Texas Business Owners Say Negative Comments on Yelp Hurt Bottom Line

By Dave Lieber

To this day, potential customers sometimes walk into Diana Ortiz’s beauty shop in San Antonio and expect her to be rude. And why not?

If you put her business name — Salon Cadiz — into an Internet search engine, a one-star review on the Yelp website pops up.

Y.P. writes: “I called the salon to make an appointment and spoke to the owner. She was rude and her tone gave me the impression she had something better to do. Needless to say she will not be getting any of my $$$.”

Not long after that comment started appearing prominently in searches, Ortiz says, her business began dropping. People don’t like rude. Only she says it isn’t true.

“I’ve sank thousands and thousands of dollars into my business. I’m very grateful if somebody calls in to my business and inquires. All of a sudden I get this bad review. She never stepped foot in here.”

Ortiz tried to get Yelp to remove the negative review, but what happened after that only made matters worse.

More than ever, online reviews can make or break a business. One of the most prominent sites is Yelp, which offers a platform for the public to review for free almost any kind of business, including stores, doctors, hospitals and restaurants.

The results show up high in Internet searches, out of the control of business owners. Comments are usually anonymous. They can help or harm, more often the latter, critics say. Too often, business owners get fed up and don’t counter negative reviews. But then there are businesses like Velvet Taco in Dallas that use Yelp to build a huge following. More on that later.

Yelpers — anyone who registers for free to review on the website — now review in 22 nations. Company officials claim an average of 108 million unique visitors each month. One anonymous comment can do a lot of damage.

The real problem for some businesses is that Yelp filters comments and decides which ones to present prominently and which ones to make all but invisible.

Yelp officials explain that they filter reviews to eliminate fakes posted by business owners about themselves or by paid reviewers. Otherwise, the company, which has never made a profit but has a stock price that quadrupled in the past year, claims it loses online credibility.

In New York, the state attorney general recently caught 19 businesses in a sting operation writing or paying for fake reviews about themselves on Yelp and other sites in violation of that state’s law. Texas doesn’t have a law regulating fake reviews online on

and upload photos for free.

Respond to comments, both negative and positive, to further engagement.

“Always respond diplomatically,” Yelp advises. “And don’t panic over critical reviews.”

Build business profiles on respected free websites such as YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Tumblr to knock down other negative reviews in search results. Use a blog to create fresh results for search engines.

Republished from The Dallas Morning News.