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What the hell happened to our Yelp reviews!?

 

I was really a fan of Yelp, and becoming a bigger fan by the day - until yesterday that is.  I had just logged into my business owner account to check on traffic to my company profile and see if their were any new reviews, etc.  To my horror, half of my company reviews were gone!  When and why it happened, I don't know.  It was apparently a stealth operation under cover of darkness - one minute the reviews were there, then they were gone.  No notice.  No explanation.  All I know is that we had eight reviews (six 5 star, and two 4 stars if I remember correctly - I no longer even have an "archive" access to them), and now we have four 5 star reviews.

So why am I complaining if they left only 5 star reviews?  Because it is not right to remove reviews that our customers spent their time to write, especially without notice (read more below in my "review").  And because I'm not the only one.  I found these fascinating articles:

Yelp extortion allegations stack up

Yelp and the business of extortion 2.0

Yelp's CEO: No we're not the mafia

Wow....simply wow.  I don't know if any of that is definitively true, but it's bad.

What else can I do besides post here?  Since Yelp's blog doesn't allow comments (odd), and they do not take questions on "missing" reviews per their hostile sounding help page, I was left only with reviewing Yelp on Yelp.  Here is a copy my review of Yelp:

------

3 Stars

I was a HUGE fan of Yelp until recently.  The information/reviews created by the users on Yelp is a huge help to find a great spot to eat, shop, whatever - there are some truly great people taking time out of their day to write reviews others can use.

However, I am also a business owner, and I recently have seen the mysterious dark side of Yelp.  I created a business owner account recently for my company in Boston because I am a firm believer in getting feedback from customers (positive and negative) and I thought what better place to do that than Yelp.  So I recently asked employees (over the past 2-3 months or so) to mention Yelp to customers and ask customers to review us honestly there.  I have also added Yelp links and badges to my website directing customers to Yelp to write reviews. 

Because of our efforts in directing people TO Yelp, we received a number of reviews (mostly very positive I am happy to say).  However, what has happened recently is ridiculous.  Yelp pulled several of our reviews (probably half of what we had on there) without explanation.  Strangely, they pulled a couple of 4 star reviews and left only 5 star reviews (I now have 4 five star reviews left, when before there was 8 total with 6 five star and 2 four star I believe) - maybe so I wouldn't complain?  But instead, I think this is a complete disrespect to me, my business, and my employees, not to mention my customers who WASTED their time writing their thoughtful reviews.  We're promoting Yelp to our customers because Yelp provides us a tool to allow customers to comment freely (without our control) and gives us an opportunity to earn new business from the reviews (which I anticipate being mostly positive - hopefully!).  And if we happen to get a bad review - even better - it will give us an opportunity to correct things!

But because of this, I have really had my faith in Yelp shaken.  I am not sure if I should discontinue linking to Yelp, and mentioning Yelp to customers or not.  What's the point?  I don't want to waste my time or my customers' time.  I understand quality control, and trying to prevent the system from being "gamed", but this seems to be the total wrong way to do business.  Yet - I am going to still rate Yelp three stars (it would have been 5 stars a few months ago) but with serious concerns moving forward - especially after reading a couple of other articles about Yelp's business practices, which I take with a grain of salt, but are still disconcerting.  I will be watching and updating my review in the future.

By the way - I am a real person, and this is a real review.  I am not trying to promote my business here so I won't give my business name, but here is my real contact info otherwise.  Please do not waste my time by removing this review.

Michael DiMella

867 Boylston St., 3rd Floor

Boston, MA 02116

857-383-3113

------

I wonder if I'll get a response?  We'll see, but I certainly would like to get those reviews returned.  In the meantime, I am really not sure whether or not to remove links to Yelp on pages of our site like this testimonial page or this criticism page plus some other pages we have the links on.  What I can say is that since we linked to Yelp in late February (and asked for customers to review us by word of mouth), we helped THEM get traffic and new user accounts.  Here's a look at how page views of Charlesgate Realty Group page on Yelp jumped dramatically:

charlesgate realty yelp page views

Ok - so that may be just a drop in the bucket to them, but we spent our time and our customers spent their time, which has helped Yelp to some degree.  To disrespect that by removing reviews with no justification is just asinine.

That's all.

For another take, Adam Gaffin over at Universal Hub (a great news resource for just about anything happening in Boston) picked up on my story in Yelp now removing Boston reviews? and there's some interesting comments in their too.

UPDATE (May 1, 2009): I was contacted by a Yelp staffer through Twitter, who explained Yelp's policy in more detail in an email sent to me.  She said reviews can be removed by their automated system, but they can't release too much info on the system to prevent it from being "gamed".  While I appreciate the reach out, I don't think that is a satisfactory answer, and clearly there are way to many false positives and real reviews are being removed.  Maybe some human oversight would be better than just automatically removing any suspiscious entries?

What are your thoughts?  Comment below!

If you like what you're reading don't forget to subscribe by email or by RSS feed.


 


Comments

The exact same thing happened to me. I am here in California, near where they are HQ'ed. 
When I launch a new blog or website for a clients, I ask them to do several things, to review me on Yelp, to send me a testimonial and I always add back links to their websites to help them too. 
This is up to them and I do not feel this is shilling for good reviews at all. Isn't that the point of Yelp? 
I had 6 reviews pulled that had gone up over the last few months and now I have 3 left. 
I am furious. I have been telling people to use Yelp and get on Yelp and now I do not want to do that anymore. I have buttons and badges to yelp also. 
People had warned me that Yelp was corrupt, but I disagreed with them. 
Now I am really wondering... 
Plus you cannot get help from the Yelp staff, you get canned answers like you got and in this day and age that is a deal breaker for customer goodwilll. They sure do not have my goodwill anymore.
Posted @ Wednesday, May 13, 2009 10:41 AM by Linda Lee
Yelp is nothing more than a false and lousely over lauded review engine. You'll never see a bad review on Yelp and so therefore it is a total waste of time to look at anything there for an honest review of services or businesses. I think what happens is if a person with the same email address writes a bad review and someone complains then they just delete all the emails that are sent under that persons name. That's what I think. It really is a sham.
Posted @ Sunday, June 14, 2009 12:39 AM by Tina Curry
@Tina - "You'll never see a bad review on Yelp" - nothing could be further from the truth. Yelp has a habit of elevating bad reviews to featured status if you're not a paying client.  
 
The fact that Yelp removes or changes status of ANY reviews without warning, archiving, or explanation, is an abuse of public and paid customer's trust.  
 
If your theory of "same email address" review gaming is correct, then Yelp is even more broken than I thought.
Posted @ Wednesday, July 01, 2009 3:33 AM by Frank
@Frank - I've seen reviews come and go so it does appear like they do archive all the reviews - and rotate them in and out, but I still don't like the fact they remove them without letting the reviewer know about it. And I don't know what the system is for what reviews are displayed. I still find it a useful (and fun) site, but the lack of clarity on reviews (the main objective of the site) still does concern me a bit.
Posted @ Wednesday, July 01, 2009 8:03 AM by Michael DiMella
This too happened to a small business owner that I know of. His positive reviews disappeared and the Yelpers are well established reviewers, not like first time reviewers. We Googled and found positive reviews disappeared for some business owners after they declined the Yelp ad offer. Perhaps that's what happened. He did declined it, after which the reviews disappeared. It has nothing to do with how credible the reviewers are. Unbelieveable! I hope Yelp puts a better practice in place.
Posted @ Saturday, October 03, 2009 11:46 AM by Gloria Xu
We have been very frustrated with Yelp's filtering system as well.  
 
 
 
Their FAQ states:  
 
 
 
"The process is entirely automated to avoid human bias, and it affects both positive and negative reviews. Since a user can become more or less established over time, your reviews can disappear and reappear over time, as well. Either way, we never actually delete your reviews, and they can still be found on the your personal profile page. This system proves frustrating for some because it sometimes affects perfectly legitimate reviews. The flip side is that it helps protect against fake reviews from malicious competitors and disgruntled former employees. We think we've struck a balance that works well for business owners and consumers alike, but we welcome any thoughts you might have about how to refine the balance further." 
 
 
 
Primarily, I would like to state that it is very biased. Most of our reviews have been removed (both positive and negative), leaving us with 1.5 stars on Yelp's rating system. It is completely inaccurate, since our rating for ANY other review site is a solid 4.5 stars.  
 
 
 
The reason for this inaccurate rating is because most of the reviews have been removed from our page by Yelp. If their rating method, and review validity circumstances are that you must be a vehement member, active and posting reviews to meet some standards unspecified, then Yelp's reviews should not be viewable by the general public, since all information is not provided. 
 
 
 
I agree with Michael DiMella: if someone has taken the time to create an account and write a review (for any business) then it should be viewable by all under the business listing. The public should be given the opportunity to come to their own decisions about a business with ALL information provided. 
 
 
 
If you must be an exclusive Yelp reviewer and meet certain criteria of activity for your review to be considered LEGITIMATE or VALID then those reviews should only be viewable by those members taking the time to log into Yelp to read the reviews.  
 
 
 
The information provided is very biased and it's frustrating and effecting our business as well. We don't want negative reviews removed, as we welcome all feedback. We just want all information provided- the whole picture! 
 
 
 
Upon contacting Yelp Customer Service with request to feature ALL information, rather than removing reviews they see unfit, we received a copied and pasted reply from the FAQ section I copied above. They seem very unconcerned with accuracy and unfortunately, we don't have the option to remove our business from their website altogether.
Posted @ Monday, October 12, 2009 2:17 PM by Stephanie P
I too have had a review pulled for no reason. The worst part was that the owner that I had negatively posted about called my husband and me and harassed us about our Yelp review. The negative review should have stayed due to this harassment, but a week later I checked and it was gone. So this horrible business has no negative reviews due to complaining about my review. Not a fan of Yelp anymore.
Posted @ Wednesday, March 03, 2010 7:07 PM by Cindy G
yup the exact thing happened to our salon. a client put 1 review on then told us and we saw how all of a sudden we got calls and new clients. so because i am a new stylists trying to build my clientle i had y clients go on and give a review about me and also other stylists because it did work. then the owner told me to go on yesterday to see if a lady left one that said she would and they were all gone except the very 1st one!!!! and yes they were good reviews but they were all from clients that wanted to help us!!!! but when a client selenita came in that left a review she signed in and hers appeared only because she signed in then she signed out and it was gone.
Posted @ Thursday, March 11, 2010 3:50 PM by amanda
I have day spa, Yelp sales called me one day and wants to sell me a package of $700 per month. I did not enroll it. You know what happen, all of the 5 stars reviews are gone next day. Customers re-post 5 stars review on yelp, but they couldn't see it on public. It is, obviously, threatening on my company that I did not pay for the adv fee to Yelp. Shame on Yelp!
Posted @ Saturday, April 10, 2010 6:02 PM by Henry Kauffman
I posted a negative, thoughtful and informative review about a business on Yelp. It got deleted, and now there are only positive reviews. I kept trying to post it again, and the most recent time it lasted for about a week before being deleted. I used a different email address and IP address, so it's quite clear there is something fishy going on. If the 
 
business is paying Yelp to remove negative reviews, they should realize that all it did was enflame the situation and I felt the need to post the same negative review on at least ten other sites who are not biased. Since when is Yelp the most important site? Please, let's do our best to take Yelp down.
Posted @ Friday, April 30, 2010 7:14 AM by Amy
Horrible experience with Yelp. And it is consistent with what others are posting. How can this continue? I feel like my business is hostage to these idiots. I had 3 new positive reviews in the last couple of months. It was exciting to see and all of that.  
 
However, after declining to advertise with Yelp when their sales person called and emailed me within weeks all of the 3 reviews were gone.  
 
I guess this is just who and what they are. It isn't fair and it is not good business practice. You would think that they'd want as many people to go to their site as possible to write reviews and just give it traffic. But that's not the case apparently. The customers that posted positive reviews put their time and energy into reviewing us and I doubt that they'll go in and write another one.  
 
I am a bonafide "Un-Yelper."
Posted @ Wednesday, May 05, 2010 1:38 AM by Brandon
My experience with yelp is similar. All four of my reviews were removed for my service-related business. Then out of no where... one day there was one recorded. I was able to contact the advertising department as I had not responded to advertising calls as I am a one man business without an advertising budget...  
I began to wonder if their was a relationship to my reviews disappearing and my lack of will to advertise with Yelp. (or the fact that i did not return the voice mails from their sales department.  
I called the ad rep. He said that when a yelp reviewer has been inactive in their yelping activity, the review disappears. Hmmm.... I wonder...
Posted @ Sunday, June 13, 2010 5:03 PM by Wendy Howell from Silhouette Endermologie
This scares the heck outta me! I have yet to see my small business reviews totally disappear, but Yelp did decide to randomly filter several of ours.  
 
It's frustrating, because as a small business, I'm encouraging our clients to sign up for Yelp and give us a review, but because they haven't reviewed anything else, the reviews are filtered and don't count towards our star rating and don't show unless you click the tiny light gray text link at the bottom of the screen and enter a captcha to prove you're not a robot- only then can you see all the reviews. 
 
One of our fans/ clients is someone I know personally, and i told her to see if writing more reviews and filling out her profile would help, and it really seems to, considering her review is the only one that Yelp will show. 
 
So, I guess if you can let your customers know that if they have a profile photos and fill out some of the profile info a little more, and review a couple other places their review will show. It's going to be hard to convince most people to do this, but the clients that really like you just might. 
 
That's the best advice I can give. But also, give them the option to review you elsewhere like on yahoo and such. 
 
Posted @ Tuesday, June 15, 2010 12:17 PM by Bebe
use urbanspoon.com We love them and no filtering... they leave it up to the user to have a little common sense to "filter" for themselves. We use both urbanspoon and yelp and have had nothing but positive experiences with Urbanspoon. We too have had filter fun with yelp. So we use our social networking power and tell our customers to use urbanspoon....not so much yelp. There are choices out there vote with your feet.
Posted @ Friday, June 25, 2010 11:57 PM by G. Thompson
I run a small IT services company in the bay area and also found, as others have, with the standard explaination of automated delete, that HALF of my reviews, from legitate clinets, have been delete. Are they aware of how much time and effort went into communicating with clients, not to mention my clients time, went into this lame YELP social networking site? What am I supposed to do? Ask my clients to further waste time by posting NEW ones? How does that make me look? How does this make YELP look? I did as other people have, had a high view of yelp (for some reason). Now I'm rating THEM at ONE star. Try and remove this review YELP. 
 
Angry Business owner 
Jeff 
Quantum Source Computer Services
Posted @ Friday, November 19, 2010 1:40 AM by Jeff
Evidently, many Chicago businesses have been so angered by this secret algorithm deleting emails on YELP, that a class-action has been filed. Please read and find a more responsible networking site for your business. 
 
http://www3.timeoutny.com/chicago/blog/out-and-about/2010/04/yelp-reveals-deleted-reviews/
Posted @ Friday, November 19, 2010 1:51 AM by Jeff
I have my business on Yelp and have had a HORRIBLE experience with them! They seem to feel it is my responsibility to get them regular clients or they get rid of my reviews. I pay them every month to be a top cleaning company on their pages, then they delete all of my reviews on a regular basis. I have 2 reviews on there, nothing very exciting and 8 of my reviews are gone. I have had several arguments with them, but they are just kids handling our accounts with a pre-written script of what to say. As I tell him each month it is not my responsibility to bring them in new clients, but it is their responsibility to allow my clients to post reviews out there!  
 
 
 
My reviews are not even getting rotated as one person thought maybe happening. I've had the same 2 reviews for over a year now.  
 
 
 
They are a corrupt review sight, unfortunately though they are gaining popularity here in Colorado and I worry about not marketing on their sight. I don't know what to do and am very frustrated by them, especially every month when I pay their bill! 
 
 
 
I really don't understand what is behind their drive to take our reviews off. They are my clients reviewing my business and good or bad, they are reviews that should be out there. I'm sorry if the clients don't regularly visit Yelp, but that's not really my problem! 
 
 
 
I'm beyond frustrated!
Posted @ Wednesday, December 01, 2010 3:46 PM by DS
Yup! The same thing happened to me. 10 reviews down to 2. No explanation. Is it because I did not spend money for the Yelp account? I am so ticked about this. I rely on reviews for new clients to find me, and now I've been diminished.
Posted @ Wednesday, August 03, 2011 11:33 AM by Tara Bauman
Same thing happened to me!! I'm so mad!!!!! 
I am new to yelp and it's not always easy to get clients to place their reviews on yelp. Each and every one of my reviews has gone!!!!!!! 
 
I'm spreading the word online - I believe that this may be due to the fact that I didn't purchase any of their marketing offered to me in the beginning. It is like the BBB they were doing some sneaky stuff too!! 
I will make sure that this gets all over the net!
Posted @ Monday, October 17, 2011 8:41 PM by Rachel
If you not happy with YELP, then hit them where it hurts... in the pocket book $$$$, tell your friends aboutwww.BLURBITNOW.COM, it's unfiltered, open forum, and no sales people. PLUS the reviewers get rewarded for Blurbing, after every 25 BLURBS they receive a reward.
Posted @ Tuesday, October 18, 2011 9:30 AM by Krunch
Too many filtered reviews. I'm over YELP. I’m going to go with GOOGLE. One day a review is up, the next it's gone, then it's back again... YELP sells ads to web companies, puts them on the page about my services... I'm a free lance web designer that means, I WORK ALONE... I'm not a store front and I'm not a cheap designer who doesn't know what they are doing... it’s also very difficult to get a client to post a review. I don’t dictate what they say/write or post or rate, but it’s gotten old with the back and forth and one day it’s up and the next it’s not, and then it’s posted up again and not filtered… so I’ve removed the links to yelp off my site (http://www.stevemckinnis.com), and I’m not going to encourage any web clients to update or use their listing on yelp anymore… I'm a little incensed by the unethical and inconsistent way that they are running their business... so I'm going to back off and encourage the people I work with to utilize other services. It also is disconcerting that I can not delete or opt out my profile. Once you are listed on YELP and I didn’t list myself there, they did… I can’t erase it. And contrary to other folks, I don’t have any negative reviews… but I am tired of their constant phone calls to purchase ad space and then the lame tactics they use to tamper with my reviews and page listing. They need to get a consistent policy in place and make it fair across the boards as well as offer an opt out and removal of your business off their site. For e-mail blasts, legally, there has to be an opt out so why not on someone’s web site?
Posted @ Saturday, October 29, 2011 1:11 PM by Steve McKinnis
Let's just not use Yelp anymore...there are better local business directories out there. Forget about them, its all about money!
Posted @ Thursday, November 17, 2011 10:29 AM by Bob Mc
Well, I wish I'd read this forum prior to suggesting to clients that they review me on Yelp! I too, naively thought that a comment was a comment (sort of like Tripadvisor.com). I had two clients give me 5 star reviews about a month ago. When I went to check the site just now, those reviews have disappeared. So long Yelp!
Posted @ Friday, January 13, 2012 7:05 PM by Gary Miller
This system is completely ludacris. Their automated system for removing reviews is completely unsatisfactory... if anything, allow the yelp users to decide on whether or not a review is appropriate and should be removed...this is the only thing that differentiates yelp from perfection.
Posted @ Tuesday, April 24, 2012 7:08 PM by Alex
This system is completely ludacris. Their automated system for removing reviews is completely unsatisfactory... if anything, allow the yelp users to decide on whether or not a review is appropriate and should be removed...this is the only thing that differentiates yelp from perfection.
Posted @ Tuesday, April 24, 2012 7:08 PM by Alex
This system is completely ludacris. Their automated system for removing reviews is completely unsatisfactory... if anything, allow the yelp users to decide on whether or not a review is appropriate and should be removed...this is the only thing that differentiates yelp from perfection.
Posted @ Tuesday, April 24, 2012 7:08 PM by Alex
Please do not use yelp.  
I was an elite member for 2 years and yelp's policy for both members and business accounts is ridiculous. One of my reviews was flagged as not a firsthand experience. This review was for a business I went to over 20 times. 
Then my yelp account was mysteriously closed one day. The email said I was flagged by some imaginary yelp community. 
Total waste of time.  
I now review on more mature sites. Yelp seems to be very juvenile and a myspacey type of website for the kiddos.
Posted @ Sunday, April 29, 2012 10:37 PM by Roger
Yelp has been calling multiple times a day trying to sell advertising to the company I work for. The other day I told my boss about, so he emailed the Yelp employee letting him know we weren't interested in purchasing anything at this time. The next day ALL of our reviews were gone.
Posted @ Tuesday, March 04, 2014 5:50 PM by Nichole
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