As a disclaimer, this post contains quite a bit of personal conjecture. Online reputation management for small businesses is one of my personal passions. Managing a company that helps businesses utilize new media successfully is something I really take pride in. The thought of review sites taking advantage of user generated content to eek extra cash out of already-tapped small businesses really (and I mean REALLY) irks me.
In October of 2011 a class-action lawsuit against Yelp claiming that they were removing negative reviews in exchange for “advertising” was dismissed with prejudice (meaning they cannot be sued again for the same reason). It’s now January of 2012 and already it seems the complaints of extortion are not going away; instead they appear to be growing more frequent in numbers as awareness has risen that something fishy could be going on at Yelp.
Savvy business owners know that online, everyone has a megaphone with seemingly, never-ending reach. Social media sites like Yelp have caused businesses to up their game and go the extra mile for their customers – that’s the good part. The flip-side is an ugly place where online review websites control a business’s reputation and as a result, their bottom line.
As I come across blogs that talk about Yelp, a quick scroll down the page to the comment area brings forth a slew of business owners claiming that Yelp is still filtering reviews based on whether they advertise. Here are a few places to read recent comments:
- An article that started out talking about Yelp’s review filter lives on in the comments with many angry small business owners
- Article written in 2009 by the East Bay Express on the topic of Yelp Extortion 2.0 lists recent comments by hundreds of angry business owners
- Reddit discussion page with recent discussion on the above mentioned article
- The “We hate Yelp” Facebook group exposes concerns from users and business owners alike
If Yelp, is in fact, doing everything on the up and up, they are still facing quite a predicament. On one hand they don’t want fake reviews to cause consumers to distrust them and on the other hand they don’t want businesses and their reviewers to distrust how they handle their reviews. And in the mean time…thousands of people each day are making buying decisions based upon the visible reviews on Yelp.
As a business owner, what has been your experience with Yelp? Good? Bad? Indifferent?
Let’s talk about it in the comments below…