Yelp Reviewing

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"Yelp Reviewing App" text
Type type
Launch Date 2004
Status Active
Product Line Yelp Reviewing Application
Platform Yelp
Website Yelp
elp is an application and website that connects users with local businesses, such as restaurants, hair salons, bars, coffee shops, gas stations, drugstores, nightlife, and shopping locations. [1] Yelp accesses users' location with their permission, and based on what the user searches, Yelp will provide a list of local businesses and locations. Users can also filter their search results to specify the price level they are looking for, the distance of the locations, if the locations provide free wifi, and more.


Yelp was founded in October of 2004. In its first form, the founders Jeremy Stoppelman and Russel Simmons created a glorified “email circle” that allowed their friends and colleagues to directly swap business reviews with one another.[2] In 2005, the site underwent a redesign, changing the user experience and functionality of the website. After a large investment, the new Yelp website opened to the public. The site's traffic increased by almost 90,000 users from 2005 to 2006. As Yelp continued to receive attention and increase their revenue, it began expanding its website base to the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia.[3]. Currently, Yelp averages 30 million monthly mobile application users, 64 million average monthly mobile web users, and 77 monthly desktop users. [4] With more users in locations around the world, Yelp’s review network has expanded.


A screen in the Yelp mobile app.

As the company progressed, additional features were added to the user experience. Yelp allows users to rate local businesses on a scale ranging from 1 star to 5 stars. 1 star means that the user had a terrible experience, and 5 stars meaning that the user had a fantastic experience. It also has a Question and Answer feature[5], where users can ask on a businesses page about specific details regarding their services. Yelp also allows users to post photos, filter their searches, respond to reviews using comments.


Yelp’s platform was established based on the users: the number of users that utilize the app and their contributions to the app. In other words, Yelp was created with lists of businesses around the world and information associated with their payments and amenities, but their ratings and reviews were initialized as a blank interface. It allows anyone who has an account to rank their experience on a scale from one to five. These ratings may or may not influence people in the future from using a business’s services.


The comment section is underneath the ratings section and allows others to respond to experiences that users had with a business or service. The comments are used to create consensus, highlight elements of reviews, and generate discussion among reviewers. The comment section gives users a more specific idea of what others think of a restaurant or attraction by revealing detailed personal experience and opinions. With multiple comments giving generally the same rating and experience type, users are more inclined to go to that place or not. Also, these comments may add details that pertain to a specific type of family or group and recommendations can be based on that as well. For example, one comment can note that a place was good for their large group and another comment can say the same place was not worth it for just a few people. With a comment like this, potential customers can see which comments best pertain to their situation and make decisions based on that. Yelp's platform becomes more valuable based on the number of reviews and comments users add to the site thus increasing the credibility of the site.


While reviews are a good indicator as to whether the local business is a good one, a picture is worth a thousand words. In the case of restaurants, photos serve to give users a better picture how restaurant menu items and atmosphere appear in person, among many other uses. As much as aesthetics don’t determine whether a menu item is good quality, some people value the atmosphere of the restaurant when determining if they should go there. Photos are the only way that users can access that information without being physically present in the restaurant, in this case. If a plate of food does not look appetizing or well cooked, a user is less likely to go to that place to eat. However, if a dish meets the standards of the user that they are more likely to try out the place. Yelp offers users the ability to see what they might get at a particular place without actually being there. To some users, this is an important feature because the quality is of most importance to them and that is something that can be depicted through other users' pictures.


Yelp allows a user to specify their preferences. For example, if a user were to look for a restaurant, they would be able to specify whether they would like Japanese food, pizza, Mexican, Chinese, thai, etc. They also have the options of filtering based on price ranges, whether the restaurant delivers, whether the restaurant has a bar, and even whether a restaurant is good for big groups of people. Hair salons would have similar filters, such as “Accepts Online Appointments”, “Open Now”, etc. These filters allow a user to find a local business that matches their preferences as quickly as possible. Filtering has created a better interface for Yelp.

Yelp Growth


Yelp is estimated to be worth five billion dollars. [6] The founders of the company were in an unfamiliar city where they needed a doctor and they believed the best way to find one was by word of mouth. Yelp has evolved to be used with all different types of businesses. As more businesses have been incorporated, more users submit and retrieve reviews. As the number of reviews submitted increases, the accuracy of the ratings increase and a general consensus is formed. Consumers decisions are impacted by Yelp ratings, so businesses make it a point to address customers concerns and respond in a kind manner to ensure similar issues do not arise again. According to studies, each star used in a review on Yelp equates to a 5%-9% difference in revenue. Because of this, businesses are more inclined to make amends with disappointed customers and be proactive on Yelp. [7]

Ethical Implications


There have been several complaints regarding "Yelp bullying businesses to pay for better reviews." [8] Users have experienced this form of deception when they look up a particular business and see exclusively positive reviews (of a poorly rated business) until they click on "See more reviews." Many have accused Yelp of allowing businesses to hide their "bad reviews" and deceiving all of the people who use the application. People have also accused Yelp of pressuring or allowing companies to pay for advertisements in exchange for prioritizing visibility of positive reviews or decreasing the number of bad reviews. Companies, such as Cats and Dogs Animal Hospital are suing Yelp for extortion, claiming Yelp is threatening their businesses profitability by negatively manipulating reviews unless companies buy ad space.[9] "The U.S. Federal Trade Commission received more than 2,000 consumer complaints about Yelp from 2008 to March 4, 2014."[10] The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled Yelp's manipulation of ratings was legal. Judge Marsha Berzon stated that Yelp can legally "post and arrange actual user reviews on its website as it sees fit" and it is not considered extortion at this level.[11] Many Yelp users have voiced their concerns that users expect and rely on honest ratings when looking for goods and services. Although Yelp's manipulation of reviews may be legal, users argue that Yelp holds an obligation to show truthful ratings of businesses [12]

Response Bias

Another concern reported by users is the opportunity for Response Bias in reviews. Most of the people that review places online feel extreme about their experiences with the business: therefore, online reviews tend to over-represent customers with extreme views. 47% of the ratings are 5 stars, distorting users' view of the company. [13] Since customers with moderate views of a company do not find it worth the time and effort to leave a review on Yelp, company reviews are left with positive and negative reviews causing a bi-modal distribution of reviews. Bi-modal distributions cause difficulty in extracting an honest view of the company.[14] Yelp implement algorithms that filter out 25% of posts that are submitted for reasons such as same IP address, posts written by angry employees, inappropriate content, etc. Since Yelp does not have a reporting system to hide or remove faulty posts, it is up to the user's discretion for what they chose to believe. The process for completely removing false posts on Yelp is extensive, so many posts go unaltered and remain on the page. Faulty posts hinder the credibility of Yelp because people make decisions based on what reviews say and one post can determine if a place receives business or not.

These strongly positive or strongly negative reviews have an impact on the business as well. When a business has a high Yelp rating and many good reviews, it is expected that the company will have a boost on sales. However, the opposite can be quite true as well. When companies begin to get lower ratings and lower reviews, they almost always see a hit to their sales[15]. These negative reviews can come from anywhere, such as competitors of a business, people who just had a bad day or experience, and more. One thing that business owners are calling for from Yelp is to allow transparency to the owner about who the reviewer is and allowing to consent it the review should be featured or not[15].


Yelp has created a privacy setting that allows businesses to access information regarding personal demographics. [16] . These demographics include age, gender, and hometown. These settings are aimed to help businesses get to know their customer base better and understand how Yelp drives customers to their locations. Yelp also claims to allow users to control how much information they feel comfortable disclosing over the app, but Yelp has received criticism from customers over failing to offer an option for users to not disclose any of this personal information to businesses.


  1. About Us | Yelp. (2018). Yelp. Retrieved 31 March 2018, from
  2. Dixler Canavan, H. (2014). Yelp Turns 10: From Startup to Online Review Dominance. Eater. Retrieved 31 March 2018, from
  3. Yeung, K. (2013). Yelp Launches In New Zealand. The Next Web. Retrieved 31 March 2018, from
  4. Factsheet | Yelp. (2018). Yelp. Retrieved 1 April 2018, from
  5. Ha, A. (2017). Yelp launches new feature for asking and answering questions about any business. Retrieved 1 April 2018, from
  6. Dixler Canavan, H. (2014). Yelp Turns 10: From Startup to Online Review Dominance. Eater. Retrieved 1 April 2018, from
  7. LaPlante, L. (2017). Is Yelp a Reliable Measure of a Restaurant's Performance?. Spoon University. Retrieved 1 April 2018, from
  8. Harris, S. (2015). Businesses accuse Yelp of extorting them for improved reviews | CBC News. CBC. Retrieved 1 April 2018, from
  9. Mintz, S. (2014). Is it Ethical to Allow Yelp to Manipulate Ratings Based on Ad Purchase?. Workplace Ethics Advice. Retrieved 1 April 2018, from
  10. Harris, S. (2015). Businesses accuse Yelp of extorting them for improved reviews | CBC News. CBC. Retrieved 1 April 2018, from
  11. Mintz, S. (2014). Is it Ethical to Allow Yelp to Manipulate Ratings Based on Ad Purchase?. Workplace Ethics Advice. Retrieved 1 April 2018, from
  12. Mintz, S. (2014). Is it Ethical to Allow Yelp to Manipulate Ratings Based on Ad Purchase?. Workplace Ethics Advice. Retrieved 1 April 2018, from
  13. Factsheet | Yelp. (2018). Yelp. Retrieved 1 April 2018, from
  14. Klein, N. (2018). Online Reviews Are Biased. Here’s How to Fix Them. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved 1 April 2018, from
  15. 15.0 15.1 Held, Leigh. “Behind the Curtain of Yelp's Powerful Reviews.” Entrepreneur, 9 July 2014,
  16. Hill, K. (2015). A little-known Yelp privacy setting tells businesses your gender, age and hometown. Retrieved 1 April 2018, from