According to recent statistics, approximately 95% of consumers say they use the Internet to find local businesses, and 85% say they read online reviews, according to BrightLocal.
These reviews are powerful and many small businesses will admit that customer reviews can make or break a local business.
A recent deal between Yelp and Yahoo now has Yelp providing business listings for Internet searches on Yahoo. However, many small businesses are not happy with this arrangement as many older Yahoo reviews have been erased since this partnership was formalized and replaced with Yelp reviews.
This has angered many in the small business community who depend on positive aged reviews – even from two or three years back — to help market their business.
A recent article by the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) explored this issue and found some customers complaining that several weeks ago, after Yahoo began posting reviews from Yelp, dozens of reviews disappeared. One local business claimed they lost nearly 50 Yahoo reviews!
This issue goes even deeper than erasing good reviews – it also highlights the growing influence of Yelp online and the small business community’s concerns about Yelp sales practices and review filter algorithms. Many claim that since Yelp asks reviewers to build profiles and can take any screen name – the practice has allegedly led to the posting of “fraudulent” reviews. For instance any competitor could allegedly write bad reviews about a small business – and because the reviewer can be anonymous – the small business has no way to defend itself.
The WSJ reported that Yelp officials said “…most of its reviewers use their real names and that it has systems to protect the site from fake reviews. The site’s software suppresses about 25% of submitted reviews and only reviews that are cleared by the software filter will appear in Yahoo search…”
Another WSJ article reported that “Yelp … receives roughly six subpoenas monthly, some of which seek the names of anonymous users. Though Yelp declined to say whether the subpoenas had increased or decreased, it said many requests for information arise from private litigation brought by business owners.”
A statement by Yahoo claims the following: “We partnered with Yelp, one of the most trusted, relevant sources of consumer business reviews, to provide a richer search experience for Yahoo users. That’s why when Yelp’s reviews are available for U.S. businesses, they will replace Yahoo Local reviews.”
In the meantime, small businesses are left with little choice other than cultivating positive Yelp reviews.