Worth mentioning is Yelp's long (alleged) history of using review filtering as a de facto racket to 'encourage' businesses to sign up for their paid services.
A company I used to freelance for found that after they stopped paying Yelp for a premium account, they started seeing more negative reviews and a number of their positive reviews were filtered out. They got almost daily phone calls from Yelp marketing types essentially suggesting that if they renewed their subscription, the negative reviews would 'disappear'.
This was a few years ago, so maybe things have changed since then. Either way, I wouldn't hold your breath for a better review verification system.
This happened to a driving instructor I know just 2 weeks ago. He had a 4 star average rating on Yelp, receives a call from Yelp sales pitching some kind of a premium service. He declined. Within a week most of his positive reviews were suddenly filtered out dramatically reducing his score.
I use Yelp mostly for its metadata, such as restaurants' '$/$$/$$$' price categories, or a quick, easy-to-read menu sampling. I give the reviews approximately zero weight at this point in Yelp's evolution.
Especially complicated when you realize that their mapping system is completely broken for numerous addresses. I used Yelp to try to find a good local cafe to eat at in Irvine. Drove right to the spot indicated on the map and found an industrial complex. Had to look up the business name on Google Maps to find that it was about five miles South of where Yelp told me the cafe was.
Same thing happened again in Vegas, looking for a nice place to eat, find something that looks interesting and then see that Yelp places it in an industrial complex nearby. This time I don't expect to find the place, but I drive by and find myself somewhere in a dark alley full of closed-for-the-evening auto shops.
I'll still use Yelp to find the name of a business, but then I have to switch to Google Maps and do a reality check to actually see if the business is near by and how to get there. A real PITA.
That's the only thing I use them for. It's more convenient to search for "bar" and see a list of actual boozeries, vs. searching Google Maps and finding metal manufacturers, and various businesses that happen to have "bar" in their name.
"Worth mentioning is Yelp's long (alleged) history of using review filtering as a de facto racket to 'encourage' businesses to sign up for their paid services."
EXTREMELY worth mentioning. If you've yelped Yelp, so to speak, you know to take their recommendations with a grain of salt and then some. Caveat emptor.
While I'm on the topic, the idea of a single company managing reputation for any given space is silly beyond words. Downright moronic, even.
Reputation is an aggregation of multiple opinions. No aggregating entity can aggregate without their aggregating principle spinning the results. Yelp is notorious for a corrupt and indeed outright criminal aggregating principle -- "we'll suppress bad reviews if you pay us and good reviews if you don't" -- but the same is true for any aggregator, whether they're aggregating based on good principles or bad, because aggregation is a form of authorship. I mean look at Hacker News vs Reddit vs Digg vs Slashdot. They all aggregate, and each has a distinctive voice.
Because of this, yes, Yelp is a useful resource, but no, don't use it for a serious purchase without going on Google. If you use Google and Yelp, you're at least polling multiple sources, so you're doing something which can access the fundamental aggregating dynamic which powers reputation in the first place. A single point of failure for reputation is a contradiction in terms!
That made me think of an interesting idea. No problem is not solvable with some level of indirection!
A review aggregator website where the value of reviews from various sources is weighted by how reliable they are. For example, if there is Yelp, Facebook and Google, it can weight a restaurant 0.7 Yelp, 0.2 Facebook and 0.1 Google.
It's not worth mentioning. Almost every case has been a coincidence and they've gone out of their way to explain the review filter (which functions similarly to Google's PageRank algorithm and attempts to filter out spammy reviews using various factors).
Each court case related to this has been thrown out.
If you trust Google to be fair with PageRank then there hasn't been any evidence that should make you more concerned about Yelp.
Business owners complain about getting demoted in Google's PageRank algorithm quite a bit, too.
I don't recall ever hearing people receiving calls from Google salespeople who imply that a failure to buy advertising on Google may result in a reduction in PageRank, or that purchasing advertising may restore it.
> Business owners complain about getting demoted in Google's PageRank algorithm quite a bit, too.
Google rankings fluctuate over time, but it is never the result of a direct targeting of an individual company or URL by google, whereas there is ample evidence that Yelp directly targets individual businesses depending on whether or not they are paying customers.