The short answer: apparently, yes! Yelp created a "no review solicitation" policy, and the topic recently surfaced in Forbes and was later circulated to NAR members through REALTOR Magazine.
“Don’t ask for reviews and don’t offer to pay for them either. Please don’t ask your customers to review your business on Yelp. Over time, solicited reviews create bias on your business page; a bias that savvy consumers can smell from a mile away. You should never offer compensation (or discounts and freebies) in exchange for reviews.”
While it makes sense to discourage pressuring or bribing clients, it seems a bit unfair to forbid asking for a Yelp review at all - especially for real estate agents who spend weeks and months serving their clients. Clients may not think to leave a review without a reminder.
Yet that mere suggestion alone, per Yelp, tips the scales and removes the objectivity of the client's review.
In prior years, Yelp took heat for the number of artificial reviews on the site, such as reviews written by third parties who were paid to create them, and reviews that only appeared because the business promised a freebie or discount in return.
In response, Yelp created some parameters you may not know about. Their algorithms are proprietary, so we don’t know exactly how they determine what reviews to "recommend" - and which ones to devalue. However, we dug up a few tips from their policy page. Here's what we found, and how we interpret it:
Yelp puts a higher value, or trust, in reviews supplied by active members of their community. If your client isn't already on Yelp, their review may not impact your rating, for better or worse.
Yelp disqualifies extreme opinions, such as "rants or raves." If your client is unhappy and berates you for an entire page, Yelp may see it as an aberration - or, an attempt at reputation sabotage by a competitor. If your client is thrilled and gushes on about how awesome you are, Yelp may get suspicious. These reviews may still be visible, but they do not count as a "recommended review" so therefore, they do not affect your rank.
Only about 72% of all the Yelp reviews you receive, are counted towards your Yelp rating. Yelp reviews that don't pass muster may still be listed under your profile, but they do not affect your rating.
Yelp gives weight to reviews that are high-quality, reliable and organically motivated. Reviews need to contain some specific details about the experience in order to provide value to the reader. Reviews should be reasonably timely.
OK, but if you can't ask clients to leave reviews on Yelp, what can you do? Yelp's basic answer to this, is to have you promote Yelp, without directly asking any clients, past or present, for a review.
You can use Yelp branding on your website. Get Yelp graphics here.
You can mention to your current clients that you are on Yelp, so long as you're not asking for a review.
Under the current policies, you shouldn't reach out to past clients for a Yelp review. However, if you are reaching out to past clients for another purpose, you can probably include a link to your Yelp profile under your email signature, without breaching policy. Make sure such a link says, "Find me on Yelp" instead of "Review me on Yelp."
Just like the real estate market, social media is always changing! When you need some help, RealSupport is here for you! Call Carrie Gable for your personal consultation, 847-705-1655.
Copywriting & Marketing Specialist