NB: As soon as Yelp sees this, they will be working on fixing these specific errors, which is fine.  The point is that these exist… endlessly… throughout the site, and these were just the obvious ones I cataloged in a few hours.

I was so pleased to see a 2 star review disappear from one of my client’s pages today… one that sponsors yelp.  I doubt that means anything, because the below problem looks as if it follows zero rhyme or reason.  This looks like that algorithm really does have a secret aspect about it…. that it is irrevocably flawed.

So… this isn’t about yelp being unethical.  This isn’t about deliberate unethical behavior.  All Jeremy Stoppleman seems to do is look for blogs, waiting to defensively react against criticism… usually ending with the incredibly vapid “it’s the algorithm and it’s secret” argument.  But really, that’s harmless.

However, that argument might not hold water anymore guys.  Below is an afternoon of research, and it is hardly complete.  This could go on forever.  Hopefully… you will recognize that this is enough proof that the integrity of yelp, and it’s functionality, is endlessly flawed.  This is about a faulty algorithm, no more no less.  The below links are all too self explanatory…. pointing out profiles with reviews that are suppressed from business pages.  Whether or not it is about “maintaining the integrity of yelp” as they so often suggest is moot….

These are real people, and real reviews.  In the below documentation, I have often countered the suppressed review of a certain business by highlighting a reviewer that has a nearly similar profile that actually *has* a review posted.  What that means is that many of the profiles that have suppressed reviews are no different from reviews that are posted on the site (sometimes no avatar/pic, sometimes very few reviews, sometimes long periods between reviews)

Many of the arguments against the below research will be:

1) that they don’t have a picture…. but many of the posted reviews do not have a pic as well.  You have to start out with a fresh profile at some point.  If they aren’t giving a voice to people, why would anyone finish updating a profile anyway.

2) Yelp is protecting against “one hit wonders”…. but that won’t stand up, in that many of those people have completed profiles with many reviews that are totally legitimate.  What’s more, some businesses pages have multiple one hit wonders, just to have one of those suppressed?

I also find it interesting that, after a person voices concern on a talk thread…. the reviews magically appear.  I am not suggesting that yelp is reviewing talk threads and acting accordingly when people bring this issue up, but look for yourself…. seems a lot of the voiced reviewers’ concerns have been placated since the beginning of those threads.  I guess it is tantamount to yelp having the mistake brought to it’s attention, and fixing that error.  Admitting that the algorithm is flawed is one thing… but having to constantly correct and second guess, or act as oversite, sort of lessens any integrity or trust I had in the site.  If I have to sit and think about whether it is honest, or whether it can be trusted… well isn’t that a problem?  Many yelpers I have spoken with don’t think so.  You decide.

I have also supplied links to other talk threads where people are simply confused about flagged reviews, or why their review was taken down or isn’t showing.  I added some confused businesses to boot.

If this is your algorithm yelp, you have built your business on one of the most flawed I have seen.  Just my two cents.  If real reviews by real people is what this is all about, yelp has some serious explaining to do about the incredible flaw in their model.  I don’t think this is fixable, and I don’t think they can defend it.

Frankly, I love yelp.  I hope they can.  I think they may want to start.  I knew this wasn’t out and out unethical behaviour… it was just a deeply flawed model.

If you have any odd situations like this…. a review on your profile not existing on a business page, or confusion of the lack of transparency or communication on yelp’s part… let it be heard.

I may be way, way off on this.  But the below is interesting to me.  I hope it is for you as well.  While we wait for transparency, communication, openness, earnestness, and any ounce of interest in clearing up the confusion… Jeremy will pop into any conversation acting defensive and contradictory.  Instead of being defensive and having to always manage bad press… why not just fix it?

Funny that yelp helped destroy the original marketing model so you can no longer damage control or control any “message”…. which is precisely what yelp is retroactively doing when things like this come up.

I have said it before… you need to be an ethical business that consumers identify with, and have an ethos that draws people to “opt-in” to your offering… and not trick people into thinking you are something you are not.  If you aren’t ethical, or you aren’t run well… people will find out.

It’s possible that yelp is both.

(this was on a spreadsheet, pardon the formatting issues)
none of her reviews show on business pages at this point… while on this talk thread it used

to be only two were missing

this guys “Review of the Day” doesn’t even show up on the business listing
none of the review appear on any biz listing… he doesn’t realize it.
hers doesn’t appear on the biz page,

but another no avatar, single reviewer does show on the biz page…

this woman has 7 reviews.  The only one that appears on a biz page is on a business that

sponsors.  That is VERY interesting to me.

his reviews do not appear on any businesses
this reviewer’s 2 star review doesn’t appear on the sponsored business page:
this reviewer has 2 reviews of 11 that show on business listings
none of this users reviews show up on any bizzes
his review doesn’t show up on this page:
doesn’t show on the page:
doesn’t show on the bridal page:
complained here:
doesn’t show up here… while other one star reviews do:
gent deleted reviews he was talking about, so no review proof – but the thread stands.
none of her reviews show up… even with businesses that have people reviewing

with no avatar and less reviews (less credible)



complained on this thread…. that reviews weren’t showing up.  Now all of them do.
complained on this thread:
now it does…plus a very sad story of a GREAT reviewer that gave up… cancelled the account even while liking yelp
complained on this thread:
now all the reviews are showing up.
complained on this thread:
now the grocery store review is up (I helped clue him in to that)
complained on this thread:
now all the reviews are up.
complained on this thread:
now it is up
complained in this thread:
now it’s up
complained in this thread:
and now the review appears
complained here:
now it appears
complained here:
now they are up
complained here:
now they are up
complained… now they are up.
complained here:
meaning the algorithm is inherently flawed, and they are covering it up?  Not sure…. But all this is whack.
whatever the case…. Something is surely weird.
still not sure about this… contacted the person
threads about deleted user reviews


threads about businesses totally confused about disappearing reviews
(also…. Posts removed by yelp admin inside the thread.

Very odd)


About Michael

16 Responses to “Why you will never trust Yelp ever again”

  1. Yvonne

    Wow! You really put a lot of time in this. Now that you have me wondering again, you know what I forgot to mention is a trip! “I” can see MY reviews on ALL the business pages again…since I emailed admins months ago, but I think no one else can? Let me know please? Like my friend Paul Hessinger, kept telling me HE could no longer see my review for him, and I kept telling him, “It’s there!” (???)

  2. JO

    it’s a difficult issue. yelp might be too big to manage. maybe they are too busy with marketing. I think the solution is to let reviews be removed from tipoffs by elites.
    Integrity is the most important thing to me.

  3. Michael Hraba

    It is my assessment that “elites” don’t care about content in any way. At least, a lot of them. They used to have moderators, that could be interesting. They could crowd source this and fix everything. Integrity of the site is important if I am going to recommend my businesses to advert with them, etc. It’s just that I now look at a listing and don’t trust it very much. Overall I am sure it is fine, but it is such a far cry from what they suggested it was.

  4. Pete K.

    Great Research. Thanks for this Info. Yelp should definitely issue a press release after this and clear this confusion and their intent.

  5. Christine S.

    I deleted my 175 reviews and profile last month. I refuse to let yelp use my reviews to blackmail small businesses into being sponsors. Yes, reviews disappear off the biz pages all the time. If you click on the review from your profile, it looks like it’s there but if you search the business and then go into it that way, the review is gone. This happens far more often with a negative review of a sponsored business or a positive review of a business they telemarketed to death. This website sucks because of these policies. They have completely undermined their own usefulness. They ought to change their tag line to: Disappearing Reviews, Shallow People, Tough Telemarketers. Fuck yelp.

  6. Nate BW

    Yes, indeed, I have slowly watched my reviews – all legit by my patients – slowly disappear. Frustrating to say the least.

  7. David

    My own experience was that they removed my review, but that it shows up when I logon. I think at least one other person above had a similar experience. My review as entirely factual and first-hand. Can’t understand this!!

  8. Carl L.

    When I first started with Yelp, it immediately became apparent that they were just a shill for specific establishments; reasons unknown.

    BUT, they not only CENSOR the bad reviews, they also CENSOR good reviews, if the establishment happens to be a competitor of a more favorable CLIENT.

    I tested my theory under numerous guises and various e-mail addresses, only to arrive at the same conclusion.

    ABANDON YELP if you are looking for a true critique. There is something there that I am yet unable to define but, trust me, it is not above board.

    You are being steered toward establishments that Yelp would like you to patronize, regardless of quality.

  9. irina

    You can never believe anything you see in yelp.com. Yelp had delete all positive revies,and only kept bad. Negative reviews contained false information and personal attaks on business owners after declining to advertise.The reviews are manipulated to business owners to buy advertising.

  10. Ryan

    Super details! I have been hunting for something such as this for a little bit now. Thanks for the tips!

  11. paul k

    i am a small business owner who has run afoul of a competitor.
    the competing business has bombarded me (using YELP) with out and out fabrications, libelous accusations, and outrageous drivel via what i can only assume to be one writer with several pseudonyms or one (very unethical) ‘on-line presence’ service with a stable of (fiction) writers masquerading as unhappy clients.
    i have written to yelp on many occasions to explain. you have a better chance of finding God. i haven’t found a phone # you can call (unless, of course, you want to buy advertising), and all my letters have elicited only (the same, word for word), boilerplate answers generated by some robot.
    i finally got so angry i called the FTC (federal trade commission), at 877-382-4357.
    they filed a complaint, and said if they see a pattern (meaning a lot of angry businesspeople filing complaints) they will go after them (yelp).
    the gentleman i spoke with seemed particularly interested in the “extortion for advertising” angle.
    so what are you waiting for??? if yelp has wronged you as it has me, CALL NOW AND FILE A COMPLAINT!!!
    FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION—- 1-877-382-4357

  12. Heads to Tails Grooming Spa

    All of my good reviews dissapeared after I decided not to advertise with them. I called the sales person and he flat out told me that they want people on the site that use it on a regular basis. He also said the he did not feel bad for me because I had not returned his phone calls. If the filter worked then the posts that were both good and bad would get filtered not just the good as in my case. All of the good posts gone. I also have had customers ask why there post was gone.

  13. Michael Hraba

    It’s important to understand that some of the opacity of their algorithm isn’t deliberate obsfuscation…. I mean, Yelp is *Not* trying to be deliberately confusing or unethical, or choose specific ways for your review to be filtered. In fact, it’s random, and their hands are tied in that they, actually, have no idea how their filter is automatically filtering reviews. Originally, there was a general rule of thumb the algorithm would use, but eventually, old engineers leave, new engineers only work on parts of the algorithm… and eventually there isn’t a sole person responsible for the overall project. It’s a hard and complex situation…. and it’s difficult to explain.


    Read that… it talks about the relative autonomy and complexity of the algorithm as filtering tool.

    In fact, if anyone else is still reading this, I HIGHLY AND STRONGLY recommend Eli Pariser’s “Filter Bubble”. It’s an important exploration of the complexity of the modern problems of defining our relationship to data online.

    I am sorry for what has happened, but it is more likely a result of randomness and buffoonery than a mitigated smear attack against your business.

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    […] The forest is an amalgamation of healthy trees, unhealthy trees, neutral ones, etc…. and that forest ends up being really big. I used to waste all my time with individual reviews and the algorithmic problems, etc […]