Attracting reviews can be a headache for many local businesses. To cut corners, many businesses resort to aggressive tactics in order to attract more 5-star reviews than their competition.

To keep the playing field level and to prevent an entrepreneur from using unethical means to promote their businesses, many review sites have rules that govern how businesses can and cannot get reviews. You may decide on hiring an SEO agency to help you with your local SEO or seek guidance to help your assisted living business gain reviews.

Note: Be sure to check out our article on how to use online reviews prior to reading about our recommended best practices.

Here are some important review rules to consider:

  • Avoid Fake Review

Avoid Fake Reviews

Many businesses are tempted to pay third-party entities to generate fake reviews in order to boost their SEO rankings and enhance their profiles. These efforts always result in disaster. The truth is, fake reviews are quite easy to spot. Additionally, many review sites now have filters that easily filter out fake reviews.  

  • Observe the “No-Incentives” Rule

Many businesses find it easy to get reviews by offering something in return, such as discounts or even additional services. This is prohibited on review sites such as Yelp. When you provide incentives, you influence your customers to give a positive review even though they may otherwise have given a negative one. This goes against the goal of review platforms to provide the public with unbiased reviews.

  • Avoid onsite review kiosks

In the past, having a computer at your business that a customer could log into and leave a review was a great idea. However, Google My Business, Yelp and a host of other review sites updated their rules to reflect the unethical nature of setting up such onsite review kiosks. In fact, these websites now have filters that check the IP addresses of people who post reviews in order to filter out multiple reviews from the same IP address.

Important Factors to Consider When Using Reviews for SEO

In order to successfully use online reviews as a strategy to gain local SEO for your assisted living business, here are a number of things that you need to keep in mind:

Review Filtration

Review sites such as Yelp were created to help consumers make the right choices based on the experiences of others when buying goods and services from businesses. These sites have put in place algorithms for filtering out fake reviews whereas other review sites, such as Google My Business, do not aggressively filter reviews. This has resulted in many business owners complaining that even legitimate reviews are being filtered out, an act that hurts their businesses.

Mad Business Owner

Understanding why reviews get filtered and how to prevent legitimate reviews from being removed is one of the best ways to ensure that the system does not filter out genuine reviews from your customers. This is important because when genuine reviews are removed, they don’t contribute to your positive business rating. This can hurt your business by preventing potential customers from seeing the positive reviews and therefore trusting your business less. This can be quite frustrating, especially if you have a new business or your business listing is relatively new on the site.

Some of the common reasons why a legitimate review may be filtered include:

  • The review is not useful. Short reviews such as “Nice Experience” are likely to be removed by the Yelp algorithm because they don’t add value to customers seeking a good experience.
  • The reviewer is not trusted by the system. This happens when the person writing the review is new to Yelp, has no profile information or has no friends on the site.
  • The review is too flattering or too nasty. When a customer writes a very flattering review, the system questions the authenticity of the customer; the same is the case when a review is too negative. This also happens when a reviewer constantly gives positive reviews to businesses on the platform.
  • The review that your customer wrote violated the Content Guidelines given by Yelp.
  • The IP address is incorrect. This happens when customers don’t write a review immediately and instead wait until they are home, which could possibly be very far from the business they’re reviewing. For example, if one of your clients in Chicago has a son who lives in London, and the son visits to see his father and is impressed by your services, he may decide to write a review on Yelp; however, if he doesn’t write the review until he is back in London, it’s likely his review will be filtered because the IP address isn’t located nearby your facility.

What can you do to reduce the chances of genuine reviews being filtered out by Yelp’s algorithms?

Here are a few tips for you:

Helpful Tips

  • Don’t pay anyone to write a review. Fake reviews are easy to identify and when found, Yelp will not only remove the reviews but will also let everyone know that you use fake reviews. This will surely hurt your business.
  • Don’t ask friends and relatives to write reviews for your business. Chances are that people close to you will write very flattering reviews that will be easily flagged.
  • If you ask customers to write reviews on Yelp for your business and they don’t have a Yelp account, take the time to explain the platform to them and make sure to mention that they need to have friends on the site in order for their reviews to be approved. These customers can find and befriend people they know on the platform before they write a review for you.
  • If you serve customers across the globe, remember to remind them that if they leave a review when they are far away from your business, the review is likely to be filtered out.

Remember, Yelp is against asking customers for reviews, however, it encourages businesses to let customers know that they can be found on Yelp. This means that talking to customers about Yelp and the review process isn’t a bad thing. To be on the safe side, avoid aggressively asking customers to write Yelp reviews for your business.

Policies for Requesting Reviews

Different review sites have different policies when it comes to requesting reviews from customers. As stated above, Yelp discourages businesses from soliciting reviews from customers because the platform targets customers motivated to share their own experiences. The thinking behind this policy is that when businesses actively ask for reviews, they mostly target customers likely to leave positive reviews, resulting in a biased overall rating.

To ensure that customers do not ask for reviews, Yelp uses recommendation software that filters reviews and only shows those it determines are genuine reviews.

Google My Business, on the other hand, has no problem with businesses asking customers for reviews. However, the platform updated its terms of service on April 12, 2018, to provide a guideline on how to go about asking for reviews. The updated terms of service prohibit businesses from discouraging negative reviews or soliciting only positive reviews. This means that as you go about asking for reviews from your customers, you should avoid trying to persuade them to give only positive reviews.

Optimizing Your Business Listing for Organic Traffic from the SERP

Google loves Yelp when it comes to local business searches. The same things happen when you have your business listed on Google My Business. When review sites are well optimized they will likely appear on SERPs when someone searches for the businesses in and around your location. This is very important for assisted living facilities because people searching for their services often filter results by location.  

So how do you take advantage of SERP rankings?

The answer is very simple: Make sure your business listings on citation sites are well optimized. To ensure this, follow these simple steps:

Optimizing Your Listing Checklist:

  • Claim your business listing: You’ll need to claim your business on multiple relevant citation listings.
  • Fill in all the required information: An incomplete business profile is not viewed as trustworthy to search engines. Add photos, an address and all the information required to complete the your business profile. Every single detail matters, so plan out the details before publishing your listing.
  • Consistency: Whether you use abbreviations, apostrophes, or your business name, be consistent. If your company is called “Sunrise Living,” “Here at Sunrise Living” would make more sense than “Here at Sunrise.”
  • Categories: People usually search for categories as opposed to business names. Make sure to use the category and subcategories most closely related to your industry.
  • Optimize keywords and local focus: Using keywords and location correctly allows Google to understand what keywords to associate your business with. Make sure you use the right words when describing what you offer or when adding content to your business account. Whether you are in San Diego, CA, or New York, NY, relating with your customers and identifying unique lingo can help better connect you with your audience.
  • Local or toll free phone number: Having a local phone number will always surpass toll free numbers. There’s a higher possibility of your listing ranking higher if you have a local area code number compared to a roll free number.
  • NAP (Name, Address, Phone number): Implementing consistent NAP across your websites and all citations is extremely important.
  • Get more reviews: The more reviews a business listing has, the more trustworthy it is to search engines. Put in place measures to attract 5-star reviews on an ongoing basis.
  • Engage your reviewers: A conversation on a business listing makes the business more authentic. To rank higher in SERPs, make sure you respond to both positive and negative reviews in a timely manner.

Training your Staff to Solicit Reviews

Staff Training

Assisted living is a unique form of business that greatly relies on employee-client interaction. Unlike many other businesses, assisted living businesses operate in such a way that your employees will be in contact with either your customer or their relatives and friends frequently. This provides a great opportunity for employees to request reviews. However, it is important to remember sites such as Yelp discourage asking for reviews, so your employees need be trained on how to properly and professionally solicit reviews.

Here are a few suggestions:

For Google My Business and other sites with Open Policy:

Google My Business and a lot of other citation sites do not discourage asking for reviews. Train your employees to ask for reviews in response to praise or when they feel that the customer is satisfied with the services offered. This is important because satisfied customers are more likely to write a review than those who are not. It is also important to train your staff to ask for reviews in a polite way.

For Yelp:

If you mainly use Yelp, then you know that the site has an aggressive filtering mechanism that will filter out any review it considers to be fake or unuseful. For this reason, you have to train your employees to do more than just ask for reviews.

The perfect way to get good, useful reviews on your Yelp account is to train your employees to create conversation opportunities with clients or their kin. This will allow your employees to bring up the issues of reviews without asking directly for them. In addition, your employees can find out more important information such as if the client uses the platform, where they live and what they think about your business.  

This can create an opportunity for your employees to explain more about the reviewing process so that the customer leaves an effective review. Remember, the conversation does not have to be face-to-face. Sometimes assisted living offers your employees an opportunity to develop a long lasting relationship with your customers and their family, meaning that using a phone call or an email may not be far-fetched.

Handling Negative Reviews

Negative reviews are not uncommon. At some point during the life of your business, you will get a negative review, but don’t panic. When you see a negative review on your business, take your time to read through the negative comments carefully to understand exactly what the customer is upset about. If the customer raises concerns about the services you offer or one of your employees, take time to research the case and come to a solid conclusion.

Once you have a clear picture of what lead to the negative review, you can compose yourself and accurately respond to the review.

In case the mistake was on your part (either done by your employees or just some form of misunderstanding), start by apologizing to the customer for their bad experience. Take responsibility for the mistake leading to the bad experience and offer some form of redress.   Even if the bad experience was not your fault and instead was the result of some other factor, it is still great to start by apologizing to the customer for their bad experience and explain the situation without blaming anyone. This will show the customer and others reading the review that you care about your customers and are always willing to help.

Yelp and the Lawsuits

Yelp Lawsuits

Yelp has been dodging lawsuit legal battles for many years now and things don’t seem to be slowing down. This can be of concern to you and other businesses trying to use the site for local SEO. It is important to note that many of the lawsuits brought up against the platform are by businesses that feel certain customers were unfair to them by giving them a bad review.

Most of these lawsuits have been thrown out, although there are a number of instances where the reviewer has been ordered to remove a review that has been proven to damage a business. The truth is the law does not consider Yelp the author of posts on its platform and therefore does not hold them accountable. However, these cases provide leeway to businesses in case of malicious reviews that are intended to harm their businesses.

It is also important to note that a number of these lawsuits have helped make the platform better. For example, in 2010, a group of businesses filed a case against Yelp’s ad sale practices that they claimed were a form of extortion. Yelp won an appeal but the firm stopped giving advertisers the option of re-prioritizing reviews. This leveled the playing field for everyone.

In the recent past, a number of reviewers have been sued by businesses for giving negative reviews on the platform. This could have a negative impact on reviewers who may fear that giving an honest opinion may lead to a legal battle. However, Yelp responds by flagging businesses that sue to inform the community. Other internet firms such as Facebook and Microsoft have also voiced their concerns that ruling in favor of businesses that sue could impede on people’s freedom of speech.

Local Citations

Local citations are online sites where businesses are listed for customers to find them. Generally, a local citation can be a website, a business directory, a social platform or even an app. These citations help customers find more information about local businesses they are interested in and influence local SEO rankings for the listed businesses.

Components of a Listing on a local citation

When you list your business on a local citation, you should provide important information that will help your customers find your business. The most important information a local citation should have includes:

  • The name of your business
  • The physical address of your business
  • Contact information (phone number and email address)
  • Business category
  • Business description
  • Operation hours
  • Driving directions to your physical location
  • Reviews
  • Social media links
  • Your services and products in photos/videos
  • Any other information you think will help your customers

Local Citations Examples

There are many local citations where you can get your business listed. Some of the most important local citations include:

  • Google My Business
  • Yelp
  • Facebook
  • Bing
  • Apple Maps
  • Localeze
  • Foursquare
  • Acxiom

Industry-specific local citations for assisted living businesses include:

Reputation Management Software

Reputation management software allows you to monitor online reviews on a number of platforms and address issues in real time. When you use online reviews for local SEO for your assisted living business, it is important that you consider investing in reputation management software like BirdEye

The software will help capture negative reviews in real time so you can quickly address the reviews before they affect your business. The software will also capture a lot of other important data such as how many reviews you receive, which citation site is performing best and what marketing efforts bring in the most results. This will put you in a position to plan your marketing activities in order to achieve the best results for your business.

Below is a list of the top reputation management software:


Local SEO is one of the most important ways of marketing assisted living businesses online. Unlike other commercial entities, assisted living businesses rely on reputation to pull in residents. Use of reviews gives you an opportunity to build the reputation of your business online while at the same time increasing the reach of your business through an improved SEO ranking.

This article has outlined a number of important steps to take to maximize the benefits your customer reviews left on online platforms such as Yelp. In addition, it is important to consider listing your business in a number of local citations. These sites not only make your business more easily accessible by potential customers but also help in improving your local SEO rankings.

What strategies do you currently use to attract 5-star reviews? What review platforms do you utilize and what has been your experience with Yelp? Be sure to leave your comments below.

For professional help with your Local SEO and attracting new reviews on a monthly basis, contact us today.