Disclaimer: Many people take yelp very seriously in terms of recommending business, so I am forced to play the game. The game being I have a yelp badge on my site telling people about our reviews, but inadvertently giving yelp free advertising.
I have a tough time with Yelp! (referred in my post as "yelp"..i will not attach an exclamation point after each use of the word), I wont deny it. We have (as of this writing) over 70 Five-Star reviews, yet yelp filters these all out and only shows 7. Repeated calls and forum posts always lead to a singular answer...."The algorythm".
Yelp employs an algorithm to try and discover and weed out what it considers fraudulent reviews. This is a noble cause, but many (many) business like myself get caught up in the mess.
Yelp views first time posters with great suspicion...how come only one post? They were probably hired by the business to plant a review, or maybe they're his brother-in-law, the algorithm thinks.
As of this writing, we have 64 "filtered" reviews. Does yelp really think those 64 reviews are all shills, or that I have that many brother-in laws? (Full disclosure, I have 1 brother-in-law who is an office in the navy). No other shop, or any business for that matter, has such a "filtered" percentage (9% shown) that I have found. Am i being singled out for yapping about my frustrations with yelp...do they think my reviews are too good to be actually true? I am not a conspiracy guy, i just get pissed when things aren't fair. These reviews actually allow me to compete with bigger shops, but when they are hidden away they do me no good.
Also, the message it sends yelpers is that, "sure, review something.....maybe we'll even allow it to be seen and used".
I have read about a few lawsuits where yelp will swoop in with an offer to advertise, offering to "make things better" in terms of negative reviews disappearing and unfiltered reviews magically reappearing...the great digital shakedown.
I would have been more skeptical, but I witnessed yelp's wrath firsthand a few years ago. Right when I opened my business 2008/9, yelp had approached me to advertise. I went along, paid for 6 months, and then decided that it wasnt really worth it. My sales rep was upset, and tried some hard sell tactics to keep me on board. I didn't relent, and terminated my agreement. That day, I went from 18 Five-Star reviews down to Two.
Fast forward 3 years....we have over 70 Five-Star reviews, but only 7 show up. Sure enough, as it like clockwork, I get a call from a yelp sales rep, offering me a "sweet" deal if i advertise. She didn't explicitly say that things would get better if I signed on, but from all that I have read I assumed that's what she was promising between the lines.
I am so frustrated with yelp, that I told her I would not advertise. I just couldn't consciously advertise (pay) with a company who I have such a disagreement with.
In the end, I know that the reviews are (probably) yelp's property. I feel like they're mine, that I've earned them, but that argument falls on deaf ears at yelp's HQ. I do copy/paste all of them for my website and my records.