Yelp: The Backlash Begins…

Picture 25There's a pretty serious article about Yelp, which has become the dominant player in restaurant and 
service reviews in the SF Bay Area, in a local alternative weekly The East Bay Express called Yelp and the Business of Extortion 2.0.

Now recently Yelp has seen a couple of its reviewers sued for reviews about health care providers (both chiropractors), and the issue about what reviewers can say online is probably still to be worked out.

But this article is about something much worse. It accuses Yelp of changing reviews, eliminating them, and generally breaching the church/state line between community and sponsorship.

And it goes both ways. Businesses that advertise get bad reviews “disappeared” and those who don’t find their good reviews are vanishing.

Reading between the lines, it’s probably true that pushy commissioned sales people have been suggesting that good things will happen to those businesses that sponsor/advertise, and that the reverse is true to those who don’t. The question is, have they actually been given the keys to the car to make that happen? If so, it’ll probably kill Yelp’s business. But if it doesn’t then lawsuits and regulation are likely to follow.

This already matters for health care reviews. Yelp has far more doctor reviews (in terms of number of reviews per physician) than any other review site I’m aware of in the SF Bay Area. But of course, the same issue is potentially true for any review site that focuses on doctors and is searching for a business model.

The only issue as of now is that, as Michael Millenson pointed out this week on THCB, the healthcare review sites out there now can only hope for a fraction of Yelp’s reach and power.

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MutzJohn IrvineDannyRobert Carl Parisien Recent comment authors
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I will say this. As a small business in Seattle here was my experience. 1. I get a call from Yelp to advertise. I decline and my 12 5 star reviews, suddenly goes to 8 5 star reviews. Since I had no bad reviews I just sort of shrugged that off. 2. I get a bad, false review. I contact Yelp and they tell me the review is legit and she has a right to say how she “feels” even though in her review she recommends my competitor and flat out makes false statements of events that didn’t happen. With… Read more »

John Irvine

Interesting comment Danny … 1. Yeah. She ends the article “quickly” about three hundred words short of 5,000 words. You’re clearly on to something. 2. The sources refused to identify themselves publicly because they feared Yelp would use the same tactics to bury their reviews. In the news business that’s a legitimate reason to not include a source’s name in a story – not the same thing as a malicious “anonymous source.” If somebody – say the California Attorney General’s office – were investigating this story, the reporter can provide contacts. 3. She doesn’t finish an admission that “all might… Read more »


I think you should really read the article. The article ends quickly with an admission that perhaps all might not be as it seems. She admits that perhaps her sources are biased. Furthermore, the sources refused to identify themselves. Furthermore, she has no vendor who believes in the service – such as myself and many of my associates who have good and bad reviews but recognize the power to learn from them all. Lastly, I have never been approached, never had bad reviews removed (even when I pointed one of them out as being blatantly false.) The matrix, to which… Read more »

Robert Carl Parisien
Robert Carl Parisien

Dr. Robert Carl Parisien says: I agree completely. Yelp’s reach is dramatic. Its the place to go for health information.