Local Review Success Hits Speed Bump

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You know I’m a supporter of the local review sites like Yelp! and City Search, but some small business owners have issues with the format. Here’s the dilemma, consumers do seem to like them because they offer an easy way to get some input on a business. Business owners take issue because they sometimes get bad reviews and feel they have little or no control over what’s said about them.

I’m not going sit here and say these sites are perfect, but I for one think they provide a necessary service and should be looked upon as a business building tool. Too often the only real problem with these sites is they publish the truth and that’s hard to hear. This past week several attorneys filed class action suits against Yelp! claiming that the service is attempting to sell advertising to businesses as a way to help them erase bad reviews. Here’s some coverage on the filed lawsuit and more in the Wall Street Journal

The lawsuit was brought by a vet clinic in the San Fran area called Cats & Dogs Animal Hospital – one look at the reviews on the Cats & Dogs Yelp page and you kind of get the feeling this business has some issues. There are some very good reviews and some very bad reviews. I’ve found these review sites to be very accurately indicative of the health of a business. I suppose this is a good time to remind business owners to be proactive in getting their loyal fans to start the good review trend!

Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman had this to say about what he’s called the conspiracy theory. I did some further searching and found one attorney who thinks the Yelp! suit will get tossed quickly.

Or consider this from industry analyst Greg Sterling
“The allegations above must be proven with evidence. As I’ve said before I’m skeptical that there was any “quid pro quo” or pattern accordingly. But the depositions in this case — and there will have to be many — will start to establish whether there is any meat to these claims or whether it’s just frustration boiling over together with some opportunistic attorneys who may have solicited the action after reading the negative press coverage and wondering if there was a viable lawsuit in the making.”

I have no idea whether any of these allegations have merit, but I’ve witnessed how much effort Yelp puts into giving business owners a voice on Yelp and I for one think this shows how authentic their attempt to put out a balanced and necessary offering is.


Tags

City Search, Yelp


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  1. While I believe the class-action has no merit and will be thrown out, I do have serious questions about the methods Yelp uses to eliminate the “planted” reviews. Are the algorithms more concerned with “false positives” or “false negatives”? If there is any bias (real or perceived) in the types of reviews that can be eliminated, Yelp can face a credibility issue.

    Until it is proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Yelp is intentionally biasing their reviews, businesses should do everything possible to embrace the service and learn how they can improve.

    1. I think that’s the real point – in some ways this is simply a measure of how you can improve – no matter what Yelp is tweaking or not, I find the reviews to be mostly accurate.

  2. While I believe the class-action has no merit and will be thrown out, I do have serious questions about the methods Yelp uses to eliminate the “planted” reviews. Are the algorithms more concerned with “false positives” or “false negatives”? If there is any bias (real or perceived) in the types of reviews that can be eliminated, Yelp can face a credibility issue.

    Until it is proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Yelp is intentionally biasing their reviews, businesses should do everything possible to embrace the service and learn how they can improve.

  3. I think that's the real point – in some ways this is simply a measure of how you can improve – no matter what Yelp is tweaking or not, I find the reviews to be mostly accurate.

  4. Great point, “are the algorithms more concerned with false positives or false negitives?” Yelp has a credibility issue when they only delete positive reviews.

    For my company, we recently had over 10 positive reviews deleted. All of the reviews were from B2B customers who had used our services, (we have invoices to prove it) loved us, and said so. Because they belong to the local chamber of commerce, and so do we, their reviews are disallowed. So we can market, as long as we do only use Yelp?

    Yelp is pretty certain that individuals reviews are better than reviews from the [email protected] buyer. That is the crux of their problem, IMHO.

  5. John,
    Try to write a review of Yelp, to see what kind of customer service they provide to advertisers. If Yelp were reviewed the way other businesses are reviewed it would not be pretty.

    Yelp reviews may work for B2C businesses, but it is lacking when it comes to B2B land.

  6. Great point, “are the algorithms more concerned with false positives or false negitives?” Yelp has a credibility issue when they only delete positive reviews.

    For my company, we recently had over 10 positive reviews deleted. All of the reviews were from B2B customers who had used our services, (we have invoices to prove it) loved us, and said so. Because they belong to the local chamber of commerce, and so do we, their reviews are disallowed. So we can market, as long as we do only use Yelp?

    Yelp is pretty certain that individuals reviews are better than reviews from the [email protected] buyer. That is the crux of their problem, IMHO.

  7. John,
    Try to write a review of Yelp, to see what kind of customer service they provide to advertisers. If Yelp were reviewed the way other businesses are reviewed it would not be pretty.

    Yelp reviews may work for B2C businesses, but it is lacking when it comes to B2B land.

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  9. Insightum Ltd (http://www.insightum.fi) is a Business Coaching Company. We want to help our customers to increase the Finnish asiantuntijatyon management and productivity. Our product range includes a means of Business Coaching in different forms, and team coaching and organization development-related consulting. Our business foundation is a firm belief of our customers the ability to develop in their respective fields huipuiksi!

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