Yelp CEO: Listings with Paid Reviews Beware

If your current local SEO strategy includes paid reviews, you had better think twice – this could hurt your business, especially if you’re on Yelp.

Yelp’s CEO, Jeremy Stoppelman, recently confirmed that they are running sting operations on businesses buying fake reviews. The aim of these operations is to clean up Yelp listings of fake reviews, maintaining the authenticity of recommendations on their network.

Sifting Through Reviews and Spotting Fakes

Yelp’s main structure already incorporates an idea of spotting and removing fakes easily. When Yelp began in 2004, their structure was based on sharing reviews and recommendations via email exchange. Today, Yelp has an algorithm in place that detects low-quality, poorly written, and obviously fake reviews. Yet even with these algorithms, Yelp still wants to take more proactive measures to take the battle against paid fake reviews a step further.

“The way we have decided to combat that is we have a team that is dedicated to running sting operations,” Stoppelman revealed in an interview with The Telegraph recently. “So we pose as review writers who are interested in selling reviews to whoever would like to buy them.”

What they do when they catch a business engaging in review buying is to post a prominent warning on their Yelp listing for three months:

Yelp’s consumer alert for business listings with paid reviews

Yelp’s consumer alert for business listings with paid reviews
Yelp’s consumer alert for business listings with paid reviews

Expanding Sting Operations to Other Countries

Their tactics have proven to be effective at cleaning up their listings further. “It has been incredibly successful in that we have been able to catch businesses red-handed,” Stoppelman said of their sting operations.

“It’s [the warning message] obviously a deterrent, and as more business owners find out that we’re out there hunting, and you’re likely to get caught red-handed if you do, not only is it embarrassing but that’s really going to affect your business for those three months in that it’s going to drive consumers away from your page,” he explained.

Right now, their team is only running the sting operations for U.S. businesses, but they are looking to expand operations to other countries soon. They are looking to implement the same tactics in Europe. They’ve already issued over 285 consumer alerts since beginning the sting operations.

What This Means for You

Google has discouraged content buying already, but if that’s not enough of a warning as it is, Yelp’s actions should warn you not to engage in such activities. Encouraging your clients to rate your listings and share authentic reviews of their experience with you will ensure real growth and keep you in Yelp’s good graces.

If you suspect you have fake reviews on your page, talk to us today and we’ll help you clean it up and gather real reviews from your satisfied customers.


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