The love-hate relationship With Yelp
Chances are if you walk into a local business tomorrow and ask the owner how they feel about Yelp, you’re going to spark instant emotions.
- Some might tell you their advertising works
- Others will tell you how aggressive they are about advertising with them
- You might hear about how their real customer reviews are hidden
- Or how bad reviews are hurting their business
Yelps slogan is “Real People Real Reviews”, but Yelps rules for receiving “real customer reviews” are a challenge for business owners.
Here are some of their rules:
- Yelp discourages businesses to ask for reviews from their customers
- Yelp will block you if “too many reviews” come from the same IP address
- Yelp filter’s reviews from real customers
The question becomes are these legitimate rules? From our perspective, there is no perfect solution but Yelp does have to protect the integrity of its reviews to ensure they are helpful, real, and minimize the abuse of their platform.
By implementing these restrictions, Yelp has made each review more valuable because every review goes through a gauntlet or a series of checks and balances before it is posted to the site.
So what’s the issue?
Well, Yelp’s revenues come from businesses who advertise on their site. Our question is, are Yelp’s review restrictions geared towards better reviews for consumers, transparency of a business, or to ensure each review is as valuable as possible to generate higher advertising dollars.
The theory is if there are too many reviews, consumers may not trust what they are reading as much, which would decrease the value of the site and affect advertising dollars.
- Provide a platform that has huge appeal
- Drive as much traffic as possible
- Have a select number of users write reviews
- Encourage businesses to want to stand out on the site with advertising
The area that is missing in these goals is “value“. Yelp needs to do a better job ensuring they provide better value for visitors and businesses.
How can they do this?
The gray area in their business model is filtering real reviews. Their current solution ensures a lower number of reviews are posted and Yelp can blame that their auto filtering system isn’t perfect, all the while ensuring no one has too many reviews.
Solution: Yelp should implement a business/reviewer verification for filtered reviews and tag the review as business/reviewer verified (telling consumers that both parties verified the review with Yyelp). This ensures dedicated business owners can reach out to customers that took the time to write a real review and they have a way to fix it. This creates a win-win for everyone using the system.
The question becomes, is this solution in the best interest of Yelp. If they are in the reviews business the answer is Yes. If they are in the advertising business the answer is probably No.
If Yelp analyzed this solution a little closer, they would see this could help with advertising dollars and expand their user base. Only a small percentage of businesses would go the extra mile to reach out to reviewers and do the business/reviewer verification. By providing this type of solution, Yelp would build more trust with businesses and they could see more value in advertising with them. It would also enable real reviewers to continue to write valuable reviews for consumers, businesses, and the site creating a win-win for everyone.