The Truth or Yelp! Reviews, Is Yelp! The Mafia Of The Internet?

Yelp! has become a household name, and Yelp! Reviews are a great way to grow your business, according to Yelp!. But is it true? More importantly are Yelp! reviews true and accurate and do people really care?

On Yelp!’s site it says “Your Trust Is Our Top Concern, Businesses Can’t Pay To Remove Reviews.” But at the same time Yelp! can filter reviews all day long. The question is who’s reviews do they filter and why. Yelp! gives a long explanation about filtering friends and family. The truth is a good business should be doing business with it’s friends and family first. After all if they don’t trust you, why should I?

After having several of my reviews “filtered” I started looking into it. My one, two and three star ratings are never filtered, and my four and five star are always filtered. Interesting to say the least.

When I bought my home, it was a foreclosure. The guy getting kicked out used no care whatsoever and did a lot of sheetrock damage. I used it to my advantage, called a plumber and added a gas line to my kitchen and laundry room. The first two bids for the repairs where stupid high. Did I check Yelp!? Nope, Until now I mostly used Yelp! for restaurants. I asked a neighbor. He recommended DelPozo Drywall. I called, Ed showed up, gave me a good price and fixed everything.

Of course when he asked if I could review him on Yelp! I did. Filtered.

I started going through all of my reviews, and then looking at lots of people, trying to see exactly what Yelp!’s Automated Software “to recommend the reviews we think will be the most helpful to the Yelp community based primarily on quality, reliability and the reviewer’s activity on Yelp.”

Yelp! goes on to say “Advertisers get no special treatment.” At first I wasn’t buying it. After a review of several businesses the staff at BeachStreetNews uses regularly we found a common thread. One star review seem to get through more with companies that don’t advertise, and Five Star reviews tend to get approved more by those that do. But we also noted some other anomalies that could cause the trend.

If the filtering doesn’t change why would any business with less than a 5 star rating pay for ads? Does Yelp! go in and offer business consulting and customer management? Why would anyone pay to show off their one star? The other side of the coin is that any algorithm can be beat. Google has been fighting this for years. Kevin Hamm broke the code and started grabbing websites all over the world, and making a fortune by getting Google to send people to his pages.

Google has spent years trying to get you to the page you want, and every time Google makes a change, people adapt. For instance, if you want a lawyer, and try and find one on Google, you get an ad service that gets your information and sells the leads to the lawyer. The same is true in Real Estate and dozens of other industries. Those “lead generators” can run the price up for the leads so that the small business owner can’t afford the ad space.

It is the internet version of the middleman.

So what is a business to do when Yelp! is calling for ad money, and not filtering your competitors one star ratings and your best customer’s five star ratings? Here are two different stories, one that sued and one that asked all of it’s customers for one star ratings. Both interesting ideas.

What happened to FourSquare anyway?

Scott Bourquin is the Author of “The Easy Guide To Online Marketing

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