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==== ==== What business doesn't need a higher star rating by Google, Yelp or the other rating sites? Now you will improve your rating significantly or your money back. ==== ====

I've known about Yelp for years, but only within the last year have I spared it a single thought. It's a powerful tool for the consumer and if leveraged properly, an equally powerful tool for business owners. It's been established for so long that people know what it is, and trust it as an invaluable source for information. At the same time, astute individuals try not to underestimate the ability of certain challenged Homosapiens to pound out an angry review through the beer goggles of their life. The victim mentality shines brightly in Yelp-land. I don't entirely blame them; I never had even the slightest inclination to write a review until I had a particularly awful experience at a restaurant in Carmel. I have an account with only two reviews written but never published because I changed my mind about spewing such negativity online, where it already breeds at a rapid pace. I don't run straight to Yelp for information about an establishment, but I do Google those I'm wondering about and that often results in an inspection of the Yelp page for the business. I fully appreciate the value that Yelp brings to me as an interested party in general. That said, since attempting to manage the process for a few different business owners, I must say that Yelp's support for that side of the transaction falls abysmally short. Their FAQs are abrasive at best, defending their policies so aggressively that the tone of their answers suggests I've been yelling at them over the phone all day. Before I've even begun, I feel like I've had my wrist slapped for being a business that gets a plethora of one-star reviews, when in actuality I have no reviews at all. (i.e. "Note: Our support team cannot manually restore reviews that have been filtered. Should you contact us about filtered reviews you will receive the information above." - The second part of that statement is unnecessary, particularly because the type of person who would write to them about the filtered reviews would generally be the type of person who wouldn't have bothered to read that statement.) What about the people like me who are committed to an outstanding consumer experience, and who are just looking for as much information as possible to facilitate that process? Is there a softer side of Yelp, or is their support department just full of people with what I like to call the "IT Guy Attitude"? They filter reviews through some sort of automated process that decides the quality of the review, but Yelp purposefully does not publish all of the criteria that their algorithm follows. The most basic is that users who have written mountains of reviews will usually stick, and those who have only written one may not. Additionally, if you solicit reviews and a number of your customers write them at the same time, those will generally be filtered because the algorithm will recognize them as solicited reviews. The sentiment is that if you had to ask for it, it wasn't deserved. They cite a Catch-22, suggesting that the more transparent their algorithm, the easier it would be for people to find the loopholes to unscrupulously influence the review display outcome of a given

business page. I don't argue with this reasoning. I have always said that because enhanced airline security methods since 9-11 are widely published, terrorists know exactly what they need to do to get a bomb on a plane. It may be harder, but if they really wanted to do it, they'd find a way. Yet millions of us have to fill tiny bottles with shampoo and strip down to our underwear every time we go to the airport, just in case. National security is one thing and Yelp's algorithm is another, but I think you get my meaning. I could also easily hypothesize that another reason behind not publishing their guidelines is to help prevent lawsuits. The less you put into writing, the better. On the very top of my frustration over their published (and unpublished) support resources lie some real life examples that have me scratching my head. It would seem that teams of Realtors don't often submit their businesses to the Yelp directory. I recently submitted a page for my "day job" on The Look Team here in the Silicon Valley using the name "The Look Team Real Estate." When the page was approved after about a week, the name had been changed to that of our brokerage. I figured I would claim it anyway and then worry about changing the name, but a part of the claiming process involves Yelp making an automated phone call to the number provided. Well, when I submitted the page initially, I wasn't able to enter an extension number, so that phone call would have gone to the front desk of the office, rather than to our team line. I opted to contact Yelp via email at that point to try to resolve the issue, and expect to hear back within a week or so. The trouble, as I learned with a past Yelp account of a similar nature, is that you are not able to change your own company name or phone number from within the business management tool. The Yelp team has to do it, and they do not involve you in their process of deciding what it should be changed to. They do not contact you except to tell you that something has been done. This particular time, it took over a month for the change to be reflected, and then it was still incorrect. They do not ask questions of you to ensure they understand what is being asked in the first place. Having worked in tech support, I can only imagine that they're working case numbers and are just aiming to close as many as they can before the end of the day. I suspect that whoever was in charge of approving our page did a quick Google search of our address to find the brokerage was there and that was the end of the story. It may be that Yelp has guidelines for Realtors. Maybe they have to be listed as individuals and not teams - I've seen plenty to believe that may be the case. The problem is that I've asked this of Yelp several times and do not get a response. I just need to know what I'm working with so that I can get this ball rolling. My general feeling is that if Yelp does not begin to treat business owners as a valuable part of their process, the trust level in their product will decline over time. They are not practicing what they preach, so to speak. The site is supposed to be about engaging with your customers for a better experience, and yet, here I sit, feeling confused and dejected by Yelp. When will Yelp actually try to build a relationship with ME?

You know, everyone these days claims social media as an interest. I think it's supposed to show that you're progressive. You're ahead of the curve. To some people social media is as simple as, "Facebook? Yeah I have one of those." And to other people it is a deep science. I'm somewhere in the middle. I've been blogging since before it was called blogging (Diaryland anyone?) and I've always had a tendency to share far too much information, and instill far too much trust into the World Wide Web. So here I am, writing stuff.

Follow Me: @venitahale

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==== ==== What business doesn't need a higher star rating by Google, Yelp or the other rating sites? Now you will improve your rating significantly or your money back. ==== ====

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