A WebmasterWorld thread has discussion around the allegations that Yelp has been burying negative reviews in exchange for advertising dollars.
A California veterinary center has sued review site Yelp for allegedly promising to bury bad reviews in exchange for purchasing $3,600 worth of advertising on the site.
"Yelp frequently exercises its control over the Yelp.com listing application to modify business listing pages to the advantage of businesses that purchase Yelp advertising subscriptions, and the disadvantage of those that decline," Cats and Dogs Animal Hospital owner Gregory Perrault alleges in a complaint filed in federal district court in the central district of California.
Greg at Search Engine Land writes:
Two class action law firms have filed suit in Los Angeles federal court claiming that Yelp has attempted to “extort” money from small businesses by offering to remove negative reviews in exchange for payment.
The truth will out of course but I would be stunned if these claims were based in truth rather than the frustrations and misunderstandings of the plaintiff in this case.
I hope Greg is right - we covered reports of this via the forums back in November 2008. Back then, I was told it:
Reviews are purely algorithmic and that only one positive review can be emphasized. Reviews can come down if the person writing the review closed his/her account or the account was terminated due to violations. A third reason why reviews would be hidden is due to suspect behavior; the review is removed from the actual business but not from the reviewer's profile page.
I guess time will tell us if this is true - unless this is settled out of court and no one really finds out the truth.
Forum discussion at WebmasterWorld.