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Yelp Extortion Conspiracy Theory Debunked…Again

Sometimes people claim Yelp gives more favorable ratings to businesses who advertise on our platform, and some even allege that Yelp threatens to manipulate ratings and reviews of those who don’t advertise. These claims are of course false and have already been scrutinized by courts of law, academic studies, and a closed FTC investigation. They are sensational, however, and the media has often repeated them at face value without doing any investigating or even real reporting. Until today.

Greg Sterling, a well-known analyst and thought leader in the small business/local marketing space, recently heard these claims first hand from a plumber he hired. The plumber insisted that a Yelp sales rep had told him his reviews on Yelp would suffer if he didn’t buy advertising. Instead of just accepting and repeating this conspiracy theory, Greg contacted Yelp and asked us why the business owner might say such a thing.

In response, we invited Greg into our office to listen to the recordings of every sales call made to the plumber in question going back several years. (Yelp records the employee side of sales calls.) What did he find? As Greg writes:

There was nothing that sounded like a threat or any suggestion that reviews would be removed or otherwise altered by Yelp if the guy didn’t advertise. There wasn’t anything that could be construed as even implying that.

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Over the course of three years, Yelp sales representatives logged 28 calls lasting at least 30 seconds with this business owner.

We knew that. And it’s nice Greg now knows that, too, and that he was able to contribute some balanced perspective. You can read Greg’s full account here.