Online reviews have a huge effect on how potential customers view your business. Whether good or bad, they give anyone researching about your business a good idea what to expect from your products and services. Earning an online review, especially a positive one, can be difficult no matter how great your products and services are, and it can be even more difficult to accumulate a good number of honest, positive reviews.

That’s why many business owners with Yahoo Local listings are distressed by what’s been happening with their old reviews after Yahoo partnered with Yelp. Wall Street Journal reports that several years worth of Yahoo Local reviews are being replaced by new Yelp reviews, and that this has been happening since mid-March this year.

Small business owners who have built a good reputation on Yahoo Local have been complaining about this new development. Dan Tringale, owner of Colonial Hardwood Flooring of Lexington Mass., said that nearly 50 Yahoo reviews for his business got replaced by a single review from Yelp.

“It’s a slap in the face that they took all those reviews down overnight,” Tringale said, adding that “it’s not easy to get 50 great reviews,” and that it’s like Yahoo “just took away six or seven years of hard work.”

Another small business owner, Beverly Ulbrich, said that the change makes “you just feel helpless.” The page for her business, Pooch Coach, previously had about 20 positive reviews, but linking to it now generates an error message. Now the Yahoo page for her business displays a link to 22 “recommended” reviews on Yelp, which resulted in an average rating of 2 and 1/2 stars.

A screenshot of Pooch Coach’s current Yahoo Local listing

Yahoo declined to comment on the plight of specific businesses, but a spokeswoman has said: “We partnered with Yelp, one of the most trusted, relevant sources of consumer business reviews, to provide a richer search experience for Yahoo users. That’s why when Yelp’s reviews are available for U.S. businesses, they will replace Yahoo Local reviews.”

Some business owners have taken screenshots or copied their old Yahoo Local reviews for display on their website, but there’s no way users can verify their authenticity without an actual link to the original reviews on Yahoo Local.

This whole situation is unfair to many business owners who have come to rely on their reviews for building online reputation. As I mentioned repeatedly, it’s never easy to get great reviews. People are more likely to post a review to rant about a negative experience than to rave about a good one. Suddenly deleting comments that have accumulated over the course of a few years without any way to retrieve or archive them is just poor service on Yahoo’s part.

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