ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Yelp's Pointless Sting

Updated on June 17, 2015

Yelp Consumer Warning Is Misleading

ABC news recently aired a segment about Yelp's latest strategy for uncovering fake reviews on their search engine: Sting operations using Yelp employees posing as 'yelpers', answering ads which offer to pay them for writing positive reviews about their business listings on Yelp. Do you believe what you just read, because I have trouble believing what I just wrote. It's true, though. Just Google-search "Yelp Phony Reviews" or "Yelp Fights Fake Reviews", and you can watch the whole piece on YouTube.

I am convinced that Yelp is their own worst enemy. I've had trouble understanding the necessity for a platform which is geared toward people who don't quite realize the ramifications of their opinions. We already have professionals who rate restaurants, the Better Business Bureau as a watermark for many industries, the Federal Trade Commission to handle serious complaints about particular business practices, and newspaper and TV reporter task forces, to out scamming businesses (businesses that pose potential health risks), and to publicize superbly run businesses that are jewels to the city.

I've been on Yelp's website and seen hundreds of yelpers who have each written 2500 reviews. That is the equivalent of visiting a new place and writing a new review seven days per week for seven years. I will practically guarantee that none of these yelpers run their own business. I own multiple businesses that I've advertised online since 1999 or 5 BY (Before Yelp), and nobody cared one iota about phony positive reviews. We only cared about phony negative reviews, and if we ever got one, we would contact the search engine and have it removed. That was it, end of story.


Then Yelp came along with their top-secret, Vienna conference, Nuremberg trial, cutting-edge algorithm, that could determine beyond reproach, whether a review is fake or real, while parting the Red Sea, curing cancer, and creating a usable energy out of old VHS tapes. Yelp is now eight years old, and has faced at least two class-action lawsuits in the last eighteen months. A few years ago, I wrote several articles describing my disdain towards Yelp and their algorithm, but their 72 million monthly viewers are evidently blurring their vision, when it comes to seeing the big picture.

I have been keeping track of random yelpers, their reviews, and the businesses reviewed, and I am still searching for a tangible reason as to why Yelp is so popular. I can't find one, other than people are buying into the notion that Yelp's reviews are legitimate. Well, I'm sorry. Yelp's formula for testing reviews has flaws. Yelp even admits to these flaws.

After one of their stings, the business in question is labeled with a Yelp consumer warning stating. "We caught someone red-handed trying to buy reviews for this business. We weren't fooled, but wanted you to know that Yelp is the greatest company in the world and all small businesses should bow to are supremacy regarding which reviews are fake and which reviews are real." (Well...I might have paraphrased the latter part of that statement.) However, notice the careful wording, "We caught someone red-handed trying to buy reviews for this business." It doesn't say, "This business was caught red-handed..." or "We caught a representative of this business red-handed...". It only states "...someone...", which could mean anyone, including a competitor.

I'm creative enough to picture a scenario where six similar businesses exist in one town, and four of them conspire to get the other two branded with a Yelp consumer warning. They place ads offering $20 or $30 for a positive Yelp review (for their two competitors), with the agenda of falling into a Yelp sting. It would cost them $50 to have their competitors branded with a scarlet "Y". Is that so far-fetched? Not when you consider that most of the new i-phones, smart-phones, i-pads, and notebooks will have a built-in Yelp navigational application. All of these devices will give information to the public, strictly from Yelp's perspective. Is my "sting by design" scenario sounding more plausible?


Here's a question: What has more of an impact on a small business, ten fake positive reviews or one fake negative review? As a small business owner, I can assure you that one fake negative review can hurt a small business a whole lot more than ten fake positive reviews can help that same business. Yelp's sting operation was created solely to discover fake positive reviews. That's a lot of time, money, and energy that Yelp is using to stop a problem that's not really a problem, as far as I'm concerned.

But here's the $72 million question, that all Yelp zealots seem to be missing: If Yelp's algorithm, their quintessential claim to fame, their "raison d'etre", is so cutting edge and beyond reproach...then why do they need a sting operation in the first place? Think about it.

© 2013 Daniel Marcosi


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)