9 Myths about Yelp

Here at Yelp we're trying to make the
world a better place by helping people to connect with great local
businesses.  We've grown very quickly in a few years, and our site is
different from what most people were previously used to with yellow
pages and other directories.  As a result, people sometimes
misunderstand how we do business, have questions about how the site
works, or just plain don't like the idea of consumer reviews.  Here are
some of the Yelp Myths that we've heard most often:

Myth # 1: To rank highly in Yelp search results, businesses have to buy advertising

Reality: Yelp search result pages often feature one orange-background,
clearly-labeled Sponsored Result at
the top of the page.  We got the idea for this design from the major search engines. Look at the ad designs compared here
and, if you find yourself even a little confused about the Yelp ad,
please send over any suggestions about how to make it even more obvious.

Yelp's numbered search results (all of the other listings
in white background) have absolutely nothing to do with who is paying
us.  For example, check out this search result for the very popular "Restaurant, San Francisco"
query.  As of February '09, only 1 of these top 10 resulting
restaurants (Masa, at #9) is a Yelp advertiser.

Myth #2: Advertisers get to manipulate their reviews (e.g.,
remove negative reviews, add positive reviews, re-order their reviews,

Advertisers on Yelp pay for… well, ads.  These orange-background,
clearly-labeled Sponsored Results appear in various places on the site
including in a single spot at the top of search (see Myth #1).  Along
with their ads, advertisers also get to add a photo slide show to their
business page, and they get to promote one favorite review at the top
of their business page under the header "One of Advertiser's Favorite Reviews."  Here's an example of what this looks like.
With the exception of this one "Favorite Review," consumer reviews for
advertisers are handled exactly the same as consumer reviews for all
other non-paying businesses.  So no, advertisers never get special
powers to remove a negative review, add a positive one or move reviews
around on their page.

Myth #3: Yelp
salespeople manipulate reviews for prospective advertisers (for
example, offers to remove a negative review if a new client signs up,
or a threat to remove positive reviews if the business owner does not
choose to advertise with Yelp)

Reality: We have every reason to trust the smart, hard-working and
ethical salespeople who work at Yelp.  Beyond this, to avoid even an
appearance of impropriety, we've taken several steps to ensure no
member of our team is tempted to game the system.  Specifically:
1. Yelp salespeople do not have access to the system that deletes
reviews; only a few members of Yelp engineering and user support team
have this access, and they literally work on different floors within the office.
Every Yelp salesperson signs an agreement that s/he will not write
reviews of any business while employed by Yelp.  We trust our teammates
in sales to live up to this commitment.  We also have several monitoring systems in place to ensure nobody
(accidentally or otherwise) crosses this line.
3. Through our vigilance, we once did find a
salesperson who encouraged a friend to write a positive review for a
prospective client (that the friend had actually patronized). The salesperson's role at Yelp ended that day.
When a new advertiser signs up with Yelp, the relationship is handed
off to an Account Manager.  The Account Manager then takes the client
through a 30 minute phone training session — and confirms that reviews
have nothing to do with advertising.
5. After the training call, the
Account Manager sends a follow up survey that asks each client how much
s/he agrees with the following statement: "I understand that Reviews
are completely separate from the Yelp Ad
Program, and that there is an automated filter that may suppress some
of my reviews whether or not I am a client."  Any client who does not
click "Completely Agree" in this case gets yet another follow-up call
for clarification.

Myth #4: Yelp removes positive reviews from businesses its staff
does not like, or from businesses that do not pay for advertising

A review you may have seen on Yelp previously is no longer there; this
happens.  The review in question may have "disappeared" for one of
three reasons:
1. The review may have been suppressed by Yelp's automated Review Filter, which
is always out there looking for suspicious reviewing activity (like
those anonymous rants and raves you see on other sites). 
2. The writer may have removed her own review; she has the right to do that at any time
Another user believed the review violated Yelp's Review Guidelines and
sent it to our customer service team for review. The customer service
team agreed, then manually removed the review.

Both our customer service team and the Review Filter work exactly the same way for advertisers as they do for non-advertisers.

Myth #5: Yelp salespeople harass business owners by calling incessantly, and will never stop

Our salespeople call local businesses to introduce our targeted
advertising programs; we're trying to establish warm new relationships,
never to irritate someone. Persistence is part of sales, and if a
business manager asks one of our salespeople to "keep in touch" or
"call next week," we will!  On the other hand, our salespeople don't
like wasting time (yours or theirs), so if you tell your Yelp sales rep
to call back in three months, we'll do that.  And if you really want us
never to call again, we will add you to our "Do Not Call" list.  If you
ever become aware of a Yelp team member violating your specific request
along these lines, please let us know.

Myth #6: Reviewers on Yelp are very young, mostly in high school or college

In January 2009, 94% of Yelp reviewers were over 23 years old. This
means about 6% of reviewers fall into that "high school or college age"

Myth #7: Yelp reviewers get sued regularly by business owners for writing negative reviews

Reality: Freedom of speech
is a well-protected right, whether that speech is online or
in any other form. As a
result, reviewers are well within their rights to express their opinions (ranging
from "I love the ambiance" to "The cashier was rude to me")
and relate their true experiences ("I ordered the shrimp scampi” and
“The doctor wouldn’t accept my insurance”).  Some of the
most successful business owners on Yelp use their free business owner's account to contact positive and
negative reviewers alike, even when they feel a review is unfair or incorrect. 
Reviewers are usually thrilled to get a well-meaning response.  The handful
of business owners who have pursued the “nuclear option” of suing someone
over a negative reviewer have met with little success, high legal bills, and a lot
more attention focused on the negative review than they originally bargained
for.  When that happens, we make it a point to involve ourselves early on
to protect the rights of legitimate reviewers.

Myth #8: Yelp was created to allow whining and complaining about businesses

Reality: Just the opposite. Yelp was created to help consumers find
great local businesses. And it's working: more than 85% of the 5
million reviews written to date are 3+ stars.  So if anything, that
small percentage of negative reviews provide an important consumer
service. Just like in the real world, not every local business
experience is going to be perfect.

Myth #9: Business owners have no voice on Yelp

Reality: Every local business can setup a FREE Business Owner's Account
to publicly post a description of the business, announce special
offers, message customers, add photos, track traffic on their Yelp page
and more.