Yelp Outs Review Cheaters!

Yelp Punishes Review Purchasers

As evidence that review sites are threatened by false reviews and are starting to police their content, we have a story from the New York Times.  Yelp depends on consumer critiques; in fact, that is Yelp’s primary value offered to visitors.  So they are concerned when companies try to manipulate their own reviews.  Recently they set up a sting operation and successfully caught eight companies hiring people to write favorable reviews.

What Yelp Did

A Yelp employee posed as an elite Yelp reviewer and sought to be paid for reviewing on Craigslist.  Several companies took the bait.  The fees ranged from $5 to $200 for a favorable review.

The Penalty

For three months, the Yelp profile pages for these companies will feature an alert that says “We caught someone red-handed trying to buy reviews for this business.”
In case that’s not enough, the erstwhile detective on the left will appear in this charming graphic along with their profile.

But That’s Not All

Yelp runs a variety of filters to identify suspect reviews.  They currently detect one in five as suspicious, and place it on a secondary page, where few site visitors will see it.  The reviews that are shown most prominently are those that are placed by reviewers with a long history of Yelp reviews.

The Bottom Line

The companies that operate review sites have only one thing to offer:  the credibility of their reviews.  Anything other than a genuine opinion of a real customer is seen by these companies as a mortal threat to their business.  The smart thing to do is to stay out of this struggle, and don’t try to con these companies, who have a lot of resources to apply to this problem that they take very seriously.