The BBB Vs Yelp – Reviews and Complaints


In today’s internet marketing game, if “Content is King” as Matt Cutts has been attributed as saying, then reviews are the King’s snarky half-brother lurking over in the tower looking down over what should be his kingdom.

Don’t get me wrong, good reviews can do wonders for a company depending on the business and context. Bad reviews however, can be extremely detrimental to one’s financial health. One of my clients and several friends have had the unfortunate “opportunity” of dealing with this fact as business owners. The two monsters when it comes to consumer-respected, online business reviews are Yelp and the long-running, non-profit, Better Business Bureau.

Just for fun, I decided I’d look to see if by chance there were reviews of one on the other’s site and sure enough:

The San Diego BBB on –

The San Francisco Yelp on –

Surprisingly, there is no rating for Yelp on the BBB’s site. I would really like to know how or why this is the case. They state on their rating overview page “In some cases, BBB will not grade the business (indicated by an NR, or “No Rating”) for reasons that include insufficient information about a business or ongoing review/update of the business’ file.” So maybe simply because there are so many complaints continuously streaming in, and yelp has replied to every single one of the 1,500+ complaints, they have not had the time to give them an A through F rating?

I should point out there is one major difference between these two companies. The BBB ONLY takes complaints and other discrepancies into account when grading a company. They do not accept praise or accolades for businesses and their actions. Whereas Yelp is neutral and posts whatever a consumer thinks about a company.

One of the things they have in common is that they both allow companies to address the complaints made against them. However, unless you are a BBB accredited member or have a Yelp Enhanced Profile you will never know that you have received complaints against your company unless you go on and search for them.

If you are a paying member of these clubs, you get notified immediately of the complaints and an opportunity to address the issue.

With the BBB your dispute to the complaint resolves the issue and you retain your good rating. If you fail to respond in a timely manner however, it will immediately bring down your grade until you address the claim.

Yelp allows you to reply to the review, however it does not affect your star rating in the least. If you have an Enhanced Profile, you do not get any control over the ratings or reviews shown, but you can remove “competitor’s ads” on your profile page which I guess would be good, but doesn’t really help out in terms of reviews or search results.

SERP Impact of Yelp! and the BBB

Of these two sites, Yelp is by far more prominent on most Search Engine Result Pages. However, does show up too, depending on just how specific your search is. For example, a general search for “haircut santa monica” (an example I have seen others use) gives a search result page where the first 7 of the first page listings are all dynamic-content Yelp pages.

Now, if you search for something specific like a company name and the word “review” you will see a variety of results and if they have been around a while, you should see a listing. For instance, if you search “fastfloors review” the BBB comes in at #6.

So does it matter at all? Who cares about the BBB anyway? Well, it really comes down to knowing your customer and your product. If you have a large ticket item, you’ll probably want to protect your business reputation a little more thoroughly as those customers will likely be a little more detailed in their decision process. However, if you’re selling a $2 widget solely online, you would probably be fine with ignoring both Yelp and the BBB.

If you’re a local restaurant, you’ll want to go over that Yelp page thoroughly and frequently, but you probably can let the BBB complainers go kick rocks since they really are not as socially relevant.

This post was just inspired by a simple question I had after a client found out their BBB rating dropped from an A+ to an F in less than a month because they failed to respond to 2 complaints. They were wondering why the phone stopped ringing and they were selling drop-shipped home goods ranging from $900 to $90,000 nation-wide. They had received a couple phone calls over the previous weeks from the BBB and were just too busy at the moment and failed to call back. Finally one potential customer who had been looking at making a $30,000 purchase said he saw they had an F on and that was all it took, they lost that sale.