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Yelp’s Recommendation Software Explained

We frequently get asked about our “review filter” in reference to the Yelp recommendation software. As part of our ongoing efforts to educate the business community, we worked with Epipheo Studios to create this video. It’s designed to help folks understand why Yelp’s recommendation software exists and how it works.


Here are 5 important things to understand about the recommendation software:

1. Reviews that reflect perfectly legitimate experiences are sometimes unrecommended out by the recommendation software’s algorithmic processes. We agree this can be frustrating, but it’s the high cost we accept to avoid being a lassez-faire review site that people stop using. Everyone loses when that happens.

2. Reviews are never “deleted” by the recommendation software; they are always shown on 
users’ profile pages. The recommendation software simply syndicates established users’ reviews from their user pages onto business pages. This automated process sometimes creates the perception that reviews are being deleted and re-added over time; what’s actually happening is users are becoming more-or-less established over time.

3. The best word of mouth is organic and unsolicited. As counter-intuitive as it may seem, 
Yelp doesn’t condone business owners soliciting reviews for their businesses. It’s tough for an algorithm to tell the difference between a business owner aggressively putting a laptop in front of a client and saying, “Give me 5 stars!” and that same business owner flipping the laptop around and manufacturing a fake 5-star review about themselves.

4. We’re purposely not elaborate about all the variables that go into defining an “established” user, because it’s a Catch-22:
the more descriptive we are about what makes an established user, the less effective our software is at fighting shills and malicious content.

5. Both positive and negative reviews can be affected. This is to protect Car Mechanic A from Car Mechanic B’s writing of malicious 1-star reviews about his competitor. It also protects someone with a toothache from being lured into the wrong dentist’s office based on 25 fake 5-star reviews he wrote himself.