business, whether it comes from a bad online review, a questionable client interaction, or the loss of a customer altogether. In many circumstances inspiration for change is rooted in discomfort, so keep pushing to be the best at what you do for your target market. Your brand and business will thank you.
  • Certain industries are very closely tied to Yelp (restaurant, in-home services such as carpet cleaning, pest control, etc.) while others do not rely as heavily on it. Do your research to see what your competitors are doing and make an educated decision based on the unique facts of your situation.

Understanding your brand is key to your marketing success. There are many tactics both online and offline that will positively affect how people view your business. Do not get distracted by one facet of a much larger picture. Your time is valuable, so develop a plan and strategically focus on what tactics will ultimately achieve your goals. Botto Bistro opted out of Yelp’s review scheme, but it will take reasoned thought and planning to decide whether that’s the right move for your business