Jump to content

Cre8asiteforums Internet Marketing
and Conversion Web Design


Something Smells At Yelp

  • Please log in to reply
10 replies to this topic

#1 swainzy


    Honored One Who Served Moderator Alumni

  • Hall Of Fame
  • 3322 posts

Posted 17 November 2008 - 11:03 AM

Found this article in the paper this morning. "Some businesses say salespeople from online review site Yelp.com offered to play up positive comments - for a price."

Sonoma County business owners are on the receiving end of a marketing blitz by online review site Yelp.com. The San Francisco-based company has launched an aggressive telemarketing effort to get more advertisers on its site. Frequent sales pitches aren't new -- as anyone who lets their newspaper subscription lapse knows. But some business owners feel Yelp's telemarketers have gone too far, and that its salespeople are misleading. Yelp lets people share their reviews about businesses and has become a popular search tool to find shops and services.

Now some business owners are giving Yelp negative reviews for its sales pitch. Condra Easley, co-owner of Patisserie Angelica in Sebastopol, said she was told that for $300 a month she could rearrange the reviews about her pastry shop so the bad ones would drop to the bottom.

Rest of article.

Seems to me that Yelp could be the one's writing the bad reviews so they can go to the business' and get them to pay monthly to move the good reviews up. Very thuggish behavior, don't you think? I find this a bit disturbing. What's the use of reviews then?

Your thoughts?

#2 iamlost


    The Wind Master

  • Site Administrators
  • 5474 posts

Posted 17 November 2008 - 11:47 AM

The spiel is not new. I have been hearing/reading reports of similar from Canada, US, and UK for over a year about various online YP directories.

First: Very Important Factoid: telemarketers work from a script. Either client provided or client approved. Their calls are recorded and audited.

However, many clients do use the telemarketer as a scapegoat. Someone to tie the can to when the shoddy practice, whatever it might be, or the discrepency between what is said and what is actually offered, is pointed out. I have been told that this is an additional cost feature offered by some telemarketers. Regardless, the client knows what is being said, what is being offered.

Of course that brings up the question of at what level the client knows. Is that account manager a true rogue or simply another scapegoat? One way to tell is if that person is identified and remains in position or sideshifted or 'fired' and shortly rehired. But which media ever follows up such things?




  • Hall Of Fame
  • 6374 posts

Posted 17 November 2008 - 11:51 AM

ohhh... that does smell...

I wonder if this is really true or just a poorly trained employee making inaccurate statements to potential buyers or business owners who interpret what was said in a way that is different from what Yelp intended. I wonder if employees are paid on commission or hourly?

#4 iamlost


    The Wind Master

  • Site Administrators
  • 5474 posts

Posted 17 November 2008 - 12:49 PM

How about a Yelp 'review' on RipOffReport?

Yelp's sales reps use negative postings as a 'lead source' to call the owner and attempt to sell Business Owner Accounts.

Or from CBS network affiliate, KPIX San Francisco, Business Owners 'Yelp' About Internet Ratings Site

But Yelp's policy is not to remove negative postings. "Instead they removed some positive postings. They refused to remove the bad posting, and then they called me to solicit a business account," said Kellinger.

A business account called a "Sponsorship Program" allows businesses to bring a favorite review to the top, provide a photo slideshow, and a message from the business owner.


Another growing problem: customers threatening to "Yelp you" with a negative review to get free services or products. So, some stores, like Roos in Oakland, are posting signs saying "No Yelpers."

But in fairness, you can "Yelp" Yelp. Kellinger did. "We posted a bad review about Yelp that they did this, but they removed that one," said Kellinger.

:violin: :pieinface: :violin:

#5 cvos


    Whirl Wind Member

  • Members
  • 93 posts

Posted 17 November 2008 - 01:44 PM

<i>We posted a bad review about Yelp that they did this, but they removed that one," said Kellinger.</i>

Ouch - Yelp only allows positive reviews of itself? This would be a major blow to their credibility.

#6 SEOigloo


    Honored One Who Served Moderator Alumni

  • Hall Of Fame
  • 2100 posts

Posted 17 November 2008 - 07:33 PM

This is the second time in 4 months that prominent news sources have covered the frustration of business owners who have been burned by Yelp. The ominous name of Merchant Circle is now being linked to descriptions of Yelp's business practices...a bad sign. And, yet, both Yelp & MC continue to 'catch' small business owners who have yet to become familiar with their brand or their policies. As I've heard it, Matt McGee is trying to get ranked for "Merchant Circle Sucks". If there's one thing I dislike most in the lovely world of working with SMBs, it's how easily they get sucked into exploitative deals.

I don't think a week goes by that at least one client doesn't send me an email saying, "I got this email from this company offering to...." and it's never a good deal for the client.

Great job spotting this, Donna! I was happy to blog about this.


Edited by SEOigloo, 17 November 2008 - 07:34 PM.

#7 swainzy


    Honored One Who Served Moderator Alumni

  • Hall Of Fame
  • 3322 posts

Posted 17 November 2008 - 07:41 PM

I think this problem is more enclusive than Yelp. I think it's a practice many review companies use. Evidently a company called Merchant Circle is doing the same thing. It corrupts the process for everyone!

As I said here, on a blog, how do we know these companies aren't writing the bad reviews themselves in order to drum up business? To me, it certainly calls into question every review process/company. :smelly:

Actually, I believe this is called extortion.

Added: Gee, Miriam beat me to the post so forgive me for repeating.

Edited by swainzy, 17 November 2008 - 08:05 PM.

#8 swainzy


    Honored One Who Served Moderator Alumni

  • Hall Of Fame
  • 3322 posts

Posted 17 November 2008 - 08:03 PM

Wait, there's more. Here's how Yelp marketers are recuited and paid and how they attract users (according to a public statement). Funny, it doesn't mention extortion if you want to get rid of bad reviews.

Here is a taste of what Business Week had to say.

Accountant and freelance writer Maria Christensen, 42, played that role to help get Yelp established in Seattle, working 10 to 20 hours a week for $15 an hour. "We'd watch [the user base] grow from a handful to a few hundred, to more," she says. The marketing assistants are also encouraged to write reviews, but that's not their main job. Yelp tried paying $1 a pop for reviews in new cities, but that often failed to yield quality content.

Some reviewers may be turned off by the notion that an ostensibly disinterested fellow user is getting paid to compliment their writing. Two marketing assistants interviewed by BusinessWeek.com said that while they would tell anyone who asked that they worked for Yelp, they didn't always disclose it when interacting with users. Owning up to working for Yelp felt "weird," says Christensen.

Yelp's Simmons says that all employees are expected to be transparent about their relationship with Yelp. He adds that the main emphasis for marketing assistants isn't generating activity on the site, but rather offline promotions.

For the cities that don't yet have communities to manage, Yelp is hiring go-getter marketing assistants to stoke the fire both on and offline. This fall it advertised the jobs in Austin, San Diego, Washington, D.C., and Atlanta. "Could Yelp.com be the next YouTube?," asked a Nov. 9 ad on Craigslist in Atlanta. "According to Time magazine we could be. This critical role includes: writing witty and insightful reviews…getting your well-written friends (and their friends) to join Yelp…moderating Talk Boards, creating Lists, sending Compliments…[and] spreading the word about Yelp to the broader community."

#9 A.N.Onym


    Honored One Who Served Moderator Alumni

  • Invited Users For Labs
  • 4003 posts

Posted 18 November 2008 - 12:04 AM

Well, the first article does say that with their system, some of the reviews may not be shown and that the reordering is no more, than placing one positive review at the top and labeling it as "Sponsored".

I think it's fine, as long as it were executed right. They surely have gone overboard with the aggressiveness and the wording of the telemarketing message. By the sound of it, they hired some telemarketing company, not have done it themselves. If they did, however, it's just uh, not good.

#10 cre8pc


    Dream Catcher Forums Founder

  • Admin - Top Level
  • 14774 posts

Posted 21 November 2008 - 05:25 PM

Hopefully a representative from Yelp will register and address everyone's concerns and set the matter straight.

I would love to see all sides of the discussion :)

#11 projectphp


    Honored One Who Served Moderator Alumni

  • Hall Of Fame
  • 3937 posts

Posted 21 November 2008 - 06:12 PM

I'd love to see Yelp do that. Here is a classic situation in which a business can address social media. Love to see how they do!

RSS Feed

0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users