How to Get Yelp Reviews That Won’t Get Filtered and Improve Your Rating

   Last Updated: February 20, 2020 (originally published July 30, 2018)

Getting published reviews on Yelp is not easy. Yelp’s review filter is notoriously aggressive, and if a customer that isn’t active or doesn’t have much history on the site leaves a review for your business, it is very likely to get filtered.

So, the trick to getting more reviews on Yelp is to encourage customers that are already active on the platform. But how do you do find out which of your customers are active on Yelp?

Fortunately, there is a way to determine this, and it works beautifully.

Using your existing mailing list, you can use Yelp’s “Find friends on Yelp” feature to identify customers that are already active users on Yelp. Reviews from these customers are much less likely to get filtered, so it’s helpful to identify them and share with them that you’re on Yelp.

How To Find Customers That Are Active on Yelp

#1. Create a new Gmail account.

#2. Set up a contact list in a new Gmail account (you can leave phone and current email empty).

Prepare a CSV file of your customers with email addresses. I suggest limiting this to 2,999 customers or less, otherwise the “Find Friends” feature on Yelp may choke when trying to process such a large list.

(You can try and test out having more contacts, however; we’ve found in the past that larger lists time out and scaling back seems to work well.)

#3. Login to your new Gmail account, then go to the “Contacts” section.

You can access your contacts directly via or in the old Gmail inbox:

In the new Gmail you need to click on the “Google Apps square”, click the “More link” to go to the second page, then click on “Contacts”.

#4. In contacts, click “More” then click “Import” to bring up the import option.

#5. Click the CSV option, then click “Go to old version”

#6. In the old version of Contacts, click “More” then click “Import”. (You can also scroll down on the left hand side and click the “Import Contacts”… at the bottom).

#7. Now add your contact list.

  • Choose file
  • Select the file
  • Click the “Import” button

Give it a few seconds, and you should now have that customer list loaded into Gmail as your contact list.

Find Your Friends on Yelp

#1. Now, log in to your personal Yelp account, click your profile photo on the top right, and choose “Find Friends”.

#2. Select “In Your Email Contacts” and choose Gmail.

#3. From the list of Google accounts that pops up, choose the new gmail account you’ve just created for this purpose.

You should see a pulsating Yelp logo searching that contact list for friends:

#4. When it’s done searching, it will display a list of all the people from that mailing list that have Yelp accounts.

#5. You now need to go through them and look for customers that would be good candidates to ask for a Yelp review. Here’s the criteria I would use.

  • They have a profile photo and at least 1 review.
  • They have no profile photo, at least 20 friends, at least 1 review.
  • They have no profile photo, less than 20 friends, and at least 3 reviews.

As you find candidates, record their information in a spreadsheet. I recommend recording the following information:

Spreadsheet columns:

  • Yelp name,
  • Email*,
  • Elite? (Y/N),
  • Number of reviews,
  • Profile photo? (Y/N),
  • Number of friends.

*How to find the email address for the Yelp Friends:

Unfortunately this email trick no longer works because Yelp removed the data from the source code. But here are the steps if you are curious how we used to be able to extract email addresses.

When you upload your list of names and email addresses to find your friends, it pulls up all of the Yelp profiles, which means now you’re going to have to pull the corresponding email address from the Yelp profile. Use Chrome for this task, as it’s quick and easy.

  • In Chrome, go to the profile and right-click on the name,
  • Click on “Inspect,”
  • You’ll see their email address on the line above the highlighted line.
  • You can double click on the email and then copy and paste it into the spreadsheet.


Once you’ve gotten through the first batch of 2999 customers, you can repeat the process.

#1. Go back to Gmail, then go back into the contacts section.

Make sure you’re in the new gmail account you created, and not your own email. You don’t want to accidentally delete all your own personal contacts.

#2. Hover over the profile icon of the first contact and it will change into a checkbox.

#3. Click it to select it, and then click the “Select All” checkbox that appears above it.

#4. Click the three dots icon on the top right.

#5. You’ll see a prompt, and choose “Delete”.

#6. That should clear all your contacts.

#7. Prepare a new spreadsheet with 2,999 additional customers, and repeat the process by going back up to Import Contacts step to find even more active Yelp customers.

You may need to log out of Yelp and back in again.


Yay For New Friends! But Don’t Forget to Play By the Rules

You now have a list of your customers that are active Yelpers, but asking these customers for a review on Yelp would be a violation of their guidelines, so what do you do with this list?

Send them an email just to let them know your business is on Yelp. You can include a screenshot, maybe highlight some of your great reviews, and use wording like “Find us on Yelp” or “Check us out on Yelp”.


Other Tips for Getting More Yelp Reviews

But wait! There’s more…

A) Create a check-in offer 

While you may not be able to ask customers for reviews, there’s a trick to getting Yelp to do the asking for you. Go into your Yelp for Business dashboard and create a check-in offer, then promote that check-in offer to your customers. Hey, you might even want to promote it to that mailing list of active Yelpers you just created. After someone has checked in, Yelp will them prompt them to leave a review for the business. Thanks, Yelp!

B) Embed reviews from your listing

Sharing is caring, right? You can embed customer reviews on your website and showcase them to visitors. You could take it even further and take a screenshot of that embedded testimonial and link to it in emails, or refer to it and link to the source on your website and also share via social media.

C) Put up signs and stickers 

Put up a sign in your business to “Find us on Yelp”, or, even better to promote the check-in offer you have created.

You can also request “Find Us on Yelp” stickers that are allowed to be displayed at your place of business. Two times a year (if you’ve earned it), Yelp will also send out a free window cling for the “People Love Us on Yelp.”

D) Ask customers to share a photo (pro-tip from: Jason Brown at Review Fraud)

While you’re not allowed to ask customers to leave you a Yelp review, there are no guidelines stating that you are not allowed to ask them to upload a photo from their recent or past visits.

If “a picture is worth a thousand words,” then there is a chance that your cutomer may be willing to share even a few words about their expereince after adding a photo. Yelp will even enourage them to leave a review the next time they visit your Yelp listing, once the photo is posted.

Jessie tested out adding a photo from a recent restaurant visit in Edmonton, she never uses Yelp and has not written 1 review and the photo is live.

By directly asking customers who you know are active Yelpers to leave a photo, it’s highly probably that you will also increase your chances of a published review, and growing your gallery with awesome customer photos.

Alright, I hope these tips help you improve your reviews and ratings on Yelp. Do you have any other tips for getting more Yelp reviews? Please let us know in the comments!


Darren Shaw

Darren Shaw founded Whitespark in 2005. The company specialized in web design and development, however, Darren's passion and curiosity for all things local search led Whitespark to focus primarily on local SEO in 2010 with the launch of the Local Citation Finder, followed by the Local Rank Tracker.

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17 comments on “How to Get Yelp Reviews That Won’t Get Filtered and Improve Your Rating

  • Hey Darren, this is absolutely fantastic. Perfect for a business with many emails on their list. My understanding of Yelp’s review solicitation policy was that they don’t want businesses to request “positive reviews” and that it’s okay to ask for a customer to write a review. And their guidelines are particularly frightening on purpose – so this is not abused. Please correct me if I’m wrong. Thanks

    • Hey Jeffrey,

      I haven’t heard that softer version of the guidelines. My only reference is Yelp’s written guidelines which are pretty specific about not asking for reviews from anyone. Do you have an official source for this info? If people can ask for reviews on Yelp, that would be great.

  • I’m curious about the privacy implications of this. You’re uploading all your contacts to Yelp for them to scrape for account matches. How does Yelp handle your uploaded contacts data? What can they do with this list of your contacts? Can someone request removal of uploaded data? etc. etc.

    • Those are some interesting GDPR type questions. I don’t have the answers, but I expect a large company like Yelp has this addressed in their privacy policy. Check with them, and if they say anything interesting, I’d love to hear what they say.

  • Yelp’s reputation appears to be dangerous in that it focuses on negative reviews from a small group of select reviewers. The SEO expense getting positive reviews may be better served by just removing the business profile from Yelp’s website. Yelp’s pushing $300-$400 monthly “advertising fees” made a customer uncomfortable.

  • Darren, you never cease to amaze me. I have a decade of dealing with Yelp for my biz and for our client’s biz. How you came up with this brilliant strategy I don’t know but it is brilliant!

  • Hi Darren, thank you very much for this amazing article. I am just not 100% sure about embedding yelp reviews on my site. I see all the advantages but on the other hand the Google review guidelines say “Do not include critic reviews that are duplicate or similar across many businesses”. How is your experience with this topic?

    • If you’re using the Yelp widget to embed the Yelp reviews then it’s perfectly fine. I think this guideline is related to marking up third party reviews in schema. That’s not a problem here, and seriously, even it was, no one is policing this stuff. Especially not Google.

  • Great article on Yelp Reviews. I would also add that being active yourself (personal account) is a factor Yelp considers. “Being active” is what a Yelp representative told me is very important.

  • Great article Darren!

    An added tip I like to use to get things snowballing: sharing yelp reviews across social media accounts. Depending on the business, it can make sense to do this whenever a new review goes up, or just as a round up every week/month/quarter.

    I find it useful for helping to turn a few reviews into a few more!

  • Unfortunately, Yelp will always be temperamental. But as usual, there’s always ways to hack around them. At the end of the day, a really well optimized Yelp listing with even a handful of good reviews can be a good thing for any business. Love Kyle’s idea of sharing Yelp reviews on other social platforms. Building a few links to your listing wouldn’t hurt either.

  • Hey Darren,

    Thanks for the article!

    Just one quick question, when right-clicking on the name and inspecting the code on Chrome, I only see a code such as “hjFN_38ioSZcuqTBRuI9kA” but not an email address. Is this a recent change made by Yelp or am I doing something incorrectly?

    I’m right clicking from the Find Friends list and clicking inspect. Here I see: “name=”contacts” type=”checkbox” value=”hjFN_38ioSZcuqTBRuI9kA” [I believe email should be here instead of hjFN_…]

    If this doesn’t work, would you be against discussing reviews with Yelpers via Yelp direct message?

    Thank you!

  • Awesome tips. As an opinion leader in the moving industry, I am often getting my students asking me “how do I use Yelp?” and “how do I get my reviews to stick?” I often tell them what I did, but I am no SEO expert…

    This is a great guide that I would be happy to share with them.

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