Yelp Shines a Light on Review Fraud

One of the most powerful factors that impact Yelp’s ongoing success is trust. This make-or-break variable drives the review leader’s status as a place to get reliable local business information. Knowing this intrinsically, Yelp continues to invest in maintaining and spotlighting its trust & safety initiatives.

All of this resurfaced today when Yelp announced a new feature on its Trust & Safety site that will list the suspicious or misleading reviews activity that it uncovers. This is meant to provide more transparency around its policing efforts, and to shine a light on the rigor that it applies to fight misinformation.

This move joins the existing Consumer Alerts program, in which Yelp detects any attempts to manipulate business reviews – which can happen by a given business or its competitors. When detected, Yelp alerts users through warning labels on the offending profile. It has posted 4,900 such alerts since 2012.

Reviews manipulation comes in many flavors, says Yelp, including reviews that were paid for. Generally, it can detect fraudulent reviews through signals that programmatically raise flags for suspicious activity. For example, if a high volume of reviews come from a single IP address, or from known offenders.

“Yelp’s mission is to connect consumers with great local businesses by giving them access to reliable and useful information,” Vice President of User Operations Noorie Malik told Localogy.” Today, we’re publishing the latest Compensated Activity Alerts and Suspicious Review Activity Alerts in a more centralized location, making it easier for Yelp to share suspicious review activity we’ve detected.”

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By the Numbers

Coupled with this latest move – and in a similar spirit of transparency – Yelp today released findings from a new U.S. consumer survey (n=2,000). Conducted by Material, it reveals the ways that online reviews influence consumers’ local spending decisions, and what factors drive their trust in business reviews.

We’ll leave you with a selection of the top findings…

– 76% of respondents read more online reviews now than they ever have before

– 70% of respondents say it’s rare for them to visit an unfamiliar business without checking online reviews first

– Consumers want to know if reviews may be incentivized.

– 85% of respondents want online review sites to tell them if they have reason to believe a business has ever received incentivized reviews

– 68% of respondents would no longer visit a business if they learned a business received incentivized reviews

– Consumers don’t trust solicited reviews and don’t want to be asked to leave a review.

– 65% of respondents who read reviews would write a more positive review than originally intended if a business asked them to leave a review, and 61% admitted they would provide a better star rating

– 54% of respondents wouldn’t trust reviews of businesses that ask customers to leave a review

– Consumers prioritize review transparency.

– 64% of respondents feel that online reviews can be as trustworthy and helpful as personal referrals from their own friends and family

– Some tactics consumers use to help verify the reviews they see include…

– 88% check whether a reviewer frequently visits the type of business they’re evaluating

– 78% check if the reviewer has written other reliable reviews in the past

– 83% are more likely to trust a written review over just a star rating with no review text

– Beyond their ratings and reviews, consumers also rely on review platforms to…

– View the restaurant’s menu (55%)

– Confirm the operating hours for a business (54%)

– Check the address of the business (54%)

– View photos of the business (48%)

– How can local businesses win over potential customers?

– 86% of respondents are more likely to look past a business’s critical reviews if the business adequately responds to the review and addresses the issue

– 70% of respondents are more likely to write a review for a business if they see the business owner responds to every review.

See more details on the report here. Meanwhile, stay tuned for more coverage on Yelp’s moves to crack down on review fraud…

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