Yelp and I – A Love/Hate Relationship

March 20th, 2014 / Back to Blog »

I love using Yelp for online searches.  My wife and I started using it when I was a fellow at Stanford for pretty much everything – restaurants, dry cleaners, barbers, kid places…It was awesome.  After awhile, I quit being a Yelp voyeur and started Yelp-ing myself – reviewing places that I went. I still look a whole lot more than I Yelp, though.

From the perspective of my own practice, though, I am less than impressed.  WAY less than impressed.  I’ll explain why.

I have a business page on Yelp.  As of today, it has no reviews that are plainly visible to people looking for me.  I’ll show you – Click here to see my Yelp page.  Right below the tan-colored box in the middle of the page, in light grey, you’ll see a line that says “x reviews that are not recommended.”  Click it.  Or you can click this link to go right there.  You’ll see that there are (as of today) 7 reviews from patients – all good ones (thankfully).  However, these aren’t reflected on my Yelp page.  The question is: WHY?

The Yelp people have called me – multiple times in the past year – to advertise with them.  They want me to spend money to “be more visible” to people using their search engine to find things. In my case the only category that applies is “cosmetic surgeons.”  So when they were giving me their sales pitch, I asked them why none of my reviews were available.  Their answer was that because the people writing the reviews were relatively new to Yelp (and hadn’t reviewed other businesses), their reviews weren’t seen as valid.  So, they aren’t visible to anyone searching for me.

I understand the “Why” behind what they do…and, honestly, I believe that in some instances, it’s a good way to ensure that reviews are consistent and trustworthy.

There are two reasons this presents a problem for my practice.

  1. I deal in quality, not quantity. For businesses like restaurants and donut shops, who serve hundreds of people a day, it makes good sense. However, my practice focuses on one person at a time, and I can only see one person at a time.  If I see a hundred new patients in a month, it’s a busy month.
  1. Plastic surgery is still plastic surgery.  While what I do has lost some of the social stigma it had in the past, it’s still not something a lot of people want to publicize. Some people are more than willing, but many aren’t.  As a result of those two factors, every single rating site like Yelp or Google counts, mainly because the number of people who will write a review for a plastic surgeon is much, much smaller than those who review most other businesses.

That said, though, I believe in the way Yelp does things.  They have automated their site so that only reviews from “active” Yelpers (and they won’t tell anyone how they define that) get seen, and others get hidden.  They don’t make exceptions or take the time to verify reviews for relatively low-volume businesses like mine.

Good for the neighborhood BBQ place, bad for me.

So, if you use Yelp and are a current or former patient, I’d love to hear from you.  If you don’t use Yelp, I’d suggest starting – I personally find it really useful and have gotten lots of great recommendations from it (mostly restaurants).  Just don’t rely on Yelp when you’re looking for a plastic surgeon in Knoxville.