More than 3,000 companies have turned to her Yelp-Sucks website in hopes of repairing their image. "At least once a week," she said, "I get a call from somebody hysterically sobbing, saying they're going to lose their business."
Crowd-sourced reviews are here to stay, so consider this a tutorial for folks who need Yelp, use it, but aren't quite sure they trust it anymore.
If you're a business owner, don't bother rallying customers to post positive reviews. Gushy testimonials loaded with superlatives are a red flag to the algorithm's eye. Amazing! Best ever! Incredible! That screams "somebody asked me to write this."
Do set up your own free account at biz.yelp.com, with your bio, profile and photos. Respond online to negative reviews with your side of the story. "But you have to be delicate," Ashley advised. "You make them mad, and all their friends will leave bad reviews as well."
If you're a consumer using Yelp to check out businesses, the "sort" option allows you to select which way your choices are displayed. If the business at the top of the list says "Yelp ad" in small print, it has paid to be there. And if you want to find hidden reviews, click on the "filtered" link at the bottom of the list.
Don't give individual reviewers' star ratings too much credence; you don't know what their standards are. But do check the bar graph at the top under "rating details" for a comprehensive snapshot.
And if you, like me, are wondering why your own reviews never seem to remain posted, here's advice from Jenelle Bossett, a Yelp Elite who's written almost 400 reviews and plans to add 100 more this year.
She's a UCLA graduate with a degree in comparative literature who likens review-writing to storytelling.
Bad reviews linger because they tend to have "so much detail, to the extreme sometimes," she said. The algorithm recognizes them as real; it's apt to kick out more vague reviews. "Don't give a place 5 stars and just say you love it. Tell us why."
You don't have to have a literature degree. "You can use bullet points," she said. "Just give lots of details; show what you mean."
And it doesn't hurt to post a cute photo.