Back in November of 2017, Yelp announced it would start issuing penalties for businesses that solicit reviews. Yelp said:

“Now, we are also demoting business pages in Yelp search results that show indicators of organized review solicitation through reputation management companies. We are taking this action because promoting biased reviews, or promoting businesses that have artificially inflated their ratings, is misleading for consumers and unfair to businesses that have honestly earned their great reputations while adhering to Yelp’s policies.”

Unlike Google, Yelp seems to be very serious about the quality and trustworthiness of the reviews on their platform. In my experience, Yelp is fairly diligent about enforcing the guidelines they come up with.

One of the agencies I consult with had a client who was using a reputation management company that included Yelp in a widget on his site. The widget asked people to leave reviews. As a result, they received a solicitation penalty from Yelp, which led me to look into its review solicitation policy and how it works.

Yelp search results penalty

Yelp confirmed to me it always alerts a business via email before any penalty goes into effect, and the business has 90 days to comply with Yelp’s policies and avoid such penalty.

Once the business has stopped soliciting reviews, it can submit a Compliance Verification form through their Yelp for Business Owners account.

Image source: EnergyCircle

Yelp will review the submission, typically within 45 days, and remove any warning or penalty if the business is found to be in compliance with Yelp’s review solicitation policies.

If the business is not found to be compliant by Yelp within the 90-day warning period, Yelp will alert the business via email and through their Yelp for Business Owners account that the business will be penalized in Yelp search results.

How long does the penalty last?

The penalty is not applied during the 90-day warning period, but after the warning period, a business could be penalized in Yelp search results indefinitely if it does not stop soliciting reviews.

Once a business has stopped soliciting reviews, it must submit a Compliance Verification form and wait 30 to 45 days before Yelp may confirm the business is no longer soliciting reviews and remove the search results penalty.

Can the ranking penalty hurt a business?

Yes, it seems it can. In the case I reviewed, the business went from being listed in sixth place in Yelp’s search results to not being in the first five pages of results for their main keyword.

That is a significant drop!

Yelp appears to be very aware of the companies offering reputation management as a service and can likely identify which businesses are using the ones that don’t comply with their guidelines.

Does Yelp remove solicited reviews?

Yelp’s recommendation software looks for patterns that indicate whether or not a review may be biased or solicited. Reviews that aren’t recommended appear in a different section and do not factor into the overall business rating.

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In conclusion, it is important for business owners to be aware of the consequences of soliciting reviews or using a reputation management company that asks for Yelp reviews, since they are ultimately the ones to pay the penalty price.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

About The Author

Joy Hawkins is a Local SEO expert who is a Google My Business Top Contributor. She regularly contributes to many online communities in the Local SEO world, including the Google My Business forum (Top Contributor), the Local Search Forum (Top Contributor), and the Local University Forum (Moderator). She is also a contributor to the Moz Local Search Ranking Factors survey. Joy is the owner of Sterling Sky in Canada and is the author of the Expert’s Guide to Local SEO, which is an advanced training manual for people wanting a detailed look at what it takes to succeed in the Local SEO space.

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