How to Get Yelp Reviews with 5 Stars That Don’t Get Filtered

Find out how to get Yelp reviews with 5 stars that avoid Yelp’s “not recommended” filter. This article includes specific actions you can take to master Yelp.

Specific topics covered in this article:

How to get Yelp reviews with 5 stars (and avoid negative reviews)

Your average star rating on Yelp is the single most important factor that drives new customers to your business from Yelp.

But even just a single negative review can bring your average star rating down dramatically.

For every 1-star review your business gets, you need 5 new 5-star reviews just to average out to 4.5 stars. And if you want to average out to 5.0 stars, you need 15 new 5-star reviews.

So it’s absolutely crucial to avoid any customer reviews that are lower than your current average star rating.

If you have a 4.0 star rating, only encourage a customer to write a review if you think the customer will give you a 4-star or 5-star review.

If you have a 4.5 star rating or above, only encourage a customer to write a review if the customer would give you a 5-star review. (Even a glowing 4-star review will hurt your 4.5-star average.)

But how can you know what kind of review a customer would give you before you encourage them to write a review?

Simple: Pre-screening

How to pre-screen for positive Yelp reviews

To pre-screen a customer for positive Yelp reviews, send them an email or text message asking how they would rate your business on a 5-star scale.

Don’t ask in person. Use email or text messaging.

If you ask in person, some customers will give you the answer they think you want to hear, not an honest answer. When pre-screening, you want a completely honest answer so you can accurately predict what rating the customer will give on Yelp’s website.

Also, don’t ask customers to rate your business on any standard other than a 5-star scale.

Don’t ask for a thumbs up vs thumbs down. Don’t ask for a “like” vs “don’t like.” Don’t use a 10-point scale.

If a customer gives you a “thumbs up” that might just mean they’d give you a glowing 3-star review. Your idea of a positive review may not be the same as your customer’s idea.

Only a 5-star scale can accurately predict which star the customer will click once they’re on Yelp’s website.

Here’s an example of a pre-screening email sent from our web app:

When a customer replies with a high star rating, encourage the customer to write a review.

But when a customer replies with a lower-than-average star rating, don’t encourage a review. Instead, ask the customer for feedback. Specifically, ask how you can earn the customer’s 5-star review in the future. You may get some great ideas for how to improve your business.

How to comply with Yelp’s policies

Unfortunately, pre-screening violates Yelp’s “Don’t Ask” policy.

So you have a tough choice to make: Do you want to comply with Yelp’s policies or do you want to control how you communicate with your own customers? Unfortunately, you can’t do both.

Most professional marketers routinely violate Yelp’s policies.

That’s because Yelp’s policies are generally regarded as completely unreasonable.

Yelp is essentially asking you to waive your First Amendment rights, and dictating how you can and can’t communicate with your own customers.

The “Don’t Ask” policy also makes no business sense, because it rewards cheating and punishes compliance.

If your competitor violates Yelp’s policy, but you don’t, then your competitor will be rewarded with more Yelp reviews and a better star rating while you are punished with fewer reviews and a lower star rating.

If you don’t comply with Yelp, you assume the risk that Yelp might discover your non-compliance (although this is very difficult for them to do… but not impossible) and start filtering more of your reviews in their “not recommended” section.

However, you also assume risks if you do comply. Your Yelp profile may hurt your sales. And if your competitors don’t comply, they’re likely to get a higher star rating and more Yelp reviews, driving most of the new customers from Yelp to their business instead of yours.

So ultimately you should decide which risk you consider greater, and act accordingly.

Before making this decision, check out our guide on the dangers you need to know about Yelp business reviews.

If you decide to comply completely with Yelp’s policies, you should not pre-screen customers at all. You should also never ask a customer directly for a review. However, it is OK to post Yelp’s “Find Us on Yelp” sticker in your window and their badge on your website. These encourage customers indirectly to write a review (which is compliant) rather than asking customers directly (which is non-compliant).

How to get LOTS of Yelp reviews

Your average star rating is not enough to drive new customers to your business.

You also need to get a high quantity of Yelp reviews.

If you don’t get Yelp reviews in high quantities, you won’t show up in Yelp’s search results as easily.

Here’s an example of a dentist with a fantastic 5-star average… but her Yelp profile ranks #90 when searching for “dentist” in “atlanta, ga.” Her profile is buried on page 9 of Yelp’s search results… all because her wonderful 5-star average is based on only 3 reviews.

Meanwhile, the top 3 search results show that her top competitors have 70 or more Yelp reviews that give their 5-star averages much more credibility.

Nearly every person searching Yelp for a dentist will find her competitors. But very few will find her all the way on page 9 of search results… despite her excellent 5-star rating.

So it’s not enough for you to get a great star rating. You also have to get lots of reviews while still maintaining that great star rating.

The way to get Yelp reviews in bulk is simple:

Ask everyone!

It’s a numbers game. You simply have to ask as many of your customers as possible.

Here are a few pro tips for getting the best conversion rates when reaching out to customers for reviews….

Pro Tip #1) Get the timing right

Don’t pre-screen for a review yet if you haven’t finished satisfying the customer. Wait until you’ve concluded business with the customer.

Don’t wait any longer than 1 week to reach out to a customer once you’ve satisfied them. It’s important to get a review while their emotions are still strong and their memories still fresh.

Pro Tip #2) Pre-screen for positive reviews

Use the pre-screening technique mentioned in the section above on how to get positive Yelp reviews while avoiding negative reviews.

If you don’t pre-screen, you may get Yelp reviews at a higher volume, but see a drop in your average star rating.

Pro Tip #3) Give customers a direct link

Give your customers an easy-to-use link that goes directly to Yelp’s “Write a Review” page for your business.

You’ll get a significantly higher conversion rate (often as much as double the rate) if you give customers a direct link rather than giving them a link to your general Yelp profile.

To get the right link to your “Write a Review” page, use this URL format:

https://www.yelp.com/writeareview/biz/YOUR-BIZ-ID

Replace “YOUR-BIZ-ID” with the Yelp Biz ID for your business.

To find your Yelp Biz ID, just go to your Yelp profile and click the “Write a Review” button. Yelp will send you to a URL that’s just like the format above… except that it may also include a question mark (?) followed by a bunch of other information. Just delete the question mark and everything after it, and keep only the part of the URL that comes before the question mark.

Pro Tip #4) Follow up

Many businesses double the number of reviews they get simply by following up with customers who don’t respond.

Send a follow-up message about 7 days after your initial message if the customer hasn’t responded.

Let them know you really appreciate their input. Ask politely again how you did. Don’t be pushy and don’t apply any pressure or your follow-up may backfire on you!

Still no response?

Send a 3rd message 7 days after the most recent follow-up.

We usually recommend a total of 3 communications (the initial communication then 2 follow-ups) but we’ve also known businesses to have even better success with as many as 5 total communications. You be the judge of what number works best for your customers.

Pro Tip #5) Be systematic

It takes discipline to send messages to every customer at just the right time, and then follow up appropriately to those who don’t respond.

That’s what we help with. So if you’d like to automate the process and make it as quick and easy as possible for yourself and your employees, you might want to try out our web app.

Or you could also just be systematic with a more manual process. This manual approach makes more sense if you only have a few customers each month and don’t really need to automate the process.

How to get Yelp reviews that don’t get filtered

Yelp is notorious among local business owners for its “not recommended” filter.

The filter often filters out authentic reviews from real customers.

The filter is also very biased, filtering out positive reviews a whopping 33.8% more often than it filters negative reviews, according to a study by Quantified Communications.

And the filter is aggressive. Yelp filters 21% of all reviews. So for every 5 reviews you get, you can expect at least 1 to get filtered on average… regardless of how legitimate the review is.

So how can you get Yelp reviews without losing them to Yelp’s filter?

Let’s cover 5 pro tips you can use….

Pro Tip #1) Never buy Yelp reviews

Never buy Yelp reviews under any circumstances!

Buying customer reviews is not just a violation of Yelp’s policies. It’s literally illegal.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) may sue your company and a judge may fine your business tens of thousands of dollars (or more) for what the FTC refers to as “undisclosed paid endorsements”—in other words, “paid reviews.”

For more information on this, check out our article on why you should never buy Yelp reviews.

Pro Tip #2) Don’t use your own device to get Yelp reviews

Don’t use a tablet or computer (or any other device) to ask your customers to write a review while they’re still physically present at your business location.

Yelp actively filters out reviews when they see a lot of reviews coming from the same physical location.

It’s fine if your customers use the Yelp mobile app on their own phones to leave you a review from your business location.

In fact, when a customer “checks in” at your location, that sends a strong signal to Yelp that their review is legitimate and should not be filtered.

But when many different customers use the same device to write reviews at your location, Yelp suspects you are violating their “Don’t Ask” policy and filters those reviews.

Pro Tip #3) Go for volume, but avoid spikes and dips

The only way to get Yelp reviews is to play a numbers game.

Just accept the fact that Yelp will filter out many of your hard-earned reviews. On average, Yelp filters out 21% of all reviews and removes another 7% altogether. That means only 72% of reviews actually get published normally.

If you’re losing more than 1 out of every 4 reviews you get, that’s actually normal for Yelp. Some businesses lose substantially more, some substantially less.

The best you can do is play the numbers game and try to get as many Yelp reviews from legitimately happy customers as you can.

So try to get Yelp reviews in as much quantity as you can to offset all the reviews that get filtered or removed.

Check out the section above on how to get a lot of Yelp reviews for pro tips on how to play Yelp’s numbers game.

But just make sure you don’t suddenly get Yelp reviews in much greater volume than you normally get them.

When Yelp sees a sudden spike in reviews, they suspect the new reviews are fake and filter them out.

So try to get Yelp reviews in slightly higher volume at first. Then get them a little faster. Then a little faster… and faster… until you finally get Yelp reviews at the volume you want.

Also be sure to get Yelp reviews on a regular and frequent basis… at least once per week. This will help you avoid the sudden spikes and dips in new reviews that can come from infrequent monthly or quarterly “bulk campaigns.”

Pro Tip #4) Get specific when asking for a review

When you ask customers for reviews, give them some specific ideas for what to write about.

Encourage customers to include photos in their reviews. Photos send a very strong signal to Yelp that the reviewer is not writing a fake review.

Also encourage customers in a way that causes them to write a “Goldilocks review” that’s neither too long nor too short, neither too vague nor too detailed. Yelp filters reviews when they appear “unnatural” in any of these ways.

Don’t be pushy or demanding. That will only backfire on you.

But do be specific in the kinds of feedback you’re especially interested to hear about.

Here’s an example of how to ask a pre-screened customer for a review, including specifics that guide what they write about….

Notice that this email is not pushy or demanding, and yet respectfully gives a lot of useful ideas to the customer about what they could write in a Yelp review.

Also notice the convenient link the email gives the customer, making it easier (and more likely) for the customer to write a review.

Pro Tip #5) Use an indirect link (but only if absolutely necessary)

So this is where we contradict ourselves in what we recommend to our members.

We just got through recommending that you use a direct link to your “Write a Review” page on Yelp in the section above on how to get a LOT of Yelp reviews.

Now we’re going to tell you the opposite.

Don’t give customers a direct link. Instead, ask them to go to Yelp, find your business, and then leave a review.

Why would we say such a thing!?

Well… it all depends on whether or not you’re having exceptional trouble with Yelp’s filter.

If you’re seeing 40% or fewer of your reviews get filtered out, then we’d recommend you DO use a direct link, as we recommended earlier. This is how to get more Yelp reviews per customer request.

But if you’re seeing more than 40% of your reviews get filtered out, then we’d recommend you change strategies and DO NOT use a direct link.

Here’s why….

Yelp might consider a direct link to be evidence that a review violates Yelp’s “Don’t Ask” policy.

So, there’s a tradeoff between the higher conversion rates you get from a direct link vs the higher filtering rates you might get from a direct link.

In most of the cases we’ve seen, the benefits of a direct link outweigh any filtering problems.

But if your business experiences exceptionally high filtering rates, you may want to try asking customers to find their own way to your “Write a Review” page rather than giving them a direct link.

Fewer customers will actually write a review if they don’t have a direct link. But by not giving them a direct link, you’re betting that a much higher percentage of those who do leave a review will not get filtered.

If you do remove your direct link, give it 30 days or more to see if you see a change in the number of unfiltered reviews you get. If the number of unfiltered reviews doesn’t go up, then we’d recommend going back to using a direct link again.

How to get Yelp reviews out of Yelp’s filter

No matter how careful you are, and no matter how “authentic” your customers are, some of your customer reviews will end up in Yelp’s “not recommended” filter.

Usually the reason Yelp filters out a review is that Yelp’s algorithms don’t trust the reviewer.

Yelp distrusts reviewers for many reasons. They distrust people who haven’t written a lot of reviews. They distrust those who write reviews from questionable locations. They distrust people who don’t fill out their profile completely. The list goes on.

So your best approach to getting a positive review unfiltered is simply to show Yelp’s algorithms that the reviewer as a real person who writes real reviews.

Here are steps you can take to get Yelp reviews out of the filter by sending Yelp’s algorithms strong signals that the reviewer is real….

Step #1) Connect with the customer on Yelp

First, make sure you are active on Yelp so that Yelp sees your own user profile as “real.”

Use the Yelp mobile app to check into businesses, write reviews, and engage with other users on reviews.

You’ll know when Yelp thinks you’re “real” because none of your own reviews will get filtered out.

Once Yelp knows your user profile belongs to a real person who writes real reviews, then you’re ready to start helping your customers get their reviews recognized as “real” too.

Log into Yelp as a user and use Yelp’s Find Friends tool to search for the user by user name in the search box.

This will take you to a page where you can then select the right geographic location.

Once you get to the user’s profile page, click “Follow {reviewer’s user name}.”

Also click “Compliment” to compliment the user.

If you know the user well enough, consider inviting them to become “friends” on Yelp. Just click “Add friend” on the user’s profile page in addition to following them.

Step #2) Engage the customer on Yelp

When you connect with a customer by friending them, complimenting them, and adding them as a friend, this sends a strong signal to Yelp that you believe this user is real.

But what’s even more “real” is when you actually engage in interactions with that user and the user engages you back.

One way to engage is by messaging the customer on Yelp. Just go to the customer’s profile and click “Send message.”

Tell the customer you really appreciate their business and their review, even if it did get filtered out.

But most importantly, ask the customer a question, so they reply to your message.

When Yelp’s algorithm sees the customer’s user profile both sending and receiving messages, this gives the algorithm more confidence that the user is “real” and their reviews should not be filtered.

Another way to engage the customer is to find other reviews the customer left for other businesses and click the buttons below these reviews to mark them as “Useful” or “Funny” or “Cool.”

This sends a signal to Yelp’s algorithms that the reviews the customer writes have value to other users.

Step #3) Ask the customer for help

Your customer took time and effort to write a review about your business.

Then Yelp decided to discard their review by filtering it out.

That’s kind of rude of Yelp, isn’t it?

So maybe your customer might like to know about the problem and get a few useful tips on solving it.

You might even try sending the customer a message through Yelp’s own “send a message” feature to let them know what Yelp has done and offer your help.

Here’s an example of a message to a customer….

Here are the kinds of advice you can give to a customer to help them get their reviews out of Yelp’s filter:

  • Fully complete the Yelp user profile with as much information as possible, especially photos
  • Connect the Yelp user account to Facebook
  • Go to other local businesses, check in, and leave them reviews from the Yelp mobile app on their own phone while they’re still physically located at the business

Step #3½) Offer a reward

If you don’t feel it’s appropriate to ask a customer for “help,” then there’s an alternative approach you could take…

Offer a reward instead of asking for help.

For example, offer a discount or some other reward in exchange for the customer completing their profile, uploading a few pictures, connecting Yelp to Facebook, and/or checking in at other local businesses.

Here’s an example of a message to a customer that offers a reward….

Just be careful not to offer a reward for writing reviews… even reviews for other businesses.

It’s against FTC regulations to pay a customer to write a review—even a review for a different local business.

But the FTC doesn’t regulate payments in exchange for completing online profiles, connecting online accounts, or checking in with the Yelp app.

Your goal is not to get an “undisclosed paid endorsement” (which violates FTC regulations). Your customer already gave you an “unpaid endorsement” (which does not violate FTC regulations). So feel free to offer any incentives for activities don’t include writing new “endorsements” (read: reviews).