Yelp is a company that prides itself in providing “quality online reviews” to consumers on local businesses and companies. However, there are just a few major issues with the “Quality Reviews” Yelp is actually publicly displaying on company profiles.
Yelp uses an Algorithm to avoid fake or faulty reviews, which we agree, is a requirement to succeed as an online review service. The issue is that the Algorithm flat out sucks and it seems like it’s never evolving. Yelp swears by this algorithm and yet from my personal experience with not only my user experience but also my client’s experiences is that Yelp only gets it right maybe 50% of the time. (That’s an extremely generous #)
To give you a better idea of how it works this is quoted directly from the Yelp Blog on regards to how the review filter works.
“Here are 5 important things to understand about the review filter:
1. Reviews that reflect perfectly legitimate experiences are sometimes filtered out by the review filter’s algorithmic processes. We agree this can be frustrating, but it’s the high cost we accept to avoid being a laissez-faire review site that people stop using. Everyone loses when that happens.
2. Reviews are never “deleted” by the review filter; they are always shown on users’ profile pages. The review filter simply syndicates established users’ reviews from their user pages onto business pages. This automated process sometimes creates the perception that reviews are being deleted and re-added over time; what’s actually happening is users are becoming more-or-less established over time.
3. The best word of mouth is organic and unsolicited. As counter-intuitive as it may seem, Yelp discourages business owners from asking people to write reviews about their businesses. It’s tough for an algorithm to tell the difference between a business owner aggressively putting a laptop in front of a client and saying, “Give me 5 stars!” and that same business owner flipping the laptop around and manufacturing a fake 5-star review about themselves.
4. We’re purposely not elaborate about all the variables that go into defining an “established” user, because it’s a Catch-22: the more descriptive we are about what makes an established user, the less effective our filter is at fighting shills and malicious content.
5. Both positive and negative reviews can be affected. This is to protect Car Mechanic A from Car Mechanic B’s writing of malicious 1-star reviews about his competitor. It also protects someone with a toothache from being lured into the wrong dentist’s office based on 25 fake 5-star reviews he wrote himself.” via Yelp’s Blog: http://officialblog.yelp.com/2010/03/yelp-review-filter-explained.html
All that sounds great, if the review filter ACTUALLY worked the way it’s described to work…but it DOESN’T. To give you an example of everything wrong with Yelp I have been a member of Yelp since May 2011. I am a fairly active user with over 90 reviews, a few check-ins, a few comments, friends on the site, and fairly proactive with engaging with other Yelper’s. 100% of my reviews are accurate and I would be able to prove that to any yelp employee, not that they would ever ask. I also have my Facebook account connected to my Yelp profile so Yelp knows (Should Know) I am a real person based around my Facebook activity, but I don’t think the all powerful algorithm has picked up on that yet. (Shaking My Head)
Of my 90 or so reviews I have across Yelp I have found that just about 99% are being filtered for one reason or another based around this “Ground breaking Algorithm” yelp has. This makes me want to not use the site because if they are knocking my credibility as a reviewer, I am going to knock their credibility as a review source to get information about businesses since I know for a fact my reviews are real and accurate. . I mean after all if they are saying my reviews are fake and filtering them (which they are all 100% accurate), they are probably saying the fake reviews from yelpers are real and publishing them.
YELP: Here’s a newsflash there are companies out there who confirm the legitimacy of the reviews whether it be via an algorithm, manual governance, or both. Websites like Angie’s List, Customer Lobby, and even Customer Link all provide ways to post valid reviews that can be examined by actual people instead of just a computer program to determine the legitimacy of a review. They also provide real resolution solutions to make sure the real reviews are published and the fake ones are deleted.
If yelp could incorporate a strategy to work with the businesses to reinforce the idea that all reviews posted are accurate and confirmed, there would be a lot more business owners paying for ads and more yelp users across the map. They need to get rid of the filtered reviews element entirely and implement a working system that distinguishes fake reviews from real reviews and completely delete the ones they find to be fake and publish the ones they know to be accurate.
If yelp wants to stay relevant in the next 12 months they need to tweak their algorithms AND add a manual component into their strategy or they will continue to lose out on revenue. When a client comes to me with questions about Yelp I let them know just how flawed this “State of the Art Review Algorithm” is and let them make up their own minds on whether or not they want to advertise with a company that uses a glitchy program to decide which reviews are published.
I currently have clients who have reviews on their company yelp pages from people who are NOWHERE in the companies CRM. Likewise I have clients who have filtered reviews from people who have a 12 year history of notes in the companies CRM system and yet they are being filtered? UNREAL. You would think Yelp would be interested in this information and want to work with companies to increase the validity of their site and increase sales instead of focusing on new sales and not having any working relationship with the business owners. (Working relationship meaning working together to filter the real and fake reviews)
If yelp took the time to work with the actual companies to determine real reviews from fake reviews, instead of relying on a questionable algorithm they pride themselves on, then they would see more advertisers wanting to buy ad space, but they would also experience user growth. Working with business owners to make sure the accurate reviews are posted (good or bad) adds much more value to their current business model and gives business owners a context to work with to resolve any issues.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Maybe if you sign a 12 month contract with Yelp Advertising you will start to see more positive reviews getting published and not filtered. I have a sneaking suspicion this is the case, but have not seen it firsthand and yelp will deny this to the grave (Which may happen) If you have any input on reviews getting filtered or published based around your advertising programs with Yelp and the dollar amounts you spend we would love to hear you opinion or story in the comment below!
Please give us a call at 520-245-3138 to discuss ways to generate business via Online Review sites that are actually willing to work with company owners and managers to make sure the reviews are ACCURATE and are coming form ACTUAL customers that have done business with you.
The account reps, and employees at yelp are extraordinary people and very helpful in doing everything they can to help you be successful on Yelp. It’s the Yelp business model, policies on how to handle filtered reviews, and the “All so Powerful and Great Algorithm” that will be its downfall. By working directly with consumers and businesses yelp could turn it around.