Lessons from Yelp on how to manage your on-line consumer reviews.

I missed the first part of the story but not the second part. . . But the headline read Yelp sues law firm for posting fake reviews  in short form here is how the story goes:

  • Sometime in 2012 a Yelp salesperson contacted the San Diego based boutique bankruptcy law firm McMillian Law Group.  According to McMillan, the Yelp salesperson said or at least suggested that if he entered into an advertising contract with Yelp he would receive favorable reviews.
  • According to McMillan, after 4 months he did not see the desired results and so he contacted Yelp, told them he was seeing no results and wanted to cancel the contract and receive a refund of the money he had already paid.
  • Yelps response was to send him a bill for one additional month as a cancellation fee.
  • McMillan was not happy and sued Yelp in small claims court for $2,700 plus $95 in costs.  On April 26, 2013 the judge ruled in favor of McMillan.
  • Not content with his small claims victory, in May McMillan published a blog post on his law firms website calling the ruling “a massive victory for every small business in the country currently advertising on Yelp.
  • Yelp responded by appealing the ruling, not on the substance of the facts, but rather because the agreement between McMillan and Yelp required arbitration.
  • It was a clever move by Yelp because arbitration will cost McMillan $4,000 – $5,000 on top of the $2,700 he is already out.
  • At that point it sounds like McMillan was ready to give up.
  • Yelp determined to inflict more pain and did so by suing the McMillan Law firm alleging that McMillan has been publishing and soliciting fake reviews.

What’s This Have to do with Senior Living?

When I saw this story I called Amelia Wilson at SeniorAdvisor.com, to ask if she had seen the story and if she had any thoughts about what kind of impact it has on the world of senior living reviews.  Here is what we came-up with:

  • Yelp has a reputation for being problematic. This means that while you should pay attention to Yelp reviews, otherwise you should stay away. It is a site that does not deserve a great deal of time.  I would recommend against entering into an advertising package under the theory of “Who needs the grief?”
  • While it appears that Yelp has acted badly here, it does not condemn or diminish the value of senior living consumer reviews.
  • With SeniorAdvisor.com this is something you don’t have to worry about because they are not trying to sell you anything.  That being said, while there are several other sites that offer consumer reviews and do sell services, including another Senior Housing Forum partner, I have seen no evidence that any of them are engaging in practices that even remotely approach what Yelp is doing and do not want to construe even by veiled implication they might be a problem.
  • Most importantly you should pick carefully the reputation sites you are using and then be very active about making the most of them.

Smoothing Your Process To help get you started with growing the number of consumer reviews you have at SeniorAdvisor.com they have put together some tools to help.

  • You can download a great guide on how to respond to reviews your community receives.  While some of what is in the document is specific to SeniorAdvisor.com there are some great tips that would apply to any review site.

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  • A written guide that will help you with the process of inviting people to review your community at SeniorAdvisor.com.

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  • A video on how to invite people to review your community.


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