Open Wide - The Official Blog of The Chicago Dental Society

Permanent link  The dark side of Yelp


In our survey of CDS members last fall, twenty percent of you said you were familiar with online review sites like Yelp.

While dentistry may be slowly warming up to how consumer review sites can drive patients to (or from) a practice, some business owners are now claiming that Yelp manipulates its ratings system to entice businesses to advertise.

The East Bay Express article by Kathleen Richards contains some disturbing complaints about the company:

During interviews with dozens of business owners over a span of several months, six people told this newspaper that Yelp sales representatives promised to move or remove negative reviews if their business would advertise. In another six instances, positive reviews disappeared - or negative ones appeared - after owners declined to advertise.

Because they were often asked to advertise soon after receiving negative reviews, many of these business owners believe Yelp employees use such reviews as sales leads. Several...even suspect Yelp employees of writing them. Indeed, Yelp does pay some employees to write reviews of businesses that are solicited for advertising. And in at least one documented instance, a business owner who refused to advertise subsequently received a negative review from a Yelp employee.
The article has invited a flurry of news attention to the company, with rumors even of a Time magazine article in the works. Whether Yelp can outlast the controversy with any credibility remains to be seen. But this is definitely a development any business owner should pay attention to.


yelp , dentist survey , midwinter 2009 , practice management ,

From a standpoint of any kind of healthcare, the comments on sites such as yelp are quite likely to be pretty subjective. And yes, there are going to be a lot more of the negative than positive. As a consumer, I don't put much stock into such information anyway.

Posted by: J Dulemba ( on 05/16/2011

We are having some of the same problems with at the St Louis calling center.They are using some pretty aggressive tactics. <BR/>The local reps are OK.

Posted by: Anonymous ( on 05/16/2011

Interesting article. Yelp! is a blessing and a curse. My take on review sites as they relate to health care is that people are more likely to post complaints than praise. The "no news is good news" philosophy. While I was not aware of the issue of Yelp! employees posting reviews or strong arming clients to advertising, I have had a recent issue with Yelp! I would like to share.<BR/><BR/>I had a patient post my only negative post based on an experience that was over dramatized and factually incorrect on the post. The patient no longer lives in the area and; therefore, is no longer my patient. Despite that, this person recently left a follow up post 2+ years later suggesting that any subsequent positive reviews were planted/coerced/illegitimate. I sent a note to Yelp and was actually able to have this follow up post removed on the grounds of harassment. Kudos to Yelp!, boo to factually incorrect/over dramatized negative reviews.<BR/><BR/>On a side note, I recently attempted to advertise on CitySearch. I had serious reservations because they also draw revenue from banner ads. These banner ads are not search optimized so that someone searching for a dentist will be pushed an ad for alcohol. Not a great association for a health care provider. My rep was convincing though. After starting the ad campaign, I was sent numerous emails form my rep encouraging me to have family and staff post reviews in order to generate traffic. That felt dishonest to me. So apparently the monthly fee was not paying for much since I had to do the leg work to generate reviews. I requested canceling the campaign and it was finally taken down after billing me for 2 more months allegedly based on the fact that my request was between billing cycles. So IMHO, avoid CitySearch. Stick with the free review sites if any. Same effort required at no cost.

Posted by: fidelio ( on 05/16/2011