Yelp reviews, once they are posted, for the most part stand. Even ones you believe to be outright lies. But that does not mean you should just sit back and watch Yelp's algorithms destroy your business profile ratings.
What Can You Do?
First, do not buy into Yelp's sales pitches to pay for advertising. Understand what you really get, and do not get. Raymond Fong, successful Internet marketer, wrote a no-punches-pulled article about Yelp's advertising services -- probably one of the best I have seen. I strongly encourage you to read it before purchasing advertising on Yelp. You can read it here: A Candid Yelp Advertising Review - Is Yelp Ripping People Off?
You should also consider working your brand on Google. Google HotPot is a better alternative to Yelp -- it has not caught on as fast, but the way Google deals with business owners and reviewers is more practical and fair. And, Google factors in social mentions so a review on Google HotPot may help your website in search engine results as well.
If you are plagued by bad Yelp reviews, you may want to claim your business account and offer a public reply. Just remember you are doing damage control, not firing back your own defensive, or angry rant. Do what your negative posters did not do and be objective and fair.
Should You Contact A Lawyer?
It never hurts to get qualified legal advice, but being upset about bad reviews, or being offer "advertising" services to improve your rating, is not the same as Yelp commiting a wrongdoing. A good attorney can help you understand your rights and assess whether or not you have a case. They will, however, ask you for some proof that you were harmed in some way. You need documentation.
Documenting Yelp Reviews And Events
If you suspect your reviews are being unfairly manipulated or your business profile is being penalized for not purchasing advertisement, you need to be able to back up those accusations. So far, no one has done that successfully and at least two lawsuits against Yelp have been dismissed.
If possible, document your Yelp profile before you contact them. Complaining about bad reviews may result in Yelp offering advertising packages. There are numerous posts on anti-Yelp sites where business owners claim that once the refuse to buy advertising their profiles are changed, and their ratings go down. So pay close attention to what goes on with your Yelp profile after every conversation you have with a Yelp representative.
Take screen shots, cut and paste copies of all reviews, document which reviews were public and which were filtered, and note the date and time you captured the information. Business owners concerned about their Yelp reviews should do this once a week -- certainly no less than once a month.
If you talk to Yelp, try to get anything they say in writing. Send emails confirming phone conversations, even record them, and save all voice mails. If Yelp sales reps call you note the date, time, who you spoke with and what they said.
Yelp has their own lawyers, and unless you really do have a unique situation and can show proof of wrongdoing, hiring your own lawyer is unlikely to get you much in the way of satisfaction. Several lawsuits against Yelp have already been dismissed by courts. But that only means so far, no one has shown enough evidence to warrant a trial.
Vent, Share, Review Yelp
It may not help you get bad reviews removed from Yelp, but venting can feel good on its own. Here are some places to share your Yelp experiences, and read about others who have also had problems with Yelp and what they did to fight back.
Go ahead, review Yelp: