In a move to enhance consumer protection against biased reviews, Yelp will add a notification for consumers on a business’s profile page when it finds substantial evidence of buying fake reviews to misinform consumers.
When consumers click on the alert, which will indicate attempts to purchase reviews for a business profile, Yelp will show screenshots that reveal the manipulation to mislead users.
“Yelp has become so influential in the consumer decision making process that some businesses will go to extreme lengths to bolster their reviews,” said Eric Singley, vice president of consumer products and mobile, Yelp.
“While our filter already does a great job of highlighting the most useful content, we think consumers have a right to know when someone is going to great lengths to mislead them.”
Yelp will only remove the alert from the business’s profile page after a 90-day window clear of misconduct, unless new evidence of continued shenanigan arises, which will renew the warning period.
While only nine business profile pages will get consumer alert messages posted on their profile pages so far, Yelp will post similar alerts moving forward – provided the grounds are reasonable.
Apart from consumer alerts against purchased reviews, Yelp’s Consumer Alert program will let consumers know if a business has had many reviews submitted from one Internet Protocol (IP) address, which is a good indicator for authentic reviews.
While the review filter already takes this type of information into account, Yelp believes consumers need to know which companies/establishments exercise proper business operations, which is a standard of reputation for some consumers.
Consumer trust is essential to the utility of a user-generated review service, said Yelp in its press release.
Since early 2005, the company started an aggressive attitude to maintain content quality on its site, especially on its review filter, to highlight helpful and reliable reviews.
The automated review filter continually and equally checks all review submissions to Yelp, and users can view reviews flagged by the filter if desired.
Yelp claims it caters to over 78 million monthly visitors, of which a large portion view the company as a trusted source with its quality-over-quantity approach.
Businessweek conducted an independent report to confirm the success of Yelp’s efforts to protect consumers and detailed mischievous efforts of a Texan business owner who bought 200 online reviews to strengthen his business’s online reputation with the quickest way possible.
The report found Yelp’s review filter returned “impressive results”, catching every purchased review, while the false reviews stayed atop seven other review sites.
Academic studies from Harvard Business School and UC Berkeley, have demonstrated the impact a business’s Yelp reviews can have on its success.
These findings indicate a strong incentive for some businesses that try to look for workarounds on the system, and explain why Yelp should keep innovation a priority to protect consumers.
Image: gingerbydesign, via Flickr (CC)