Is Yelp Deleting Bad Reviews For Money? I Have No Idea

18 Comments 10.23.09

I’ve had this story about Yelp allegedly removing bad reviews for advertisers on my mind a lot lately and after Twittering about it today I got to talk to Yelp HQ on the phone. They promise they do no such thing. Do I believe them? I have no idea; I’m going to put “can I trust Yelp?” in the same category as other questions like “is there a God?” and “can Democrats be trusted to make the world a better place?” Questions that cannot be answered, I think.

Yelp’s argument is that advertisers get to put an ad, a positive review of their choice, on the top of their pages – and that confuses people. They are also very pro-active about deleting reviews they suspect may be fake.

I know people get confused about online advertising. How else would Google be making so many billions of dollars? In clinical tests people are unable to identify paid vs. natural search results. When asked “how could it be made clearer?” they say things like “put them on the side of the page, put the word ‘sponsored’ near them or put them in a colored box.” All things that Google does in fact do. People just don’t notice.

It’s an unprovable, un-disproval allegation ultimately. Would it be crazy for Yelp to do something that would so damage their credibility? It would if it could be proven. It might not if it couldn’t be proven.

For now I’ll just appreciate the positive and negative reviews I see on Yelp and I’ll check the review history of people I see posting there. And sometimes I’ll just make up my own mind after patronizing businesses.

I’d love to see Consumer Reports do a comparative review of Yelp, CitySearch and others. I told Yelp that, too.


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  • rick

    Well, I guess my reaction after reading the east bay link you tweeted is that, at the very least, they’re pitching their ads that way. Can we KNOW? No. But either they are doing what some claim or a LOT of people are getting calls that make it sound very much like that. I guess we could know if one of the merchants who’s been called simply taped the call (not sure if that’s legal in CA, it is where I live). I mean, if you get a call from Yelp and they say “We can make the bad reviews go away for $299 a month” in those words and you have it on tape…. it’s not a matter of opinion anymore.

  • Marshall

    Yeah, you know how many small business owners hate Yelp though? It’s a really tough call from the outside.

  • mainlandheathen

    Yelp has to be the biggest trash site on the web. It is usually a very cliquish site withing the city you Yelp in. I placed hundred of reviews and pictures on Yelp and kept getting repeatly banned for what seemed like no reason. All Yelp support would tell me was due to multiple accounts. Which I only had one account going at a time and would start up a new Yelp account when they deleted the previous one. Edgar from Yelp in email told me I am banned from Yelp for life. They now have my ISP blocked out. Yelp is RETARDED and the RAG of the internet!

  • http://jamtoday.org James

    This allegation could be proven/disproven. A third party would just need to keep track of which reviews get deleted, and then check for correlations between bad reviews and review deletions.

  • http://www.lunchwithtony.com Tony Santos

    Declined Yelp advertising last week & was waiting…just waiting…for the other shoe to drop. One of my early positive reviews turned up missing today. Ugh. What to do??

  • Kathleen Wentz

    I’m the reporter who wrote the original story (I’ve since changed my name). I wanted to point out my follow-up story (http://www.eastbayexpress.com/news/yelp_extortion_allegations_stack_up/Content?oid=946025) as I continue to get phone calls and emails from business owners alleging similar experiences (offers to remove negative reviews if they advertise, positive reviews removed when they refuse, negative ones appear). There’s also the issue of Yelp sales reps saying they’ll be more responsive to a business owner’s complaint of a negative, false review if they advertise. If they don’t advertise, they say it’s nearly impossible for them to get a response from Yelp staff. Yelp reps apparently also promise more positive reviews of a business if you’re an advertiser. So it’s a question not only of whether reps tinker with existing reviews, but also how reviews are generated in the first place.

  • http://www.pkartandfloraldesign.com Pam

    I had talk to a client and she mention that she had wrote a review for our business back in 2007. We do not know anything about it and it never show on our page. We decide to do a member search on yelp and found the review. More than 5 reviews of 5 stars is missing from our page now.
    Example of the review that doesn’t show on our page.
    PK Art and Floral Design

    Categories: Florists, Cards & Stationery
    Neighborhood: Nob Hill
    5 star rating
    2/18/2007
    I have worked with Pam at PK Art and Floral for a couple of years now on large corporate events. Her work is of a very high standard. She creates beautiful and innovative designs and always manages to impress. Plus her and her team are very personable and efficient. I recommend no other florist for my clients and highly recommend her to you.

    Michelle H.

  • http://www.yelpscam.com Ed Pollock

    I suggest that every business in the Bay Area read the complete story,newspapers, TV,Magazines that have tried to show the alledged extortion being done by YELP ,,,go …www.Yelpscam.com ..join with us.

  • danielle

    it’s not just an issue of whether or not bad reviews are deleted. Yelp has a system of leveraging good and bad reviews. one of my best friends told me her girlfriend called her pretty upset, saying that Yelp contacted her by phone, and that they would not publish the best reviews to the top of the reviews page unless they paid her (i think) $200/month. it was a nominal amount that they were requesting in order to push up the good reviews. they are definitely participating in extortion. but it is their site, and they’re not doing anything illegal. shady…HELL YES.

  • danielle

    TYPO (above): sorry, i meant, Yelp would not publish her best reviews unless SHE paid them. sorry for the 2nd comment

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  • Natalie

    I have had the experience of having good reviews removed. I signed up for Yelp last week and emailed my clients letting them know they could review me if they wanted to. I got 5 excellent reviews, however Yelp removed 4 of them – I assume because they were all posted in the same week by users who they did not consider “established”. I can see where they are coming from (trying to prevent fake reviews) however I feel like my clients are being penalized just because they don’t review every business in town. And I feel like potential clients are not being given the full story, good or bad I want them to see all of my reviews. (Note: the reviews are still visible on the user’s profile, just not my business profile) I am considering adding a “reviews” tab on my website and re-posting all my Yelp reviews there. Just have to check with my lawyer first – I don’t trust Yelp not to try and take down my website! :)

  • http://www.a1garagedoorservice.com A1 Garage Door

    I’ve had good and bad reviews come and go on my profile on Yelp:
    http://www.yelp.com/biz/a-1-garage-door-service-torrance

    Looking up their FAQ about missing reviews mentions that the reviews stay in the system, but don’t always stick to the business profile. From what I can tell, Yelp will remove a review from your profile if the member has not been “established.” For example, if there is only one review and the member just signed up but never logs on again (or infrequently logs on)… or if they don’t have friends on the network… or if they don’t use the various member tools available to them. This makes sense to me in that they want to discourage false reviews, while giving more weight to member accounts who have more of a presence in their network and put up reviews for businesses.

    I am fortunate that all our customers’ reviews have been positive – it’s just too bad not all of those ones stick!

  • http://www.scorpiodjs.com Edward Daniels

    I’m having the worst of experiences with Yelp. I just checked my account and all reviews, except for 1, has been removed. I’ve had reviews come and go over the past few years and still have yet to get a clear answer from them as to why this is the case. VERY odd service!

  • Megmonty

    Had over 11 reviews. We asked our customers to go review us there and many did so in a short time. Guess it looks suspicious to them that so many were post in a 1-2 week time frame. Then it went down to 4, up to 5 and now there is only one there. They were all legitimate too. I feel like a jerk asking our good customers to take time out of their day to review us only to have it go missing on them. I understand the need to keep it legit, but if they are going to remove them, they can’t do it because they THIMK it’s fake – what about verification? That is very subjective. They should put a system in place to verify such as an emial that they have to click on a link to confirm or provide a phone number and a customer service rep calls to verify that really is the person.

  • Mr Simon

    yelp is worthless
    I am sure their advertisers can have negative reviews
    removed because of their ‘filtering process’. The system
    is simply fixed.

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