Yelp , if you don’t know, is an online review service that enables customers to rate and comment on the businesses they frequent. Whether it’s a hair dresser, veterinarian, gas station or golf club, Yelp lets you rant or rave about it and rate it with stars. It’s like a cross between a Zagats review of a restaurant and a Google search of a local business. The best of both worlds.
Yelp makes its money from advertising revenue that local businesses place to advertise their businesses within search results and payments to have more features and capabilities in their business listings.
However in recent weeks there’s been some bad press about Yelp, in particular reporting on law suits that claim that Yelp sales reps have taken down positive reviews of local business who do not sign up for Yelp’s advertising packages.
I spoke at length to Luther Lowe, Yelp’s small business outreach coordinator who explained why these allegations are false and mainly due to a lack of understanding about Yelp, on the part of the businesses suing Yelp.
First of all only a small group of people have the power to remove removes. That power, Luther explained does not rest with any sales people.
The power of Yelp, similar to Google’s good search engine, is that it uses a variety of algorithms and/or artificial intelligence to ensure that all the reviews entered into Yelp are as fair and accurate as possible.
If the quality of the reviews in Yelp is not good, the entire system of reviews cannot be trusted. For example, why does Google work so hard to ensure that web site owners are not ‘gaming the search engine’? Because when you search for a keyword, the better and more pure Google’s search indexes are, the more accurate and better the search results will be.
Turning back to Yelp, let’s say a business owner pays 100 interns to type positive reviews into Yelp. How can consumers, looking for information on this business get honest information about the business? Imagine if this is done (gaming the system) by hundreds or thousands of Yelp reviewers?
So Yelp has a review filter that daily ensures, as best it can that all reviews are as honest and accurate as possible.
Luther explained that sometimes reviews (both “good” and “bad”) are taken down. NOT as retribution for a local business not buying an advertising package, but due to whatever reason the algorithm decided.
There’s two areas where reviews live on Yelp: All reviews a user enters will stay on the individual users page. But not all reviews will be posted to the page of the business getting the review – this is where the filter comes in, to determine what goes on the businesses page and what does not (but stays on the user’s page).
Established users, with a proven track record are one source of reviews, which are given priority by Yelp. Reviews by new users or not established users are looked at a bit more harshly, is how I understand Yelp’s review system to work.
So the next time your looking to know how great (or how bad) a business is, check out Yelp and know the reviews are as accurate as possible.