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Yelp Is Hiding My Reviews. What Can I Do?

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Uggh. I hate it when I get these emails from my clients:

why is Yelp hiding my reviews?

As evidenced by all their other 5-star reviews, my clients do great work, so great their clients or customers are motivated to take the time to go to Yelp and leave a review. These are real, honest, appreciative reviews. They’re not fakes. No one has been paid to leave those review.

And yet, Yelp hides them.

It’s just not fair! And if you’ve gotten them too, you’re not just scratching your head, you’re fuming.

So now what? How do you get Yelp to let them out of review hell?

Why Does Yelp Filter Good Reviews?

First thing my clients want to know is why?

Well, let’s get this out of the way first.

No, they are not trying to extort ad dollars out of you, meaning, ads are not a get out of jail card. So don’t think you have to go pay them $1,000 a month to get those reviews to show.

So then why do they do it?

According to Yelp, that’s because they only want to show the most helpful and honest reviews. And because they don’t have the budget to have a human being critique each and every review that comes in, they have to use a computer algorithm to make decisions.

Unfortunately, and clearly, sometimes it’s wrong. Actually, it appears to be wrong a lot of the time, but I still appreciate their filter, and I’ll tell you why later.

Still, you can’t argue with their algorithms – or them for that matter. You just have to work with it.

Maybe It’s Not You They’re After. Maybe It’s the Reviewers.

Keep it mind, just because you think Yelp is wrong, doesn’t mean they are. There are things their algorithm can “see” you can’t.

For example, maybe your client left a legitimate review about your service in Yelp, but maybe that same client violated Yelp’s terms in other ways. If that’s the case, it wasn’t you getting penalized. It was them! 

I’ll give you an example. Twelve of my clients’ reviews all disappeared, actually went to the gray zone, the same day. I knew one of the reviewers so I reached out to her to let her know. She did her own research and came back to tell me that all twelve of the reviewers were in a “review Meetup” group years ago where they gave each other reviews. That is definitely against Yelp’s policy but it took many years for their algorithm to get good enough to find the violations. At the same time, those reviewers had other reviews they had left get gray-listed as well. It appears that Yelp set a flag on their accounts – not my client’s!

What You Can Do to Get Yelp to Reconsider Your Reviews

We don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes in every decision Yelp makes, but put that aside for now.  Is there anything you can do to make Yelp believe those are helpful and honest reviews? Remember, Yelp is just trying to make sure your reviews are legit. So one thing you can do is send the right signals to Yelp to demonstrate that the reviewer is real, helpful and honest.

There are few ways both you and your clients/customers can do that.

First, let’s talk about what you can do.

First step is make sure you’re moderating your reviews regularly, and to do that make sure you have notifications turned on in your Yelp Account Settings. Log into your business account. Click on Account Settings, then Language and Notifications and make sure the appropriate settings are there. Just like this:

Then, of course, you have to pay attention to those email notifications when they come, and respond as soon as possible.

I can’t make you pay attention, that’s on you, but here’s how to respond.

Get Friendly With the Reviewer

When you find a positive review in the “gray zone,” and you know it’s legit, log in and then go to that review and interact with the review and reviewer. Here’s how:

  • First, leave a nice reply to that review.
  • Click on their profile and friend them.
  • Click on their other reviews and interact with them:
    • Tag them as Useful, Funny or Cool. This is to tell Yelp this person is a useful member of their community.
    • Respond to each of their reviews to show Yelp again that you are appreciating their reviews.
    • If you have staff members, have them do the same.

At this point Yelp’s algorithm may be beginning to think that reviewer can provide value to their platform, but just in case they still don’t, you might be able to enlist the aid of that reviewer (your customer) directly. If they super, duper love you, they’d probably want to help, so don’t be shy.

Enlist the Aid of Your Client

This only works if you recognize that Yelp reviewer by the name, face or story they left with your review. For those, send them an email, thank them, and just come out and ask for help.

Here’s a sample email you can use:

Dear [client],

Thank you so much for taking the time to leave us a review at Yelp so that others will have a reason to trust us with [whatever your service is]. Unfortunately, Yelp doesn’t want anyone to see that review, (and possibly others you’ve written for other businesses as well), so it has hidden them. You can see that if you go to our Yelp page now and look just below the reviews where there is a link to: “16 other reviews that are not currently recommended.”

In case that bothers you as it does us, thought we’d send you some tips to have Yelp look more favorably on your reviews.

First, why does Yelp do this? Could be they think:

  1. You were paid by us to say nice things; or,
  2. They don’t know you or like you enough to give any credibility to what you have to say. 

We know it’s not 1, so let’s go with 2. 

Now’s your chance to tell Yelp you’re better than that and get yourself out of Yelp’s gray listing. This can be tough because they aren’t the trusting kind, but that’s for good reason! They do have to be careful because there are lots of scammers faking reviews out there, and Yelp won’t tolerate that. So here’s what we advise you do if you want Yelp to see you as trustworthy.

  1. Leave a few more reviews for a variety of types of businesses, but do it naturally, bad or good, over time when you visit local businesses. You should not be trying to game the system here. You’re trying to build trust with Yelp! (If you do it all at once, you might trigger another scammer flag!)
  2. When you can and if applicable, add a photo to go with your review. It’s much harder for scammers who live overseas to leave local photos! You’ll look more legit.
  3. This is less important, but add a photo to your profile.  We say that here because some think that helps, but honestly, scammers can add photos too, so I’m doubtful it will make a difference. Doesn’t hurt though.

Eventually Yelp should start to consider you a valuable resource for credible reviews on their platform.

But if that doesn’t work in our case, or even if it does, you can still let others know about the good service we provide by leaving your review on our Google Business Page (GBP) page right here: [there is a link to your GMB review form on the your GMB page.]

Whatever happens, it’s still really wonderful knowing we were able to make a difference in your life and that you took the time to let us and others know. That means a lot to us! Thank you!

Finally, What Can You Do to Keep Filtered Reviews to a Minimum?

The best thing you can do is don’t do anything that makes your reviews look unnatural. From Yelp’s own website:

    • Don’t ask anyone to review your business, be it customers, mailing list subscribers, friends, family, etc. That includes using any of the many available review solicitation tools. Yelp is onto those. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’ve figured out a way to know where the review is coming from. The good solicitation tools provide a way to remove the Yelp solicitation. Remove it!

      However, nothing keeps you from adding a footnote on those solicitations that state: “Per Yelp’s guidelines, we can’t ask you to leave a review there. But it is perfectly fine to share a photo that represents your experience with us. You can do that here.” Uploading an image, then, triggers a review request from Yelp. Let them do the asking. 

    • Don’t let Yelp catch you having your staff compete to collect reviews. In fact, just don’t do it. I’m 100% for keeping reviews legit in Yelp, and this kind of game playing just opens them up to fake reviews all over their platform and pretty soon we won’t be able to trust any of them. 
  • Don’t offer freebies, discounts, or payment in exchange for reviews. Not only is this against Yelp’s policies, it will make you look less credible in the eyes of your customers. They won’t trust any of your reviews! A little known fact, it may also be illegal.

    Can you offer “freebies, discounts, or payment in exchange” for the photo as mentioned above? Well, I couldn’t find anything in Yelp’s guidelines that says you can’t.  And honestly, I can’t see why they’d care. Just be prepared to get some bad photos like this one comparing what they were served with what was in the menu.

Yucch! Yeah. Watch out for that.

Hopefully all that helps, but if not, I know having those great reviews hidden is really annoying, so please don’t let this get you down. Just keep focusing on providing such outstanding service that your customers are motivated to leave you more great reviews. That’s what Yelp wants.

Eventually those that are hidden will either be meaningless to you because you have so many more that Yelp does approve of, or your original hidden review may gain more credibility with Yelp over time and pop out on their own.

P.S. I promised to tell you why I like this policy of Yelp’s

Well, you only need to look to Google’s reviews for the answer to that. A good percentage there are bought and paid for. Just Google “how to buy Google reviews” and you’ll find lots of review sellers.

Another good percentage are bad reviews placed by businesses against their competitors. 

Most consumers don’t know this is happening, but I do and it frustrates me no end. Sure, you can catapult your business to success by purchasing reviews, but that doesn’t make it right. Other businesses get hurt, as do the consumers who are led to believe you’re great when you’re not. And one day you may get caught and penalized. Is it really worth the risk?

So I applaud Yelp for sticking to their guns in their fight to keep their review platform legit and trustworthy in spite of all the hate mail they get from business owners who are pissed at them for hiding what often really are legitimate reviews. At least I can trust the ones they’ve chosen to show. 


It is now October, 2022 and it appears Google is finally starting to come down on fake reviews. Businesses are reporting lots of reviews suddenly disappearing. Sadly, good and bad, legit and illegitimate, but at least they are taking steps to right the wrong. Let’s hope it continues to get better. 

Now go out there and earn some more reviews! Be awesome!


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Kathy (aka Kat) is one of the internet's original Digital Divas and freely shares her expertise in the fields of web design, SEO, Local SEO, social media marketing, content development, PPC, and conversion optimization to help businesses succeed online. Sadly, she's allergic to cats.

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