Taking a good look at controversial review sites

Yelp.com will be making two big changes to address concerns raised by small business owners claiming a link between advertising budgets and negative reviews. Yelp viewers will now be able to see reviews that have been filtered out by the site, and the site will no post favorite reviews at the top of their page. The changes may have been motivated in part by a class action lawsuit, in which a group of businesses accused Yelp of manipulating the site to show unfavorable reviews for businesses who don't pay for advertising.

From CNET:

"Today we've taken steps to make it even more clear that Yelp treats review content equally for advertisers and non-advertisers alike and that there is no relationship between advertising and a business' reviews on Yelp," Jeremy Stoppelman, Yelp's chief executive officer and co-founder, said in a statement. "While Yelp is helping millions of consumers find millions of great local businesses each month--and consumer traffic and business advertisers continue to reach new highs--myths have persisted about how review content is displayed on Yelp."

One change that won't be made: Yelp's spam filter will still sometimes pick up and dismiss legitimate reviews to the chagrin of some business owners, and the criteria by which the site ranks its reviews will remain a mystery.

The review site may be getting some competition from Unvarnished.com, which has been described as across between Yelp and LinkedIn. But instead of reviewing your local businesses, that will allow users to post reviews of people whom they know. The site is supposed to be "an online resource for building, managing, and researching professional reputation." But, as you can imagine, it's stirred up quite a bit of controversy even though only its beta version has debuted.

What do you think of Yelp's changes? Would you use a review site like Unvarnished?

About the author

Daryl Paranada is the associate web producer for Marketplace overseeing all daily website content and production, as well as producing multimedia features -- including the popular economic explainer series Whiteboard -- and special projects. Follow him on Twitter @darylparanada.

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