Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Why I hate Yelp and you should too

Have you heard of the review site Yelp?  Unfortunately I have. 

Yelp wants you to believe that they have an unbiased way of presenting online reviews. They say that they have a “magical algorithm” which eliminates false reviews which can either skew the overall rating in either a positive or negative direction. They say that they have no control over this algorithm so human bias is removed from the equation.

What baloney!

This is how their “magical algorithm” works. If it isn’t, I hope that Yelp can clarify the issue because being mysterious is really hurting them right now.

If you review a business and it is your first review, then the algorithm picks it up and eliminates it from the business listing. The algorithm thinks that, because you are not a frequent reviewer, you are either a friend of the business (and therefore trying to inflate the overall rating) or you are a competitor and trying to sabotage the overall rating. Although the review is eliminated from the business listing, it will still stay on the reviewer’s profile page and be pretty much useless.

The problem with this is that there are many legitimate reviewers who do not frequently review businesses. Apparently their reviews are not as worthy as the reviewers who have nothing better to do than fill pages with their opinions. This is incredibly frustrating for small business owners because many very good reviews are eliminated. At our clinic, four legitimate and positive reviews in the past month have gone by-by for this reason.

On the flip side, it is dang near IMPOSSIBLE to get rid of bad reviews even if they aren’t even about your business! We have two reviews on our site that are obviously fraudulent (one review describes a situation that happened to a neighboring clinic and has nothing to do with us) and yet we have tried unsuccessfully to take them down. The best we can do is write a comment at the bottom saying that this review doesn’t refer to us. Of course, the one star stands and contributes to our overall rating.

And don’t think for a minute that Yelp is all automated algorithms and has no human meddling. If you PAY them a pricely monthly sum (usually $300 or so), you can “enhance” your business page by highlighting a great review, pushing the negative reviews to the bottom of the pile (so that they are less likely to be read) and get rid of competitor’s ads on your listing. So far we haven’t paid this extortion money but I’m wondering if we did whether we would finally be able to get rid of those fraudulent reviews.

I think it’s time that Yelp needs to come clean and be very clear about all its policies. Whether it chooses to do so or whether it is forced to do so because of a class-action lawsuit is still unclear. In the end, I hope that a better business model comes out of it.

Oh, and if you want to talk to a customer service rep about any problems that you might be having?

Fuggetaboutit. No customer service number exists. Hmmmm, wonder why?

My rating of YELP. One star that’s fading fast.

No comments: