Ever since the discussion during “Ask the Search Engines” this week at SMX West there’s been an ongoing debate about solicited or incentivized reviews. There are two sides here: the SMB who wants customers to post favorable reviews (Tweets and updates) and the publisher that is seeking content for its site.
A couple of people pointed out to me the new Yellowbook contest that seeks to boost reviews:
The “big prize” approach is probably more effective than the per-review approach that was taken by Tribe.net and Insiderpages, among others (“five reviews for a Starbucks coffee card”). Superpages has done this type of thing, as have many others. It’s common on the publisher side.
Someone pointed out that, given this contest, Yellowbook couldn’t turn around and do what Yelp is doing: frowning on incentivized reviews. Here’s the official Yelp discussion of this issue:
While we understand that there is a temptation to solicit reviews from your customers, it is not something we encourage. The most successful businesses on Yelp have had their reviews come organically. This is for a couple of reasons:
- Potential customers can sometimes have an adverse reaction to a business that looks like it has solicited reviews.
- Quite often those solicited reviews will be screened out (see above) based on the activity level of those users within the Yelp community.
And about screening of reviews:
Some reviewers are more credible than others. For the most part, users decide for themselves which reviewers they trust the most. We remove some of the guesswork by screening out reviews that are written by less established users. The process is entirely automated to avoid human bias, and it affects both positive and negative reviews. Since users can become more or less established over time, their reviews can disappear and reappear over time, as well. Either way, we never actually delete these reviews, and they can still be found on the reviewer’s personal profile page.
This system proves frustrating for some because it sometimes affects perfectly legitimate reviews. The flip side is that it helps protect against fake reviews from malicious competitors and disgruntled former employees. . . .
Local businesses will undoubtedly do the sort of thing that Yellowbook is doing on a smaller scale: “post a review on Yelp or Google or become a fan on Facebook for a chance to win a free haircut.” This is exactly what Yelp wants to avoid — and if the reviews come from people who don’t normally post reviews — they’ll be removed or suppressed in all likelihood.
But you can certainly understanding the thinking.