Yelp publicly shames businesses that pay for reviews

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Business reviews company Yelp has started affixing the equivalent of a scarlet letter to the pages of vendors that try to game its review system by inappropriately garnering stellar ratings.

The company announced Thursday that it posted an impossible-to-miss, red consumer alert on nine business profile pages to warn visitors that “shady practices may be at play.” Viewers are presented with the alert before they can read a violator’s Yelp reviews.

The red warning reads:

We caught someone red-handed trying to buy reviews for this business. We weren’t fooled, but wanted you to know because buying reviews not only hurts consumers, but also honest businesses who play by the results. Check out the evidence here.

The shame-on-you message will be visible to the public for 90 days. Yelp plans to publish these alerts on offending pages as it uncovers evidence that businesses are repeatedly paying for reviews, vice president of consumer and mobile products Eric Singley said in a blog post Thursday morning.

“We want to make sure consumers are making informed decisions. Yelp’s automated review filter is working around the clock to flag these types of biased reviews, and we believe that you deserve the right to know when this type of activity is taking place behind the scenes,” Singley explained of the company’s combative decision.

Singley also promised to provide consumers with additional information on vendors’ gaming tactics. Yelp will eventually let its users know if a large number of reviews for a business originated from the same IP address, he said.

“To help put this in perspective, the large majority of businesses on Yelp play by the rules and work tirelessly to provide the best customer service and products to their clients,” Singley added.

The company’s campaign for public awareness around review quality comes shortly after becoming the default reviews provider in Apple’s Maps application, a responsibility that both companies likely take very seriously. Yelp is home to more than 30 million reviews.

“Rest assured we are not going to let a few bad apples spoil the bunch,” Singley said.

Dunce cap image via Shutterstock


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