Reviews & Reputation

Is the Yelp Review Filter Hurting Doctors’ Reputation?

Yelp’s review filter has been under a lot of fire lately and everyone wants to know how it works. Because figuring out Yelp’s process can often feel like navigating the Bermuda triangle, doctors and medical practices are becoming even more concerned about their online reputation. And with so much at stake, we think they should be. Let’s explore some of the “ins” & “outs” of Yelp’s review filter and how it can impact your reputation.

About the Yelp Review Filter

The Yelp filter is designed to legitimize the authenticity of reviews on their site and promote the visibility of quality reviews. Here is our basic understanding of how Yelp filters out specific reviews deemed as SPAM:

  • Reviewers: If you are not an active “Yelper,” meaning you haven’t reviewed many businesses or have not gained status with Yelp, posted reviews from your account are less likely to show up. Also, if the reviewer’s geographic location is not relevant to the location of the business he or she is reviewing, chances are they won’t make it past the filter.
  • Bad reviews: We’ve found that bad reviews tend to block good reviews. Unfortunate, but true.
  • Frequency: Businesses that experience a flurry of new reviews may trigger the Yelp filter if they have had an extended period of inactivity. This is typically what we see when a bad review occurs: little to no activity until something negative happens, and then the filter kicks in to keep the bad review out front.

Like it or not, all of our experience tells us that practices are in a tough situation regarding their participation with Yelp. We know it’s a frustrating battle, which is why we’ve highlighted some common questions and provide you with suggestions about how to set up a barrier against future problems (if you’re lucky enough to not have them) or damage control (if you’re one of the many struggling to keep your name reputable).

Why should I care about one bad review on Yelp?

Yelp is a heavily weighted website that has sticking power on the search engines, specifically under business names and Doctors’ names. This is where the biggest problem lies. As you can see below, typing in this dental practice’s name brings up a one-star rating from Yelp, which can stick out like a sore thumb for patients considering your practice.

Are unhappy patients more motivated to give a bad review?

Definitely. If someone is unhappy with their experience, they may feel unfairly treated, which can trigger an emotional lash-out. The result is often that Yelp’s filter handcuffs your practice’s efforts, requiring you to build positive reviews from happy patients. Is that fair and balanced?

How can you really tell the difference between real & fake reviews?

No matter how good a filter is, how can you be 100% confident the user is really an actual patient? In my opinion, Yelp’s filter would be more fair if they verified with the practice whether or not the reviewer is a patient of record. Perhaps they might also give the practice an opportunity to resolve a complaint before the patient would be able to post a negative review. This would serve as checks and balances in the same way the BBB operates.

Should businesses be able to opt out of Yelp all together?

If Yelp is going to provide a consumer portal that has so much impact on Doctors and practices under name searches and not offer advice to practices on how they can improve their Yelp reputation, then there should be a choice to opt out all together, especially since they now have control over the appearance of bad reviews.

Overall, Yelp reviews have been a very frustrating experience for many good doctors who are conscious about their online reputations. Although it appears that the Yelp filter is not making it easy to control which reviews rise to the top in your profile, taking a proactive approach to obtain good reviews before a bad one comes along may help prevent a reputation disaster.

Consider not focusing all of your patient review efforts on Yelp, but rather acquiring reviews across a broad spectrum of sites that rank well on search engines. If you’re among the many practitioners feeling the Yelp pain, may I suggest that you put yourself in the shoes of a potential patient – try Googling combinations of your name and practice to see which sites rank and focus your efforts on generating positive reviews on those sites.

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Keith Humes


Keith Humes is Rosemont Media's CEO and Founder. Since 1998 Keith has been at the forefront of Internet Marketing with Surgeons and Dentists. He continues to stay ahead of the curve and offers innovative insights to the world of healthcare marketing. Keith also lectures nationally at leading industry events, such as the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, American Society of Plastic Surgeons, American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry and the Dallas Rhinoplasty Symposium.

Keith is an avid fisherman and master-griller. Next to fishing, Keith’s favorite activities include surfing, and spending time with family & friends.