With Lawsuits Looming, Yelp Separates Reviews From Advertising

With several lawsuits pending and words like “extortion” being thrown around like baseballs on opening day, Yelp is making changes that it hopes will end the confusion (and lawsuits) over how it operates.

The first change — and most important one, in my opinion — is that advertisers will no longer be able to choose a “favorite review” and have it featured above all others on the business profile page, as shown here:

Yelp advertising 4

The connection between reviews and advertising is what seemed to cause much of confusion and misunderstanding among small business owners. In the recent lawsuits, plaintiffs claimed that Yelp had offered to remove negative reviews in exchange for advertising. Technically, that’s not the same as allowing businesses to promote positive reviews, but the inclusion of that as a “feature” of Yelp’s advertising package clearly opened the door for confusion. As I suggested last month on my own blog, this change may put an end to those kinds of claims:

One suspects that, as long as Yelp offers a way for business owners to manipulate reviews in exchange for advertising, they’ll continue to run the risk of lawsuits — no matter if the lawsuits are justified or just the result of misunderstanding.

The second change that Yelp’s making in response to the lawsuits is to show all the reviews it has about a business, including the ones that its algorithm has filtered/removed from the business profile pages. But the link to see the full set of reviews is buried at the bottom of the business page.

yelp

Says CEO Jeremy Stoppelman about these changes:

Lifting the veil on our review filter and doing away with “Favorite Review” will make it even clearer that displayed reviews on Yelp are completely independent of advertising — or any sort of manipulation.

Separately, Yelp also says it will soon let advertisers show videos on their business pages and that it’s created a Small Business Advisory Council to “provide Yelp management with guidance and perspective regarding the concerns of small business owners.”

There’s more discussion on Techmeme.

Related Topics: Channel: Local | Legal: General | Search Engines: Maps & Local Search Engines | Top News | Yelp

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About The Author: is Editor-In-Chief of Search Engine Land. His news career includes time spent in TV, radio, and print journalism. His web career continues to include a small number of SEO and social media consulting clients, as well as regular speaking engagements at marketing events around the U.S. He recently launched a site dedicated to Google Glass called Glass Almanac and also blogs at Small Business Search Marketing. Matt can be found on Twitter at @MattMcGee and/or on Google Plus. You can read Matt's disclosures on his personal blog.

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  • http://www.usefularts.us usefularts

    The class action lawsuits against Yelp threatens their protection under the safe harbor provision the CDA’s section 230. That is the law which protects websites which allow others to express opinions on pages which the site doesn’t actively manage or hold liability for.

    If they were to loose this, they’d be subject to endless defamation actions.

    I wrote a little about this when the class actions suits began at: http://usefularts.us/2010/02/26/yelp-lawsuit-extortion/

    Its another good reason for advertising and editorial to be separated by more than a paper wall.

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