Popular review site Yelp is determined not to let a few bad apples spoil the bunch.
In an attempt to prevent businesses from posting deceptive reviews and manipulating results – a challenge faced increasingly by other similar review aggregators and online business listings – Yelp announced the implementation of a new consumer alert system designed to warn individual users about fake or paid reviews.
The alert comes with a message that says: “We caught someone red-handed trying to buy reviews for this business. We weren’t fooled, but we wanted you to know because buying reviews not only hurts consumers, but also honest businesses who play by the rules.”
Yelp’s consumer alert will appear, initially, on the profile pages of 9 offending businesses caught gaming the system – complete with a link to the evidence that Yelp found. The alert message will also remain visible for 90 days, or longer if the business is found anew to mislead the community of Yelpers.
“We want to make sure consumers are making informed decisions,” wrote Eric Singley, Yelp’s Vice President of Consumer and Mobile Products in a company blog post. “The allure of a page full of five-star reviews can turn even the most ethical business owner starry-eyed and persuade some to attempt to game the system by paying for reviews… (but) as efforts to game the system continuously evolve, so do our methods for combating it.”
Yelp’s first line of defense for combating fake and deceptive reviews is the Review Filter, based on a constantly evolving algorithm and designed to foster trust among Yelp’s community consumers and business owners. It also places emphasis on its content guidelines and terms of service, which leave no doubt about Yelp’s position in fighting inauthentic, paid-for review content.
Singley added that soon Yelp will monitor online reviews and check when a business has received multiple reviews from the same IP address (Internet Protocol address) – one of the giveaways for spotting fake reviews. “While the review filter already takes this type of information into account,” Singley said, “we believe that consumers also have a right to know if this activity is going on.”