Connecticut Restaurant Claims Yelp Using Extortion to Sell Advertising

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Local Business Review Site 5StarControl takes a stand on allegations that online review site deleted positive reviews of a Connecticut restaurant because they refused to buy Yelp advertising.

Local Business Review Site 5StarControl has concerns over a new claim by a restaurant in Shelton, Connecticut that Yelp is attempting to coerce them into buying advertising by deleting positive reviews.

5StarContol wrote that local businesses may become perturbed by the controversy over whether Yelp removed good reviews in an attempt to extort advertising contracts from a local Connecticut restaurant, Verace.

Boasting more than 70 million monthly visitors and over 20 million reviews, Yelp is one of the top sources for local business reviews. Steady growth since its founding in San Francisco in 2004 has made Yelp a trusted site for consumers looking to get reliable information about local businesses. However, Yelp has faced previous controversy over allegations that it manipulates the reviews of certain businesses based on their willingness to advertise with Yelp. A class action lawsuit filed in 2010 at the United States District Court Central District of California (Case: CV10-1340 VBF (SSx)) claimed that Yelp offered to remove bad Yelp reviews in exchange for advertising. Yelp has denied all these allegations, including the current ones leveled by the owners of the Verace restaurant.

While the Yelp service is free to both local businesses and consumers alike, Yelp has monetized its business through selling advertising to commercial partners. Yelp offers local, regional, and national companies the opportunity to pay for advertising on their site. The advertising packages include services which allow businesses to upgrade their listings on Yelp to a premium listing, as well as add a video advertisement. In addition to that, businesses that advertise on Yelp will see themselves at the top of the search rankings, and have their business show up on the page of their competitors. For more information on small business advertising, 5StarControl recommends the works of Frank Kern to its subscribers.

The controversy reported by WFSB News is centered in Shelton, a city of around 40,000 people located in the southwestern part of the state of Connecticut. Founded in 1789, and incorporated as a city in 1915, Shelton’s primary industry is the service sector, with many companies having offices located within the city. As with other smaller cities, Shelton has its share of restaurants, retail outlets, and local businesses, including the Italian restaurant Verace, which has made the negative claims against Yelp.

Yelp has denied any wrongdoing regarding the matter of the alleged extortion of the Connecticut restaurant, and no legal action has been taken. Yelp’s large following means that local businesses value positive Yelp reviews and small businesses may feel threatened by the idea that reviews are manipulated by the online review websites.

5StarControl is a newsletter covering local business issues in the area of Yelp reputation.

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