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September 27, 2013

Fake reviews on Yelp?! Don’t worry, we’ve got your back

A Harvard Business School study came out earlier this week that confirms something we have long known: businesses that don’t have a good reputation online will try to create one by submitting phony reviews to web sites.


The good news is that Yelp has been successfully fighting these attempts to deceive consumers since the very beginning.


Yelp uses sophisticated software to sift through the more than 42 million reviews contributed to find the most reliable and helpful ones. We highlight these for consumers by publishing them on our business listing pages. Those reviews that don’t make the cut -- which include the ones we think might come from the businesses themselves -- get filtered out.


This algorithm, or review filter (perhaps you’ve heard of it -- spammers and shady SEO companies don’t much like it and aren’t shy about saying so), only selects about 75% of reviews to highlight at any given time.


This means about 25% of the reviews *submitted* to Yelp are not published on a business’s listing or recommended to consumers. Among these reviews are the ones the Harvard study found likely to be fakes submitted by businesses themselves.


The study’s findings shouldn’t come as a complete surprise -- as consumers increasingly turn to online reviews to find a local business, the incentive to artificially improve one’s reputation also increases.


But neither should the fact that Yelp has been on guard against these very same reviews from our earliest days.


That’s how we keep Yelp useful for consumers and local businesses.