As a dentist, Yelp can be invaluable in helping you grow your practice and attract new patients. However, building a successful presence requires understanding how the platform works and how to make sure it's working for you. One particular aspect that often causes consternation is Yelp's practice of filtering user feedback. To see what drives this mysterious vanishing act, we need to start by taking a peek under the hood.
When researching local businesses, Yelp is frequently among the first sources that people turn to for information. In part, that's because the platform employs a sophisticated algorithm to automatically weed out seemingly irrelevant, inauthentic or otherwise unhelpful reviews. While this certainly makes Yelp more trustworthy to consumers, thus making it more powerful and influential as an advertising tool, the automated filtering process is not without collateral damage.
Most hidden reviews get flagged for good reason, but legitimate and useful submissions also sometimes fall prey to the almighty filter. Although Yelp's algorithm is a closely guarded trade secret, careful study reveals a few key factors that are most likely to raise an alarm. These include reviews that are:
According to available data, Yelp ultimately filters around a quarter of all reviews submitted across its entire platform. Of those filtered reviews, analyses suggest that approximately 78% are flagged correctly. Nevertheless, while the Yelp algorithm applies equally to all businesses in theory, that's not necessarily borne out in the statistics. Depending on factors like industry, specialty and location, the rates at which reviews are filtered can vary substantially. This essential information isn't readily available to the public, but we've collected data on hundreds of businesses and crunched the numbers to help you gain insight into how Yelp filters reviews in the dental industry.
Number of Businesses
Overall, the 823 dentists in our survey saw their reviews filtered at a rate of 30%, which is slightly higher than the estimated site-wide average of 25%. Digging deeper into the numbers, we found some notable trends when sorting businesses by city. At just 22%, practices located in the Los Angeles area had the lowest percentage of filtered reviews. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Yelp flagged virtually half of all reviews posted to the profiles of Miami-based businesses. Dallas-area dentists weren't far behind, checking in at an unusually high 42%. We also decided to look at one small market in Upland, CA to see if there were any differences between small towns and big city filter rates. At a 33% rate, nothing stood out.
Not surprisingly, the percentage of filtered reviews also varied among specialists. Sampling 355 oral surgeons in three cities, we found that Yelp's filters snagged about 28% of the nearly 29,000 total reviews. Once again, Los Angeles businesses recorded the lowest average rejection rate in our dataset. Only 23% of LA-area submissions were hidden, while the rate climbed to 36% for oral surgeons based in New York.
Summary (Oral Surgeons)
Number of Businesses
So what exactly is a good Yelp review filter rate for dentists and when you should worry? The first thing to do is calculate your office's exact filter rate to get a sense of how you compare to the average nationally and in your area. This is a fairly simple process as you simple need to visit your office's Yelp listing and divide the number of filtered, or "not recommended" reviews found near the end of your profile with the number of actual published reviews:
In the above example, we see a Los Angeles-based cosmetic dental practice with a roughly 16% review filter rate. If we compare this to the Yelp site-wide average (25%) and our findings in Los Angeles (22%) we find that this dental practice is actually doing pretty good with roughly 81% of their customer reviews publishing to their Yelp profile.
Now, on the other hand if we were to analyze a practice with, say, roughly 50-60% of their reviews getting caught in the Yelp filter and thus relegated to the "not recommended" section we can conclude that either a) Yelp has flagged the business for unnatural review generation strategies such as: asking for reviews, sending our review requests through email, using unauthorized third-party review gating software etc., or b) the office is generating reviews from guests who are not active on Yelp.
Unfortunately, there is no quick fix for getting your authentic comments out of review purgatory or for asking Yelp to re-consider their designation of your business. It's best at this point to focus on generating reviews on Google or start participating in more authorized review generation strategies such as creating a Yelp check-in offer or allowing reviews to come naturally. Over time, your filter rate will reduce more towards the average.
The average review filter rate for dental professionals across the country varies from market to market but averages about 28%. In other words you can expect on average about 3 customer reviews to be hidden on your profile for every 10 reviews that are posted. There's no denying that Yelp is a powerful tool for building social proof and enhancing the visibility of your dental practice, but it requires planning and precision to wield effectively. By understanding how the Yelp review filter works — and how to avoid its wrath — you can ensure prospective patients always see your practice in the best possible light.
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