Yelp Consumer Alert for Fake Reviews

by Thomas Ballantyne June 25th, 2013 

Yelp has rolled out a new review filter in the form of "Consumer Alert: Something's Fishy Here…"

Something's fishy here...

This upside-down fishy image is there to "out" companies that Yelp believes are spamming their reviews.

The Warning reads as follows:

"A number of positive reviews for this business originated from the same IP address, which may mean that someone was trying to artificially inflate this businesss rating. Our review filter wasnt fooled, but this apparent effort to mislead consumers was serious enough that we wanted to call it out."

While checking out a competitor of Bulwark Exterminating in Las Vegas, I stumbled across this Particular Warning on the profile page of a Las Vegas Pest Control company . The violating company now shows 2 reviews with a 3 star average. The company has 39 filtered reviews.

This Consumer alert is different than a previous Yelp Penalty.
http://pestcontrolseo.wordpress.com/2012/10/18/yelp-penalty-pest-control-to-jewelers/ Which apparently hit a pest control company as well. On the previous Yelp Penalty the companies were buying good reviews. The penalty showed about the same place on the page. Its difficult to compare at this time because Bert Levi Family Jewelers http://www.yelp.com/biz/bert-levi-family-jewelers-san-diego has had their penalty reconciled as the penalty sentence is only 3 months. At this juncture I have no active examples of companies that have received the original Yelp Penalty.

As for the Fishy Filter Yelp Consumer Warning, I currently see this warning on a pest control service in Austin, TX and on a pest control service in Las Vegas.

Take Away for Businesses:

Many business owners are catching on to the idea that online reviews are good. Even more so, that they should be pursuing online reviews. Yelp's policy is that businesses are not to "solicit" yelp reviews. Therefore, companies walk a fine line between pursuing good reviews and being caught in Yelp's bad graces. Many local businesses have even gone as far as setting up a review computer at their location. As now prevalent by Yelp's consumer alert, doing this is a bad idea to get Yelp reviews. I would suggest that this is a bad idea for getting reviews online in general. Not that the business doing so is doing it with bad intentions but other people abusing the system are doing this; and it, therefore, throws up a red flag. So heed this warning; DON'T SET UP AN ONLINE REVIEW COMPUTER at your place of business.

What about Yelp's already fabulous Review Filter?

Why stray from the simple review filter here? Is the Yelp review filter broken? Does this replace it? If the warning is given because of reviews from the same IP address, then users may assume that the companies on Yelp with filtered reviews receiving no warnings are not cheating by giving themselves reviews. So in a way, this penalty validates that Yelp's review filter isn't set for just spammy reviews from the same IP. It may be of little consolation, but businesses with filtered reviews but no consumer alert can at least feel that they are not yet being called cheaters by Yelp.

Thomas Ballantyne

Don't mind me, I'm just the Pest Control Guy. Thomas Ballantyne

Bulwark Exterminating

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8 Responses to “Yelp Consumer Alert for Fake Reviews”

  1. Jeff says:

    Great work Yelp … and thanks for posting about it Thomas! When will Google follow suit, and do you believe that they need to?

  2. Thanks Jeff, glad you liked it.

    I don't think Google will ever out people the way that Yelp has. It's very dicey business for yelp to do so. I can see a lot of risk here. But Yelp is no courtroom rookie.

    As for Google needing it, I'd say no. Google simply suppresses the listing or remove reviews. If G+ works, which is now required to leave a review, then Google's system will be harder to game. Spam accounts leaving reviews will dwindle. Personalization of search results based on real users and their networks will be more powerful reasons to get real reviews.

  3. Thomas great catch on this! I find it kind of interesting. The whole issue Yelp had with this wasn't that their were a ton of reviews from the same IP address but a ton of POSITIVE reviews from the same IP address.

    I know they are trying to crack down on companies who spam the reviews, but it definitely could penalize those who just happen to have really happy customers. Those who would take the time to write a review on a computer set up there at the business.

    Unfortunately like you mentioned though, you just can't do it that way. You can pass out a card, asking them to review you when they get home. Maybe send them an email if they sign up for your "loyalty/coupon program". But you can't give them an easy way to do the review, especially if they are good reviews.

    Oh the convoluted online marketing and review world we live in where companies feel like they have to game the system or do everything possible to make sure their customers give reviews on other websites, instead of through just good word of mouth referrals.

    Thanks for sharing this again!

  4. @Rudd I have a feeling they are only hitting positive reviews. Most business owners wouldn't fake negative reviews on their own businesses. As for negative reviews given to competitors, the yelp filter "should" catch those.

  5. [...] for customers to leave reviews on at your workplace (a kiosk) sounds like a great idea, but both Yelp and Google have come out and said it isn't allowed. Incoming IP addresses of reviewers are [...]