Keith Theisen, a dealer consultant with Cox Automotive, said Yelp's filtering software has been causing issues for dealerships for the past few years. The main problem is that customers visit dealerships much less frequently than restaurants or other stores, causing the software to automatically filter out many reviews written for dealerships.
Some of the stores Theisen works with will have tens, maybe hundreds of recommended reviews on Yelp, compared with thousands on sites such as DealerRater and Cars.com, which have different filtering parameters.
"Yelp's algorithm is set up to highlight those people who go out to eat and stay at hotels regularly, not those who buy a car once every three to five years," Theisen said.
Dealerships don't have the luxury of ignoring their reputation on Yelp and other review sites — 68 percent of consumers trust opinions posted online, according to Nielsen. On some search platforms, such as Apple's Siri, Yelp reviews are listed prominently when searching for a business.
Unless Yelp changes its filter policy, there's little dealers can do to make sure reviews, positive or negative, stay on the site.
"I don't know how to fix it," Theisen said.
As for Stevens Creek Subaru, Bakhtiari said the store is diversifying its online efforts, building its reputation on other review sites and social media platforms. "We invested a lot with Yelp," he said. "To put all your eggs in one basket, we found out, can be harmful."