Quantcast

Yelp: Consumers, On Average, Can Rely On Our Content

Get the WebProNews Newsletter:
Yelp: Consumers, On Average, Can Rely On Our Content
[ Business]

At the LeWeb conference in London this week, Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman took to the stage to discuss his business with host Loic Le Meur. Inevitably, the topic of fake reviews and the Review Filter came up. This has been a bit of a controversial feature for businesses with some accusing Yelp of hiding positive reviews with the filter as a move to get the businesses to advertise. Though Yelp addressed such accusations in a recent blog post, Stoppelman didn’t get into that aspect of it here, and surprisingly nobody asked about it in the Q&A.

Are Yelp reviews a reliable source of information for consumers in your opinion? Tell us what you think.

“Fake reviews [are] a constant battle,” said Stoppelman. “It’s something that we’ve faced from literally day one. Within a couple weeks of launching the site, we saw our first fake reviews. My co-founder and I knew immediately that we were going to have to solve this. So we set about finding an algorithmic solution, much like Google, and we call it the Review Filter. What it does is it looks at patterns of behavior on the site, and tries to decide as accurately as possible which reviews really can be relied on by consumers in the community and which we’re unsure about, we should set aside. And so on every business page, at the bottom, there’s a little link that says how many reviews have been filtered, and you can go follow that link, and see what we’ve taken off of that page. I think that’s been one of our, frankly, keys to success is that consumers, on average, can rely on the content they see on Yelp.”

Stoppelman continued, “We’re going to do our best to identify those strange patterns, and pull that content down, and so it does…it’s a new thing, and it’s caught businesses off guard because you know, frankly, the world prior to that, you know, sites like CitySearch and so forth, really didn’t spend a lot of time trying to protect against that, and so businesses got into the habit of just ‘Hey, if I want to be five stars, I just need to get enough friends to review me or I need to write enough fake reviews,’ and we’ve made sure that Yelp…you can’t do that. It’s not gonna work.”

Stoppelman told Le Meur that Yelp is ‘disrupting the Yellow Pages”.

“The Yellow Pages world was one of completely pay-to-play,” he said. “So if you had a local business, and you really wanted to be seen, you had to just pay an enormous amount of money, and that was it. Yelp turns that on its head, and actually puts consumers first. And so in our world now, if you’re a great local business, you actually get some exposure for free because your reviews speak for themselves. That’s going to get you some additional eyeballs, so that’s going to turn into some customers. If you want to go beyond that, and actually get some additional traffic, that’s where the advertising model comes in.”

It’s that advertising model that has led some businesses to go so far as to accuse Yelp of extortion, an accusation that the company takes a great deal of offense to.

Businesses have been throwing around such allegations for quite some time, but last month, the discussion came into a greater focus – so much that Yelp felt it needed to take to its corporate blog to defend itself. The post, titled, “No, Yelp Doesn’t ‘Extort’ Small Businesses. See For Yourself,” pointed specifically to a story run by The Washington Post full of businesses alleging wrongdoing on Yelp’s part.

The basic story, according to the report, is that a business gets a bunch of new customers because of reviews on Yelp, then Yelp reaches out to the business to advertise. If it doesn’t advertise, then the positive reviews start disappearing, and only negative or indifferent reviews stay, while the positive ones get buried in the filtered section, which is accessed when a user clicks and enteres a CAPTCHA.

Yelp maintains that advertiser data is not taken into account with the filtered section, but one business in the Washington Post’s story went so far as to say that a Yelp salesperson said they would unfilter filtered reviews if they advertised. The business owner claimed they did some “small scale” advertising, and “magically,” five or six of the filtered reviews became unfiltered.

But nobody has been able to prove any of this, and Yelp says this is all simply false.

But the complaints don’t stop with a few “sensational” (as Yelp calls them) reports. On our own coverage of the story, we’ve seen numerous readers express anger with Yelp.

Either way, users continue to flock to Yelp, and Yelp maintains that it’s generally reliable. Earlier this year, Yelp topped 100 million unique monthly visitors for the first time ,and in May, it revealed that its average uniques grew 43% year-over-year to 102 million, while revenue was up 68% year-over-year.

As a business, do you feel Yelp is presenting consumers with a reliable representation of your business? As a consumer, do think it has been reliable? Let us know in the comments.

Yelp: Consumers, On Average, Can Rely On Our Content
Top Rated White Papers and Resources
  • Andy

    My sister has personally experianced being left ‘!Yelp’less. Soon after they approached her about advertising which she declined/ignored. Her positive feedback began getting filtered out. Luckily she doesn’t have any bad reviews

  • An Honest Business Owner

    On 5/15/2013, a yelp spokesperson, Luther Lowe, wrote an article titled “how yelp protects consumers from fake reviews”.

    He replied to many of the comments and questions that were posted to his article, but he declined to acknowledge or answer the questions that I had posted to him.

    So I have taken on the task of finding recent news articles and reposting my questions on them, hoping that an official yelp spokesperson will answer them, preferably on their official blog:

    Reposted on 5/15/2013
    Reposted on 5/16/2013
    Reposted on 5/17/2013
    Reposted on 5/18/2013
    Reposted on 5/20/2013
    Reposted on 5/22/2013
    Reposted on 5/31/2013
    Reposted on 6/06/2013

    1- why is the “filtered reviews” button placed on the bottom of the page, where its hard to find? Why isn’t it located next to the other menu choices on the top?

    2- Many business owners wrongly think that if they become paying yelp advertisers, that their reviews will become less filtered. Do you think that if the “filtered reviews” button was easier to find, that businesses would be less inclined to pay advertising fees?

    3- Does a yelp salesperson earn commission or bonuses? And if yes, how does yelp monitor what promises or assurances a yelp salesperson gives to a business owner?

    Many companies monitor their sales staff by recording their sales calls, for quality assurance. Does yelp do this, and if it doesn’t, why not?

    My perspective as an honest business owner:

    1- A review filter is needed, otherwise yelp will become useless.

    2- Yelp has been very good for our business, mainly because we have many positive reviews, both filtered and unfiltered. Yelp has brought in a lot of traffic our way, so yelp deserves credit and a personal “thank you” from me. I’m hoping Mr. Lowe can pass this along to his co-workers.

    3- I support free speech of yelpers and non-yelpers alike. Free speech and the right to express oneself is the foundation our country is built upon, and it is protected by law. Yelp provides a tool to express oneself.

    4- Like it or not, yelp and the other online review sites, are here to stay. As a business owner, you can either keep complaining about it, which in my opinion doesn’t change anything, or you can grasp the new reality, and use it to better your products and services.

    • http://www.nikableu.com Kimberly

      I agree with everything except #4. Business owners need to be heard. And if that means “complaining” (and I do not believe attempting to right a wrong is “complaining”, I hope people do not stop.

      There is free speech, and there is slander. Allowing anonymous posts, then taking no responsibility is pretty chicken***t. Even Craigslist makes more of an effort.

      Yelp filters — how do they work? If a business owner sees a bogus review it would be natural on his part to tell clients, who would then post a real and positive review. Does that sudden activity get flagged as not credible then? In the situation I saw recently it certainly seems that way. Is that helpful?

      A business model that can use a lot of improvement should not be the new reality. (And how would grasping it better my products and services?)

      I hope there continues to be an onslaught of backlash until consumers can see what Yelp actually is, warts and all.

      • An Honest Business Owner

        Hi Kimberly, thank you for replying to my posting.

        You had stated that “business owners need to be heard”. Yes, I agree with you. One of the tools that yelp provides is a way to publicly respond from a business owner to the reviewer. If used appropriately, the public response you provide will bring in more business for you.

        Thank you again for your reply.
        An Honest Business Owner

  • R Blair Esquire

    They have never, ever addressed the concern of why the make it so hard for someone to look at the filtered reviews?? Why is the link text so very faint color? Why do you have to enter the captcha code? And what is the percentage of positive versus negative reviews filtered?? I even have Elite Yelpers Positive Reviews being filtered, but a person with no pic,no history on Yelp post’s a negative review and BAMMM it’s on the top of my review list…… But Ohh Yaaa Yelp is legit…… Sure :)

    • http://firstappl.com kihm

      my appliance service recieves nothing but bad review forward and positives filtered. most of the negative im going after in court becauise its mostly bs or a rival company.

  • Nick

    We too… Had NOTHING but Legitimate Positive reviews. we got tons of calls via yelp. The Call we got to start paying and the day all but ONE of our reviews disappeared was less than 10 days apart.

    Now people do not call us because we look like some new untested company.

    If CONSUMERS knew about this practice they would flee Yelp by the MILLIONS. Take your story to the streets and request that ALL of your customers do not waste their time leaving reviews for you on that sad criminal site.

    They must be paying HUGE to keep out of federal courts and Prison.

    • http://www.ArtisticImages.biz Denise

      I make it a point to tell ALL my customers that if they are going to write a review, please write it anywhere BUT yelp because if it’s positive it will just get filtered out and yelp WASTES all my clients time!!!!!!

  • Marco

    The problem could be solved if Yelp required reviewers to identify themselves. A facebook sign in would remedy a majority of Yelps issues.

    • Nick

      apparently you do not know that there are literally MILLIONS of fake Facebook accounts that are used to get around all sorts of security just like you are proposing.

  • Joe

    We have seen this behavior as well. It feels like being held hostage.

    Is there some sort of regulation that would apply to this?

    Is it possible to develop a class action lawsuit that would address this?

  • http://cass-hacks.com Craig

    I TOTALLY believe everything Jeremy Stoppelman says!!!

    Now Jeremy will you FINALLY unblock my positive reviews and remove the obviously fake reviews that don’t even have anything to do with the type of business I operate?

  • Cliff Fisher

    It’s no wonder Yelp is diving on the stock market this site truely sucks I can’t change password The lies it posts can’t be addressed any body with a key board can write crap but the good reveiws are hiden in some secert vault where only a programer can access them I have tried to repair statements made about my business but because of their filtering system that have become unaccessable .they wish to post only negative reports and not interested in the truth.I hope that soon they will all be looking for a real job.Cliff Fisher Electric

  • http://www.abasaoptical.ca shirin

    I had become aware of the “yelp” reviews earlier this year and since found that I had a bad review posted on my business. I have contacted yelp in regards to this matter on several occassions explaining the situation and to find resolution. I am really disturbed with the way that yelp works in accepting untrue reviews and allows them to be posted and where the true reviews are filtered. How can “yelp” and its Ceo”s make a decision of whether it’s true review or false? I thought that this is to help with small businesses and frankly this is not helping me at all with my business. Honestly, I have not asked friends to review on my behalf and these filtered reviews are truly clients/patients that are pleased with our services. The bad review is the vicious,malicious,and untrue review that needed to be investigated and wasn’t. I had this (jo.f) client who needed her eyes vision tested and I had provided that service to her as I was licensed to do so and in providing the service to Jo.f)she had difficulty in seeing with the corrected result in her left eye, I had suggested for her to go to an optometrist for a complete eye exam and refered her to a friend(optometrist)for a health exam as I needed to make sure that she was medically checked for all and any ocular conditionsand inturn I would replace her lenses at no charge if there appeared to be a change in her prescription. Instead of remedeeing the situation with positive results Jo.F decided to contact the registrar of the “Board of Examiners”(regulatory body for optometrists)in Ontario and forwarded the complaint to my regulatory body(College of Opticians in British Columbia). In discussing the issue with both parties the college of opticians had dismissed the case due to jo.f not providing truthful information and she was given 60 days to come up with the information needed to substantiate her complaint but she was unable to meet those demands and therefore the complaint was dismissed. I am very passionate about my business and love to help people with all their vision needs and being in business for 27 years I have never had an issue such as this. I feel that it is unfair for Yelp to allow malicious content to be posted and truthful good reviews to be filtered. jo.f didn’t have nor was diagnosed with severe damage due to the services provided by me and in refering her to an optometrist she delayed the ocular examination at her own free will. What will Yelp do to remedy this? I have spoken to my regulatory body (College of Opticians) in regards to the malicious,and untrue remarks and hopefully I can get my business name clear of this.
    Here’s my response to your article…

    “Either way, users continue to flock to Yelp, and Yelp maintains that it’s generally reliable.”I beg to differ” Earlier this year, Yelp topped 100 million unique monthly visitors for the first time ,and in May, it revealed that its average uniques grew 43% year-over-year to 102 million, while revenue was up 68% year-over-year.”posting false reviews over truthful ones”

    I would really appreciate if yelp would completely remove me from their business reviews so that I don’t have to deal with all the vicious,malicious,damaging reviews that can hurt small businesses. Anybody can place reviews that are not truthful and should the business owner have to each time deal with yelp in finding resolution? Filter/or no filter yelp is not favoured by me and alot of business owners that I connect with.

    • An Honest Business Owner

      Shirin, yes it’s not fair that fake online reviews get posted on your business. I agree with you.

      Do you agree that people tend to want to read the negative reviews first? Its human nature to do so. I myself only read the negative reviews. However, I also look for the type of public response the BO provides in their reply. If you’re savvy, you can use that negative review to your advantage and to help you bring in new business.

      Best of luck,
      Honest Business Owner

    • http://www.ArtisticImages.biz Denise

      The only reason Yelp has reviews is because everyone know’s that the only site they can go to and post false reviews for personal vengence is Yelp! That’s why you don’t see this problem
      anywhere else!

  • http://n/a Mark

    So, how is it that an almost unheard of review verification company like Testimonial Shield has a fake review filter that has been proven to work (I assume this since the FTC is endorsing their system) yet a behemoth like Yelp has a review filter that absolutely sucks?

  • Michelle

    Hey Jeremy-I am trying to decide whether to use Yelp advertising. Your rude, obnoxious, sales rep has been calling me again, every day. Since you are saying in this interview that Yelp reviews are credible, I decided to look at the reviews of Yelp on your own Yelp business page to help me make my decision. Wow – only 3 stars and when I looked at the reviews in the filter area, it looks like your actual star rating would be 2 or less if all the filtered reviews were factored in! It also looks like many of your filtered reviews were deleted because of TOS violations! I wonder why I could never get your (nonexistent) customer service to delete a review from my page that was a BLATANT TOS violation? I even sent your (nonexistent) customer service the email where one of your “protected-consumer-elitists” was asking for a freebie! The good reviews on your Yelp page are mostly from your Elite thanking Yelp for the free parties (AKA compensation), or celebrating their 1000′th review or posting an original love poem to Yelp. The negative reviews are mostly business owners (like me) who have a LOT of negative experiences with your business! Of, course I am interested in what other business owners have to say about their experiences and the value of your advertising. Soooo…based on these reviews, I don’t think I want to do business with your company! You are one of those BAD, BAD, BAD businesses that Yelp is so good at exposing! The good news is, some of my friends are having a great time participating in a Fantasy Yelp League that competes to beat the filter! I also hear that unemployed college students with an Elite status have started a cottage industry on Craigslist and Fivr writing reviews for a fee! At least your company is evolving into something useful! ENTERTAINMENT!

    • http://firstappl.com kihm

      nice hit

  • http://WWW.DAVIDORIENTALRUGS.COM DAVID SHAHAB

    I HAVE 13POSITIVE REVIES FILTERED AND ONE NEGATIVE REVIEW ONLY SHOWING.THIS COMPANY IS YELP AND YOU CAN COUNT ME IN FOR CLASS ACTION
    7133206667
    DAVID

    • http://firstappl.com kihm

      count me in also

    • http://www.ArtisticImages.biz Denise

      Ditto! Been saying that for years! They have filtered out over 16 of my customers positive reviews even if they use Yelp for reviewing others but…they’ll always keep that one negative one showing!! Even if that person doesn’t yelp other business! There is no rhyme or reason to their system except to get you to advertise!

  • Robert

    Car dealers have mastered the art of manipulating Google Reviews.

    There’s only one review site they can’t soil:
    Yelp

  • Kris

    Yelp hides legitimate positive reviews much more than negative reviews. If someone posts a 5 star review and it’s their only review it’s likely to be filtered. However, one star reviews be a person with a single review don’t get treated the same way.

    Yelp is a bogus representation of the quality of a business and has become a dumping ground for people who want to whine and complain without fear of accountability. This can include competitors or people who are mean spirited or otherwise antagonistic to a business.

    The sooner they fail the better.

  • http://firstappl.com kihm

    the problem would be solved if YELP kept their nose out of our business.
    how come there isnt a YELP. Piss off punk

  • http://firstappl.com kihm

    how come we cant YELP YELP.

    • An Honest Business Owner

      Hi Khim,

      Yes you can. Here’s their page:

      http://www.yelp.com/biz/yelp-san-francisco

    • http://www.ArtisticImages.biz Denise

      You can & I did!

    • Michelle

      You can Yelp, Yelp! Have at it!

      http://www.yelp.com/biz/yelp-san-francisco

  • http://www.ArtisticImages.biz Denise

    NOT ON YOUR LIFE! Googe, Yahoo, City Search, Show Me Local and other review sites seem to do a much better job at filtering honest and dishonest reviews. YELP makes NO attempt at all to add honest positive reviews but they do work just fine to add fake reviews that are negative. Why they do this I have no idea but they take no responsibility to ensure that the person writing the fake review was even a customer of the business they are reviewing. That happened to me and I reported them to the BBB. I’m sure they have a lousy rating with the BBB and it is an ACCURATE rating system unlike theirs. My guess is they will go under soon enough. They like to brag that their bigger than Goole LOL…In their dreams! Yelp SUCKS! They just want your hard earned advertising $$$$

    • http://www.ArtisticImages.biz Denise

      I just read this line of Yelp boasting again about themselves!! LOL “Either way, users continue to flock to Yelp, and Yelp maintains that it’s generally reliable” FLOCK, SERIOUSLY?? That’s a joke, I don’t personally know one person who even uses yelp!

  • Tim

    As of now, Jeremy Stoppelman is BANNED from my SF restaurant. I have put a sign on my front door that has his picture, title, and “banned” underneath it.

    If all SF businesses for together and banned JS from their place, he will feel the pain we feel.

  • http://www.graciousstore.com Gracious Store

    It is a shame if business give fake reviews for their brands! Where has integrity and honesty gone to?

    • http://firstappl.com kihm

      Where has integrity and honesty gone to?

      youre joking right? they learned it from politicians, lawyers, and the federal govt. going on for years.

  • http://http/www.animaltrekkings.com michael

    I agree with everything except #4. Business owners need to be heard. And if that means “complaining” (and I do not believe attempting to right a wrong is “complaining”, I hope people do not stop.

    There is free speech, and there is slander. Allowing anonymous posts, then taking no responsibility is pretty chicken***t. Even Craigslist makes more of an effort.

    Yelp filters — how do they work? If a business owner sees a bogus review it would be natural on his part to tell clients, who would then post a real and positive review. Does that sudden activity get flagged as not credible then? In the situation I saw recently it certainly seems that way. Is that helpful?

    A business model that can use a lot of improvement should not be the new reality. (And how would grasping it better my products and services?)

    I hope there continues to be an onslaught of backlash until consumers can see what Yelp actually is, warts and all.www.animaltrekkings.com agree with your services.

    • http://www.showermedia.com tony

      E-bay has it right and they don’t make money off of this part of their business…All purchasers are given a voice…as well as the business. Yelp has no way to authenticate transactions and should be liable since they control the content they allow if reviews are false

  • Crazy Dave

    Jeremy Stoppelman is a very intelligent young man, and he has created a very powerful web site. But with power, comes responsibility. And this will be his eventual downfall.

  • Austin

    I don’t like Jeremy stoppelman. He’s an arrogant axxhole