Yelp to Small Business Owners: How’s This? Is This Better?

In a move to quell some of the controversy swirling around it of late, Yelp, the user-generated review site, is making some changes effective today. For starters, businesses who spend advertising dollars with Yelp will no longer be able to post their favorite review at the top of the site.

Yelp is also including a link to all of the reviews that its spam filter has weeded out, including because they appear suspiciously favorable or else damning. The idea, of course, is that the site’s visitors can now decide for themselves whether or not the reviews appear legitimate.

Not changing is Yelp’s algorithm, which favors more prolific reviewers, making their feedback more prominent on the site than users who post less frequently. (Too bad.)

As Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman tells the New York Times: “[These changes] will underscore the point that [Yelp] really is and has always been a level playing field for businesses, and will showcase the unique challenge we face, in certain situations where it’s obvious businesses are trying to change ratings.”

Given the financial hit the moves are likely to compel, Yelp’s moves seem laudable if a bit late. We’ll soon see whether they go far enough to assuage the several small businesses that have banded together behind a class action lawsuit that accuses Yelp of trying to extort ad dollars from them in return for preferential treatment.

For more on the story, see Stoppelman’s blog post, published Monday night at Yelp’s site.


  • Give people two pieces of information about someone they don’t know – one bit of positive news, and one equally negative – and they will more often judge that person more negatively than if you had given them no information at all, or so says the academic research.

  • This is fine, I suppose, but to me doesn’t address Yelp’s main problem. That problem is only users with lots of reviews written actually have their reviews shown. This causes a new user who takes the time to post a review to get discouraged when they see that their first review is buried. And of course it causes the “Yelp Elite” to feel that way. They become fairly powerful critics but without any of the ethical constraints (however effective or ineffective those constraints might be) of traditional paid critics. Thus requesting freebies or special treatment in exchange for a good review is commonplace. Even without requesting anything, simply letting the merchant know your “Elite” status is bound to garner you special treatment that anyone else wouldn’t get.

  • Still sounds like a protection racket, advertise or all we will print are negative reviews. All they are missing is Vito on the street corner.

  • i use yelp for listings only, since they often have places that other sites don’t have. then i go elsewhere for opinions and information. yelp is completely unreliable.

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