Don’t Buy Yelp Reviews – It’s Illegal

Did you know it’s illegal to buy Yelp reviews? And you could pay tens of thousands of dollars in fines if you’re caught.

But fortunately you may not have to buy Yelp reviews to fix a bad Yelp rating.

This article gives you an alternative to buying Yelp reviews that is far less costly and far more effective.

To avoid other pitfalls that could land your business in hot water, check out our article on the other dangers of Yelp business reviews. 

Resist the Thug Life: It’s Illegal to Buy Yelp Reviews

Most people already know that buying fake reviews is shady at best. But when bad Yelp reviews lead to low Yelp ratings and threaten to destroy your business, well…desperate times call for desperate measures, right?

And when Yelp lets trolls get away with writing 1-star fake reviews, you may start to feel morally justified for combatting 1-star fake reviews with 5-star fake reviews.

And when Yelp hides most of your perfectly legitimate 5-star reviews in its “not currently recommended” filter while still showing fake negative reviews, you could even be forgiven for thinking Yelp sucks and you’re just defending yourself by buying Yelp reviews.

Just one problem: It’s against the law in the United States to buy Yelp reviews.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has banned undisclosed paid endorsements. That means no business can pay for someone to endorse it unless the payment is disclosed to consumers. So…the only way to pay for Yelp reviews legally would be for each and every review to state, “By the way, the company paid me to write this glowing review…just sayin’.”

And this law doesn’t just apply to evil fake review mills in the third world. It applies to your real-life customers, too. The FTC considers it illegal for you to buy a Yelp review from your own happy customers, no matter how much they sincerely love you…unless they openly tell the world that you paid them to write it.

So what happens if you live the thug life and buy Yelp reviews, then get caught? Well, the fines are typically in the five figure range. So if you’re not ready to pay $50,000 in fines, you may want to give up the thug life and not buy Yelp reviews.

Go Straight: It Ain’t Easy, But It Pays in the End

Thankfully there are better (and legal) ways to fix bad Yelp reviews than buying them.

But first the bad news… Going straight takes more time and effort than living like a gangsta.

If you buy Yelp reviews, it might take a third-world review mill only a few days to generate lots of paid 5-star reviews. But when you go legit and refuse to buy Yelp reviews, it will almost certainly take a lot longer than that for you to generate the same number of legitimate reviews.

Turn Legit: Earn More Real 5-Star Reviews

The best defense is a good offense. Yelp is no different. The best way to fight bad reviews is not to buy Yelp reviews. The best offense/defense is to drown out the bad reviews with a whole lot of (legitimate) good reviews.

But how can you get way more good reviews than bad reviews?

Sounds hard, but it isn’t.

The key is to always encourage every ultra-happy customer to write a review. (Pretty simple, right?)

Just one problem: How do you know which customers are the ultra-happy ones?

Don’t worry. We have you covered. The Rising Star Reviews Yelp review management tool lets you send every customer an email asking them to rate you. Then the app sends only the ultra-happy customers to Yelp to write a review.

What do we do with customers who give you less-than-fantastic ratings? Again we have you covered. The app asks them to give private feedback about how you could have earned their 5-star review. You learn from the feedback so you can earn even more 5-star reviews in the future…all legitimately.

End result: Lots of legitimate 5-star reviews from real customers. No need to buy Yelp reviews. No tomthuggery required.

Snitch on Rival Thugs: Get Yelp to Do Your Dirty Work for You

Now that you’re giving up the thug life and going straight, let’s turn state’s evidence. Snitch on the bad reviewers and let the popo take ‘em out.

Get Yelp to remove any bad reviews that violate Yelp’s policies. The more bad reviews you get removed, the less you’ll be tempted to buy Yelp reviews.

Yelp removes reviews if the reviewer has a conflict of interest–such as a competitor, former employee, or someone affiliated with the business in some way. If your competitor is living the thug life and decided to buy Yelp reviews with 1-star ratings for your business, rat them out to Yelp.

Yelp also removes reviews from people who don’t know you directly. If a customer badmouths you to his mom, and his mom writes a scathing review, you can ask Yelp to remove the review. The customer has to be a big boy and write his own review. Under Yelp’s policies, his mom can’t write a review about a customer experience she didn’t have herself.

Yelp also removes reviews with private information about employees or customers.

And finally, Yelp removes extremely rude reviews–or more specifically, reviews with hate speech, lewd comments, or threatening language.

So if you have any bad reviews like these, report the Yelp review to get it removed.

It’s important to note that Yelp doesn’t remove reviews based on factual disputes. So if a customer lies through his teeth about how expensive your T-shirts are…but you don’t even sell T-shirts…Yelp won’t help you. You just have to drown out those lying bad reviews with lots of good reviews. But before you buy Yelp reviews to drown out the bad reviews, re-read the “Turn Legit” above to see how you can crank out lots of top reviews legitimately.

Break Your Homies Out of Jail: Free Good Reviews from Yelp’s Filter

Yelp doesn’t need DNA evidence to convict your customers’ reviews on charges of felony spamslaughter. In fact, Yelp has a “hang ‘em high and let God sort ‘em out” attitude towards potentially fake reviews.

So chances are you may have some perfectly innocent reviews from authentically happy customers sitting in “Yelp jail”–otherwise known as the “not currently recommended” filter.

Here’s what Yelp jail looks like…

Yelp "not currently recommended" filter

It’s time to get out the crowbar and explosives and bust your homies out of jail.

Well…maybe it’s more like passing your homies a spoon so they can dig their own way out.

When Yelp filters out a review, Yelp is saying it doesn’t trust the reviewer. Yelp thinks the reviewer might be faking their love for your business because you tried to buy Yelp reviews. This is an insult to your customer who took the time and effort to write the review. So mobilize your customer. Let them know that Yelp has trust issues, and that Yelp could start filtering out other reviews the customer writes for other businesses, too.

Once your customer is frothing at the mouth over being wrongly convicted by Yelp’s godless algorithm, suggest some ways your customer can make parole and ultimately get an early release from Yelp jail by showing good behavior.

Get Out of Yelp Filter Jail

First, encourage your happy customers to fully complete their Yelp profiles. The more info they add, the better–especially pictures. This gives Yelp more faith that they’re real people and not robots sent to destroy Yelp’s credibility.

Then your filtered customers should review as many other local businesses as they can. This shows Yelp they’re not just sweatshop labor from the third world creating temporary accounts just to write fake reviews for you because you’re trying to buy Yelp reviews.

Next, your customers should “follow” and “friend” other Yelpers and local businesses. Again, this tells Yelp they’re real people with real lives, not spammers.

Then, your customers should actually check in with the Yelp app whenever they’re physically visiting any local businesses, especially yours. It’s virtually impossible to buy Yelp reviews from people who are willing to physically go to the business they’re reviewing and check in, so Yelp considers check-in’s an especially strong signal that your customers are legit.

In the meantime, you can help your customers from the outside. “Follow” and “friend” your customers on Yelp to show Yelp you vouch for them. Find reviews your customers wrote for other businesses–especially reviews that Yelp hasn’t filtered–and mark them as “useful” or “funny” or “cool.” Even “compliment” your customers and their reviews. This tells Yelp that not only are your customers real people, but the information in their reviews is valuable.

Finally, once your customers have demonstrated as much good behavior as they can stand, ask them to update their reviews of your business. With a little luck, their reviews will break out of Yelp jail and join the rest of the free reviews that are visible to all and help your overall Yelp rating.

You Made It to the End!

Wow, you must really love this post if you made it this far. If you like this post, you’ll love our app! Why not give our app a try? It’s the best investment you’ll make all year…and it won’t run afoul of the law…unlike buying Yelp reviews.