Yelp is certainly an interesting phenomenon. Depending on where you live and who you talk to it can be either “all the rage” or it can elicit the “What’s a yelp?” response. Of course, in Internet marketing circles it’s all the rage especially in tech centers like NoCal etc. What is happening quite a bit as of late though, is not that yelp is “all the rage” but instead it is all about rage and, in particular, the rage of the small businesses being reviewed on the site.
As reported by the Journal, the reviews Web site Yelp is under fire. It is facing three lawsuits from businesses that claim it improperly skews reviews in favor of companies that advertise with it and against those that do not.
Yelp denies the allegations, blaming misunderstandings about the way it filters reviews to prevent businesses from inflating their ratings.
So what yelp has done is to create a video that is the equivalent of a yelp filter apologetics course. For those unfamiliar with the term apologetics, it is something that is done in defense of a particular position, activity or worldview. It is most often applied to religions but the way that some people treat the online world that may not be such a far-fetched connection. Take a look at the video that yelp has produced to defend explain its review filtering process.
If you took the time to watch the video it does little if anything to actually explain what happens behind the scenes regarding this mysterious review vetting process. Other than a cute rendering of the machine that reviews are dumped into (should have used a black box maybe?) there is precious little truly explained. The reason for this is told by Jeremy Stoppleman, yelp’s CEO.
Yelp chooses not to explain much about how it decides which reviews to show and which to hide. Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman says that exposing too much of the site’s secret technology sauce would make it easier for shills to fill the site with puffed up reviews.
“It is similar to the challenge that Google faces in ranking Web sites,” he said. “The more that they share with the world about how they specifically evaluate links on the Web, the more they make it easy for somebody that wants to rank number one to do so.”
Yelp is in a very unique position. We sit on the edge of what may be a mobile explosion that could greatly benefit yelp in the future. It’s past, however, may make some folks suspect of just how reliable the reviews are and if there was any back room dealings to get someone on the top of the review heap.
What is your experience with yelp? Do you trust the reviews on the site? We have no filters here at Marketing Pilgrim so let’s hear it.