Yelp Turns Up The Heat: 285 Consumer Alerts Issued Over Fake Reviews

Yelp logoIt’s been almost a year and a half since Yelp began issuing Consumer Alerts when a business on its site has been caught trying to get fake reviews; but after a cautious start, that program appears to be turning up the heat.

According to an interview with CEO Jeremy Stoppelman in The Telegraph, Yelp has now slapped 285 businesses on its website with Consumer Alerts.

When Yelp issued its first set of Consumer Alerts in October 2012, only eight local businesses were hit. Then last August, Yelp revealed that it had issued its second round of alerts. No specific numbers were shared, but the company told us it was a “similar number” to the eight that were hit before. If we estimate that second round generously, we can assume that maybe 20 to 25 businesses total had been hit as of last August.

In other words, in the past six months, Yelp has gone from a couple dozen to nearly 300 Consumer Alerts.

The heat is on.

The Alerts (you can see a couple examples below) are a pop-up that shows on a Yelp business profile page and warns consumers that a Yelp sting operation has caught the company trying to acquire reviews by buying them, offering gifts or discounts, or some other way that Yelp doesn’t allow.

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Related Topics: Channel: Local | Search Engines: Maps & Local Search Engines | SEO: Local | 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.eBizROI.com Rick Noel, eBiz ROI, Inc.

    There is no question that this kind of flag from Yelp would be devastating for businesses as more shoppers rely on review sites like Yelp to make purchase decisions. I would liken the potential business impact for companies in some verticals where shoppers rely heavily on Yelp to a website being de-indexed from Google. In your first screen shot, the warning kills the value of the 91 reviews, many of which may have been legit, “purchased” through customer good will. Businesses should consider this a serious shot across the bow from Yelp and respond accordingly.

  • Jacob L Peck

    My question is, who is issuing consumer alerts against Yelp for filtering (hiding) legitimate reviews. I have personal experiences with a number of businesses that have suffered financial loss because Yelp decided that to filter positive reviews and permit negative reviews. One business has 15 legitimate 5 star reviews filtered with absolutely no recourse to correct the situation. Coincidentally they received a call from a Yelp sales rep soon after the reviews were filtered. I no longer rely on Yelp as a reliable source of information.

  • http://www.LeadDiscovery.com/ Jerry Nordstrom

    @jacoblpeck:disqus We get clients all the time infuriated that Yelp has filtered out ALL of their legitimate reviews. They have real customers willing to verify the reviews they wrote.. but no, nobody to talk to but sales reps.

    One client has a stunning example – They have 37 reviews 30 of them 4-5 stars. Guess what? ALL 30 are filtered out and the 7, 2-3 stars are public!!! These public negative reviews are what show in the SERPs. In frustration the business posted their own review stating “please look at all the positive filtered reviews” – They got hit with an alert!

    Does Yelp feel they are in such a stellar brand position that they can slap small businesses around? In addition, now that this retaliatory policy is in place I can imagine how many black hat marketers are spending $25 on fivver to post hundreds of fake reviews about their competition.

  • Stephen Forde

    I am guessing Yelp wants reviews from exisiting members similar to Google places but obviously they don’t have as many subscribers. Users may genuinly ask clients to sign up to Yelp which maybe one of their red flags?

  • Lucas von Fürstenberg

    When Yelp acquired german Qype and eventually integrated Qype into Yelp a ton of businesses complained that only the bad reviews got transferred to Yelp and all 4-5 star ratings got lost in the transition.
    Only one to reach at Yelp was sales reps, offering premium accounts…

  • http://localreachlabs.com/ Russell Hayes

    How many of those great reviews were used by accounts that had alias’s for user names, any?

  • Poe

    What about the dishonesty on a part of Yelp? They had contacted businesses to sign on to their premium service accounts with the promise of dropping their negative reviews. Why don’t they add this disclosure to their homepage? Seems to me they are trying to bring back their integrity by shaming other businesses on these ‘allegations’. Of course I have no idea how they come to these conclusions, but I question how they’re 100% factual.

  • Poe

    What about the dishonesty on a part of Yelp? They had contacted businesses to sign on to their premium service accounts with the promise of dropping their negative reviews. Why don’t they add this disclosure to their homepage? Seems to me they are trying to bring back their integrity by shaming other businesses on these ‘allegations’. Of course I have no idea how they come to these conclusions, but I question how they’re 100% factual.

  • Poe

    How would Yelp know whether or not the accounts were under alias’s of the individuals who posted them?

  • I Hate Yelp

    Hypocrite! This corrupt thug spends his time punishing and suing everyone outside his own organization while refusing to clean his own house. A Yelp Elite confessed that she was paid to write reviews and wanted to delete them to clear her conscience, but Yelp won’t let her! In fact, they have deleted her confession several times and blocked her from deleting the fraudulent reviews. Yelp is only interested in keeping reviews honest as long as it means publicity and financial gain for themselves.

    http://ihateyelp.imgur.com/all

    http://www.yelp.com/user_details?userid=H-sG9k0Xpv-rxQmJHpaxTg

  • Chris Koszo

    It sucks that Yelp ranks so well in the SERPs.. I found one of the things that helps if all your good reviews are filtered is to change the name of your business on the profile page. There is no verification (at least the first time you do it there isn’t, or the verification goes on behind the scenes), and this may help your listing appear in less searches for your brand. Of course the old Yelp profile with the keyword-rich URL is 301′d to the new page, and if customers repeatedly mention your brand in the reviews on the page you will still come up for it, but this is one strategy if you can’t afford to pay for monthly advertising with Yelp.

    Remember to aim for getting reviews on Google+, and other sites (if you’re a doctor for instance, there’s vitals.com, healthgrades.com, wellness.com to begin with). I found the non-Yelp reviews are more accurate when it comes to a professional service/business. Yelpers are usually just foodies and consumers, and don’t know how to leave accurate reviews for other types of businesses. My 2cents

  • Brian B French

    Yelp sucks. I think people should close their account with them. Complainers and deadbeats are more likely post reviews than a “normal” customer. It a no win proposition.

  • martinw392

    WHO HOLDS YELP ACCOUNTABLE FOR THEIR EXTORTIONIST TACTICS! I hope this causes enough outrage against yelp so that all small businesses sue them relentlessly, they MUST be held accountable for the financial damage they are causing businesses.

  • kp456

    Nice one. When I really want to nail it I take a video of the computer monitor, click a few buttons and zoom into the URL address bar to show its an active html webpage.

  • kp456

    This red flag system makes Yelp look good to the customers.

    If businesses are using this as a weapon against other businesses that is a price Yelp doesn’t have to pay.

    In Jungle Tumble you have to have insurance incase a kid gets injured. When the internet and places like Yelp are taken as seriously as a kids playground I’ll be saying “go for it lawyers!”

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