Yelp Scares off Fake Reviewers with Red Badges of (Dis)Honor

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YelpIf you’re reading this post, you’ve probably relied on an online review before—most likely in the last month. Whether it’s to find a new restaurant for the night, the best local salon, or a trustworthy handyman, many people are turning to online reviews to find new businesses and companies in their communities.

According to a study, 80% of people trust online reviews just as much as they trust reviews from friends and family.

User-review sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, and increasingly, Google are changing the way that new service-based businesses are found. With enough glowing reviews, these websites can drive a large portion of the traffic to these businesses. It’s obviously a huge benefit for business owners to have a solid presence on these sites.

With that great of a benefit, however, comes cheating.

Some business owners create their own fake reviews from the multiple fake accounts they set up. Others take it a step further, by offering discounts for positive reviews on their profile or going directly to Craigslist to ask writers to create positive, glowing reviews for their business.

For sites like Yelp, the ability to remain credible for their users is paramount. In response to the scam reviews, they’re purposefully rooting out companies that are likely using fake reviews and branding their profiles with a “Consumer Alert” notice. The message stays on the profile for at least 90 days, with evidence showing the illegitimacy of their reviews, whether that’s multiple reviews from one IP address or links to Craigslist ads.

As of August 2013, Yelp had branded 150 companies with the Consumer Alert notice—an incredibly small percentage of the companies on their website—but the company did note that they only went after the most egregious offenders.

While Yelp obviously can’t police every profile, they are using Consumer Alerts to scare any copycat companies from using fake reviews.

With more safeguards and monitoring in place, creating fake reviews may not eventually be worth the price and time. Instead, that time may be put into more positive endeavors like—oh, perhaps—improving their businesses.

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