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How Yelp’s algorithm is said to suppress legitimate reviews

Word of mouth still reigns supreme, but the internet is now where people go to learn about companies, but what happens with review site algorithm mask legitimate reviews? Business decision makers should be aware of how this works.

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Keeping a small business alive

Verbal recommendations used to keep small businesses alive, especially small businesses with small advertising or marketing budgets. These days, however, internet is king and online business reviews have taken the place of those verbal recommendations. That can mean that a simple recommendation is no longer so simple, for you or your prospective clients. Online reviews and recommendations are only helpful if they’re done correctly, the way it was intended – honestly.

Fake online reviews are sometimes not as easy to spot as they should be. And some business review sites, like Yelp, are said to be promoting the fake reviews and hiding the real, genuine ones—perhaps unintentionally – because of an unrealistic and unreliable algorithm. This causes customers to be deceived and for honest companies to be placed and ranked lower than they actually deserve.

$2,000 down the drain as a result

Justin Vincent described one such Yelp experience with a local moving company. Because of several five-star reviews, Vincent chose to hire a specific moving company, which cost him $2,000 over what he was originally quoted and the experience left him without his furniture for forty days.

When he looked further into the matter, he discovered that reviews made by one-time reviewers and those who are not active participants on the site were hidden and marked as spam. This means that marketing companies or businesses who post review upon review for different companies and even the same company will be showcased while real reviews are hidden.

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Business owners, take note

While it’s easy to understand how frustrating the suppression of genuine reviews can be for consumers, it is even more detrimental for small business professionals. Highly-rated, fake business reviews of your competitors can do enough damage to stunt your professional growth. Not only does it give your competition a leg-up that they haven’t earned, reviews from your happy customers will never be seen, meaning they won’t show in search queries of any kind. But if they did, think of the professional benefits and improved web presence you might have experienced.

While there isn’t much you can do about review sites’ algorithms, you can encourage your happy customers and clients to use other social networking tools to post reviews. Or, you can put it directly on your website. There are ways around using these sites, and perhaps one day they’ll figure out a way to post, promote, and showcase legitimate comments and reviews. Until then, monitor review sites and be aware of how your brand is being represented, and use your other resources to promote your brand and encourage your customers to do the same.

Written By

The American Genius Staff Writer: Charlene Jimenez earned her Master's Degree in Arts and Culture with a Creative Writing concentration from the University of Denver after earning her Bachelor's Degree in English from Brigham Young University in Idaho. Jimenez's column is dedicated to business and technology tips, trends and best practices for entrepreneurs and small business professionals.



  1. Tanner

    May 10, 2012 at 9:01 am

    I am a small business owner and find Yelp to be a site that does not promote fair and equal treatment to the businesses that are on the site. My company has 17 reviews, the total star average would be 4.5 stars, which is not perfect, but really who is. The issue I have is that only 2 reviews are showing and 15 are “filtered” giving me a 2.5 star rating. They are displaying less than 12% of the reviews posted, which to me is not an accurate depiction of my actual company reputation. By showing this inaccurate view of our company I believe they are committing fraud, defamation and libel. The excuse they hide behind is their algorithm. Well I am not buying it any further. I started a Facebook Page to try and get a clearer picture of whether this problem is Nationwide and to what extent it runs. I would like to see if other companies are having the same issue I am having and to see examples of this. Visit the Facebook page and post your thoughts, they won’t be filtered.

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