User-review site Yelp has announced it is clamping down on biased reviews by sending alert messages to consumers if a business is suspected of shady practice.
The site will warn its 78 million users about attempted paid-for reviews and, once clicked on, will show screenshots exposing the dishonest activity. The alert will then stay on the business page for 90 days, unless evidence of misleading reviews continues.
Following the announcement, nine companies had the consumer alert message posted on their profile page with the company promising more alerts to follow for those found doing the same.
Eric Singley, VP of consumer products and mobile at Yelp, said: “While our filter already does a great job of highlighting the most useful content, we think consumers have a right to know when someone is going to great lengths to mislead them.”
According to the firm, the next steps in Yelp's Consumer Alert program will be to highlight those brand pages that have a high number of reviews submitted from the same IP address – an indicator that they lack authenticity.
But Steve Hurn, CEO of social commerce provider at Reevoo, argues that bad reviews are actually good for business and companies are mistaking a mistake by attempting to manipulate their brand page.
He says: “The news that Yelp are setting up a sting operation to catch businesses trying to fake reviews goes to show the importance many companies still place on good reviews, as well as the fact that some are willing to lie in order to get ahead.
“However, this very premise is based on the idea that bad reviews are bad for business. In fact, our own research shows consumers spend four times as long on a retailers’ site when they interact with bad reviews, they trust the reviews much more, and convert to sales nearly 70% more often. Believe it or not, negative reviews can help your business.”