SF Restaurant Calls For Yelp Boycott: 'Stop the Bully'
The article explains that this is hardly the first restaurant to complain of offers by Yelp reps to improve Yelp "rating" in exchange for buying advertising. The restaurant's phrasing of that claim is even close to the wording reported by unrelated Bay Area restaurateurs who've told me of the same offer from Yelp reps. In one case, I was present when the restaurateur was on the phone to Yelp and I heard him repeating back what he heard, and his disgusted reply.
All of these reports independently and directly contradict Yelp's longstanding written claim (in its public FAQ pages) that it doesn't change rating upshots in exchange for selling advertising.
Regarding Yelp's review "filter" algorithm, I checked its effects for several restaurants, and clearly it segregates reviews by newly joined reviewers having low review counts. Their filtered reviews can indeed go unfiltered after the reviewer posts more. I can see the logic of this aspect in discouraging casual "shill" reviews.
But that's not the only criterion evident in the review filter. It doesn't explain why I often saw far more high-rating reviews than low-rating reviews "filtered" out when both sets of reviewers had equally short histories. And whatever its rationalization, every time the filter removes a sincere non-shill review, it is wrong -- distorting the result.
Anecdotally, buzz I've heard from restaurant employees about organized shilling campaigns was usually about negative shilling (putting down competitors rather than promoting their own house), as if this was the method useful on Yelp. Anecdotally, as I said -- don't know how widespread that is.
I think anonymity for reviewers is an issue... if they encouraged real names, the frequency of fake reviews (both positive and negative) would be reduced.
(I use a pseudonym here because most people do... but I can appreciate why more modern sites want people to use real names.)
I'm not sure how you would know who is real.
One of the problems with internet reviews is that one can fairly cheaply hire someone to promote your restaurant by posting imagined reviews... and studies have shown that the average reader could not detect that the reviews were fabricated. In fact, often the spurious review sounds more "real" than the authentic.
Yeah, it's pretty bad. A fair amount of our five star reviews get filtered out the next day. Our customers come in all perplexed, saying they've left us a positive review but they can't find it on Yelp's site and we have to try to explain the filtering thing to them, even though we don't really understand how it works ourselves.
Yet Yelp leaves the one-stars left by the crazy cyberstalkers who've never actually been into our place. We don't pay to advertise but they insist that this has nothing to do with it but we are skeptical. We'll probably knuckle under and just pay the ransom.