Yelp! hit 100 Million users in January, 2013. The local directory and review service has been around since 2004, and for many is the go-to site for choosing services of all kinds, based on user reviews.
Yelp! gives regular folks the opportunity to review businesses from dining, to merchants, to service providers. Of course, if you are checking Yelp! to find a nearby sushi place or a mechanic in a town far from, the user has to make a leap of faith and accept the assumption that reviews are honest, and that there is no manipulation by either the vendor or Yelp! itself.
In a recent Google+ discussion someone brought up this Forbes Article – Think Yelp is Unbiased? Think Again!! It bears a look, especially from those of us who have Yelp! business pages. Yelp! filters reviews. They are up front telling business owners that they use the filter: “The filter establishes an objective standard against which every review can be measured.”, and the FAQ goes on to explain why the filter is necessary to weed out bogus reviews, BUT the FAQs do nothing to explain what that objective standard is.
If you scroll to the bottom of a Yelp! business page, you will find a link to filtered reviews. Get past a very low resolution CAPTCHA, and you can see the filtered reviews. My favorite Bar-B-Q place here in Memphis has 48 published reviews and 11 filtered reviews, almost 20% of total reviews (IMO, only 1 of the 11 was totally off track and bogus for this establishment). The Forbes article seems to be right on track – the filter doesn’t like high scores and new users. Check out the filtered reviews for your business or your favorite hangout.
I will continue checking in, reviewing, and using Yelp! as a guide for food and services, but I wish they would come clean and explain the filter to both businesses and consumers.