Yelp Changes Review Filtering, Tries to be More Transparent

Yelp, a web-based service that lets consumers review or browse reviews of local businesses, is making feature changes to fight claims of manipulated reviews. These changes fall on the heels of a class-action lawsuit based on claims that some Yelp representatives coerced business owners to advertise by manipulating the ordering and thus visibility of negative reviews. Some business owners have even claimed that Yelp even hired people to write negative reviews in the first place.

According to a post on the official Yelp weblog by CEO Jeremy Stoppleman, the service is making two key changes, in order to be more transparent. First, they’re adding the ability to see filtered reviews — meaning that questionable reviews can now be viewed. Second, they’re removing the “Favorite Review” feature from advertising packages. Stoppleman explains the changes:

“Why? Because while Yelp has seen tremendous growth in just a few years, we’re still new to a lot of people. Despite our best efforts to educate consumers and the small business community, myths about Yelp have persisted. We’ve said all along we believe these incorrect notions stem from the combination of the filter and this advertising feature — and we’re practicing what we preach. Lifting the veil on our review filter and doing away with ‘Favorite Review’ will make it even clearer that displayed reviews on Yelp are completely independent of advertising — or any sort of manipulation.”

So essentially, Yelp is separating reviews from advertising, which is apparently what caused the confusion amongst small business owners. Fast Company claims that Yelp should have been transparent in the first place.

Do you use Yelp? Do you agree with these changes? How do you think Yelp could help protect business owners from false reviews?