Something very strange is happening to Sierra Aire on Yelp
Something very strange is happening to Sierra Aire on Yelp
First let me say that I truly appreciate all of the support the community has given me and my business over the past 12 years.
I’ve always had flawless 5 star reviews on Yelp, at the time of writing this I have 343 5 star reviews. After Year one of being on Yelp in 2011 I would rank in the top 3 companies. I maintained this high ranking consistently as the algorithm seemed to prioritize showing companies with the best reviews. For years Yelp seemed to reward meritocracy. Then something changed about 2 years ago and my business has not been the same since. I called Yelp multiple times to understand what happened and the representatives have acknowledged they couldn't find me when doing a keyword search. They would always say they would try and get more info but then there would always be crickets. I believe there is a coordinated attack on my business in particular and if you continue to read I will tell you what makes me draw that conclusion.
I’ve always wanted my business to be completely different from any other HVAC Business. The average HVAC new install cost around $12k-$16k and because of my reputation I get on average 2-6 requests to replace equipment per week. Often in the summer I will get multiple requests per day. This would amount to between 5 and 10 million dollars per year in gross revenue. Most companies think I'm insane for not doing installs but there is a reason I don’t. There seems to me to be an unavoidable conflict of interest in having a company that both repairs units, and at the same time sells new equipment. It’s like going to an auto mechanic that also sells new cars. You go in for an oil change and meanwhile that technician's goal is for you to leave with a new car. Since I only do repairs I avoid this conflict of interest all together and my feeling is that I am enemy #1 for many of my competitors. Let me play out a scenario that happens at least once a week and is more of the norm than some exception. My example I'll use for now is a job I did yesterday 5-9-23. I’m not using the customer's real name, so I will call him John. John calls me Monday morning and wants to get an estimate to replace one of his three hvac units. He has had a company coming out for years to do general maintenance and called them after noticing one of his A/C units wasn’t cooling. The company came out and seemed to think everything was mechanically running and jumped to an early conclusion that the a/c was out of refrigerant as the fan inside was blowing but it wasn't cold and the outside condensing unit was coming on. But the obvious thing that seemed to be missed was the fact that the compressor was not coming on. The unit was then deemed to be not worth repairing and was given an estimate to replace which was in the 10k range. The owner is smart enough to understand you should get multiple bids to replace so he called me and a few other companies. When he called me on monday he wanted me to give him a bid for a new system. I let him know that I only do repairs and MOST of the time I am able to fix units others deem to be beyond repair. So we scheduled an appointment for Tuesday the next day. The next day I am running early for the appointment and let John know I’m on the way. To my surprise when I pulled up to his house there was another HVAC company vehicle in front of his home ( Not his original HVAC company) so I called up John and told him I didn't feel comfortable intruding on another company and I would do another job and come back after. About 2 hours later, I let him know I was on the way and when I came back I noticed another HVAC company in front of his home. At this point I’m honestly amused. So I called up John and he said the other company had already finished up so I figured they were just lingering in front waiting for their next call from the office dispatch. So I did a loop around the neighborhood and came back. Finally it was time to get to work. This is my favorite part of my job, coming in after 3 or so companies that all agree this unit needs to be replaced and none of them even entertained an option to repair. Everyone jumped rite to the conclusion it needed to be replaced. Within 5 minutes it was clear to me that the compressor wasn't coming on. So I check the capacitors. That seems to be working. Next step was to verify if the compressor was getting power. After doing a simple test which any amateur week one out of school tech would do, it was clear that the compressor isn't getting power. So I followed the three wires going into the compressor and found that one of them was damaged and was no longer making a connection. So far the total time spent was about 10 minutes. So I used a compressor wiring repair kit, performed some recommended deferred maintenance services, and had the unit running in a short period of time. Being that I was the only technician to diagnose this system we must ask the question of the other companies that came out. Stupid or Liar? I'll let you draw your own conclusion but remember the outcome for all of the companies including mine for repair VS replace. The repair outcome which was mine cost hundreds and only keeps one tech paid and busy for an hour or so and the replace outcome brings in 10k-20k and keeps the Tech paid for the referral to the salesman, The salesman paid with the commission, the installers paid for the install, the office paid for the scheduling, and the county paid for the permits. Then I come in and take all of that opportunity away. 9 out of 10 times. No wonder I am one of the most hated men in the industry. Again this general scenario plays out at least once a week and if I come out first it is prevented altogether. If I come out first the unit is repaired and there is no reason for the other 3 companies to even come out to give a bid.
Lets thicken the plot so you can see something else that's happening. When I started my business in 2011 it was a real struggle until a customer I found from advertising on Craigslist put me on Yelp and gave me my first 5 star review. Then Yelp contacted me shortly after about advertising and I figured I'd give them a try and started paying them about $300 a month for advertising. Within about a year I had many 5 star reviews on Yelp and had started to rank very well. After a couple of years I had many more all 5 star reviews which the algorithm at the time loved and I was consistently #1 on Yelp when you would search for keywords like a/c repair, air conditioner repair, and furnace repair. Because I was number one on yelp I would get tons of new customers a day calling. Because there were only so many hours in the day I knew I could help way more people by just focusing on repairs and this business model could really work for me. Overall most if not all companies in the area could not adopt this business model of only doing repairs as their structure does not allow for it. For example why would you need a warehouse and installers if you only do repairs. Because I was number one on Yelp (one of the most used sites to find a HVAC repair company) many people called me first before they called other companies. So when I come out first, the scenario I played out before of multiple companies coming out to do bids which would lead to one of them replacing the system would never have the opportunity to take place. So as years go by, I get more 5 star reviews, and I maintain a very high ranking as why would an algorithm on Yelp show you a company with worse average reviews above a company with flawless reviews.
For years I only had good things to say about Yelp. Then about two years ago when something very strange happened. Every so often I would search for myself to see If I was still in the top 1-3 ranking and I couldn't find my business when searching for keywords like furnace repair or A/C repair in Sacramento under the default search of recommended businesses. So I would search for my business name Sierra Aire in Sacramento and there I was. Everything looked normal, still all 5 star reviews. But people don't often search by name, they typically search by keyword so I changed the Sort category from Recommended to Highest rated and could not find my business. Before this period in time I would always rank but not any more. Try it, search keyword a/c repair in the city of Sacramento and see what comes up under the natural search. I currently see in the top 3 spots companies with 52, 57, and 6 reviews. Meanwhile my company has over 300 5 star reviews and is nowhere to be found. Am I missing something? Am I misunderstanding the definition of highest rated? So I change the sort category again to Most reviewed, keyword a/c repair in the city of Sacramento surely I will show up somewhere here having 343 5 star reviews as of 5-11-23. The first company has 703 reviews and the second company has 201 reviews. Keep going down the list again and I am nowhere to be found. I have called Yelp and they have no explanation or remedy. There seems to be some sort of coordinated attack on my business where I am left in the dark as to why I don't come up on the searches anymore and It's been devastating for my business. A night and day difference in the amount of calls I get. If you found this read interesting and have any advice let me know. You can call me at 916-671-5542 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org..