Small Businesses Now Can Fight Back Against Inaccurate Online Reviews

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Yelp allowing small businesses to correct wrong reviewsIt’s a step in the right direction.

Yelp, the site where consumers posts reviews of local businesses such as restaurants, is soon going to allow small business owners the option to respond to negative reviews. Next Thursday, April 16, 2009, Yelp reportedly will be emailing its “elite” reviewers to explain the new feature.

The New York Times Bits blog reports:

With the new public comment feature, business owners will only be able to correct or add factual information, not advertise or argue. Comments will not be read before they are published but users will be able to flag inappropriate comments and Yelp’s customer service team will review them.

In the letter to elite reviewers, Yelp said that the goal is for comments to be pleasant and useful, not disparaging of reviewers. “For example, if you wrote a glowing 5-star review some months ago about your favorite pub, in which you mention drinking Harp because they didn’t carry Guinness both you and other readers would probably be happy to see a new comment saying, ‘Just got our Guinness tap last week,'” the letter said.

Online consumer reviews have been great for consumers to make informed choices. But the situation has been lopsided. A business owner could do nothing if there was an inaccurate review — say, something just plain wrong, like complaining about a poorly cooked menu item at a restaurant that doesn’t even serve that item. There also have been reports of nasty reviews written by competitors solely for the purpose of making the business look bad.

That meant that on top of every other challenge in your business, you also had to worry about your business getting trashed online. Yelp’s move at least levels the playing field a little.

Yelp has set up a business owner’s website where you can claim a business listed on Yelp already, or list your business on Yelp. There’s also a business owner’s guide that explains how Yelp works from the business’s perspective. The new policy change by Yelp allowing businesses to correct inaccurate negative reviews, does not yet appear officially on the site as of this writing.


Anita Campbell Anita Campbell is the Founder, CEO and Publisher of Small Business Trends and has been following trends in small businesses since 2003. She is the owner of BizSugar, a social media site for small businesses.

22 Reactions
  1. Martin Lindeskog


    This is a great initiative! I remember the “angst” I had when I search on our company name and found a negative remark on an online “consumer forum”. The comment was made by an anonymous “chicken” due to a thank that is was signed with a “faceless” name. I didn’t want to “feed the troll”, so I didn’t respond to the nonconstructive criticism at first. Later on, I wrote an reply (signed with my full name) and gave the users to contact me by email if they wanted to discuss the matter further.

    I see that Yelp has locations in both the U.S.A and Canada, and has started in the U.K. It would be great if it spreads around Europe and other places in the world.

    I love their slogan on the blog: “Reaching for the fifth star.” Funny address:

    “Yelp is located in sunny San Francisco, CA. Our mailing address is:
    706 Mission Street” 🙂

  2. Martin Lindeskog

    I am sorry for the typos…

    Should be:

    when I searched… due to the fact… gave the users the possibility

    Interesting piece:

  3. Anita,
    Thank you mentioning Yelp. There has certainly been a lot of PR lately about this new site, so now I will really have to check it out.

    Thgak you again!

    The Franchise King
    Joel Libava

  4. This is a very good initiative made by Yelp. being trashed online is I’m afraid that most of business owners least expected.

  5. This is excellent news. I’ve always wondered when I see nasty reviews, how much of it is honest and how much of it is competition.

    I never thought it was fair because if someone decides to start a smear campaign online, its actually quite easy to do seen as how there are no restrictions or abilities to correct.

    This is good news and I hope that many who didn’t deserve the negativity and got it – get to correct it.

  6. I agree that this is excellent news. Something that started out so innocent has really turned into something ugly. I’m glad they are giving businesses a chance to fight back.

  7. I have had mixed feelings about Yelp, but one of the main things I’ve found in my own use of it — is I simply discount and do not trust the majorly lopsided reviews. I like to think that the smart consumer sees through the garbage posts that Yelp has allowed or not monitored well. But that’s the nature of it, right? They want to allow every consumer sentiment.

    This may irk some, but I just look the goofy, whining reviews, even the really negative ones as uneducated and unreasonable and decide for myself if I will give a place a try. I would like to see some research done to find out if businesses have actually lost business due to the reviews of Yelp. There have been some good articles recently that showcased how biz owners have fought back — one funny one where the owner used the review comments on t-shirts and turned the negative into fun by poking back at these reviews and reviewers.

    I’m equally curious to hear from consumers or biz owners who have decided anything from Yelp. Did it move you one way or another?? My guess is that most business owners are a bit more savvy and don’t make decisions based on the mob….

  8. That is great to hear! I would rather buy from a site that has comments from the owners as well. They should have a chance to defend themselves.

  9. Yes this is great. A venue for business owners to “fight back”. But do you think this is healthy for your business? Or for you as the business owner?

  10. People have really figured out how to manipulate this situation to their advantage and ruin its intended purpose. I’m glad to see that things will soon be changing. Abuse of this has hurt us all and we cannot always rely on the reviews of others as a result of the bad behavior of a few. Its about time someone took notice of whats been going on and hopefully, this will spread.

  11. I’m happy thay we’ll have a chance to respond to negative comments. As long as business owners respond in a professional manner. It won’t reflect well on a business if they get defensive and respond in that manner. It will be interesting to see how this evolves.

  12. Same here Don, I’m excited on how this will turn out. It’s a good thing that our fear of getting trashed online is at least lighten up a bit.

  13. Small Business Marketing -

    There should be a measure so the general public can determine the difference between “Hate” feedback and “Real deserved negative feedback” for businesses. Because as it is, you have sift through so many posts to get the real story on a business and its services. I’d like to see more.

  14. Yelp is murder for small businesses. Unless you pay to advertise with them, they take your reviews off. FOr NO reason. It’s unfair and we need to start utilizing other venues like and
    Please help!