Julianne Rowe, Yelp’s Associate Director of Communications, Corporate and Product, wrote in an email: “With regards to California Skyline Remodeling, our team investigated each review the business owner flagged, but ultimately found that the reviews they flagged adhered to our content guidelines. Yelp generally does not take sides in factual disputes and we believe it’s important that we help inform and protect consumers by allowing them to share unbiased reviews about firsthand experiences with businesses. We also informed the business owner that their decision to advertise or not advertise on Yelp does not impact their reviews.”
Business advertising dollars make up the bulk of Yelp’s revenue. Estimates range from the mid-80s to the high-90s as a percentage of revenue. Yet, based on the past decade plus of experience by small business owners, Yelp has little incentive to change its business practices or the way it uses its algorithm, business owners say in various reports about Yelp.
Businesses, they add, can decide to move their advertising dollars elsewhere, but “risk the wrath of bad reviewers” and the penalties accrued by not playing the game Yelp’s way, Bechor says.
Here is Yelp’s comment regarding complaints against its business practices and algorithms: “Yelp’s mission is to connect consumers with great local businesses by giving them access to reliable and useful information. Consumer trust is our top priority, which is why we take significant measures to maintain the integrity and quality of the content on our site. Yelp invests in both technology and human moderation to mitigate misinformation on our platform. Our approach is driven by our automated recommendation software, reporting by Yelp’s community of business owners and users, human moderation, and Consumer Alerts. In fact, economists, academics, industry pundits, the media, and regulators have shown that Yelp is one of the most aggressive and successful at identifying and weeding out unreliable reviews.”
Upon seeing Yelp’s response, Smith says, “Based on what I’ve seen for the last 10 years with them, it’s basically a copy and paste of their policies, which they make hard to find on their website until you strike a nerve, then they can vary that into a real gut punch.”
Rowe adds: “There is no amount of money a business can pay Yelp to alter reviews or ratings, and we treat reviews for advertisers and non-advertisers exactly the same – regardless of when a business starts, stops or declines to advertise on Yelp.”
She goes on to say in her email: “Claims alleging that Yelp reviews are connected to advertising have never been true and have been repeatedly investigated by regulators, rejected in multiple courtrooms, and disproven by independent scholarly studies.”