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Yelp Scandal A Red Flag for Online Reviews

According to the Wall Street Journal, the FTC has received more than 2,000 complaints regarding the online consumer review site Yelp since 2008, with businesses alleging that they have been damaged by fake reviews and that Yelp allegedly “blackmails” businesses by offering to remove negative reviews in exchange for placing ads on the site.

In addition, a November 2013 report by Harvard Business School professor Michael Luca found that fake reviews on Yelp have risen dramatically, estimating that 20% of Yelp reviews in 2013 were fakes. 

Yet, according to a new study from Software Advice on How Clients Use Online Legal Reviews, Yelp is by far the most used and most trusted legal review website.  The study found that 58% of respondents said it was the first place they turn for legal reviews, followed by Super Lawyers, Martindale-Hubbell and Avvo.

I have had dozens of attorneys ask me about the benefit of posting reviews on Yelp. Quite honestly, I cannot recommend it at this time. I have had far too many attorneys tell me how they received their first negative review on Yelp followed quickly by a sales call asking if they wanted to advertise.

If they advertised often the negative review would "disappear" and as soon as they stopped paying for advertising their positive reviews suddenly disappeared and the negative one reappeared. If I had only heard this story once or twice I could ignore it, but at this point, I've heard similar experiences dozens of times.

I hope at some point in the future I can reverse my recommendation, but for now I think it's best to stay away from actively promoting your firm on Yelp.  If your clients want to give you a review, I would steer them to one of the other trusted sites at this time.

© The Rainmaker Institute, All Rights Reserved National Law Review, Volume IV, Number 161


About this Author

Stephen Fairley legal marketing expert, law office management

Two-time international best-selling author, Stephen Fairley is the Founder and CEO of The Rainmaker Institute, the nation’s largest law firm marketing company specializing in marketing and lead conversion for small to medium law firms. Since 1999, he has built a national reputation as a legal marketing expert and been named, “America’s Top Marketing Coach.” He has spoken numerous times for over 35 of the nation’s largest state and local bar associations.