What You Need to Know About Yelp’s “Ghost” Update

Written by: Levy Online on

If you happened to notice a change in the number of Yelp reviews for your business in recent months, you’re definitely not alone. It seems as though Yelp made an update in late 2018 to their recommendation software that’s causing businesses to experience shifts in their reviews being filtered as “Not Recommended.”

Computer screen with reviews

What Did the Ghost Update Do?

Craig Mount wrote an article for Search Engine Land, an expert information hub for all things digital marketing, and appropriately dubbed the upgrade responsible for the extreme review fluctuations as the “Ghost” update, referencing the fact that many reviews are now “ghosted” and have disappeared into the Not Recommended section.

By being filtered as not recommended, these reviews are no longer counted towards the business’ final star rating. As a result, many businesses have seemingly lost reviews overnight. An interesting fact, though, is not all filtered reviews were 5-stars, so the ultimate aim was not to drop ratings. However, losing good reviews appears to be the biggest issue concerning this update.

Why Did Yelp Implement This Update?

The ultimate goal of Yelp is to create value for the consumers looking for the most honest and thorough reviews. In order to achieve this goal, Yelp strives to use current reviews given by active users. Unfortunately for business owners, value for consumers doesn’t always translate to value for a particular business.

Although a 5-star review is incredibly valuable to a business, it may be outdated or written by a user who has not been active on Yelp for years. In the end, Yelp believes those reviews are not the most useful or reliable for a consumer. The details of the Ghost update aren’t exactly known, but it seems Yelp has made changes in its recommendation software that carefully filters reviews based on these factors.

Who Was Affected by This Update?

At this point, it’s clear that not all business accounts on Yelp were affected. It’s also important to note that not all businesses that were affected experienced a negative impact on their ratings. In fact, one of our clients saw a dramatic increase in 5-star reviews directly following the Ghost update.

Graph of client Yelp reviews in 2018

The correlation between the Ghost update and the rating shift isn’t quite trackable because Yelp did not reveal the specific parts of its recommendation software that were updated, but it goes to show that not all Yelp accounts were impacted negatively.

Craig Mount gives some great tips on things you can do to improve your Yelp presence in his in-depth breakdown of Yelp’s Ghost update. We’ve also put together a guide on how to manage negative reviews, which can be helpful if you’re not sure where to start when those unsavory reviews roll in.

Did Yelp’s Ghost update impact you? Let us know about it in the comments below!

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