Recently Pierre Zarokian, our CEO, wrote an article for Search Engine Journal about how a Restaurant with negative reviews decided to take on Yelp and just ask everyone to leave them negative reviews in return for food discounts.
When Yelp was first conceived, the idea was to find local hot spots based on the tastes of your friends. Yelp’s founders had hoped they could create a network of reviews that would help to source such lists. The Yelp of yesterday doesn’t face the same problems that the massive network of today faces.
Yelp is the winner of a recent appeals case that gives the company rights to order reviews posted on its page as it pleases. Yelp has argued that it requires this right in order to perform its basic service, namely to offer trustworthy reviews. It argues that the star rating system benefits restaurants, which see a significantly larger bump in revenue for each star increase in ratings.
The conflict of interest appears when Yelp sales people try to sell businesses higher visibility an more customers through advertising. This creates a transparency problem for the company. Simply put, Yelp does not do a good job of verifying the authenticity of its reviewers, which means that any negative reviews can be taken with a grain of salt. Botto, in the Bay Area, has already demonstrated this concept by offering incentives for bad reviews. Some reviews are obviously faked, but how would one know the faked from the real reviews? What is Botto’s real value?
As a business, you have two options for dealing with a problem of this nature. You can wait around for Yelp to adjust its policies and police its user base, which is time consuming and costly for Yelp and therefore unlikely to happen in the near future, or you can be more proactive. Zarokian argues that reputation management is the only real solution. You must view your entire search ranking, PR and social media efforts as one.