These misconceptions are also fueled by lawyers, who may have heard about Yelp’s recent financing round and may be seeking a share. So it’s no surprise that today another lawyer has filed a virtually identical lawsuit making the same inaccurate claims. (Don’t worry; they’re still not true.)
These copy cat suits get filed in what is known as a “race to the courthouse,” where lawyers jockey to be named the lead lawyer of the case and take the biggest share of legal fees; being among the first to file a suit increases the chance of being put in charge of the case.
The new case, also an intended class action, apparently involves the disappearance of reviews that the plaintiff had solicited from customers. The plaintiff claims these reviews were deleted in retaliation for not purchasing advertising on Yelp.
Yelp doesn’t like the practice and tends to view solicited reviews as bogus and thus often “suppresses” them, as Yelp’s Dylan Swift explained on the Ask the Local Engines panel at SMX West. But businesses sometimes get upset and angry about this (as indicated by the lawsuit), not understanding Yelp’s policy or how its algorithm works.
The lawyers, looking for what they may believe is a relatively easy settlement and/or PR, smell blood in the water. And there’s probably also no shortage of would-be plaintiffs: SMBs frustrated with or ignorant about how Yelp works.
There’s an irony in that these attorneys are likely soliciting plaintiffs in the same way that some of the local businesses have solicited reviews from their customers.
In all seriousness, Yelp is fighting against a rising tide of advice that argues “get your customers to write positive reviews” (to rank better). AlikeList, for example, is encouraging SMBs to ask customers to “like” or list them on the site. But lots of local SEOs argue in favor of review solicitation. In a way you can’t blame them; it’s a way for the business to try and have some control over the UGC phenomenon.
Yelp wants reviews to be “organic” but a host of SMB advice givers is now preaching review solicitation. It’s a tough battle Yelp is fighting.