How to Remove a Yelp Review Hurting Your Business (For Free)

Learn how to remove a Yelp review that’s hurting your business. And what to do if Yelp refuses to remove the review.

Yelp business reviews pose many dangers to local businesses. Just one of those dangers is that Yelp systematically filters out more positive reviews than negative reviews, skewing results toward lower star ratings. This leaves business owners with no choice but to actively combat negative reviews.

This article gives you a step-by-step approach on how to remove a Yelp review. Start with “Attempt #1” below. If that attempt to remove a Yelp review doesn’t work, try “Attempt #2.” If that doesn’t work, move on to “Attempt #3.” And so on… until you either get the bad review removed or you come to the end of the line.

The long-term answer: Drown out bad reviews with good reviews

Negative reviews are a fact of life in our modern digital world. Whether or not you remove a Yelp review that’s hurting your business today, you’re going to have more negative reviews to deal with again in the future.

There’s only one way to protect your business from negative reviews that has a lasting, long-term impact: Drown them out with positive reviews.

It takes a lot of positive reviews to drown out just 1 negative review

If you have an average 5-star Yelp rating based on 5 reviews—each of which gives your business 5 stars—and you get hit with a 1-star review, your average rating will drop by an entire star to 4.0 stars overnight.

But if that same 5-star Yelp rating is based on 10 reviews instead of just 5 reviews, then that 1-star review will drop your average down to 4.5 stars instead of 4.0 stars.

Better yet, if your 5-star Yelp rating is based on 15 reviews, then your 5-star average will remain 5.0 stars, since the total review average of 4.75 will round up to 5.0 stars on Yelp.

How to get lots of positive Yelp reviews

How can you get lots of positive reviews to protect your business from negative reviews?

The answer is simpler than you might think: Encourage as many customers as possible and pre-screen before encouraging them to write a review.

Pre-screen customers by sending an email or text message (whichever the customer prefers) asking how satisfied they are with your business. Specifically ask for a rating based on 5 stars.

When a customer responds with a star rating that’s higher than your current Yelp average, then encourage them to write a review.

But when a customer responds with a lower-than-average star rating, don’t encourage them to write a review. Instead, ask them how you might earn a 5-star review in the future. You’ll get invaluable feedback on how to improve your business so that more of your future customers reward you with more 5-star Yelp reviews.

Navigating Yelp’s policies

One important policy note: When “encouraging” customers to write a review, keep in mind that Yelp’s policies are finicky. They forbid businesses from asking directly for a review but allow businesses to encourage customers to visit the Yelp page for the business.

Most marketers consider Yelp’s policies completely unreasonable, since Yelp is essentially asking you to forgo your First Amendment rights, all common sense, and thousands of years of word-of-mouth referral marketing practices—e.g., “If you like us, tell all your friends!”

So if you choose to violate Yelp’s policies, you’re certainly not alone.

But if you want to color inside the lines Yelp has drawn, you might want to use indirect methods to passive-aggressively “encourage” customers to write a review without directly asking for a review. For example…

  • Tell your happy customer how important positive reviews are to your business
  • Quote other positive reviews you’ve gotten on Yelp
  • Include a link directly to your Yelp page (in case they want to visit it)

For help getting lots of positive reviews, check out our web app’s free trial. It automates the process of reaching out to customers and pre-screening, making it super easy and saving you a lot of time and manual effort.

What kinds of reviews will Yelp remove?

Getting back to the topic of how to remove a Yelp review… Yelp is open to removing a review that violates Yelp’s Content Guidelines or the law.

You may be able to get Yelp to remove a Yelp review if it violates one or more of these rules:

  • Inappropriate content – Threats, harassment, lewdness, hate speech, bigotry
  • Conflicts of interest – Reviews written by employees, competitors or vendors
  • Paid reviews – Reviews written by people who were paid to write the review
  • Promotional content – Reviews designed specifically to promote some other business
  • Irrelevant content – Reviews that have nothing to do with reviewing a customer experience with the business—like political rants, responses to other Yelp reviews, or the incoherent ramblings of a madman
  • Indirect experiences – Reviews written by people who were never customers of the business, such as someone writing about a friend’s experiences instead of their own
  • Wrong business – Reviews written about a different business than the business represented by the Yelp page
  • Privacy violations – Reviews that include people’s private information, including personally identifying information like people’s full names or photos of other customers
  • Copyright violations – Reviews with content that the reviewer didn’t create and doesn’t own the copyright to redistribute
  • Extortion – Reviews in which the reviewer demands payment to remove a Yelp review

But wait!

Before you learn how to remove a Yelp review that violates one of these rules, hold your horses!

First, see if you can get the reviewer to change their negative review into a positive review instead.

If you remove a Yelp review without first trying to win the customer over, what’s to stop that customer from just writing another scathing 1-star review that doesn’t violate Yelp’s policies? (Hint: Nothing.)

So you may have a short-lived victory if you try to remove a Yelp review before first trying to win over the customer and get the customer to change the review from negative to positive.

In other words, start with Attempt #1 below. Don’t skip to Attempt #2 until you’re sure Attempt #1 won’t work.

Attempt #1) How to get a customer to remove a bad Yelp review

Act quickly. Write a review reply immediately when an unhappy customer leaves a negative review. You’ll show them (and others who read the review) that you’re responsive to customer needs.

To make sure you get timely notifications whenever customers leave negative reviews, use our free review monitoring tool.

Sympathize. Express your sincere concern that the customer had anything short of a fantastic experience with your business. Let them know you’re on their side and want to turn lemons into lemonade if at all possible.

Fix problems. If you can fix the customer’s problem, do it! If you can’t, then at least try to point them in a direction that will help them in some way. You could give them information or advice that might help. Or you could even refer them to another business. Whatever you can do to help them, do it!

Check in. Know how the story ends. Check in with the customer later to find out if your fix worked. If you offered advice or a referral instead of a fix, check in to find out if your information helped them at all. Checking in will show that you sincerely care about their satisfaction. Here’s an example of an email checking in on a customer after recommending some sort of fix:

Probe for a better review. When you think you have a good rapport and the customer is more satisfied, ask them if they still feel your business deserves the star rating they gave it.

Ask for the review update. If the customer says they no longer feel that your business deserves the star rating they gave it in their negative review, then it’s time to ask them to update it.

Be careful when asking a customer to update the review. You don’t want to anger them even more. They just might update the review with an even more scathing one.

Be very polite. Don’t be pushy.

As soon as the customer says they no longer think your business deserves the low star rating they gave it, ask, “Would you be open to updating the review?”

Send an email link. If the customer says they’d be open to updating the review, promise to send them an email with a link that will make it easier for them. Sending them a link dramatically increases the chances that they’ll actually update the review.

Make sure the link you send them goes directly to the page where they can update their review. The easier you make it for them, the more likely they are to actually update their review.

Follow up. If you still haven’t seen an update to the review a week after you send the email with a link, send a follow-up email.

Again, be polite and don’t be pushy. Your follow-up email might go something like this…

If you get no response after a second week, try another follow-up email.

If you still get no response, you’re probably out of luck.

Escalate to Attempt #2. After doing everything possible to get the customer to remove a Yelp review, but it just doesn’t work, it’s time to move on to Attempt #2. Keep reading to learn how to remove a Yelp review by flagging the review for removal on Yelp.

Attempt #2) How to remove a Yelp review that violates Yelp’s policies

Yelp is often happy to remove a Yelp review that violates their policies.

First check the list under “What kinds of reviews will Yelp remove?” to identify which specific rules you think a Yelp review violates.

Next follow Yelp’s instructions on how to report the offending review.

Yelp has a team of people who will then decide whether or not to remove a Yelp review.

If the Yelp team decides not to delete the review, try sending Customer Support a Questionable Content report to get them to reconsider their decision.

In the comments section, be sure to describe the exact Yelp rule you believe the review violates, including the specific language in the review that violates the rule. You have a much better chance of getting Yelp to remove a Yelp review if you make a clear and strong case, connecting the dots from a specific Yelp policy to specific language in the review you want Yelp to delete.

If Yelp still decides not to remove a Yelp review, move on to Attempt #3.

Attempt #3) How to reply to a bad Yelp review (to reduce the damage)

If you simply can’t get a customer to update their review and you can’t get Yelp to remove a Yelp review, then your best option is to minimize the damage.

The best way to minimize the damage of a negative Yelp review is to show everyone who reads it how laser-focused you are on satisfying your customers.

Take a look at this negative review about a locksmith…

Sounds pretty bad, right?

You probably would think twice about hiring this locksmith.

Now look at the locksmith’s reply to the review….

Did your opinion of the locksmith just get better after reading that reply?

He said he tries not to make the mistake the reviewer complained about, showing that he sympathizes and doesn’t dismiss the problem.

Yet he didn’t argue or make excuses. He took responsibility.

He also committed to doing better in the future… so if you hire him, this probably won’t be a problem anymore.

This is a great example of how—even when the business is wrong and a customer is right to write a negative review—the business owner can still write a reply that wins over everyone who ever reads the review in the future, including people actively looking to make a buying decision.

Here are 7 pro tips for how to write a reply to a negative review that will win over everyone who reads it….

Tip #1) Reply quickly

Reply as quickly as possible after a negative review comes in.

If you reply quickly, the customer will see that as a sign that you’re extra responsive, which might help you get them to change their review, turning a negative review into a positive one.

And if the customer updates their review, they just might also mention how quick and responsive you were. (We’ve seen this happen many times.) That’s a great message for future prospects to read when making their buying decisions.

Tip #2) Sympathize

Truly sympathize with the fact that your customer still feels pain. Never make light of a customer’s problem, nor try to minimize how bad it is.

This is a person who had a need, turned to your business for help, but didn’t get satisfaction. So they still feel the pain of that need. Sympathize with them, and show it in your reply.

Tip #3) Take responsibility

Always take responsibility for the fact that the customer did not get the satisfaction they expected from your business.

Never use language that even slightly hints that the customer is to blame.

Even if you did everything possible to satisfy the customer and they were entirely in the wrong, the fact remains that they sought satisfaction from your business and didn’t get it. Take responsibility for that, even if you don’t feel your business is responsible for any wrongdoing.

Once you’ve taken responsibility, don’t make excuses. It’s tempting to try to avoid looking bad by explaining away why the customer isn’t satisfied. But if you do this, readers will think you’re just trying to avoid responsibility. Just don’t do it, no matter how tempting.

Tip #4) Stay positive

Make sure the tone and attitude of your reply stays positive at all times.

Adopt the attitude that you’re here to help the customer in any way you can. Stay focused on trying to deliver that help. Don’t get bogged down in who’s to blame or what went wrong in the past. Instead, stay hopeful about how to satisfy the customer in the immediate future.

Also make sure your language uses all positive words and avoids negative words as much as possible.

This includes simple, innocent negative words and phrases like not, don’t, can’t, bad, too much, too little, worried, etc….

Even if you use these words innocently (like, “I’m sorry you’re worried about the bad service that was too late”) some people will not listen to the meaning of your words, but just absorb the “vibe” of all the negative words and react emotionally to those words.

Marketers like us who have worked in this field for decades know that people respond to the positive or negative connotations of words just as much as the meaning of words. So take our word for it. The “tone” of the words you use matter just as much as their meaning.

Tip #5) Keep it short

Make your reply no longer than 5 sentences. If you can fit your reply in 2 sentences without losing the important parts, that’s even better!

The reason to keep your reply short is that people prefer to skim reviews, not read them thoroughly.

When a prospect looks over your reviews, if they see a reply that’s short, they’re far more likely to read the entire reply. If they see a reply that’s long, they’re more likely not to even read the first few words, since they know it will take them too long to read the reply in its entirety.

Tip #6) Fix the problem (if possible)

If the unhappy customer gave your business a negative review because of a problem you can reasonably fix, then you’re in luck!

Do everything you can to fix it. Go out of your way. And make sure your review reply reflects how far you’re going to try to fix the problem.

You want to seriously impress all future prospects who read your reply. You want them to come away thinking, “Wow, that business bent over backwards to make this customer happy. That’s the kind of business I can trust.”

Tip #7) Inform (especially if you can’t fix the problem)

Sometimes you can’t reasonably fix the problem an unhappy customer has. When that happens, go to great lengths to help the customer with information instead.

You might give them information that will help them fix the problem themselves. Or you might give them information about a different product or business that could help them.

Don’t give them low-value information, like “motherhood and apple pie” statements that are just common sense. You’ll come across as dismissive, lazy and unconcerned about your customers.

Instead, spend the time to do some research and come back with some truly insightful, on-point, useful information. Perhaps include links to other informational resources the customer could use to dive into more detail after you make a useful suggestion.