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Yelp To "Clarify" How Advertising Affects Listing

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the former-lawsuit-is-an-ex-tort dept.

Advertising 53

WrongSizeGlass writes "Ars Technica is reporting that Yelp is going to change some features in the wake of the class-action suit brought against it. Yelp has been accused of extortion; the Yelp co-founder denies all. The NY Times Bits blog has more details about the changes Yelp intends to make. According to Ars, the business that filed the lawsuit says that the newly announced changes do not address their original complaints at all."

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FIRST POST (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31756738)

FP!FP!

Re:FIRST POST (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31756804)

WTF is Yelp?

Re:FIRST POST (4, Funny)

Cryacin (657549) | more than 4 years ago | (#31756854)

Yelp (verb) to call or cry out sharply when a class action law suite is filed against you.

Re:FIRST POST (5, Informative)

Trepidity (597) | more than 4 years ago | (#31757002)

It is a website on the internet, where you can post reviews of things. Mostly restaurants, but apparently also hospitals. It's gotten popular enough that businesses care what their Yelp reviews are like, because it can meaningfully impact business. There are allegations that Yelp takes advantage of this to "suggest" that businesses become paying advertisers, if they'd like their reviews page to look good.

Re:FIRST POST (3, Insightful)

garcia (6573) | more than 4 years ago | (#31757114)

Just so you know businesses care about all websites that have a high Google Rank. I, almost daily, deal with astroturfing except I have no problems researching and outing these people when I catch them. Nothing better than teaching businesses not to be fucking stupid. Here's today's example: http://www.lazylightning.org/rack-shack-bbq-burnsville-mn#comment-49534 [lazylightning.org]

Yelp was helping them be stupid while being stupid themselves. Double negatives are a no-no.

Re:FIRST POST (1)

BillMike (1768382) | more than 4 years ago | (#31772312)

Howwwfeeling I don’t believe it. That is a great picture but I am scare about it. You have a good job. Thank you. oakley sunglasses [oakleysunglassesmall.com] discount oakley sunglasses [oakleysunglassesmall.com] oakley sunglass [oakleysunglassesmall.com]

Re:FIRST POST (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31772958)

Perhaps I missed your point. Who exactly are you in this blog comment clustergasm?

Re:FIRST POST (3, Interesting)

six11 (579) | more than 4 years ago | (#31757262)

It is funny to me that this story comes up on slashdot now. Just two days ago, I went to pick up my dog from the day care place, and the owner asked me if I use Yelp. I told her it was crap and that you can never believe anything you see there, but she (rightfully) said that other people don't see it that way. It seems Yelp had deleted all their positive reviews, and only kept the one bad one. This is a business started by a couple young people who have obviously put all of their eggs into this particular basket. It makes me really angry, but I don't know what I can do to Yelp to get them to stop. Ignoring them would do no good, because that's what I was doing before and that obviously wasn't working.

The world needs a way to hold companies like Yelp accountable. My experience with the dog place made me wonder if maybe there was some legal structure a company could use. For example, NotYelp.com does what Yelp does, but sells $1 contracts with anybody who will buy them that the reviewing system meets certain requirements, like not purging positive reviews from businesses that don't advertise with you. This would create an assurance for other people that NotYelp.com would have to be crazy to do untrustworthy things, which should make NotYelp.com reliable and worthy of your trust.

Re:FIRST POST (1)

HBI (604924) | more than 4 years ago | (#31757944)

Sue them. Eventually, the litigation costs will make them shut down, but it'll be a long way down the road, sadly.

It's the only way, though.

Re:FIRST POST (1)

Danse (1026) | more than 4 years ago | (#31757990)

It is funny to me that this story comes up on slashdot now. Just two days ago, I went to pick up my dog from the day care place, and the owner asked me if I use Yelp. I told her it was crap and that you can never believe anything you see there, but she (rightfully) said that other people don't see it that way. It seems Yelp had deleted all their positive reviews, and only kept the one bad one. This is a business started by a couple young people who have obviously put all of their eggs into this particular basket. It makes me really angry, but I don't know what I can do to Yelp to get them to stop. Ignoring them would do no good, because that's what I was doing before and that obviously wasn't working.

The world needs a way to hold companies like Yelp accountable. My experience with the dog place made me wonder if maybe there was some legal structure a company could use. For example, NotYelp.com does what Yelp does, but sells $1 contracts with anybody who will buy them that the reviewing system meets certain requirements, like not purging positive reviews from businesses that don't advertise with you. This would create an assurance for other people that NotYelp.com would have to be crazy to do untrustworthy things, which should make NotYelp.com reliable and worthy of your trust.

You work for NotYelp don't you?

NotYelp.com is starting... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31762886)

NotYelp.com [notyelp.com] is starting...

Disclaimer: I work for NotYelp.

NotYelp.com is starting... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31763064)

NotYelp.com [notyelp.com] is starting...

Disclaimer: I work for NotYelp.

Re:FIRST POST (2, Interesting)

Darinbob (1142669) | more than 4 years ago | (#31758542)

There's no editing of reviews, or taking care that the reviewer is legit, etc. It's basically like a social networking site in many ways; the readers naively assume that no one ever lies, and people like to dispaly pictures of their food from bizarre angles. There's no protection from the person who's pissed off and just wants to trash a place, and likewise you can't rely on the overly hyped places either. In short, there's little value to it beyond the whole "the internet is my social life" aspect. People will say things like "let's go to BaconBarn, Yelp says it's good" using the exact same tone of voice they'd use if they were saying "my friend Bob said it was good."

You're also going to get the fans/haters phenomena. That is, the majority of the people doing reviews are either going to give very positive or very negative reviews. People who don't have strong opinions either way won't bother wasting their time giving a review. Similar to reviews at gaming sites.

Re:FIRST POST (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31758396)

Yelp is the help program in the GNOME desktop.

Yelp (-1, Offtopic)

pitchpipe (708843) | more than 4 years ago | (#31756742)

Yelp. Yell for Help!

Re:Yelp (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31756772)

This is totally offtopic, but it reminds me of Runescape. Run, escape!!

Re:Yelp (1)

Starayo (989319) | more than 4 years ago | (#31757390)

I read it like that for years.

Re:Yelp (1)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 4 years ago | (#31756802)

Leo Laporte's signoff from his canceled TV show: "Don't cry, don't moan, don't yelp! Just Call for help."

Re:Yelp (1)

kronosopher (1531873) | more than 4 years ago | (#31757212)

That show was great. It's too bad that it was too nerdy for the mainstream audiences that TechTV and now G4 are trying to attract. Now they're TV equivalent of 4chan, and even that comparison may be an insult to 4chan.

This is probably because nerds despise overt advertising and TV programs in general since with few exceptions they tend to be oriented towards lowest common denominator morons.

Re:Yelp (1)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 4 years ago | (#31757330)

The podcasters that started after TechTV disbanded, including Rev3, Twit, CNET's podcasting group, and Mevio have all proven you can make money with geek ads, they just need to be voiced by the hosts (instead of a 30-second comedy bit that's contradicted by the main show) and kept topically relevant to tech.

Re:Yelp (1)

Bakkster (1529253) | more than 4 years ago | (#31760710)

The other importance of the ads is that the hosts themselves use and enjoy the service. Twit especially, as Leo makes it a point to use all the products without being comped for them. He only did ads for Ford Sync after buying himself a new Mustang and using it himself. GoToMeeting and Audible are two other services he uses exclusively and raves about because he is happy with the product, and that has made them satisfied long-term sponsors of the show.

In other words, turn it from being an advertisement to an endorsement. Of course, it means your pool of advertisers is smaller (they need to make good products and the podcaster needs to use them), but 3 long-term happy sponsors is better than trying to find 3 short-term sponsors every month.

creators clarify planet/population rescue mandate (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31756750)

just look about you, particularly towards the sky.

never a better time to consult with/trust in your creators. as it says in the manuals; everything made by man fails. that's neither good or bad, just true.

Foobies... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31756756)

Did anyone else misread that as New York Times Tits blog?

Re:Foobies... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31757006)

Did anyone else misread that as New York Times Tits blog?

No, because unlike you, the rest of have at least average reading comprehension skills.

Re:Foobies... (1)

Alex Belits (437) | more than 4 years ago | (#31757800)

No. (now GTFO).

Re:Foobies... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31766500)

If you have trouble with something as geek elementary as "bits", I wonder what's your typical misreading of "nybbles". :P

slightly relevant, slightly not (4, Informative)

Trepidity (597) | more than 4 years ago | (#31756780)

One of the mentioned changes --- giving a link to see the reviews that Yelp's filtered out --- addresses some of the concerns, by at least making it possible to research what Yelp is filtering / not filtering (assuming they really show all reviews in the unfiltered view). The other change the article mentions seems totally besides the point though: the fact that businesses who paid could choose a review to always appear first was never the problem, because that was up-front and part of the advertising package. Removing that feature doesn't even seem necessary.

What the controversy is over is: did or didn't Yelp modify its filtering for particular entries based on whether they were advertisers, and did or didn't they get people (employees or associates) to add positive or negative reviews based on whether they were advertisers? And, separately from that, did their sales staff offer or threaten to do any of those things as part of the attempt to sell ads (and if they did, was that Yelp policy)?

Re:slightly relevant, slightly not (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31757198)

You sound like Glen Beck.

Keep up the good work.

I am the originator of Ninnle! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31756782)

Users 'Ninnle Linux (1460113)' and 'Ninnle Labs, LLC (1486095)' are nothing but poseurs, and no nothing about the true nature of Ninnle!

It's all about BATMAN!

Fire the sales staff. (4, Interesting)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 4 years ago | (#31756786)

Here's the inherent problem. Even if Yelp's policy specifically denies anybody's targeting non-advertisers for unfairly bad profiles, the sales team is made of individuals upset they're not getting a commission from the guy who decided not to buy ads. So, what's going to stop the sales team from trashing the profile of the non-advertiser? This is impossible to prevent unless the site has a staff-free sales system, like Google does with AdWords.

Re:Fire the sales staff. (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31756852)

Google has a premium service with a dedicated account rep once you spend 10,000 a month for 3 months.

Re:Fire the sales staff. (1)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 4 years ago | (#31757012)

True, but they're not knocking on doors of small businesses who don't want them to visit. Also, Google doesn't allow just anybody to tweak PageRank anonymously.

Re:Fire the sales staff. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31757060)

Google doesn't allow just anybody to tweak PageRank anonymously.

That we know of.

Elite? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31756902)

Yelp is shady. I can't wait until they are assimilated.

Irresponsible "Article" (2, Interesting)

startled (144833) | more than 4 years ago | (#31757068)

I searched the linked articles, and several articles linked from those, but couldn't find the word "clarify" in any of Yelp's statements. In fact, the only use I found was also in quotes, in the Ars article.

It appears Ars has decided to substitute scare quotes for "commentary." Readers ought to be informed that the "journalist" may be misleading them, because in fact, Yelp's changes (as "reported" by Ars) do not aim to "clarify how advertising affects listing."

(Please note that my last use of quotes was not intended to scare, but to set off language that came from another source. Sorry if I frightened anyone.)

Screw Yelp (3, Insightful)

Snap E Tom (128447) | more than 4 years ago | (#31757112)

If they were on the up and up to begin with, they wouldn't have to "clarify" anything.

Stop using Yelp. They have no credibility. Google Maps is now aggregating reviews of businesses. Use them instead.

Re:Screw Yelp (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | more than 4 years ago | (#31758626)

Google Maps can be bad too. Looked up a bank branch the other day, and the comments were that it did not exist anymore, and that it was horrible because people asked them if they wanted to open an account when they walked in. Went there anyway, and it did exist (of course). Just people pissed off for some reason wanting to trash the place online.

Basically, don't trust ANY online reviews.

Increased transparency... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31757162)

Had these 2 links in my inbox this morning from Yelp:

http://officialblog.yelp.com/2010/04/announcing-steps-to-avoid-confusion-increase-transparency.html

http://officialblog.yelp.com/2010/03/yelp-review-filter-explained.html

I'll believe it when I see it. I know for a fact that the sales people do or at least did have direct influence over reviews and ranking of them. I'm talking to you James (sales person at Yelp)

If they do this it will make them more of a legitimate service other than just ad/revenue generation for themselves.

Maybe those complaints are unfounded? (0)

Whuffo (1043790) | more than 4 years ago | (#31757312)

Yelp has been around for quite a while now. They turn up pretty highly listed when you search for businesses (at least in the Silicon Valley area). Their reviews are written by people like you and I who have visited these businesses and wish to let others know what their experiences were. When I'm trying to figure out where to eat I sometimes hit Google for suggestions and Yelp is always right there in the top listings.

Do those Yelp reviews affect where I'm going to go (and take others)? You bet it does. There's good and bad restaurants out there and I'm always interested in any clue I can find to avoid a "meh" dining experience.

But there's other sources of information I draw upon - and I've NEVER found a situation where what the Yelp review said was significantly different from what others had to say. What is out there are a lot of businesses being run by people with no business knowledge at all which provide lousy service and substandard food. When someone like Yelp publishes reviews from people who have had bad experiences at that restaurant - the business decides to use the legal system to suppress those bad reviews rather than deal with the problems in their businesses.

Is it possible that some Yelp advertising salesman decided to adjust the ratings to make a sale? Yup, it's possible and it's probably happened. But that doesn't invalidate the larger number of well-deserved bad ratings. There's some really crappy restaurants out there and nothing anyone can say is going to make them acceptable. One SLAPP suit doesn't invalidate what Yelp is trying to do - they could do it better but they're providing a valuable service.

Re:Maybe those complaints are unfounded? (3, Informative)

dark_requiem (806308) | more than 4 years ago | (#31757912)

Except that what is, to you, a few false reviews in an ocean of useful ones is, to the businesses impacted by them, everything. It's all fine and well to say that most of the reviews you see on Yelp are legit, and it's just a few unfortunate businesses being unfairly targeted by shady salesfolk, but to the targeted businesses, that's their entire reputation being flushed down the tubes. If Yelp, or rouge members of it's sales staff, are targeting businesses which don't buy advertising, those businesses have every right and reason in the world to seek redress of their grievances.

Re:Maybe those complaints are unfounded? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31758880)

Yelp, or rouge members of it's sales staff,

To hell with purple people!

Re:Maybe those complaints are unfounded? (1)

lowrydr310 (830514) | more than 4 years ago | (#31760484)

Too bad this was posted as AC. That comment made my day!

On the other hand, rouge is more of a reddish-pink, so "rouge member" is a very accurate description.

Re:Maybe those complaints are unfounded? (1)

ZekoMal (1404259) | more than 4 years ago | (#31757928)

So, as a simplification...

If someone tells you that a place is bad, but then you find out that person lies 10% of the time, will you still believe them every time that they say a place is bad?

That'd be like going to a place that has been known to randomly kick people in the balls. I mean, they don't always kick people in the balls, so why possibly believe they will ever kick you in the balls?

Dear slobbleman, fuck you (5, Interesting)

t0qer (230538) | more than 4 years ago | (#31757572)

So last year the business I work for started getting AstroTurf by a competing business. I work in an entertainment type venue at night, yadda yadda yadda, whatever...

Our competitor basically said that we were a dull venue, but if folks wanted a non-dull venue to please try theirs. They and their gang would re-write their reviews on a weekly basis just so it would float to the top. To the yelp staff, these fake reviews were deemed credible because one of the ringleaders of this astroturfing had an "Elite" next to his name, I guess that makes him special.

One of my regulars, who is also a yelp "Elite" responded by rewriting his review, but included a ton of links to youtube video of our venue that wasn't staged, showing it was lively. Yelp removed the review saying "It contained to many external links" after the other "Elite" douchebag and his buddies flagged it. (When google was thinking about buying yelp, I sent snail mail letters to the google executive staff with a printout of the review and an explanation. I put in big bold letters googles mission statement of "DO NO EVIL". I hope it changed their minds when it came to buying them out)

Back on subject though. NOTHING got yelp to let up. While all this was happening, we got emails and phone calls from yelp salespeople *CONSTANTLY* promising this would all stop if we joined their ad program. We even tried their "Owner comments" but after a few weeks they banned us because we didn't comment according to *their* guidelines.

One reviewer said, "Your waitress looks like the hooker from hamburger hill, me so horny". I think I said something equally offensive to him. Yelp holds business's at a double standard for how they can comment from the reviewers, it's complete bullshit. We got banned from commenting for responding the way our reviewer did? Why didn't they ban him?

Eventually I got tired of it. I recruited friends to start photoshopping the heads of some of the astroturfers on transvestites, gay porn, whatever. We'd post this weekly on our website. We also started dropping dox on our website on slobbleman and the rest of his crew.

Like magic, our sort order returned to normal. Yelp stopped calling us, the little shittards that astroturfing us stopped as well.

I hate yelp. I hate slobbleham and his whole fucking extortion scheme. I have no doubt there will be some slashdotters that are "ELITES" that will have a problem with what I say, and what I saw but let me ask you this..

Have you ever worked at a business that was being actively astroturfed by a competitor? Did yelp offer to genuinely help you or did they tell you paraphrasically "Pay us or go fuck yourself?"

That's what they told me, paraphrasically. Fuck you slobbleman, I hope you choke on a dick.

Re:Dear slobbleman, fuck you (1)

fulldecent (598482) | more than 4 years ago | (#31760650)

Links, photos, uploads, web.archive.org, please

Re:Dear slobbleman, fuck you (1)

BOFHelsinki (709551) | more than 4 years ago | (#31766748)

googles mission statement of "DO NO EVIL"

OH PLEASE. That has never been Google's "mission statement". It appears in a small subsection in their company page and refers to their particular way of placing and identifying advertisements. That's all it's there for.

Can we just finally kill the "Google Promises To Do No Evil" meme? It is not Google's corporate motto, nor do they pretend that it is. Somebody just spotted it there and blew it out of all proportion.

Please?

Re:Dear slobbleman, fuck you (1)

bipbop (1144919) | more than 4 years ago | (#31771206)

People are just trying to needle Google for "being evil". Setting aside the minor semantic point of whether it was their "mission statement" (does anyone at a corporation ever care about their "mission statement" other than overpaid execs?), don't you think "they never promised they wouldn't be evil" is a pretty weak defense to "they're evil"?

All this is a separate question from "are they evil", which I have no interest in weighing in on here.

hiiiiiiiiii (1)

aieedaain (1784044) | more than 4 years ago | (#31758036)

The other change the article mentions seems totally besides the point though: the fact that businesses who paid could choose a review to always appear first was never the problem, because that was up-front and part of the advertising package. Removing that feature doesn't even seem necessary. Massage [squidoo.com]

I see what you did there. (1)

icannotthinkofaname (1480543) | more than 4 years ago | (#31758154)

from the former-lawsuit-is-an-ex-tort department

ex-tort
extort

Yelp was accused of extortion! I get it!

No, really, I liked that pun; keep up the good work.

The Yelp approach doesn't scale down. (5, Insightful)

Animats (122034) | more than 4 years ago | (#31758302)

The fundamental problem with user review sites is that they don't work unless the number of reviewers is large compared to the number of things reviewed. Yelp needs a statistically significant sample size per thing reviewed to work. Movies, yes. Resorts, probably. Major restaurants, maybe. Local plumbers, no. Joe's Plumbing will be reviewed by Joe, Joe's brother in law, Joe's plumbing supply house rep, and maybe a customer.

That's bad enough, but Yelp sales reps "making you an offer you can't refuse" is worse. There are small businesses that live in terror of Yelp.

Back in the 1990s, the SF Bay Area had a "rating service" which got into trouble for extortion. This was before the Web got big. They used window stickers in participating businesses, and heavily promoted their ratings. Their sales pitch to businesses was "your competitor has one of our stickers, shouldn't you buy one too?". They were shut down.

This has gone one before -- (1)

dwiget001 (1073738) | more than 4 years ago | (#31760838)

-- check the history of the Better Business Bureau, it's rating system, how it is financed, etc.

Yelp is just more of the same of the worst part of the BBB, but on the web.

Nothing new here, move along, move along.

A new approach to reviews is needed and emerges (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31770442)

A new approach to reviews has emerged which does not rely on written user reviews but rather uses the principles of market research to determine the user experience of any service provider. It does rely on advertising and enables businesses to work with their customers in a more direct way. The service is called the Customer Satisfaction Monitor (www.customersatisfactionmonitor.com).

Internet Marketing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31813650)

Great Article! What I will recommend for Business Outsourcing [burnyourtodolist.com] is http://www.BurnYourToDoList.com. It is the #1 Internet Marketing Outsourcing Company that will help to drive traffic to your website.

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