New Documentary Exhumes Yelp ‘Extortion’ Allegations That Won’t Go Away

Antiy elp documentary

Plaintiffs in multiple lawsuits have unsuccessfully argued that Yelp is a “shake-down” racket that manipulates reviews to encourage SMBs to advertise and punish those that don’t. At the heart of these claims is Yelp’s controversial and often misunderstood “review filter.”

Now a new crowdfunded documentary seeks to make the same argument to the broader public. A press release and several articles on it yesterday were being blamed for a drop in Yelp’s stock. (The stock has recovered today.) The kickstarter project has raised roughly $17,000 of its $60,000 goal.

The claims in the trailer (below) are pretty sensational — all of which have been made multiple times before. There’s a good deal of merchant resentment (even bitterness) out there against Yelp and that continues to fuel what might be called “magical thinking” about the operation of the review filter.

Nonetheless the persistence of these rumors and beliefs about the connection between reviews and advertising on Yelp suggests that some of the often inexperienced salespeople have contributed to the misperceptions that continue to plague Yelp. And I continue to be surprised by the strength of these rumors and the fact that many industry insiders believe them as well.

Why do you think these rumors and beliefs about Yelp persist despite waves of unsuccessful litigation? Do you think it’s a “rogue salesperson” issue or is it a function of salespeople under pressure implying an ads-reviews connection to close new accounts? Do you think it’s a more systemic sales training issue that the management is not addressing? Or do you actually believe the “extortion” claims are real though unproven?

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3 Responses to “New Documentary Exhumes Yelp ‘Extortion’ Allegations That Won’t Go Away”

  1. Saumil Mehta says at

    I of course have no proprietary information but have to assume that part of this stems from the sheer # of coincidences that must occur at Yelp’s scale between a call with a sales rep and a change (positive or negative or neutral) in ratings and reviews by way of review filter. 

    Yelp has thousands of salespeople nationwide. Each of them calls hundreds of net new businesses (defined as a business that has not heard from Yelp Sales in X months) every month. 

    So we’re talking about hundreds of thousands of touches every month while review filter continues to “do its thing”. Even with a Chinese Wall between Advertising and “Content” there will occur lots of cases where a call from a rep will be immediately followed with a drop in ratings just given the sheer volume at which they operate. 

    No wonder the rumors persist to this day. FWIW, we talk to small businesses every day and hear the same complaints/rumors constantly in a pretty visceral way. 

  2. Greg Sterling says at

    They need better sales training then.

  3. Stacy says at

    Yelp is crooked. I know first hand. Worst review site ever. The fucked me good when i refused to pay for advertising

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