For local businesses that can't afford to conduct too much outbound or inbound marketing, local SEO is the best path of action to getting customers. What is becoming increasingly more important in a local SEO strategy is securing a length of credible and favorable reviews, like the ones Yelp supplies for businesses. As one of the leading institutions in local search, Yelp has strengthened its influence in all matters SEO, and businesses have taken notice; however, businesses that cut corners with Yelp to boost reviews will do so at their own risk now that the company has started a crackdown on fake reviews.
In a press release, Yelp outlined a new initiative aimed at taking down bad reviews that the company will take in order to provide additional support for customers.
"Yelp has become so influential in the consumer decision-making process that some businesses will go to extreme lengths to bolster their reviews," said Eric Singley, vice president of consumer products and mobile for Yelp. "While our filter already does a great job of highlighting the most useful content, we think consumers have a right to know when someone is going to great lengths to mislead them."
The new steps will include the introduction of a consumer alert that publicly brands companies it suspects of soliciting fake reviews. The alerts will stay up for at least 90 days, and longer if the suspicious activity has not effectively ceased. The presence of a visible red flag customer alert on a local business' Yelp page could spell certain doom for a local SEO strategy.
Thankfully, many local businesses are built upon a foundation of credibility and tradition that would surely frown on any efforts to illicitly procure false reviews. That minority percentage is represented with Yelp announcing just nine businesses in total will be tagged with the consumer alert to begin.
A New York Times article reported how Yelp nabbed offending businesses with an employee posing as an elite reviewer who shopped for-hire reviewing skills in a sting operation: "A pest control company offered $5 to anyone who would post a review that the business itself had written. The moving company was willing to pay $50 but wanted original copy. An appliance repair shop provided a start: 'I really appreciate that the service tech was on time, the problem was solved, everything was cleaned up and he was very professional. Please add 50 or more words,' the shop suggested. It would pay $30."
The new enforcement by Yelp further underscores the fact that businesses are often rewarded by developing an organic local search marketing strategy, and false efforts are sure to rooted out with local businesses paying the toll.