Yelp Reviews Are About To Appear In A Lot More Places

    July 16, 2014
    Chris Crum
    Comments are off for this post.

Yelp announced some big news late on Tuesday. They’ve increased the call limit on their API to 25,000 per day, and made it easier for developers to use, in addition to opening it up to all developers for free. In other words, anyone who wants to use Yelp data in their apps or website can now do so easily, without cost, and pull enough data to make actual useful Yelp-related features.

For Yelp, this means that it’s likely to see a big increase in the visibility of its content and its ads. For businesses, it means more people than ever are going to be exposed to reviews – positive and negative. Let the fun begin.

Is increased exposure of Yelp reviews good or bad for businesses? Tell us what you think.

Yelp has been pretty protective of its data, and today it has more competitors than ever. This, of course, includes Google, which has pretty much become its sworn enemy. Google used to use Yelp’s (and other sources’) reviews in its product in a way that essentially passed them off as Google’s own. Things have changed on that front, but Yelp still doesn’t think Google plays fair, and recently became an official complainant in a lengthy antitrust probe into the search giant’s business practices.

“I truly fear the landscape for innovation in Europe is infertile, and this is a direct result of the abuses Google has undertaken with its dominant position,” Yep CEO Jeremy Stoppelman told European Commission chief José Manuel Barroso in a letter. “While I laud the important work of your office and Vice-President Kroes in ensuring Europe is able to tap into the economic opportunity that the Internet industry is unleashing, it is my strong belief that such potential cannot be realized unless every possible step is taken to prevent abuse by dominant firms.”

Either way, opening up its API like it is should help Yelp better compete with everyone. It already has a significant brand, and when that and its content are plastered all over the place, that brand is bound to gain significance in consumers’ eyes. Yelp has already been integrated into some key places, including iOS, Mac OS X, Yahoo’s local search results, and the Pebble smartwatch.

“Thousands of companies have used Yelp’s API to build local information into their products and services, giving consumers even more access to great Yelp content, like Yelp review snippets, photos, ratings and business listing information,” says Yelp VP Business & Corporate Development Mike Ghaffary. “Developers have turned to Yelp because of our trusted, high-quality local data, which, through an empirical study, is shown to be more reliable and consistent than other sources of local data.”

Not everybody’s convinced that Yelp’s data is so reliable, but the study Ghaffary refers to is discussed in more detail by the company here. The study was done by Yelp itself, with findings presented back in November. It looked at how Yelp data “stacks up against the competition,” but looked at photos, and not reviews. The company said the reason for this was that not all the sites it looked at have the same concept of reviews, and it needed a measure of content that is comparable across sites. It also looked at business names, addresses, phone numbers, websites, dupes, and locations. Here are the stats:

Yelp director of search Jason Fennell said at the time:

There are a few things of note. First, TripAdvisor and Yellowbook do not have listings in some categories/geographies so they have a smaller set of samples. Second, fewer listings had websites than other types of data. This is at least partly because not all businesses have websites, so the maximum is less than 100%. Finally, one downside of our approach to scoring is that a missing listing gives you credit for not having a duplicate. This flaw in scoring combined with a fairly large number of listings outside of TripAdvisor’s main area of focus—79 Shopping businesses in Dublin, Ireland for example—likely inflate TripAdvisor’s “No Dupes” score.

The high-level story is that in terms of listing data Yelp and Google are closely matched and ahead of the other competition. Google wins out on finding business websites, which isn’t surprising given that crawling the web is part of its core business. On the other hand, Yelp is well ahead of Google in terms of photo content.

Clearly Yelp has some helpful data to offer developers beyond the reviews themselves, which will give them all the more reason to utilize the API, but it’s also going to mean greater access to those controversial reviews, and this is what businesses already critical of Yelp (and there are a lot of them) may be concerned with.

You probably know the story by now. Some businesses think Yelp is sabotaging their listings by burying positive reviews, sometimes accusing them of holding said reviews hostage if they don’t spend advertising dollars. We’ve seen such accusations come up time and time again for years, though nobody’s ever been able to offer any real evidence of this happening.

There is also always the concern about fake reviews. Yelp appears to do its best to weed these out, but just how successful they’ve been is anybody’s guess. Every so often they provide updates about adding consumer alerts for businesses they catch “red-handed,” but there’s no real confirmation that they’re catching all the fake stuff.

There is almost certainly a number of reviews that while not completely fake are misleading at best, or exaggerated by angry customers or people that frankly don’t really know what they’re talking about. That’s why celebrity Andrew Zimmern called Yelp reviews “worthless”.

Regardless, they’re about to be much more prevalent throughout the web and mobile app ecosystems, which will probably also lead to more of them being written in the first place – especially now that people can leave reviews from the phones.

Oh, and just so you know, people are trusting the reviews they read online more than ever. A recent study from BrightLocal found not only that people are turing to online reviews for local businesses more and more, but 88% say they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. That’s actually up from 79% last year. Only 13% said they don’t trust reviews as much.

Are you glad to see Yelp’s API open and expanded to any app that wants to take advantage? Let us know in the comments.

  • http://masleyassociates.com/ Greg Masley

    Yelp is horrible for business owners – they on purposely filter out good reviews and only post bad reviews as a form of extortion.

    • http://www.mrtechnique.com/ Mr. Technique

      Greg, I’m not a big Yelp fan anymore, but surprisingly, I have seen Yelp filter out some bad reviews.

  • Demetrios Salpoglou

    Yelp sucks and is a horrible company. The CEO has low morals. Anyone who knowingly and deliberately filters good reviews and hires high pressure sales people devoid of ethics should not be in business. The whole organization is run by people devoid of any ethical fabric.
    Yelp is scum. Has anyone ever seen anyone on the internet defending Yelp? Maybe a fake avatar? If you work at yelp how do you wake up in the morning and go to work? It must wear on you that you work for a company that is more concerned about money than the truth.

  • Michelle

    I will not utilize ANY company that uses Yelp reviews on their site. Yelp extorts – plain and simple and any company that utilizes their reviews and data will be lumped into the same group as Yelp. I think Yelp is doing this to further their extortion muscle. Who are they paying off to receive such protection? Maybe we should all start a crowd funded campaign to raise money to sue Yelp. If I were ever to win the lottery, they would be taken down!

  • i2b

    yelp data sucks they have multiple duplicated listing. they don’t remove old place closed or out of business. it is the hardest company to do business with.

  • paxtin

    Yelp has not helped our business, It filters out all of our good reviews and we feel it is a very biased web site. most of what is said is untrue. They are NOT GOOD FOR OUR BUSINESS.

  • Emily

    Yelp has been a headache for us. We have 30+ filtered reviews that Yelp claims are filtered because the users are not “active” Yelp users. Which is not in fact the case for many of the users so there seems to be no rhyme or reason to their algorithm. 99.9% of those filtered reviews are 5 stars. However, Yelp freely let’s through anything 3 stars or lower – it’s rare, I promise! :) – regardless of whether the user is a first-time reviewer or not. The filtered reviews are legit reviews, from legit customers that take the time out of their day to say something nice about us. It just sucks that no one ever gets to see them. Yelp has been hounding us to partner with them with their advertising services, and as nice as their reps are on the phone, we refuse to devote ad dollars to sending potential customers to a profile that doesn’t accurately reflect the voice of our customer. The reps know this and I feel bad for them because they know what we are going to say each and every time. Yelp just doesn’t seem to get it. Whatever their algorithm is, it needs to be revisited. With all the haters out there, I would have thought they would have caught on by now and thrown us a bone.

    We are the small businesses that they should be listening to, we are the reason they exist. There should be more support and more attention paid to what really matters. And that is getting information to those that are looking for it; their users. And not just information, but quality information that is well-rounded, current and unobstructed. Only posting our reviews from 2011 is not helping Yelp users or providing them with the information they are looking for. Yelp is only hurting themselves… and the people that mean the most to them: small businesses.

  • Unhappy Business Owner

    I have the same problem – we have two negative reviews that show up on our main page, from customers who have given us one star over small details. To me, a one star review equates the worst possible experience – hairs in the food, sloppy and unapologetic service, dirty bathrooms, etc. To Yelpers, one star means that there was a wait.

    Our business is thriving, we grow tremendously year over year and hear glowing feedback from customers on a daily basis. We don’t need Yelp and we are actually turning away business because we are too busy. However I hate having the bad experience of a few show up on the internet. When I ask customers to review us online, they happily oblige, I happily log on, only to find their review has been filtered out. Thanks Yelp.

  • jburkholder

    This is bad for any business. Until Yelp has better methods of controlling what’s posted and how it’s posted and proving the facts. I have a client that someone posted a very negative review, yet the person never had shopped with my client, there was never an order to that person, to their address nowhere to be found. Yelp stated they (the company) had to prove that they (the reviewer) were not a customer. The company stated in writing, from a lawyer, that the person was not a customer, not placed an order and had never done business with the company. That still was not good enough for Yelp. The bad review is still on the page and it’s in the top 4 listed. BUT, Yelp said that if the company advertised they maybe could move it in the filter. Hmmmmm, sounds like extortion to me.

    • Wigan

      Your business must be your copyright surely? If so tell yell to remove all reference from your business as they are breaching YOUR copyright

    • Ms Minority Bus Owner

      Yelp has done the same thing to my business. I am a minority business owner and have proven that the negative review about my business is from an unscrupulous competitive business owner! Not a customer! They will still not remove that horrible review.

  • http://searchsimplicity.com/ Gregory Smith

    Thanks for the update Chris.

  • Dave, small business owner

    Just the name implies a whiner complainer. The sound a dog makes when he gets his paw stepped on because he’s in the way. We have excellent reviews everwhere but Yelp. It’s a place people vent when they’re just pissed of about everything.

  • unfair

    I have some bad reviews that is not my clients, I complain – no result. And Yelp really bad, I reply to some bad reviews, they just remove it. I hope they will close down soon.

  • Tiffany

    Yelp has made a hugely negative effect on my business. I had 3 bad reviews from people who did not succeed because of their own doing, out of the 17 years I’ve been in business; over 20 people posted positive comments and Yelp REMOVED ALL OF THE POSITIVE ONES AS SOON AS THEY WERE POSTED! Then they wanted me to pay big money to get the bad reviews removed. This is blatant extortion and I just cannot understand why no one can do anything about it! Where is the Federal Trade Commission? I have written to them and have heard nothing. Our government is not protecting us from this garbage.

  • Ms Minority Bus Owner

    Yelp is unethical. There is one review regarding my business and I can prove that it is a blatant lie and Yelp will not remove it from my business. Yelp is horrible for business owners. They are quick to post negative reviews, true or not, and will not remove lies put there by unscrupulous competitors!

  • Large Pizza

    YELP is the most ROTTEN BUSINESS in the planet. Extortion racket. Yelp puts negative reviews at the top of a business and then holds them hostage, in some cases starting at $4000 a year or more (they call it advertising).
    YELP is nothing more than a internet racket. Yelp has DESTROYED the reputation of my business and dozens of my customers, are small business owner, who have seen YELP just destroy their business, good reviews sink to the bottom and most rude, nasty (frankly fake reviews stay at the top), AND they follow you every where.
    SO. I stopped advertising with everyone, Google, Yahoo, Superpages, Idearc, YP, we stopped ALL online advertising in protest to YELP!

  • KFrench

    Yelp holds business owners hostage with their “pay for adds or else” attitude. I was never a big fan but then my only super embellished bad review continually stayed at the top of my review list confirmed for me they were awful. I blog about them in a negative way an inform my cutovers NOT to believe what they read on YELP and always house reviews of two or three other review based sights. Several attempts to contact them never worked either.

  • http://www.buildingsocialproof.com/ Bryan Fleming

    From the looks of it in the comments I would say most business owners don’t like Yelp and how they tend to filter (or not filter) reviews.

    does the API change things? Probably not.

    Nice to see they are at least willing to share their review data.