Yelp Addresses Ongoing Allegation of Extorting Small Businesses

Posted on Jun 5, 2013

Yelp Addresses Ongoing Allegation of Extorting Small Businesses

Yelp is under attack again, and it’s the same old story. The social review site was recently featured in the Washington Post and The Los Angeles Times regarding a claim that it manipulates reviews and ratings to favor advertisers or punish non-advertisers.

In an effort to clear Yelp’s reputation, Vince Sollitto, Yelp’s vice president of communications and public affairs, wrote in a company blog post, “ Let me be clear: This claim is not – and has never been – true.”

However, many business owners continue to say otherwise. The problem? Good reviews are often filtered while negative reviews are posted in plain sight for the online world to see. The Los Angeles Times reported that many business owners are upset, concerned, or just plain confused about Yelp’s review filter. According to companies that have filed lawsuits against Yelp, sales agents have offered to fix the issue as long as they paid for advertising on the site.

Nevertheless, Yelp continues to deny these claims. According to the blog, there are three reasons why this claim is not true: 1) Independent research by Harvard Business School and Yale professors has not found a connection between advertising and Yelp’s filter system. 2) The courts continue to dismiss the claims. 3) A Google search reveals that a simple Google search reveals that there are plenty of non-advertisers with four and five-star ratings.

While Yelp has received a lot of criticism for its filters, it has also been a blessing to many businesses. A Harvard Business School study conducted in 2011 on the impact of consumer reviews on the restaurant industry found that a “one-star increase in Yelp rating leads to a 5-9 percent increase in revenue.” The study also found that customers prefer ratings with a higher number of reviews and whether the reviews are written by “elite” reviewers.

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